Israel Rejects Charge of Excluding Palestinians from Vaccine Drive

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israeli diplomats and journalists have been refuting a charge being made by Amnesty International and parliamentarians and news outlets in several countries that Israel has been shirking its international law obligation to provide the Palestinians with coronavirus vaccinations.

The U.K.-based rights group Amnesty said on Wednesday that Israel had to “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…”

However, no such obligation exists. Under article 17 of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the healthcare of the population under its control, including vaccines, in Yehuda and Shomron and Gaza. Israel has been vaccinating its Arab citizens as well as Palestinians in east Yerushalayim.

The one millionth Israeli to be vaccinated was an Arab Israeli citizen in Umm al-Faham, with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ standing alongside to congratulate him.

Furthermore, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told The New York Times he had “no doubt” Israel would help the Palestinians, but when he made the statement, the Palestinians had not asked Israel to help.

In the meantime, the PA has ordered doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines and the AstraZeneca vaccine, and is expected to begin inoculations in February. The PA is also participating in the World Health Organization’s vaccine aid program.

Nevertheless, in Canada, Charlie Angus and Leah Gazan of Canada’s left-wing New Democratic Party joined the chorus of critics alleging that Israel was “excluding people from being vaccinated based on discriminatory decisions and a clear violation of human rights.”

Israel’s Charge d’Affaires in Canada Ohad Nakash Kaynar blasted Angus in a tweet: “Time for you to review the [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] definition of antisemitism adopted federally in Canada. Would probably also be smart on your behalf to call [former Canadian justice minister] Irwin Cotler and get a short refresher on what antisemitism is, as well,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

The Israeli Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg Emmanuel Nahshon shared a letter published in De Standaard debunking an article in Flemish with a headline similar to that in The Guardian, which printed the same false allegations.

“A good reaction by the Belgian Jewish community to the lies spread by haters in the media. The Palestinians have chosen to run their own vaccination campaign. We’re here if needed,” Nahshon wrote.

In Ireland, Patrick Costello, an MP from the Green Party made similar claims of discrimination against Palestinians in The Irish Times.

There has been no official response from the Israel Foreign Ministry to the spate of Covid libels.

But a Ministry source was quoted as saying that the vast majority of the media coverage of Israel’s vaccine drive has been positive, and the lawmakers attacking Israel’s vaccination efforts tend to be those who were already highly critical of Israel.