How anti-Israel voices made a hypocritical, inaccurate story on vaccines

The claim that Israel was not vaccinating Palestinians was entirely an invented story built on misleading information.

Vaccine (illustrative) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Vaccine (illustrative)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
On January 2, the BBC’s homepage featured an extraordinary story. “Israel leads virus vaccine race with 12% given jab.” The article noted that with “more than 1 million people inoculated, Israel has by far the highest rate in the world.” This was a positive story, and it was also extraordinary. However, rather than take an interest in how Israel had accomplished this and what ramifications it might have for other vaccine rollouts from London to Amman, an anti-Israel agenda was set in motion to invent a story about Israel not vaccinating Palestinians. 
The claim that Israel was not vaccinating Palestinians was entirely an invented story built on misleading information. The Guardian reported that “Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza can only watch and wait.” The article asserted that Israel “transports batches of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine deep inside the West Bank. But they are only distributed to Jewish settlers, and not the roughly 2.7 million Palestinians living around them.”
The article, which was headlined to appear as if Palestinians were “excluded,” actually contained facts that contradict the headline. Nowhere in the article did it illustrate that Palestinians who wanted the vaccine were excluded. In fact, it says that “the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, which maintains limited self-rule in the territories, is rushing to get vaccines. One official suggested, perhaps optimistically, that shots could arrive within the next two weeks.” Ali Abed Rabbi, director-general of the Palestinian Health Ministry, was said to estimate a February rollout. The article, which had claimed Palestinians were “excluded,” also noted that the Palestinian government had not even “officially asked for help from Israel.”
The Palestinians run a semiautonomous region in the West Bank and the terrorist group Hamas has run the Gaza Strip since 2006. 139 countries recognize Palestine as a country. It is a member of some UN organizations. The fact that the Palestinian Authority would wait to vaccinate was known in mid-December because The Washington Post had reported that while Israel was rolling out a vaccination drive, the Palestinians were waiting. 
The facts of what was happening was clear. Palestinians in the West Bank are not citizens of Israel or members of Israel’s health care system, which consists of several large state-mandated semi-private health providers. Israel's health authorities have done an exemplary job of vaccinating everyone they can, Jews and Arabs, without any discrimination. They have even vaccinated non-citizens who live in Israel and Jerusalem. I've spoken to some of those people in the last few days.
Yet, most Palestinians live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority.
Israel has not been responsible for health care of Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank for decades. Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005. However, the voices demanding Israel run a vaccination program in Gaza have come forward, claiming the Gaza Strip is “occupied” by Israel. This use of the term is deceptive, trying to force Israel to run the health care of a region run by an armed terrorist group, which the commentators know very well is not controlled by Israel. 
The claims that this was an example of “apartheid” and that Israel had failed to “provide vaccinations to the West Bank and Gaza,” was retweeted by the New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem, a retweet he was critiqued for online. Ken Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch also asserted that there was “Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” He used an image from Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT to slam Israel “as the occupying power it has not vaccinated a single Palestinian. That means residents of illegal settlements get vaccinated but not yet the Palestinians next door.” The use of Turkey’s state media to slam Israel appeared hypocritical considering Turkey is illegally occupying Afrin in northern Syria, a Kurdish area it has ethnically cleansed. Roth has not critiqued Turkey for discriminating against people in areas it occupies. Of particular interest here, no other “occupying” power is asked to provide health care and vaccines in the same way.  
Roth has, in the past, claimed that Arab residents of Jerusalem are Palestinians. In August 2017. he tweeted about the revocation of residency status for “thousands of Palestinians” in Jerusalem. In 2015, he tweeted that threats of home demolitions could affect east Jerusalem Palestinians. There is a contradiction between his claim that Israel has not vaccinated a “single” Palestinian and referring to east Jerusalem residents as Palestinians, when those people have access to Israel’s vaccinations. I double-checked this. People in east Jerusalem have been vaccinated and can be vaccinated. In addition, I checked with someone who is not a citizen of Israel but lives in Beit Jala, over the Green Line, who was also vaccinated, despite not having a health insurance card. What this illustrates is that Israel’s health authorities are doing all they can to vaccinate as many people as possible, regardless of whether they are Arab or Jewish.
The slander against Israel claiming that Israel is not vaccinating Palestinians is built on a variety of misleading information. A better line of questioning might ask why the international community has not aided the Palestinians more. However, the international community has in general done a poor job helping the global south with vaccines. Many wealthy countries can’t even vaccinate their own people, so the process in general is chaotic. Israel is an exception, but even its rapid vaccination is a first and in a way experimental because Israel is billing itself as a kind of test case.
The Palestinian Authority has decided which groups will get priority when a vaccine arrives. These include the elderly, journalists and security forces. So it isn’t like they haven’t been planning. They have. Reports should look at their plans. The Palestinian Authority spent late December trying to arrest a DJ accused of hosting a party at a shrine called Nebi Musa, rather than getting vaccines.  
There is an added layer of hypocrisy to the story alleging Israel doesn’t vaccinate Palestinians. Neighboring states have not been vaccinating almost anyone. When it comes to providing vaccinations Israel has done an exemplary job, providing them to Arabs and Jews. For many who refer to Arabs in Jerusalem as Palestinians, Israel has been vaccinating Palestinians. The invention of the story was conjured up to try to tarnish the positive image, rather than report facts. Israel didn’t “exclude” anyone or “fail” to do something in Gaza or the West Bank. The same people who recognize Palestine as a state are the ones arguing Israel should vaccinate that state and the same ones who refer to Palestinians in Jerusalem as Palestinians, claim Israel didn’t vaccinate them, when Israel has provided for them.
The hypocritical attitude toward Israel has no parallel when looking at other occupied or disputed areas. The same voices have not asked who will vaccinate Idlib province in Syria, or Palestinians in Lebanon, or who will vaccinate northern Cyprus or Abkhazia and Crimea and the Donbas.
Health provision is a right for citizens, but it’s not clear what states are required to do for non-citizens. In general health authorities are often not discriminatory, they try to provide life-saving health care when needed. That’s how health care should work because when it comes to a virus the virus doesn’t distinguish citizen from non-citizen. In situations where you have self-governed areas, like the Gaza Strip, the sudden claim that Israel should take responsibility for vaccinations, but not other health services is designed solely to slander Israel for being at fault for something it is not at fault for. If Israel were to provide vaccinations that would be phenomenal, slandering it for not doing that and trying to refashion it as “occupying” an area it left 15 years ago is part of an agenda.
Hatred of Israel always finds a way to target Israel. Instead of celebrating Israel’s accomplishment and learning from it, the goal of the critics is to find some misleading fault in Israel’s unprecedented program. Instead of asserting that countries might learn from this and also help Palestinians, the goal is simply to excoriate Israel.