Combating the Palestinian Coronavirus Vaccine Lie
Over the past month, HonestReporting has repeatedly called attention to egregious suggestions by numerous media outlets that Israel has failed to ensure access to the coronavirus vaccine for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
As early as December 21, we documented how, as Israel launched a major initiative to inoculate the country’s population against COVID-19, headlines on the websites of Reuters, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and ABC News, among others, incorrectly implied that Jerusalem was responsible for the Palestinians’ predicament.
At the time, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials made clear that they had not asked Israel for help procuring vaccines, and neither wanted nor expected such help. Officials at that point had stated unequivocally that the PA had other vaccine sources lined up.
That should have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t.
Back in mid-December, the official Palestinian line was clear. As the Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh documented in an article titled “Palestinians: We Didn’t Ask Israel for COVID-19 Vaccine“:
A senior official with the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health said that the Palestinians do not expect Israel to sell them, or purchase on their behalf, the vaccine from any country.
The official told the Jerusalem Post that the Palestinians will soon receive nearly four million Russian-made vaccines against COVID-19. …
Another PA Ministry of Health official said that he expected vaccinations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to begin next month. He, too, clarified that the PA has not asked Israel to supply the Palestinians with the vaccine.
“We are working on our own to obtain the vaccine from a number of sources,” the official added. “We are not a department in the Israeli Defense Ministry. We have our own government and Ministry of Health, and they are making huge efforts to get the vaccine.”
However, as the media onslaught continued, the Palestinian Authority changed its tune and indeed asked Israel for help. Immediately, Israel provided a small number of vaccines while opening discussions with the World Health Organization with a view to facilitating the delivery through international intermediaries of additional vaccines to Ramallah and Gaza City.
Meanwhile, vaccines from various other sources, including Russia and the UK-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, are expected to arrive in the West Bank in the coming weeks.
Nevertheless, in recent days, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post have all contributed to the ongoing libel that Israel should be providing vaccinations for Palestinians. In some cases, media reports continue to imply that Israel is, for reasons that remain unclear and despite the geographical proximity of and the overlap of movement between Israelis and Palestinians, pursuing some non-existent nefarious policy.
Though critics may allege that Israel is legally obligated to provide the coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinians, the issue is extremely complex, as discussed in great detail in another HonestReporting analysis.
From the start, the narrative put out by the media has been wildly inaccurate. At the beginning, reports errantly claimed that Israel was refusing to help the Palestinians. And now, even as Israel is taking action, news outlets apparently expect Israel to conjure up and transfer to the Palestinians millions of excess vaccines that are not readily available, and at the expense of its own people.
Emanuel Miller is on staff at HonestReporting, where a version of this article originally appeared.