First, the facts: Gal Berger reported on Kan 11 Wednesday night that earlier this week, Israel secretly delivered a shipment of Covid-19 to the Palestinian Authority, as per an agreement between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The vaccines were shipped in a DHL truck (see tweet below) which suggests a large volume of the stuff. However, it appears that so far Neither Chairman Abbas nor his inner circle—the intended recipients of the vaccines, alongside “special humanitarian cases”—have been vaccinated.
And then, on Thursday, the PA Health Ministry dismissed the Berger report, and said in a statement that it had been approached by non-governmental Israeli companies that offered an initial 20 vaccinations for experimentation by the Health Ministry, an offer which was “utterly rejected by the latter.”
Again, take a look at that DHL truck – if it were only 20 vaccines they would have sent a guy on a scooter.
The PA Health Ministry said it was actively seeking to purchase vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, and that it has reached out to many companies to purchase these approved vaccines. The ministry pointed out that the vaccines will be available in the PA next February, and that they will be optional and free of charge. Two weeks ago, the PA Health Ministry announced that it would receive millions of doses of the Russian “Sputnik” vaccine in January.
The NY Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief Isabel Kershner and reporter Adam Rasgon had this to say about the situation on Wednesday: “…The Palestinian Authority, which runs its own health care system in the occupied West Bank, has asked Israel for vaccines, prompting a debate over Israel’s responsibility to the Palestinians at a time when Israel’s vaccine supplies are dwindling.”
The Guardian was way more vicious, nasty, and revolting:
Israel is celebrating an impressive, record-setting vaccination drive, having given initial jabs of coronavirus shots to more than a 10th of the population. But Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza can only watch and wait.
As the world ramps up what is already on track to become a highly unequal vaccination push – with people in richer nations first to be inoculated – the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories provides a stark example of the divide.
Israel transports batches of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine deep inside the West Bank. But they are only distributed to Jewish settlers, and not the roughly 2.7 million Palestinians living around them who may have to wait for weeks or months.
Israeli Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg Imanuel Nahshon tweeted in response: “Seeing the reactions to the extraordinary Israeli vaccination campaign by some officials and “specialists “ in certain countries ( no names ), I’m aghast at the mixture of jealousy, pettiness and hypocrisy. Don’t blame your failures on us , just don’t!”
And former IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner added: “Blaming the worlds failures on the Jews, now why does that sound familiar?”
Of course, that didn’t stop Amnesty International from declaring on Thursday: “The Israeli government must stop ignoring its international obligations as an occupying power and immediately act to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
Saleh Higazi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, was even more specific: “Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine program highlights the institutionalized discrimination that defines the Israeli government’s policy towards Palestinians. While Israel celebrates a record-setting vaccination drive, millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will receive no vaccine or have to wait much longer – there could hardly be a better illustration of how Israeli lives are valued above Palestinian ones.”
So Ran Goldstein, the CEO of Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights Association, wrote on Wednesday, under the reserved headline, “A stain of 5 million Palestinians on the Israeli vaccination campaign,” that “Israel chooses to ‘sit on the fence’ when it comes to Palestinian vaccines. It will probably not prevent the introduction of vaccines into the West Bank or Gaza, but it will certainly not initiate a move in which it is the one that transmits vaccines and assists in the vaccination campaign in the Occupied Territories. This policy is also wrong in terms of the Israeli interest, and all the more so in terms of the Israeli obligations to the Palestinian population.”
And then Goldstein defies all boundaries, writing that “in the 25 years since the Oslo Accords, no independent Palestinian health care system has developed,” because of you know who. He lists all the ways in which Israel has been repressing the development of any independent Arab system in the PA and Gaza (except, possibly, for armed thugs who terrorize civilians), and then states: “Public health should be at the forefront of decision-makers in Israel, so I am convinced that if Israel offers to deliver vaccines to the Palestinians in a dignified manner and perhaps without public relations, then these will not refuse.”
Except they just did, because the Palestinians’ capacity not to miss any opportunity to miss an opportunity is as strong as ever.
Finally, on Wednesday, the Israeli government responded to a petition filed by the family of the late Hadar Goldin, whose body is still kept by Hamas since the summer of 2014, and declared that there was no intention to transfer vaccines to the Gaza Strip or to vaccinate Gazan patients in Israel.
“In the current reality, the respondents have no intention, at this time, to transfer vaccines from Israel to the Gaza Strip,” the state told the High Court of Justice. “It should also be noted that at present, according to information available to state officials, the Palestinian Authority does not have vaccines, and in any case has no vaccines to transfer to the Gaza Strip.”
The state added that “as a rule, requests by Corona patients from the Gaza Strip to enter medical treatment in Israel or the Judea and Samaria area are denied.”