Anti-Semitism Prompts Vaccine Accusations

The scourge of anti-Semitism is blighting media reports again. This time the criticisms are focused on a vaccination programme. Israel has taken an early lead in vaccinating its population against COVID-19, making an agreement with Pfizer to receive regular supplies in exchange for rapid feedback of data about the effectiveness of the vaccine.

That arrangement should benefit the whole world in its fight against this pandemic, due to the relatively small size of Israel’s population (just under 9.3 million people) and the excellent health records it keeps. It is in a unique position to test the effectiveness of vaccinating a country’s population – within the context of other health conditions that people may have.

Benjamin Netanyahu gets his second doseBenjamin Netanyahu gets his seond injection (photo: AP)

But it has drawn much criticism for its approach, with many accusing it of improper behaviour towards the Palestinians. On 17th January Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed that Israel should provide vaccines for more than 4.5 million Palestinians.

They claimed that this is Israel’s duty under the Fourth Geneva Convention as ‘an occupying power’ but the Israelis dispute that label for their involvement in areas governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) – the PA has responsibility for the healthcare of its citizens.

Among many other examples is an article from Euronews accusing the Israelis of ‘vaccine apartheid’. It highlights concerns raised by the World Health Organization (WHO) about unequal distribution of vaccines in the country.

Lawrence Gostin, Professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University, is quoted as saying:

“The truth is all high-income countries have done it, European countries have done it,
the UK has done it, the US, Canada they’ve all tried to advance purchase … There are no
two ways about it, it is wrong. It`s one example of the many inequities in the world.”

And on Thursday 21st January, two veteran UK politicians joined the criticism, writing in a letter to The Telegraph that:

“Israel declines to administer this lifesaver to Palestinians living in their own country,
despite its legal obligation to do so as the occupying power. It is difficult to understand how any rational person
can support this unjustifiable differentiation between populations.”

Once again there are many people taking aim at their favourite target, Israel. But they are doing so in denial of the value to the world of rapid evaluation of the effectiveness of a vaccination programme. And, in doing so, many are turning a blind eye to the PA’s responsibilities.

Palestinian Media Watch have shown that the PA have repeatedly failed to ask for help from Israel and even said that Israel’s help was not needed – all the time from November 2020 through to 9th January this year. Then suddenly, on 10th January, the PA changed its policy and started demanding that Israel supply vaccines.

Amid all this, some Israeli officials are responding with straightforward logic. Writing to the Financial Times, Ohad Zemet, spokesperson of Israel’s Embassy to the UK, noted that the Palestinians had chosen to exercise responsibility over their own healthcare system and not to make an official request to participate in Israel’s vaccination programme.

He went on to say that:

‘A flawed and grotesquely oversimplified worldview on the part of non-governmental
organisations has presented Israel as unremittingly uncooperative and the Palestinians as passive victims, with a leadership that has no obligation to take care of its own people.’

He points out that there is a great need for the PA to take responsibility for its actions and work for the best interests of its people.

Sadly, it prefers to blame all their problems on the Israelis (with the aid of many critics around the world).