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Israel denies legal obligation to provide COVID vaccine to Palestinians in occupied territories

In ongoing defiance of its legal and moral obligations as an “occupying power”, the Zionist state of ‘Israel’ continues to reject that it must provide coronavirus vaccinations to Palestinians living in occupied territories.[1]

The World Health Organization (WHO) made an informal prompt to the Israeli government to rapidly procure or deliver coronavirus vaccines to Palestinian doctors, nurses, and other health workers so that the pandemic does not become exacerbated with hospitals being out of use due to infected staff. ‘Israel’ flatly rejected the request.[2]

Yesterday, the Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has gone a step further, saying that it is not the job of ‘Israel’ to provide the vaccine to Palestinians residing in occupied areas. Edelstein claimed that whilst ‘Israel’ had an “interest” in vaccinating Palestinians, there was no legal obligation to do so.

Edelstein told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show:

“As far as vaccination is concerned, I think it is Israel’s obligation first and foremost to its citizens… They pay taxes for that, don’t they? But having said that, I do remember that it is our interest – not our legal obligation, but our interest – to make sure Palestinians get the vaccine, that we don’t have COVID-19 spreading…” [1]

This is absolutely untrue, as Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:

“Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals.”[3]

Article 56 of the Convention states:

“To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.” [3]

There are close to five million Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. Due to the severely underfunded healthcare system, people are struggling to prevent the spread of the virus. None of the five million Palestinians have been offered the COVID-19 jab, whilst many Jews in the West Bank have already been given the shot.

Not only has the WHO requested that ‘Israel’ act to protect Palestinians in occupied territories, the UN has also made clear that the Oslo Accords – a set of agreements signed in 1993–1995 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and ‘Israel’ – must be respected and adhered to.

However, Edelstein retorted sarcastically by saying:

“If it is the responsibility of the Israeli health ministry to take care of the Palestinians, what exactly is the responsibility of the Palestinian health minister – to take care of the dolphins in the Mediterranean?” [1]

Petty attempts at blaming the Palestinian Health Ministry are of no help when, in reality, the Ministry has been informally seeking support from ‘Israel’ since the pandemic first hit the region.

It is in the interests of both Palestinians and Israelis that there is coordination between the two states, as citizens of both states frequently cross over into one another’s territories on a daily basis, with thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank reported to work in ‘Israel’.[4]

Any spike in cases in the occupied territories could potentially be transported into the Zionist state as well. One could make a strong case for ‘Israel’ taking the bulk of the blame for any further COVID-19-related Palestinian deaths if the inaction by the Israeli government continues, as to act is their responsibility under international law.

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Notes:

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/coronavirus-vaccine-israel-palestinians-b1791884.html

[2] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/israel-rejects-vaccine-request-from-who-for-palestinians/

[3] https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/ihl/385ec082b509e76c41256739003e636d/6756482d86146898c125641e004aa3c5

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/03/palestinians-excluded-from-israeli-covid-vaccine-rollout-as-jabs-go-to-settlers

The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.

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About Shaheer Choudhury

One comment

  1. Why hasn’t the Palestinian Health Ministry been formally seeking support from Israel since the pandemic first hit the region?
    It is said to have asked for supplies of a Russian vaccine. Given Palestinians; distrust of Israel and superstitions widespread among muslims about vaccines, how likely would it be for an Israeli-run programme of vaccination to succeed, even if the PA or HAMAS carried it out?

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