Supremacy and Apartheid by Israel in processing the COVID-19 vaccination
by Marwan Emile Toubassi Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Greece
As people witness Israel’s rapid vaccination program, they should not ignore the big picture, which is that the Israeli occupation regime refuses to give the vaccine to the 5 million Palestinians it rules with the power of its occupation.
The harsh irony is that hundreds of vaccines nearing their expiration date were reportedly delivered to Israeli clinics last week, while millions of Palestinians are left out of the vaccination process.
My government has unequivocally condemned the racism of Israel, the state of the “occupying power”, which proudly promotes the rapid vaccination of its citizens while systematically neglecting its legal obligation to provide the vaccine to the Palestinian people, to prisoners and to those in need.
Under the Hague Convention of 1907, International Humanitarian Law and Article 56 of the 4th Geneva Convention, Israel, the occupying power under International Humanitarian Law is obliged to safeguard and provide “medical and hospital services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territories, with particular reference to the adoption and implementation of preventive and necessary measures to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics “.
According to statistics and the WHO, about 160,000 Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have been tested positive for the virus since the first confirmed case in March 2020. To date, there have been more than 1,600 Palestinian deaths associated with Covid- 19.
As we cannot finance independently the cost of the vaccine and its distribution process, we depend on international cooperation, such as the COVAX program, which has not yet started distributing the vaccines.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of fair access to vaccines have peaked Israeli discrimination and inequality against the Palestinian population.
In this regard, I would like to point out that there are 600,000 colonial settlers living in more than 250 colonial settlements throughout the Occupied State of Palestine, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which Israel includes in its vaccination program while leaving the Palestinians completely abandoned. The Israeli Minister of Interior Affairs, Amis Ahana, has decided to ban the vaccination of 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, despite the 191 confirmed cases of the virus. Israel has also rejected a WHO request for immediate vaccination of Palestinian medical teams.
We hope to receive vaccines through the WHO-led COVAX program which aims to provide the vaccine to up to 20% of the population of all participating countries severely affected by the COVID 19 pandemic. However, it is very likely that this will take time as the vaccines intended for the COVAX program have not yet received emergency approval from the WHO (pre – condition for distribution to begin).
The Palestinian Ministry of Health has contracted with four companies to supply the vaccine, which will arrive in succession within the next two months. The vaccination process will begin with vulnerable groups, patients and the elderly, with a target of 70 % of our people to be vaccinated, but this also requires the Israeli occupation authorities to facilitate the process of obtaining these vaccines. The Minister of Health recently announced that the possibility of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine is being considered by the occupied State of Palestine and we are in the process of reaching an agreement with Russia to meet all our needs, something that has not yet been confirmed. While the Russian vaccine has been approved by Palestine, it is still not approved by the Israeli occupation, and therefore Israel as an occupying power will prohibit the entry of this vaccine into the State of Palestine.
All this would not be necessary if Israel, the occupying power, fulfilled its legal, moral and humanitarian obligation to vaccinate the Palestinians living under its military colonial occupation.
Israel is trying to create the impression with its propaganda machine that it is helping the Palestinians in good faith to tackle the virus by keeping them under occupation.