Like all people, Palestinians have the right to live in health and safety. But while the Israeli government rolls out the Covid-19 vaccine to millions of Israeli citizens, Israel is denying the lifesaving vaccine to Palestinians living under its military occupation.
It’s time to take a stand to end all military funding to an apartheid regime overseas and to demand the end to apartheid right here.
The Israeli government is obligated under international law to provide the vaccine to Palestinians living under its military occupation but is actively neglecting their obligation to do so.
This endangers Palestinians who are already at risk because of Israel’s systematic destruction of the Palestinian healthcare system.
Meanwhile, in the USA, Indigenous, Black, and brown communities have been impacted by the virus, and are receiving vaccinations at a much lower rate than white Americans, part of longstanding inequalities in healthcare access and structural barriers to care.
Covid-19 did not invent systematic injustice, but it has exposed and sharpened injustices already there for many centuries clogged up and supported in the US legal system.
Israel’s refusal to vaccinate Palestinians is but the latest, cruel and inhuman chapter of its decades-long practice of colonialism, ethnic cleansing, military occupation and, of course, apartheid against the Palestinian people.
The USA is itself a settler-colony with centuries of systematic racism to its name. Both the tolls of Covid-19 and rates of vaccine denial remain systematically centered around Indigenous, Black and brown people. There is a name for this, and it’s medical apartheid.
Israel has weaponized the pandemic and used it to exert pressure to extract political concessions from the Palestinians and to confer Palestine from a political question to a humanitarian crisis.
The siege on Gaza is no longer seen as a form of warfare. The denial of Palestinian political rights and the right to self-determination are deferred. Originally Israel denied Palestinian access to PCR tests.
For the first 5 months of the pandemic, the authorities there had to rely on putting people in quarantine for over a month because they had no access to PCR testing. Likewise, Israel has denied its obligation to provide vaccines under international law.
The only reason Palestinian laborers inside the Green Line got vaccine access is because Palestinian lives only matter insomuch as they protect the lives of the settlers in the racial colony, so that is the only mass vaccination that the Israeli government has provided to Palestinians.
Palestinian are classified into legal and illegal workers. There are about 50,000 ‘legal workers’ – they have health insurance at Israeli corporations inside Israel. They pay about $28/month for that care.
Yet Israel refuses to treat them at Israeli health centers, so Palestinian workers getting injured at Israeli corporations are transported to Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank.
These hospitals in the Israeli occupied West Bank are inadequate due to Israeli strangulation of the Palestinian economy.
There are other legal workers who have permits to enter the settlements, but they don’t have a work permit; Israeli employers deny them health insurance.
Israeli employers force them to leave and seek treatment elsewhere. The rest are ‘illegal workers’ who are denied permits – they are denied any kind of healthcare access.
This racist dynamic has a strong parallel to Palestinians in Palestine in comparison with Jewish Israelis: higher rates of comorbidity and a deliberately underdeveloped health sector are the result of Israeli occupation.
Oppressed groups are way more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 in the first place for example though housing discrimination, including in Black neighborhoods and in indigenous reservations.
Minority neighborhoods have higher rates of policing and lower access to resources. In Palestine, a similar situation, with arbitrary arrests, unequal access to water, home demolitions, and resulting crowded coalitions.
The CDC ordered an emergency eviction moratorium in the USA, but Israel’s government did not pause home demolitions. Patients in Gaza are not only threatened by their conditions, but by Israel’s medical apartheid.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced what we already knew, threatening Palestinians not only through violence, but by denying Palestinian access to healthcare.
Palestinians living under occupation are excluded from receiving vaccines. Let us be very clear, under international law, Israel is responsible for providing vaccination to all Palestinian people living under its occupation.
These systems are mirrored here in the USA where Black and Indigenous neighbors are dying at even twice the rate of privileged white Americans. This must end now.
When we see almost $4 billion going to Israel, I see money going to Israel’s occupation and not going to my district, one of the poorest districts in the country. This is just one more example of the need to stop investing in war and start investing in healthcare.
Mondoweiss / ABC Flash Point News 2021.