Medical apartheid double jeopardy – no vaccines for Palestine, no vaccines for Africa

By Hugh Lanning, Labour & Palestine

The global rich countries are spending billions in the fight to control Covid – through testing, lockdowns and now vaccines. Covid is a virus that is hitting Western countries and economies; it is not a disease in some remote, low-income country – so no effort is being spared by the drug companies in the race to develop a vaccine, not least because they anticipate making huge profits if they are successful. This outcome is guaranteed by massive pre-orders for un-tested drugs.

This has resulted in one form of medical apartheid – an indirect, but predictable and avoidable consequence of rich countries buying and stockpiling vaccines, so far 4 billion doses. Canada will be able vaccinate its population five times over. The result is that the WHO (World Health Organisation) reported that only 25 people in Africa – out of a population of 1.3 billion – have been vaccinated.

In Palestine, the situation is different. Israel has the vaccine and it is rapidly giving the jab to its own citizens within Israel and those living in the illegal settlements. As the occupying power – under the Geneva convention – Israel is responsible for the health of the occupied Palestinian population. It has washed its hands of this responsibility – a direct, conscious, political decision not to make the vaccine available. It’s a decision not made on medical need, but racial prejudice.

When interviewed on British TV by Andrew Marr, the Israeli Health Minister tried to hide behind the Oslo Accord agreements, claiming that health was the responsibility of the Palestinian authorities. This claim would ring truer if Israel had not been in breach of the Oslo accords – the alleged roadmap to a two-state solution – since the day they were signed, with every settlement that is built, with every piece of land that is stolen and ethnically cleansed.

It is an opinion not shared by the WHO, but a decision better understood when the Health Minister likens Israel making the vaccine available to Palestinians to the Palestinians looking after dolphins – in essence likening Palestinians to animals, not disguised by the choice of animal. It exemplifies the prejudice and hatred that is the basis of Israel’s attitude to the Palestinian population over which it rules militarily.

This was recently described in a report by B’Tselem – a large Israeli human rights organisation – as Israel practising the crime of apartheid “through laws, practices and organized violence”.

Israel’s claims to be a democracy have any validity only if you turn a ‘Nelson’s eye’ to the Palestinians it rules over without rights or votes.

Labour & Palestine has recently circulated a draft motion to over 10,000 Labour Party members urging them to submit it for discussion at CLP meetings – where these are taking place. Covid should not be used as an excuse for the Labour Party to absolve itself of its international responsibilities.

At a time when there is a new administration in the United States, the Labour Party – as a traditional ally and supporter of the Democratic Party – need to be making clear that a real shift in US policy is required. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Keir Starmer cannot be friends claiming to support human rights and international law, while ignoring Israel’s continuing blatant breaches and transgressions and also Israel’s contempt not just for Palestinians’ rights but for the Palestinians as people and human beings.

  • EVENT: Palestine – COVID & the Occupation After Trump, with Dr Mustafa Barghouti. Wednesday February 3rd, 6.30pm. An update on the latest situation in Palestine from Dr Mustafa Barghouti – a Palestinian physician, activist, and politician who serves as General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative. Plus Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP, Simon Dubbins, Unite the Union, Hugh Lanning & Sarah Colborne from Labour & Palestine. Organised by Labour & Palestine. Kindly streamed & supported by Arise. Register & info here.

Hugh Lanning is a former Deputy General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union and was the Labour candidate for Canterbury in the 2015 general election.

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