“Israel’s Racist Vaccines”
UN Human Rights Council
46th Session, March 2021
Maldives: “We call on the occupying power to ensure equitable access and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines to the Palestinians.”
Syria: “Israel, the occupying power, continues its unlawful measures and discriminatory practices, racial discrimination against the Palestinian people.”
Namibia: “Immediately cease with the vaccine discrimination. The occupying power’s practice of institutionalized discrimination and Apartheid against the Palestinian people has persisted for far too long.”
Algeria: “We decry the institutional racism of Israelis against the Palestinians.”
Human Rights Watch: “Israel’s discriminatory vaccination policy underscores its repressive role and the need for international action to address its serious abuses.”
Pakistan: “Apartheid policies…”
Yemen: “Racist practices by Israel…”
UNHRC Chair: I give the floor to United Nations Watch.
Hillel Neuer, UN Watch: Madam President, the Vienna Declaration guarantees the right to health. Today’s greatest threat to public health is the coronavirus.
In that regard, Israel’s world-leading vaccination program is a model to be admired and emulated.
Yet for some people, any good news about Israel is a problem. It disturbs their worldview, and makes them angry. And so their reaction to the good news about Israel’s vaccines was to twist it into something sinister.
The canard that began to circulate was summarized by the comic TV news presenter on Saturday Night Live, who said, “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half their population — and I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
This is exactly what many around the world now believe.
Madam President, I am taking the floor today to state for the record, before the United Nations, and before the world: That is a lie.
The truth is that Israel’s vaccination program has run in all Arab areas in Israel from day one.
Out of a concern that not enough Israeli Arabs were coming to get vaccinated, Israel’s prime minister visited Arab cities, speaking into the TV camera to say in Arabic, “Go and get vaccinated.”
The truth is that, as of March 5th, 84% of Israel’s Arab population over the age of 50 were vaccinated with at least one dose, or recovered from the virus. The numbers by now will be even higher.
Madam President, the truth is that there never was any ethnic or religious discrimination in Israel’s vaccination program. The truth is the opposite: Israel’s government actively campaigned to encourage Arab-Israelis to get vaccinated.
But what about Israel’s Palestinian neighbors? Well, they have their own health system, and under the Oslo II Peace Accord — Article 17, Annex I — it is the Palestinian Authority which is responsible for vaccinating their population.
Though it is not obliged, Israel is helping. It has already vaccinated 90,000 Palestinians who enter Israel, and just transferred more than 60,000 vaccines from COVAX to the Palestinian Authority. More help is coming, and that’s a good thing.
Yet over the past few months, there was this recurring blood libel, which began with activists, but was then echoed repeatedly by the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, and other media around the globe, that Israel was being “racist.”
What is so interesting, is that this was NOT what the Palestinians were saying. Look at the timeline.
December 21st, 2020: A Palestinian Ministry of Health official states for the record that the Palestinian Authority had NOT asked Israel to supply them with the vaccine.
The PA official said, as reported by Khaled Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post: “We are working on our own to obtain the vaccine from a number of sources. We are not a department in the Israeli Defense Ministry. We have our own government and Ministry of Health, and they are making huge efforts to get the vaccine.”
Suddenly, on January 11th, Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh declared: “We condemn the racism of Israel, the occupying power.”
Apparently, the PA felt pressured by so-called human rights activists to join the blood libel. These are the same activists now lobbying this Council to expand its blacklist of Israeli companies, even as the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, are making peace with Israel, and expanding their trade, tourism and other relations. There is something peculiar in that.
January 3rd, The Guardian: “The Palestinian Authority has NOT officially asked for help from Israel. Coordination between the two sides halted last year, after the Palestinian president cut off security ties for several months.”
Only after the false narrative was spread by others, did the PA suddenly change its tune.
Initially, the Palestinian Authority’s position was clear: they said they had their own government, their own health ministry, and they did not want Israel’s help,
But activists in Europe and elsewhere were promoting another narrative.
On January 3rd,, Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch tweeted about “Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in distributing the Covid vaccine.”
On January 5th, Amnesty International tweeted, “While Israel celebrates a record-setting vaccination drive, millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control will receive no vaccine. There could hardly be a better illustration of how Israeli lives are valued above Palestinian.”
Madam President, only after this false narrative began to spread, did the PA change its tune.
And the activists contradict themselves. In order to blame Israel, campaigners like Ken Roth tried to downplay the powers and responsibilities on vaccinations that were actually transferred to the PA under the Oslo Accords. Yet these are the same people who, in another context—to support prosecuting Israeli officers the International Criminal Court—argue the PA is so powerful as to be considered a state.
Madam President: The rationale and motive of these activists are clear, and it has nothing to do with human rights.