Israelis rape Palestinian women

Israel: Provide Vaccines to Palestinians in Occupied Territories

(Jerusalem) - Israeli authorities should provide Covid-19 vaccines to the more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said. While Israel has already vaccinated more than 20 percent of its citizens, including the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, it does not feel it has a duty to vaccinate the Palestinians who live in the occupied territory under its military rule.

Israel's duty under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure medical care, including to combat the spread of pandemics, is tightened after more than 50 years of occupation with no foreseeable end. In addition to the obligations under international human rights law, this also includes the non-discriminatory provision of vaccines to Palestinians living under Israeli control. The yardstick is what Israel provides for its own citizens. The duties of the Palestinian authorities to protect the right to health of the Palestinians in the territories they administer do not absolve Israel from this responsibility.

"Nothing can justify the current situation in parts of the West Bank, where people on one side of the street are getting vaccines while those on the other are not getting any, depending on whether they are Jewish or Palestinian," said Omar Shakir, director for Israel and Palestine at Human Rights Watch. "Everyone within an area should have equal access to the vaccine, regardless of ethnicity."

The Israeli authorities had vaccinated more than 2 million Israeli citizens by January 14, 2021. Priority is given here to health care workers, risk groups and people over the age of 60, the majority of whom are now vaccinated. The vaccination campaign applies to Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government will vaccinate all citizens over the age of 16 by the end of March. He stated on January 7th that "we will vaccinate the entire relevant population and anyone who wishes to be vaccinated can do so."

The “relevant population” in this case means: all except the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (outside of East Jerusalem). The Israeli authorities claim that the responsibility for vaccinating these people rests with the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords. Israel's health minister told Sky News that "they have to learn to take care of themselves" and that he does not believe "that there is anyone in this country, whatever their point of view, who can imagine that I am the Israeli citizens Withhold vaccine to give it to our neighbors, with all the best will. "

However, the Fourth Geneva Convention obliges Israel, as the occupying power, to ensure “medical care for the [occupied] population”, including “the introduction and application of the necessary preventive and precautionary measures to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics”, “with everyone at her disposal ”. Under international humanitarian law, Israel remains the occupying power in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. This arises from the extent of its control, among other things, over borders, the movement of people and goods, security, taxation and the registration of the population.

This obligation, as well as the customary international law requirement anchored in Article 43 of the Hague Decisions of 1907, to guarantee public order and security for the occupied population, becomes more important if the occupation lasts longer. In these circumstances, the needs of the occupied population are greater and the occupying power has more time and opportunity to take responsibility for the protection of rights.

The longer an occupation lasts, the closer military rule should come to an ordinary system of government that respects the standards of international human rights law that apply at all times. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Israel ratified in 1991 and to which the State of Palestine acceded in 2014, requires states to undertake the necessary measures to “prevent, treat and control epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases seize ". The UN body responsible for monitoring this treaty has confirmed that Israel is obliged to comply with this pact in the occupied territories and to protect the right to health and other rights of the people there.

After more than 53 years of occupation, it is the duty of the Israeli authorities to fully respect the human rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, including their right to health, using the rights they grant Israeli citizens as a benchmark, as Human Rights Watch does has set out. The fact that Israeli citizens, including settlers in the West Bank, are receiving vaccines as part of one of the largest vaccination campaigns in the world shows that Israel has the ability, but has chosen to make the vaccines available to at least some Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to leave these people unprotected.

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 1991 that the authorities, in an effort to provide gas masks to all Israelis, "exercise equality" rather than "discriminate" between residents of the West Bank in view of the risk of chemical attack in the run-up to the Gulf War. should. The court wrote: "If the military commander has come to the conclusion that protective equipment is to be distributed to the Jewish residents of the area, such equipment must also be distributed to the Arab residents of the area."

The Oslo Agreement does not remove Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law as it continues to be an occupying power. The Palestinian authorities are also responsible for the residents of those parts of the Occupied Territory where they manage people's affairs. However, given its limited authority and economic resources, its activities do not absolve the Israeli government of its responsibilities. While the Israeli government continues to have primary control and sideline the Palestinian authorities, it should not suddenly turn sole responsibility to those authorities for not wanting to fulfill its obligations regarding the health of the people under occupation. Israeli and Palestinian authorities in the Occupied Territories should work together to ensure that all people receive vaccines without discrimination.

In addition, the Israeli government still has sole control of Area C in the West Bank, which covers more than 60 percent of the territory, so there is no justification for not vaccinating the Palestinians living there.

The Palestinian Authority reported 5,817 active Covid-19 cases in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, as of Jan. 14, and over 100,000 cases and 1,000 deaths in that area since the pandemic began. Hamas authorities reported 7,000 active Covid-19 cases in the Gaza Strip as of January 14, totaling more than 45,000 cases and 400 deaths.

Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai Alkaila said Jan. 9 that the Palestinian Authority had agreements with several companies and the World Health Organization (WHO) to procure adequate supplies of vaccines. The aim is to supply the majority of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, but there is "no specific date" for the arrival of the first doses.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority has asked the international community to put pressure on Israel to provide vaccines to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. It stressed that the Palestinian Authority's efforts to source vaccines did not absolve Israel of its responsibilities under the law of occupation. The Israeli authorities said in a January 12 submission to the Israeli Supreme Court that they had provided the Palestinian Authority with 100 doses of vaccine in response to a request to do so and that they were planning to send another shipment. However, the Palestinian Authority has denied having received any amount of vaccines from Israel. In any case, 100 doses of vaccine would be a fraction of the more than 2 million doses that Israel has already supplied to Israeli citizens.

The admission was in response to a lawsuit brought by the family of an Israeli soldier whose body is being held by Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip. The lawsuit seeks to force the Israeli authorities to withhold vaccines for Gaza until the body is released. According to unconfirmed reports in the Israeli media, the Israeli authorities have linked the delivery of vaccines to the Gaza Strip with the release of the body of the soldier and two Israeli civilians and the body of another soldier who appears to be held there by the Hamas authorities. The Hamas authorities should immediately release the civilians and release the bodies of the soldiers. However, the Israeli authorities should not use the vaccines as leverage, Human Rights Watch said. The lives of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip should not be jeopardized because of the behavior of the Hamas authorities, especially as they have little, if any, control over their behavior.

The British newspaper The Independent reported on Jan. 8 that the Israeli authorities had refused informal requests from WHO and the Palestinian Authority to provide doses of vaccines to Palestinian health workers. Israel itself denies having received such requests.

"The virus does not discriminate against who it infects, but the Israeli government discriminates against who it wants to vaccinate against the virus," said Shakir.