Israel has blocked a shipment of coronavirus vaccines from reaching Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip, while Israeli politicians consider withholding them as blackmail.
Soldiers stopped a first shipment of some 2,000 vaccines from leaving the Palestinian West Bank on Monday, destined for the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials said the vaccines couldn’t leave the West Bank because they hadn’t granted the Palestinian Authority (PA) permission to send them to Gaza.
Some Israeli politicians said the vaccines should only be allowed into Gaza in return for concessions from Palestinian resistance group Hamas, which controls the territory.
An Israeli security source said the PA’s request to send vaccines to Gaza was “still being reviewed.”
It’s yet more proof that Israel’s rule over Palestinian land makes it an apartheid regime.
Israel invaded the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, and has kept them under military control ever since. The West Bank remains under military occupation, while the Gaza Strip has been under siege since 2007.
Israeli politicians boast to the world that a quarter of its residents have already had both doses of the vaccine. Meanwhile, the rollout has barely begun for the nearly five million Palestinians living under their control.
After weeks of scandal Israel agreed to send the PA—which has limited power in the West Bank—just 5,000 vaccines earlier this month. It was left to the PA to find the rest. The doses headed for Gaza were part of a shipment of 10,000 vaccines the PA bought from Russia.
The tiny number of doses secured by the PA means only Palestinians who are frontline health workers can currently be vaccinated.
Israel claims the PA alone is responsible for making sure Palestinians get vaccinated. But as the hold up of vaccines for Gaza shows, the PA is dominated by Israel. It needs permission even to send vital medicine to its own people.
Every aspect of Palestinian life is shaped and controlled by Israel’s occupation.
Israel controls imports and exports to the Palestinian territories, and has a monopoly on basic commodities. It collects taxes on behalf of the PA—which it has sometimes withheld to make the PA do its bidding.
A supposed “peace deal” in 1993 claimed Israel would eventually allow the PA to become an independent state. In reality it gave Israel indefinite control over Palestinian land. It kept its soldiers there while claiming the PA was responsible for looking after the Palestinian people.
The reality of the occupation led respected Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem to brand Israel an “apartheid regime” earlier this year.
The scandal of withheld vaccines for Palestinians shows why B’Tselem was right.