[News] For Palestinians, Israel's record vaccine rollout exposes Covid-19 apartheid

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 6 11:25:45 EST 2021

Palestinians, Israel's record vaccine rollout exposes Covid-19 apartheid
Richard Silverstein - January 6, 2021

Global media have marvelled
at Israel’s rollout of the Covid-19
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/topics/covid> vaccine, with close to one
million people vaccinated in the past two weeks. It plans to double
that number by the end of January. This is indeed a success, but it should
not obscure other troubling aspects of both the vaccination campaign and
the massive public health crisis that preceded it.

Israel has been severely impacted by the pandemic, ranked 32nd globally
<https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html> in the number of cases of the
disease and falling in the top 60 when it comes to the mortality rate
<https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality>. Israel’s public health
approach was largely dysfunctional
with lockdowns imposed, suspended and then reimposed.

The ultra-Orthodox community strongly resisted measures decreed by the
government and had an extraordinarily high rate
of disease transmission. Testing in Israel's Palestinian citizens'
communities was haphazard <https://outline.com/zaehrb>. The Palestinian
Authority (PA) had far less resources to address the crisis, and people
were mostly left to their own devices.
One extreme to the next

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seemed to ricochet from one
extreme to the next in his approach to combatting the pandemic. Several
senior public health
officials and one minister
have resigned. Small businesses rebelled against restrictions that harmed
their livelihoods, and thousands of people took to the streets to protest
both the government’s approach and the prime minister’s looming corruption

In fighting Covid-19, the government fell back on the usual security and
surveillance protocols
it favours when battling a hostile force. It recruited the Shin Bet, which
had been using a mass surveillance tool
monitoring Israeli electronic devices and communications, in order to track
coronavirus cases. Privacy advocates protested the infringement on
citizens’ rights.

Though Israel is the occupying power in the West Bank and Gaza and, as
such, has responsibility for the Palestinian population, it has washed its
hands of it

Meanwhile, after learning of the successful development of a vaccine,
Netanyahu secured millions of doses, but at a cost. Israel is paying $62
a dose. AstraZeneca’s vaccine costs as little as $2 a dose
for the EU countries that purchased it, while Moderna’s version is $18. But
Netanyahu paid the higher price, because he knew he faced an imminent
election (now scheduled for March
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-55408837>), increasing
unpopularity and a threat to his continued rule. He figured that a Covid-19
success, even purchased at such a high price, would be a triumph to present
to a dubious electorate.
Delayed shipments

In Palestine, there is no vaccine to be had at any price. The PA does not
have the funds to purchase it, and is waiting for shipments
from the World Health Organisation, which have been delayed. Though Israel
is the occupying power in the West Bank and Gaza and, as such, has
responsibility for the Palestinian population, it has washed its hands of

Pro-Israel pundits have falsely argued that the Oslo Accords specified that
Palestinians would be responsible for their own health and welfare. Yet,
this ignores the fact that Israel never honoured its commitments under
Oslo, and never recognised a Palestinian state.

No state, no sovereignty; hence, the PA is incapable of offering the
protections a fully functioning government would. Not to mention, it is
essentially bankrupt and relies on international humanitarian relief to get
by. How does anyone expect it could pay $20 a dose, let alone $62?

[image: Doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are pictured at a branch of Israel’s
Clalit Health Services on 4 January (AFP)]
Doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are pictured at a branch of Israel’s Clalit
Health Services on 4 January (AFP)

The other main contention is that the PA has not asked
for Israeli assistance - but Netanyahu certainly has Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas’ number, and could offer help if he wished. Not only hasn’t
he offered, Palestinians are the last thing on his mind.

Despite the vaunted success of Israel’s vaccine rollout, as usual in the
country, benefits are delivered differently to different ethnic
communities. Nearly 30 percent of those getting the vaccine within Israel
proper are Jewish, while only 15 percent are Palestinian
Healthcare in general is inferior in Palestinian communities, and
Palestinians place less trust in official government programmes, which have
historically been of little or no benefit to them.

Of 300,000 vaccine doses administered by Israel’s largest health service
organisation, Clalit, only five percent
were set aside for Palestinian communities, and just 10 of its 145
vaccination sites
are located in Palestinian areas. The government has also refused to
inoculate Palestinian security prisoners
in Israeli jails. They get no protection at all.
Deadly consequences

Keep in mind that large numbers of Palestinians work in the Israeli
healthcare system as doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Nearly 20 percent of
Israeli doctors are Palestinian <https://outline.com/yJsqha>, as are 25
percent of nurses and nearly 50 percent of pharmacists. Palestinian doctors
work alongside Jewish doctors to save the lives of Covid-19 patients, both
Jewish and Palestinian, at Israeli hospitals.


Israel is using coronavirus to implement the deal of the century

In light of the lower rates of inoculation in Palestinian areas, a country
with a good public health system would organise a mass education and media
campaign to persuade citizens to take extra steps to have themselves
inoculated. No such outreach is happening in Israel, because the government
simply doesn’t think that way.

It leaves Palestinians largely to fend for themselves - an example of what
former US politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan infamously called “benign
But in Israel, the neglect isn’t benign at all; it is enmeshed in the
fabric of society and has deadly consequences.

This situation highlights the racism at the heart of Israeli society,
showing how Israel is a nation based on apartheid, with superior rights,
privileges and benefits offered to Jews and inferior ones to Palestinians.

Global media outlets trumpeting Israel’s success in administering the
vaccine should remember that such success comes at an enormous cost to
Israel’s non-Jews, who are left behind.

*The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not
necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.*

*This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition
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