Don’t Fall for the Cynical COVID-19 Vaccine Propaganda Against Israel
Israel’s world-leading coronavirus vaccination program is attracting international attention, thanks to genuine interest in Israel’s quick and efficient distribution of COVID-19 vaccines that other nations are eager to learn from.
But not all of the attention has been positive. Starting with some marginal social media accounts and spreading to some broadcast news outlets, we’re starting to see Israel falsely identified as being responsible for providing vaccinations to Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) or Gaza. Worse, that mistaken notion is also leading some to accuse Israel of deliberately withholding the vaccines from the Palestinian population.
It’s time to shed some light on this complex and sensitive issue.
First, Israel is keenly aware that it is in its interest and of high priority that the Palestinians overcome this pandemic as quickly, and efficiently as possible by receiving the vaccination. We not only wish them well as our neighbors, but also because hundreds of thousands of Palestinians cross the border into Israel every day to work and earn a living; therefore, their public health directly affects our own.
However, Israel has no specific responsibility for the Palestinians’ public health. As detailed in the Oslo Accords, the existing applicable legal framework between Israel and the Palestinians, all health-related matters have been delegated to the sole responsibility of the Palestinian Authority (PA), currently led by Mahmoud Abbas. This framework applies to the COVID-19 outbreak as well. The PA does not deny this obligation, and has acted accordingly in its independent response to the pandemic.
Moreover, since 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, its obligations concerning the Strip come from the laws regulating the armed conflict that is currently taking place between Israel and armed terrorist armed groups in Gaza. This includes Hamas, which violently gained control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Getting back to the PA, it has the means and mechanisms with which to carry out its own vaccination campaign. It is currently working with the World Health Organization and several governments and pharmaceutical companies to acquire the vaccine and is now set up to receive the vaccine earlier than most countries in the world.
That means the PA will begin receiving vaccine deliveries within the coming weeks, supplied by AstraZeneca and Sputnik V as well as through COVAX — the WHO global initiative ensuring rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Israel is prepared to do whatever is necessary to facilitate the arrival of these deliveries.
As they await the vaccine deliveries, Israel has gone beyond its duty to assist the PA healthcare system by enabling the arrival of international assistance since the outbreak of the pandemic, and supplying thousands of vaccines as humanitarian aid to the PA.
Israel has also led many efforts, in cooperation with the PA and the international community, to facilitate the delivery of PPE, test kits and various disinfectants donated by the international community to the Palestinians living under the control of the PA and the Gaza Strip.
Israel is also working with the UN to ensure the Gaza Strip overcomes the outbreak of this pandemic.
Many Palestinians in critical condition were, and still are, treated in Israeli state-funded hospitals, including some of the highest rank PA officials.
In fact, the scale of Israel’s aid to the Palestinians has only been seriously stymied when the PA itself refused to accept aid, as part of its policy to boycott Israel at the expense of its own citizens. Just to name two examples of those refusals, the PA has prevented access to Gaza residents of Israeli medical treatment, on on another occasion has refused shipments of PPE merely because it was delivered by an Emirati jet landing in Israel.
Anyone with access to the above well-documented facts who continues to voice these outrageous slurs against Israel is not coming from a position of concern to the well-being of the Palestinian people. Rather, their purpose is to defame and delegitimize Israel.
Any responsible leader who cares about the well-being of the Palestinians should look into the full scope of the situation and not fall into the same old cynical propaganda.
These are hard times, for everyone; with a limited amount of vaccines and every country doing its best to secure enough of them for its citizens.
The Israeli government is no different: doing everything it can to vaccinate all of its citizens in a rapid and equitable manner, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or gender. Naturally, the citizens of Israel are first in line for the vaccines their taxes paid for.
Our pioneering vaccination operation, and the experience and knowledge we are acquiring by carrying it out, are already being used to optimize the process in other countries. It will be used to help the Palestinians and the rest of the world as well.
Israel Nitzan is the Acting Consul General of Israel in New York.