BY PAM BAILEY JANUARY 14, 2021Protests are growing as Israel becomes the country with the highest per-capita COVID-19 vaccination rate while refusing to facilitate a supply of the lifesaving treatment for the Palestinian territory it controls.
A Change.org petition calls on the Israeli government to “assume its responsibility as an occupying power under international law and stop this blatant act of racial discrimination.” Democrat representative from Illinois Marie Newman tweeted, “The Netanyahu administration has a moral and humanitarian obligation to ensure that both Israelis & Palestinians have access to vaccines.” The activist group CODEPINK followed with an email to its followers, asking them to demand that their own congresspeople “condemn Israeli medical apartheid.” And now, five human rights organizations have lodged a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court challenging the refusal of the minister of internal security to vaccinate Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Through Jan. 13, 1,814 Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory have died of COVID-19—441 of them in the Gaza Strip. According to the World Health Organization, the positivity rate is much higher in the occupied territory (30%) than in Israel (7.9%). Yet while not even one dose of any of the approved vaccines has made it to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel has vaccinated its own population faster than any country in the world, with around 20% of Israelis receiving the vaccines so far.
“The Israeli government must 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 in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” said Amnesty International in a statement.
The extended family of Asmaa Tayeh, operations manager for We Are Not Numbers, is increasingly typical of residents there. Twenty-five members of the clan have tested positive for the virus, 15 have fallen ill and three have died.
“Ever since the reports of the virus surfaced in March 2020, we’ve been paranoid,” says Asmaa. “I was scared to death and ran to the market to fetch food so we could prepare to stay home for months. I’d yell at anyone who left the house. But since we didn’t know anyone who was infected, we started feeling a little safer. Then came November and December. More and more of our relatives were infected. On top of that was the fear that we wouldn’t get good medical care, since the Israeli occupation has crippled our health care system.”
Another member of We Are Not Numbers, Nour Yacoubi, was forced to delay her wedding when her future sister- and brother-in-law were hospitalized in the ICU. Meanwhile, WANN’s Gaza manager, Issam Adwan, fought to get his mother, who struggles with a heart condition, tested for the virus when she started showing telltale symptoms. Tests are in short supply, however, and she was initially refused the diagnostic. By the time she lost her taste and smell and was granted the test, almost everyone in her family had been exposed, with many testing positive and several falling ill.
Dr. Ayman Elhalabi, Gaza’s general director of Medical Supportive Services, confirms that testing for COVID-19 still is not broadly available, almost a year after the pandemic swept the world, due to shortages.
“The central laboratory of the Ministry of Health is the only place in the Strip that can perform the COVID-19 test,” he explains. “The lab ran 200 to 300 tests a day in the beginning of this crisis, but now we’re doing between 2,000 and 3,000. Still, it’s not enough. So, we have to prioritize patients by the severity of their condition. Currently, I’d estimate we have enough test kits for 20 more days.”
The shortage of tests is particularly critical since COVID-19 infections are surging at the same time as an emergence of a new variant of the virus now found in up to 32 countries. One study estimates that it is up to 70% more transmissible, although it does respond to current vaccines.
“Gaza’s hospitals are in serious crisis due to the increasing cases of COVID; it’s put a lot of pressure on our capacity to deliver other medical services,” says Dr. Elhalabi. “Many doctors and nurses are working overtime and they are being paid just 50% of their salaries. These are people who need to provide for their families.”
Despite the crisis, few are hopeful that Gaza will get any of the newly-approved vaccines anytime soon.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank accused Israel of ignoring its responsibilities to ensure vaccines are available in occupied territory and has struggled to obtain supplies elsewhere. The PA has said it negotiated with British drug giant AstraZeneca to receive a first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses in March—far later than other countries and not likely to be sufficient. Most recently, it announced that it has arranged to obtain the Russian vaccine known as Sputnik V, with the first shipment expected to arrive next month. However, its resources are limited and it is unknown how much will be allocated for Gaza, since the PA is at odds with Hamas, which governs the Strip.
Gerald Rockenschaub, head of the World Health Organization’s mission to the Palestinians, told the British newspaper The Independent that it asked Israel to provide COVID-19 vaccines to at least cover Palestinian health workers. Nearly 8,000 Palestinian medics have reportedly been infected by the virus. The Israeli government declined, saying it must take care of its own population first.
“We’re hearing a lot of mixed news,” says Dr. Elhalabi. “Really, I think we are months away from receiving the vaccines. I call on the international and Arab communities to intervene before the situation gets out of control.”
As for Asmaa, she’s not surprised. “The virus will get rid of a good number of Palestinians. This way, Israel won’t have to pay as much as it does in a war to kill us. Plus, we’ll be too distracted by sickness to fight back.”
