Amnesty: Israel flagrantly violated obligations to vaccinate Palestinians

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Amnesty: Israel flagrantly violated obligations to vaccinate Palestinians

Human rights group's report said Israel failed to give jabs to five million in the West Bank and Gaza, which is an 'illustration of the extent of institutionalised discrimination'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

A Palestinian man is helped by his son as he receives a vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as Israel continues its national vaccination drive, in East Jerusalem December 23, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
A Palestinian man is helped by his son as he receives a vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as Israel continues its national vaccination drive, in East Jerusalem December 23, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Amnesty International has suggested Israel “flagrantly violated” its “obligations as an occupying power under international law” with its policy on supplying Covid-19 vaccinations to the Palestinians.

The human rights charity’s annual global report which was published on Wednesday, said the Israeli authorities had failed to provide vaccinations to five million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza when the vaccination drive began in December 2020.

The State of The World’s Human Rights report claimed this was as “a clear illustration of the extent of institutionalized discrimination in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

It said: “This move flagrantly violated Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under international law.”

Israel had surged ahead as the world’s leading country for vaccinating its citizens against Covid-19 since December.

In March Israel decided to start vaccinating all Palestinians who come to work in Israel or in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

But for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza – home to an estimated five million people – the vaccination programme has lagged behind.

The Palestinan Authority had announced it had sourced its own supplies of vaccine from Russia, and were not asking the Israelis for assistance.

Under the Oslo Accords the PA is responsible for the health care of its citizens. Although a line in the agreement relating to contagious diseases has been used to suggest Israel has a responsibility to supply Covid vaccines.

The former chief of Israel’s vaccine programme Ronnie Gamzu is amongst those who to argue Israel should be looking to vaccinate a wider region that just its own border against Covid.

The new Amnesty report also accused the Israeli authorities of resorting to raids, judicial harassments and travel bans to intimidate peaceful critics – including Amnesty International’s own campaigner Laith Abu Zeyad who continues to face a travel ban.

It also accused the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip of contining to crack down on dissent, including by stifling freedom of expression and assembly, attacking journalists and detaining opponents.

The new report also said Israel continued to carry out systematic violations, including crimes under international law, against Palestinians with impunity.

It said the pre-trial chamber at the International Criminal Court was still looking at the question of the court’s jurisdiction in the OPT, the result of which may allow for the Office of the Prosecutor to open an investigation into crimes under international law.

The report said Israel continued to impose institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians living under its rule in Israel and the OPT, displacing at least 996 Palestinians in Israel and the occupied West Bank through home demolitions.

It said that in Gaza and southern Israel, sporadic bursts of armed hostilities flared up between Israel and Palestinian armed groups.

Israel “maintained its illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip,” the report added.

Amnesty’s 2020/21 Global Report said the global pandemic had “exposed the terrible legacy of deliberately divisive and destructive policies that have perpetuated inequality, discrimination and oppression and paved the way for the devastation wrought by COVID-19 globally and within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).”

It said coronavirus had also aggravated the already vulnerable situation of migrant workers who are bound by the abusive kafala (sponsorship) system in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

It warned that leaders in MENA and across the world have ruthlessly exploited the crisis to continue their attacks on human rights.

In Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia authorities withheld healthcare as punishment, leading to some deaths in Egypt.

“COVID-19 has brutally exposed and deepened inequality both within and between countries and highlighted the staggering disregard our leaders have for our shared humanity. Decades of divisive policies, misguided austerity measures, and choices by leaders not to invest in crumbling public infrastructure, have left too many easy prey to this virus,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s new Secretary General.

“We face a world in disarray. At this point in the pandemic, even the most deluded leaders would struggle to deny that our social, economic and political systems are broken.”

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