With new revelations of the appalling racism behind Israel’s refusal to provide Covid-19 vaccines to 4.5 million Palestinians under its occupation and control, PSNA has renewed our call for the government to speak out alongside the United Nations and demand Israel end its medical apartheid immediately and provide vaccinations to all Palestinians.
When questioned by Andrew Marr of the BBC this week, Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein likened his obligation to vaccinate Palestinians to Palestinians’ responsibility to care for “dolphins in the Mediterranean” (See interview transcript below)
Israel has touted itself as a leader in vaccine rollout but Palestinians under its occupation or control have been denied the vaccine despite Article 56 of the Geneva Convention making plain the occupying power –
“must adopt and supply the prophylactic and preventative measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics in cooperation with local authorities.”
Israel claims it is Palestinians’ responsibility for health services under the Oslo Accords but this is just a fig leaf for racism and the United Nations says the Geneva Convention overrides the Accords.
A United Nations special report last week makes Israel’s responsibilities clear:
“Morally and legally, differential access to necessary health care amid the worst global health crisis in a century is unacceptable…
The denial of an equal access to health care, such as on the basis of ethnicity or race, is discriminatory and unlawful”
Israel has a decades-long history of racist policies towards Palestinians and earlier this month the largest and most respected human rights group in Israel, B’Tselem, joined international descriptions of Israeli policies towards Palestinians as apartheid.
Israel’s Health Minister has underlined this in heavy red ink. He is speaking about Palestinians in the same way the South African apartheid regime spoke about social services for black South Africans.
Israel cannot be relied on to do the right thing.
New Zealand must end its complicity of silence with Israel’s racist policies and speak out alongside the United Nations demanding vaccines for all Palestinians under Israeli occupation and control.
Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa
*Transcript of Andrew Marr interview of Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein 25 January 2021
Marr: The United Nations says it’s your legal obligation to make sure the Palestinian people under occupation have a swift and equitable access to covid-19 vaccines. Why aren’t you doing this?
Edelstein: As far as the vaccination is concerned, I think that it’s a Israeli obligation first and foremost to its citizens. They pay taxes for that, don’t they? But having said that, I do remember that it’s our interest – not our legal obligation – that it’s our interest to make sure that the Palestinians get the vaccine and they won’t have the covid-19 spreading.
Marr: I understand that, but the Palestinians have asked you for vaccines and you haven’t given them some, and under the Geneva Convention, the 4th Geneval Convention, Israel is required to do so. I can read it back. Article 56 says that Israel ‘must adopt and supply the prophylactic and preventative measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics in cooperation with local authorities.’ Now, that means the vaccine. Why aren’t you giving them the vaccine?
Edelstein: I would say that first of all we can also look into the so-called Oslo Agreements where it says loud and clear that Palestinians have to take care of their own health.
Marr: Again, I’m sorry to interrupt but the United Nations says that international law should supersede the Oslo Agreements on this.
Edelstein: If it is the responsibility of the Israeli Health Minister 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?
Marr: I’m so sorry. Let me put it to you that many of your own citizens also think you should be doing more. There was a petition by 200 rabbis which says: ‘Judaism teaches a moral imperative not to show indifference as our neighbour suffers but rather to mobilise and offer help in times of need.’ The rabbis are right aren’t they?
Edelstein: The rabbis are always right I guess, but I would definitely say that that is exactly why when the Palestinians turn to us in terms of health with their medical teams I authorised passing some vaccines to those medical teams who directly work with corona patients in the Palestinian authority, and as you can hear from this interview it’s not because I think that we have a legal obligation, it’s because I understand that there are doctors and nurses that they don’t get the vaccine at this stage.