Michael Lynk, the UN Human Rights Council’s monitor charged with investigating “Israel’s violations of the bases and principles of international law,” together with Tlaleng Mofokeng, the council’s health monitor who in November tweeted “Free Palestine,” have inserted the imprimatur of the United Nations into the propaganda campaign that seeks to unfairly malign Israel for not providing Palestinian Authority residents with coronavirus vaccines while punishing Israelis for their world-leading vaccination program.
In a January 14 press release, the UN appointees acknowledge Israel’s impressive vaccination rollout and the inclusion of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. “However,” they say, “Israel has not ensured that Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza will have any near-future access to the available vaccines.”
Claiming that millions of Palestinians will remain unprotected and exposed to the coronavirus while Israeli citizens, including settlers, will be vaccinated, they opine: “Morally and legally, this differential access to necessary health care in the midst of the worst global health crisis in a century is unacceptable.”
Yet, in a seeming contradiction, the press release then states that the Palestinian Authority has ordered COVID-19 vaccines separately even if it may take some weeks before delivery.
It is worth noting that on the very same day, the World Health Organization was lamenting that 95 percent of vaccine doses so far administered worldwide were limited to 10 countries, including Israel. Equitable global distribution of vaccines is clearly an issue of concern but the UN has not singled out the U.S., China, the UK, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Russia, Germany, Spain and Canada for prioritizing their own populations above those of other countries. Would the two UN monitors be so focused on Israel were it not for the significant speed and efficiency of vaccinations that has brought the country so much attention?
At this time, approximately a quarter of Israel’s eligible population have received their first vaccine dose, reportedly recently reaching over 2 million people. This means that the majority of Israelis are, like the Palestinians, still waiting to be vaccinated.
In an interview with Sky News, Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein reiterated that while Israel has been assisting the Palestinians from the very beginning of the crisis with medical equipment, training and supplies, “I don’t think that there’s anyone in this country, whatever his or her views might be, that can imagine that I would be taking a vaccine from the Israeli citizen, and, with all the goodwill, give it to our neighbors.”
Asked if Israel would provide the vaccine to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza once its population is vaccinated, he said: “We definitely will consider that but as I’ve said, I sincerely hope that by that time part of their population will be vaccinated by different vaccines that they are trying to purchase. If any other help will be needed, we will offer.”
Misinterpreting International law, Implying Israeli Racism
The UN monitors justify their criticism by claiming Israel is obligated to provide the Palestinians with vaccines as an “occupying power” under the Fourth Geneva Convention, a charge similarly made by Human Rights Watch’s Ken Roth that UN Watch executive director addressed as part of a recent Twitter thread:
2/ See Oslo Accords, 1995 Interim Agreement, Annex I, Art. 17:
Powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health…will be transferred to the Palestinian side…
…the Palestinian side shall continue the vaccination of the population…https://t.co/DhIieKwiUn
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) January 4, 2021
In a particularly malicious comment, Lynk and Mofokeng say: “The denial of an equal access to health care, such as on the basis of ethnicity or race, is discriminatory and unlawful.” This reference is nothing more than an attempt to portray Israel as a racist “apartheid” state that discriminates against Palestinians on the basis of their ethnicity. This despite having already acknowledged that Palestinian residents of Jerusalem have been offered the vaccines. Indeed, as members of Israeli health maintenance organizations, these Palestinians are entitled to the same healthcare benefits as all Israelis, irrespective of race or religion.
In another deliberate twist, according to the press release the experts said that “some Israeli commentators have justified the differential treatment on the grounds that the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, an integral part of the Oslo Accords, provides that the Palestinian Authority would assume the responsibility for health care in the Palestinian territory, including for vaccinations.”
The emphasis on “some Israeli commentators” implies that this is a minority view held only by Israelis and therefore a less legitimate legal opinion of which agreements govern Israel’s responsibilities. Until they saw anti-Israel critics successfully propagating the smear that Israel had withheld vaccines from them, the Palestinians hadn’t even asked Israel to provide them with the vaccine, recognizing their own responsibilities even to the extent of signing their own deal with the AstraZeneca pharmaceutical firm, as well as procuring the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
That the UN monitors’ criticism of Israel follows the Palestinian Authority’s sudden release of a statement claiming that Israel is nevertheless responsible for providing vaccines, speaks volumes.
An Inappropriate Comparison
According to the press release, the experts pointed to the example of the 1991 Gulf War when the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Israeli military to distribute gas masks to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza on the same basis as it had delivered them to all Israelis. They quoted the court ruling that “the military commander should treat everybody with equality. He must not discriminate between residents. Once the military commander came to the conclusion that protective kits should be distributed to the Jewish residents of the area, he should also distribute kits to the Arab residents.”
This is an entirely irrelevant and inappropriate comparison. From a legal perspective, the Gulf War occurred before the Oslo Accords at a time when both the West Bank and Gaza were under full Israeli military and civil control. At this time, Israeli authorities were responsible for all aspects of Palestinian lives in those territories. In the face of the perceived risk of Iraqi Scud missiles falling indiscriminately on those territories, Palestinians clearly had no means of defending themselves.
Today, the Hamas terrorist organization controls the Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian Authority services the health needs of its people in the West Bank, and has a budget for this. In 1991, the Palestinians had neither the means nor the responsibility to procure their own protective kits. Today they have both.
The press release concludes by expressing concern that the Israeli Prison Service has been instructed by the Israeli Public Security Ministry not to vaccinate Palestinian security prisoners. Despite internal wrangling, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has said that Israel would start vaccinating all prisoners next week, including Palestinian security prisoners being held in Israeli correctional facilities.
It was only a matter of time before appointees of the UN Human Rights Council would join the propaganda campaign launched by politicized non-governmental organizations and appropriated by the Palestinians. For Michael Lynk, the coronavirus is but another opportunity to attack Israel, while Tlaleng Mofokeng diminishes her position by diverting attention away from the billions of people worldwide who require urgent help in the face of the pandemic.
Authors of UN Press Release Are Both Pro-Palestinian Partisans
The two authors of the UN press release have a record of partisanship.
Canadian law professor Michael Lynk, whose full UN title is “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967,” holds the dubious honor of 3rd place in UN Watch’s Top 10 Worst UN Anti-Israel Actions of 2020 for his bias and discrimination against Israel. Lynk wants people to think he examines the situation of human rights in that area, concerning any victims, Palestinians and Israelis alike. Yet contrary to what his title says, Lynk issued 15 press releases in 2020—and every one targeted Israel alone. None focused on abuses by Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.
In July, the United Nations published as an official document a UN Watch submission that detailed Lynk’s failure to uphold universal human rights. (See A/HRC/44/NGO/131)
Lynk’s co-author is South African Tlaleng Mofokeng, the “Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” A controversial appointment due to her campaigning for the decriminalization of prostitution, Mofokeng has no specialization in Israeli or Palestinian issues. Nonetheless, in November 2020, she made it clear that she is anything but neutral and objective when it comes to Israel when she tweeted “Free Palestine.”
— Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng (@drtlaleng) November 29, 2020