By Ray Hanania
Israel is being celebrated for having administered more coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines per capita than any other country, ahead of the UAE, the UK, Bahrain and even the US. Israel has reportedly inoculated about 20 percent of its population already.
But that is only half the picture. Israel is also the country that is not giving the vaccine to the more than 4.5 million Palestinians who live under its military occupation in the West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip. Israel’s citizens are being vaccinated, but Palestinians under its gun are not. Tel Aviv is also giving the vaccination to Israeli settlers living on illegally confiscated Palestinian lands in the West Bank.
Protests have been lodged against Israel’s separation of these populations, including by the UN, which issued a statement calling on Tel Aviv to ensure swift and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, as per its responsibilities under international law.
The issue is also being raised in the US Capitol, where President Joe Biden and members of the US Congress are united in supporting Israel’s right to exist. What they are not united on, however, is defending the human rights of those Christians and Muslims who live under Israel’s brutal and repressive occupation. In fact, most American politicians and mainstream media outlets are downplaying Israel’s less-than-admirable trait of excluding the Palestinians from their vaccination program.
While Biden has vowed to respect the rights of Arab and Muslim Americans and has endorsed the two-state solution as a basis for a final peace accord, he has not said much about Israel’s practices. It is still early, of course, and there are a lot of other priorities, such as revoking the previous administration’s so-called “Muslim ban,” which prohibited travel to the US from several of the world’s 50 predominantly Muslim nations.
The Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also not addressed the issue. Instead, he is busy pushing the impeachment of Trump. In truth, Schumer has never been very sympathetic to the rights of the Christian and Muslim Palestinians who live under Israel’s occupation, and has been strongly supportive of nearly every Israeli move.
But there are some Democratic voices that are standing up and fighting for the Palestinians, urging Israel to provide jabs to those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A few courageous members of Congress have fearlessly called out Israel’s discriminatory policies, including Rep. Marie Newman. She has just started her first term representing Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District, which has the country’s largest concentration of Palestinian residents, according to a New York Times analysis of US Census data.
Newman wrote on Twitter: “The Netanyahu administration has a moral and humanitarian obligation to ensure that both Israelis & Palestinians have access to vaccines.” She added: “Whether we’re talking about our own communities, the United States, or nations across the globe, we must do everything in our power to ensure vaccines are not only distributed rapidly but also equitably.”
Other Democratic lawmakers to speak out include newly elected New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, senior House Rep. Joaquin Castro and former vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine.
The hypocrisy of Israel being applauded for leading the world in vaccinating its citizens while ignoring the civilians who live under its total control on land it claims belongs to its nation is appalling, but not surprising. Israel is the world leader in rebranding its human rights violations as policies intended to thwart terrorism. It spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on public relations spin in the US, pays for and hosts hundreds of members of Congress on politically narrow tours of the country, and its supporters write for many major foreign publications, offering a filtered version of reality, while it imposes restrictions on journalists that do criticize Israel.
If the US and the rest of the world are looking for a role model on how to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, they should not use Israel. When it comes to human and civil rights, Israel is at the back of the line.