GENEVA, May 26, 2021 — Deviating from its focus on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, the annual assembly of the UN’s World Health Organization held a session today singling out Israel, which was condemned in speeches by some 25 delegations, including Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Turkey, Lebanon and Cuba, for allegedly violating the health rights of Palestinians and the Druze population in the Golan Heights.
The session concluded with a vote of 83 to 14, with 39 abstentions, to adopt a resolution, submitted by the Palestinian delegation and co-sponsored by countries such as Cuba, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela and Yemen, requiring the WHO to hold the same debate at next year’s assembly, and to prepare another report on the “Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.”
Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based United Nations Watch, an independent non-governmental organization that monitors the UN, condemned the “cynical politicization of the world’s top health agency at the expense of focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic and other vital global health priorities and emergencies.”
WHO Singles Out Israel, Ignores Syria, Yemen, Venezuela
“Out of 34 items on the current world health assembly’s Agenda, only one, Item 25 targeting Israel, focused on a specific country. There was no agenda item or resolution on any other country, conflict, civil war or political impasse—not on Syria, where hospitals and other medical infrastructure are repeatedly and deliberately bombed by Syrian and Russian forces; not on war-torn Yemen, where 18 million are in dire need of health assistance; and not on Venezuela, where the health system is in a state of collapse and 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance,” said Neuer.
Session Falsely Accused Israel of Violating Palestinian & Syrian Health Rights
“Today’s assault on Israel at the WHO promoted the lie that Israel is harming Palestinian health rights,” said Neuer. “The opposite is true.”
“Despite the fact that the Palestinians have their own health system, and under the Oslo II Peace Accord it is the Palestinian Authority which is responsible for vaccinating their population, Israel has vaccinated over 100,000 Palestinian workers since March as well as donating thousands of vaccine doses for Palestinian medical workers.”
“Israeli medical teams coordinated with Palestinian medical professionals to provide training and assistance. Israel transferred medical equipment and has trained dozens of Palestinian doctors, nurses and medical personnel from Gaza before the Palestinian Authority ceased coordination in May 2020, putting more pressure on their health care system during a pandemic,” Neuer added.
“Moreover, it’s particularly absurd for the WHO to enact a resolution effectively accusing Israel of violating the health rights of Syrians in the Golan, while the Director-General’s report clearly states that they have full access to universal health care under the Israeli health maintenance organizations, including COVID testing, medical care, contact tracing and vaccination,” he said.
France in EU Minority That Supported Biased Resolution
The vote was 83 to 14 in favor of the resolution, with 39 abstentions and 38 absent.
UN Watch applauded the Netherlands, Austria and Colombia for shifting their votes from Abstain last year to No today.
Those that voted No like last year were the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, and Israel.
UN Watch also welcomed the voting shifts of Poland, Malta and Monaco, which moved from Yes to Abstain.
“However, amid a global pandemic, the minority of EU member states and other democracies who voted for the resolution should be ashamed, including France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal, Japan, India, Ireland, New Zealand and Luxembourg.”
“These countries have now encouraged the continued hijacking of the world’s health priorities, and the diversion of precious time, money, and resources to fight global disease, in order to wage a political prosecution of Israel.”
“Anyone who has ever walked into an Israeli hospital or clinic knows that they provide world-class health care to thousands of Palestinian Arabs as well as to Syrians fleeing Assad,” Neuer added.
In addition to voting against the decision, the US took the floor to object to the politicization of the forum.
Resolution Mandates Renewed Report & Debate on Israel
Today’s resolution, which is similar to the text adopted at the 2020 World Health Assembly, mandates the WHO director-general to prepare another report next year, to be submitted to the 75th World Health Assembly in 2022, thereby ensuring another day devoted to vitriolic accusations against Israel by Iran, Syria, Venezuela and others.
Adding to last year’s text, the resolution falsely implied Israeli culpability by calling for “non-discriminatory, affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines” for Palestinians in the disputed territories and Syrians in the Golan Heights.”
And in an apparent reference to the recent 11-day Hamas-Israel conflict, the resolution calls for an assessment of “the extent and nature of psychiatric morbidity, and other forms of mental health problems, resulting from protracted aerial and other forms of bombing among the population,”
By passing the resolution, the assembly also adopted a WHO report which claims that “the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is a protracted protection crisis, with Palestinians exposed to high levels of violence.” Hamas and Islamic Jihad were nowhere mentioned.
The WHO report accuses Israel of hindering “efforts to strengthen, build or rehabilitate infrastructure for the water, sanitation and hygiene services in health care facilities, health and other sectors” due to “restrictions on the entry of materials and Israel’s application of a dual use list.” Yet it completely ignores the diversion of such materials by Hamas for the building of terror tunnels and other terrorist infrastructure at the expense of civilian structures.
The WHO’s report also blames “physical barriers, including the separation wall [and] the extensive network of checkpoints” for “hamper[ing] the free movement of Palestinians within the West Bank, including into east Jerusalem,” yet it ignores the deadly Palestinian terrorism which has made such barriers a necessity in the first place.