Mainstream media has been full of praise for Israel’s success in vaccinating most of its population. Yet many of us in the Jewish community join friends and allies in our dismay that there has been no such robust vaccination campaign for Palestinians living under military occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.
Like people of color and people living in poverty in the United States, Palestinians are dying from COVID-19 at a much higher rate than their occupiers. And because oppression of Palestinians is one of the few global tragedies that has failed to bring together a weighty progressive opposition in the U.S., we often feel isolated when we express our horror at what has correctly been labeled “medical apartheid” by those paying attention.
Lately we find ourselves somewhat less isolated in our opposition to the indignity of the occupation because the recent deputy director of Israel's Health Ministry, Itamar Grotto, publicly demanded that his government provide efficient and compassionate delivery of vaccines to all Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
We urge readers to recognize that a pressure campaign directed at the Biden Administration calling for vaccination of Palestinians is likely what propelled Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, to appeal to the Israeli government asking them to make vaccination of the entire Palestinian population a priority. Because Israel continues to be a beneficiary of large amounts of financial aid from the United States, such pressure from our government matters.
So far, however, the Israeli government continues to respond with defensiveness to these requests, despite their recent concession to offer vaccinations for Palestinians who work in Israel or in the illegal settlements.
Thus, a weightier sense of outrage from the U.S. must be registered.
We urge concerned members of the public to write letters to editors, call your representatives, and contact major Jewish organizations to express your opposition to the medical apartheid practices of the Israeli government. It is not only a moral issue related to a broader political amorality. It is also an issue of protecting the health of all of us and ending this global pandemic.