Vaccination rates highlight significant differences between Israelis and Palestinians – amid strife over responsibility

Both are Palestinian residents of Kafr ‘Aqab, a fingertip territory that is part of a larger Jerusalem under Israeli law but is considered an illegally annexed territory under international law after being captured from Jordan in 1967.

Israel’s gigantic concrete security wall also walled away from Jerusalem. Jewish Israelis rarely come here, only in uniform, to lead military raids.

Mahmoud Oudeh, like thousands of residents of the city, has a Palestinian identity card. His friend, Anan abu Aishe, has an Israeli ID that identifies him as a permanent resident of East Jerusalem. This entitles him to join Israel’s world-leading vaccination campaign, which aims to meet the government’s goal of vaccinating the entire country by the end of March.

But at least 4.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza will be left behind. So far, none have received the injections, and they probably won’t receive them soon – because there is no Covid-19 vaccination campaign in the Palestinian territories.

So if Anan gets the vaccine and continues to slice and sell meat from the carcasses of goats and cows swinging from hooks in the store next to her friend, she says she would feel guilty.

“Half of those who live here can’t stand it, so I won’t either. Why would I take it when they don’t know? I won’t,” he told CNN.

“It’s racist,” Mahmoud added.

UN experts say an immunization policy that discriminates between those with and without an Israeli ID is “unacceptable.”

According to a UN expert report, Israel has been the occupying power in Gaza and the West Bank, and since 1967, and is thus ultimately responsible for the health care of those under occupation.

According to an expert report published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Israel needs to extend its vaccination campaign to all Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

On January 8, 2021, a Palestinian health worker tested a woman for Covid-19 in the West Bank village of Dura, southwest of Hebron.
“Experts have said that as an occupying power, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel must” fully use the means at its disposal “to provide health services in the occupied territory. Article 56 requires Israel to accept and apply.” the preventive and preventive measures needed to combat the spread of communicable diseases and epidemics “in cooperation with national and local authorities”, the Human Rights Body said in a communication.

Experts also said: “4.5 million Palestinians will remain defenseless and exposed to Covid-19, while Israeli citizens living in and around them, including the Israeli settlers, will be vaccinated. Morally and legally, this is necessary. differential access to health care is unacceptable in the midst of the worst global health crisis of the century. ”

But with Israel’s vaccination campaign reaching 20% ​​of the Israeli population (including East Jerusalem residents), that’s not a characterization that Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein accepts.

“Our calculation was based on Israeli citizens. If we get into a situation where everyone in the country who wants to be vaccinated gets vaccinated, we are more than ready to share the vaccinations with our neighbors,” Edelstein told CNN.

“At this stage, we’re talking about Israeli citizens … I haven’t heard of Israel’s obligation to pay anyone else for vaccinations.”

The Israeli government points to the Oslo agreements signed with the Palestinian Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s, which led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The first such agreement includes a clause giving the PA responsibility for the health of Palestinians under its civilian administration.

Experts acknowledge that it is not a straightforward task to shift the responsibilities assigned by Oslo, which were not the final status agreement, to the tasks set out in the Geneva Conventions.

In an interview with CNN, Edelstein was correct in terms of interests rather than obligations rather than decision.

“We are not delivering vaccines at this stage, but we understand that it is in Israel’s interest to ensure that we do not get into a situation where we get vaccinated and then out of this trouble, and there is another jump in numbers on the Palestinian side,” Edelstein added.

The deaths of people with fortified Covid-19 in the Palestinian Territories and East Jerusalem (1.1%) are higher than in Israel (0.7%), but significantly lower than in the United States (1.7%) and the United Kingdom. Kingdom (2.6%), according to the World Health Organization.

PA Secretary of State Dr. Mai Al-Kaileh says they are expected to get the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of March, but there is no set date for their arrival yet. According to the ministry, it has signed contracts with four vaccine companies. These vaccines cover 70% of the Palestinian population and the World Health Organization provides 20% to the ministry, ”the PA said in a statement on 9 January.

At Ramallah Central Hospital, doctors work around the clock to treat coronavirus patients in a Covid-only intensive care unit. As in many other hospitals around the world, unfamiliar staff were recruited to help cope with the epidemic. After prolonged closure, recordings will be reduced and the ICU unit will not be full on the day of CNN’s visit.

Dr. Wafa Shihadeh, a resident general surgeon, has been working in the departments of Covid-19 for months. He says he saw many of his colleagues succumb to the infection and spread it to their families.

“We’re starting to feel depressed because we don’t get vaccinations here in the Palestinian territories,” he said. “And across the border, Israel … I think about 1,600,000 people were vaccinated three days ago, and the number of people vaccinated here in Palestine is zero.”

Abeer Salman contributed to the report.