Anas Mohammed Jnena contriubted reporting to this article
This article was originally published on January 12, 2021, by We Are Not Numbers and is republished with permission.https://mondoweiss.net/2021/01/covid-19-virus-runs-amok-in-gaza-19-infections-in-one-family-3-deaths/?fbclid=IwAR0Oi0XN_04LGxGCH8_jddCaSTu6ldYL5IwrL_SUiNACkFa5tb14A7S23UY
Philip Weiss, senior editor and founder of the progressive siteMondoweiss, wrote a hard-hitting analytical piece titled “America’s Whiteness Crisis, and Zionism’s,” just a few hours after a mob of white bigots stormed the Capitol, in which he maintained that it was no coincidence to see Israeli flags brandished at the Capitol Hill riot only because“Israel’s proudly-stated principle of Jewish supremacy, higher Jewish rights to land and office, have long been a model for white supremacists.” He goes on to argue, eloquently, that there are glaring contradictions between Zionism and democratic ideals as evident in Israel’s more than 60 racistBasic Laws, including the notorious Nation-State Law that defines Israel as the state of Jews only. As per the definition of apartheid under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Israel’s practices towards Palestinians amount to “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination.” But Trump supporters, like Israeli Zionists, do not give a damn about the ICC and its definitions, nor do they know what basic human rights mean, nor do they see the humanity of the “other”— be it Black, or Palestinian, or Hispanic!
Coincidentally, a couple of days after the Capitol riotوThe Guardian ran a piece by Hagai El-Ad , the executive director of Israel’s most liberal human rights organization B’Tselem, the title of which is very telling: “We are Israel's largest human rights group – and we are calling this apartheid.” El-Ad is blunt about Israel’s apartheid and racism based on the “the systematic promotion of the supremacy of one group of people (the Jewish people) over another (the Palestinians,)” which, he concludes,is“deeply immoral and must end.” Interestingly, different from South African apartheid and American segregation laws, “Israel’s definitions do not depend on skin colour,”but that makes no material difference; what really matters, according to El-Ad is “the supremacist reality which is the heart of the matter.” He does not mince his words and calls a spade a spade: it is “Jewish supremacy!”
In the case of (MAGA,) it is racial supremacy; in apartheid Israel, it is ethno-religious. Hence the love affair between the two of them.
The comparison with the apartheid regime of South Africa and the American South under the Jim Crow Laws is unavoidable. Ideology has its own way, especially when it is hegemonic, one that represents the interests of racial supremacists. The Whites of apartheid South Africa defined the institutions of the country as democratic—albeit white democracy, i.e., by and for whites only. The idea of defining the country as exclusively white and democratic at the same time was never accepted by the international community. But that is the model for Trumps’ supporters, the bigots who stormed the Capitol and who happened to be overwhelmingly white; that is what “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) is all about.
So, what Trump supporters basically want is a state similar to both Israel and white South Africa, a state where the exclusive right of Whites to “self-determination” is guaranteed!Hence the admiration for Israel, and I would add White South Africa and Nazi Germany as well, and the unashamed brandishing of the Israeli flag, Trump flag, and the Confederate flag, all of which have become symbols of the fascist, far-right. But, ironically, the same far-right that admires Israel happens to hate Jews; slogans such as “Camp Auschwitz” and “6 Million Was Not Enough” were spotted, next to the Israeli flag, in Capitol Hill!
To explain this “contradiction,” Philip Weiss quotes Jewish Voices for Peace comment: Many white supremacist groups both hate Jews and love Israel. Depending on their specific ideology, they may admire Israel as a model ethnic supremacist state, share its Islamophobic and anti-Arab views, and/or want Jews to be corralled in their own state far away from the US.
Making America Great Again (MAGA) would ideally lead to specifying the nature of the United State of America as the nation-state of the White people and where;
A-The United Sates becomes the national home of the White people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious, and historical right to self-determination.
Sounds familiar?! That would be America’s Nation-State Law if those far-right fascists got their way.
Hendrik Verwoerd, Jim Crow, Ariel Sharon, and Adolf Hitler must be clapping with joy in their graves!
I pondered a bit before deciding that I would not start this newsletter with the much-clichéd “Happy New Year”. It simply does not feel that way in most parts of the world. Covid, conflicts, economic racism and oppression, battles of caste, colour, and ethnicity clearly tell us that we are still away from that day when we can celebrate. The time for celebration will arrive when the times of oppression have ended . The conditions that Palestinians face are particularly painful. The last few years have been harsh in multiple ways for them with a malicious and disparaging Donald Trump staging political steps one after the other to inflict havoc. The year began with an announcement by Trump in which he made public his so-called vision for peace – stillborn and trivial, totally racist and discriminatory. That not a single Palestinian was there to join the unveiling of the plan evidenced its total rejection.What of the future? How will Biden deal with it? Will he undo it in whatever way he knows? Will new negotiations begin and an out-of-the-box solution emerges? Or will it be more of the same under a different design? But it’s not doomsday by any stretch of imagination. On 31st December, Palestine observed the 56th anniversary of the launch of the Palestinian resistance and national liberation movement against the Israeli occupation. As a WAFA report put it: “The popular resistance, the steadfastness of Palestinian people in the various areas threatened by settlements, and their achievements affirm the continuation of this revolution by the means available to thwart all settlement projects on the road to the implementation of the United Nations resolutions and the Palestinian national project”.
Various other forms of resistance either by direct Palestinian action or by solidarity from Israeli peace groups show signs of optimism and anticipation for justice. HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual and seven other human rights organizations petitioned Israel’s High Court demanding that incarcerated Palestinians defined as "security" prisoners and detainees be allowed to maintain telephone contact with their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, today said a press release. Joined by the organizations Addameer, al-Mezan, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee against Torture, Adalah and Parents Against Child Detention, these signs of solidarity add dimensions of hopefulness to the Palestinian aspiration.
One thing is certain. The occupation may look like it is flourishing. But it is in a state of self-imposed siege. It has no just base. What seems to be an edifice of supremacy and success is certain to fall apart – sooner than later.