Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90
Medics and police officers check a shipment of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in a truck at the Kerem Shalom border crossing in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 17, 2021.

“The Israeli government has pledged to send thousands of spare coronavirus vaccines to foreign allies,” the NY Times’ Patrick Kingsley reported on Tuesday (Israel Gives Vaccine to Far-Off Allies, as Palestinians Wait), alleging that this uncommon generosity “re-ignited” a debate about Israel’s responsibilities to “Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.”

How lucky we are, then, to have Nir Hasson report on Wednesday in “Israel’s NY Times,” a.k.a Haaretz: Israel Opens Vaccination Center at Checkpoint to Reach Palestinian East Jerusalem Residents.

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According to “New York’s Haaretz,” the Czech Republic, Honduras, Hungary, and Guatemala have each been promised 5,000 doses of the Corona vaccine, and last week, Israel committed to buying tens of thousands of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V for the Syrian government, in exchange for returning of an Israeli woman who had crossed the Syrian border.

The Times suggested a quid pro quo behind Israel’s generosity: Guatemala moved its embassy to Jerusalem, Honduras pledged to do the same. Hungary has a trade mission in Jerusalem. The Czech Republic promised to open a diplomatic office there. You move your embassy – in other words, you don’t die from the virus.

The same nasty article about humane gestures and the people who make them, suggests that China and India have donated thousands of vaccine doses to neighboring countries because both are “jockeying for influence in Asia,” and the United Arab Emirates has sent vaccines to Egypt, like China and India “as the latest example of a new expression of soft power,” and “vaccine diplomacy, in which countries rich in vaccines seek to reward or sway those that have little access to them.”

Way to make it all seem so sinister.

PA health workers in Shechem are vaccinated against the coronavirus, February 3, 2021. PA health workers in Shechem are vaccinated against the coronavirus, February 3, 2021. / Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90

Those Israeli vaccine donations have “angered Palestinians because it suggests that Israel’s allies are of greater priority than the Palestinians living under Israeli control in the occupied territories, almost all of whom have yet to receive a vaccine,” according to the Times.

This is a lie not based on Israeli reports, but according to WAFA, the official PA news agency, which on February 4 cited the PA Health Ministry’s confirmation that it had received the first 10,000 doses of the Russian-manufactured Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, and that an additional 50,000 Sputnik V doses were expected to arrive during the following, with additional batches of the Russian vaccine expected to increase gradually during the coming months.

Then, on February 17, WAFA reported that “after a long delay caused by Israeli obstructions, the first batch of 2,000 vaccines of the Russian Sputnik brand arrived in the Gaza Strip this afternoon.”

The “Israeli obstructions” part is a reference to the desperate struggle of the families of two fallen IDF soldiers whose bodies have been kept by Hamas since the 2014 Gaza war, alongside the families of two living Israeli civilians who strayed into the Gaza Strip and Hamas is refusing to release them. Those families are demanding that before Israel hands Gazans the gift of vaccines, Hamas must release their loved ones. Israeli obstruction, indeed.

The Haaretz report on Wednesday exposed an aspect of the vaccinations to which the NY Times paid no attention: PA Arabs don’t want to be vaccinated. The vaccination center was set up by Magen David Adom at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in eastern Jerusalem to enable Arab residents who cannot enter Israel to get vaccinated.

“The center’s opening is part of a broad vaccination campaign MDA is conducting in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem in an effort to curb the worrisome rate of infection there,” Haaretz reported, noting that the vaccination rate in eastern Jerusalem is “significantly lower than in the western part of the city.” Only 27% of eastern Jerusalem Arabs have received the first dose, as compared to 57% of the city overall. Only 12% received the second dose, compared to 37% of the city overall.

There is hope, though. According to Haaretz, “Medical sources say that Arab willingness to be vaccinated is increasing and the influence of fake news and many of the rumors is fading. Rumors about the risks posed by the vaccine – death, infertility, illnesses, and various conspiracy theories – have been replaced by rumors that people who don’t get vaccinated won’t be allowed into Al-Aqsa Mosque or won’t be allowed to come to work. Some people are spreading the latter rumors to encourage vaccination.”

The Times prefers to rely on “human rights watchdogs” that insist Israel is obligated to “organize a systematic vaccine program in the occupied territories, rather than sporadically deliver spares a few thousand at a time.” They even cite the Fourth Geneva Convention, according to which an occupying power must “coordinate with the local authorities to maintain public health within an occupied territory, including during epidemics.”

There’s no reference to the fact that Areas A and B of Judea and Samaria are under the PA’s administrative control, and that Gaza is a sovereign district where no Israelis are allowed, military or civilian. Imagine had Israel actually done what those watchdogs are pushing, drove into those Arab neighborhoods one morning, and set up vaccination stations without IDF protection. How long before those good doctors and nurses are slaughtered and their equipment set on fire?

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.