[News] How Israel obstructs COVID-19 care in East Jerusalem

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Thu Jul 23 15:28:40 EDT 2020


https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/tamara-nassar/how-israel-obstructs-covid-19-care-east-jerusalem 
<https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/tamara-nassar/how-israel-obstructs-covid-19-care-east-jerusalem> 



  How Israel obstructs COVID-19 care in East Jerusalem

Tamara Nassar <https://electronicintifada.net/people/tamara-nassar> - 23 
July 2020

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The COVID-19 pandemic is not an equalizer.

Rather, it has exposed systems of inequality in seemingly modern health 
care systems and brought already worn-down ones to the brink of collapse.

The case of occupied East Jerusalem is particularly revealing.

The pandemic unmasked and exacerbated the horrors of Israeli military 
occupation in the city, according to a new report 
<http://www.alhaq.org/publications/17118.html> by the Palestinian human 
rights group Al-Haq, the UK-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians 
and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and formally annexed it in 1980.

Israel has specific obligations under international law to guarantee 
health and other basic services to Palestinians living under its 
military rule.

Far from respecting its obligations, Israel’s systemic neglect and 
continuous violence in East Jerusalem became increasingly evident during 
the pandemic.

Israel took a business as usual approach when it came to oppressing 
Palestinians.

The Israeli authorities failed to set up COVID-19 testing facilities in 
a timely manner, failed to provide accurate and reliable data to track 
the spread of the virus, harassed and arrested Palestinian health 
activists, and hindered the procurement of essential equipment by hospitals.

“Palestinians have become ill-equipped to deal with any public health 
crisis, let alone the outbreak of a pandemic such as COVID-19,” the 
report states.


    Lack of testing facilities

It took more than one month from the first confirmed coronavirus case in 
Israel for it to set up a testing facility in East Jerusalem.

The drive-through facility was installed in the Jabal al-Mukabbir 
neighborhood, which lies outside Israel’s annexation wall, following 
legal pressure from Palestinian human rights groups.

It was nearly two months later that Israel set up testing centers beyond 
the wall, and it was only done after Adalah, a human rights group, filed 
a petition with Israel’s high court.

The delays in carrying out testing for Palestinians were discriminatory 
by nature as they “sharply contrast with the urgency and speed in 
reacting to the needs of the Israeli-Jewish population.”

The “discriminatory” delays were arguably what “most powerfully 
articulates” Israel’s neglect in containment efforts.

But delays were not the only problems.

“Eligibility to be tested in these facilities is conditioned upon 
membership in a private Israeli health maintenance organization, which a 
significant portion of Palestinians lack,” the report states.

Israel gives free health care to official Palestinian residents of East 
Jerusalem, who account for only 40 percent of its population.

When Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, it only counted 
Palestinians who were physically present in the city.

Those who were abroad for any reason – including work and study – were 
not counted and they were “arbitrarily stripped of their residency 
rights in Jerusalem.”

Until this day, Palestinians must prove that their “center of life” is 
in Jerusalem in order to live in the city where they were born.


    Decentralized tracking

Tracking the number of confirmed cases in East Jerusalem has been an 
inconsistent and unreliable process.

Due to the nature of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, Israel’s 
health ministry is the only body that has access to figures on 
Palestinians infected by the virus in the city.

In the absence of disaggregated data, according to the report, three 
different bodies count the number of confirmed cases: Israel’s health 
ministry, the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality and groups 
within the Jerusalem Alliance to Confront the Coronavirus Pandemic.

This has created a disparity in numbers, and so neither the Palesitnian 
Authority’s health ministry nor the World Health Organization has a 
clear outlook on the scale of the outbreak in East Jerusalem.


    Hospital neglect and defunding

The effects of Israel’s chronic neglect and weakening of Palestinian 
hospitals in East Jerusalem became evident during the pandemic.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza depend on hospitals in 
East Jerusalem for care they cannot receive elsewhere.

Three hospitals in East Jerusalem have been designated for coronavirus 
care: al-Makassed Hospital, Augusta Victoria Hospital and Saint Joseph 
Hospital.

“The pandemic hit at a time when all of these hospitals were already 
facing exceptionally dire economic conditions and chronic underfunding,” 
the report states.

In 2018, the Trump administration slashed 
<https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/trump-targets-sick-palestinians> 
more than $25 million in approved aid for six hospitals in East Jerusalem.

Combined, the three hospitals designated for COVID-19 care only have 22 
ventilators and 62 beds for coronavirus patients.

While Palestinians can seek medical treatment in Israeli hospitals, “the 
availability of Israeli hospitals also does not absolve the Israeli 
occupying authorities from responsibility for the deliberate weakening, 
de-development and systematic neglect of Palestinian hospitals in East 
Jerusalem,” the report says.


    Attacking health activists

Israeli forces persisted in their attacks on health activists during the 
pandemic.

Israel systematically targeted and arrested activists distributing 
informative leaflets around the city, and detained Palestinians 
volunteering to disinfect public spaces, such as mosques.

Israeli forces even raided a testing facility in the Silwan area, 
initially arguing that it was run by unlicensed doctors and then 
claiming the pretext of the closure was that the facility’s activities 
were overseen by the Palestinian Authority.

In fact, the doctor administering the facility was licensed by Israel, 
he confirmed to the human rights groups who compiled the new report.

“Regardless of the pretext, the very fact that Palestinians were forced 
to set up a testing center on their own, and the subsequent closure of 
the center by the occupying power, is a testament to Israel’s consistent 
failure to meet its obligations to uphold the rights to health and life 
of Palestinians without discrimination.”

There are currently <https://www.ochaopt.org/covid-19> almost 12,000 
confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the occupied West Bank. This includes 
more than 2,100 in East Jerusalem.

There are 75 confirmed cases in the Gaza Strip. So far, 70 Palestinians 
have died of the disease.

By denying basic health care to Palestinians – and, worse, attacking 
their health care facilities – Israel has made it inevitable that the 
death toll will rise.


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