Mainstream Media Accuse Israel of Denying Palestinians Coronavirus Vaccine

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives a coronavirus vaccine at the Sheba Medical Center, the country's largest hospital, in Ramat Gan near the coastal city of Tel Aviv, on December 19, 2020. - Netanyahu, 71, and Israel's health minister were injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine live on TV at Sheba …
AMIR COHEN/POOL/AFP via Getty

Mainstream media outlets, including NPR, the Associated Press and the UK’s Guardian newspaper, have adopted the antisemitic canard that Israel is denying Palestinians access to the coronavirus vaccine while its own vaccine drive enjoys stunning success.

The Guardian article, which was also published in its sister paper, the leftwing Observer, was headlined “Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout as jabs go to settlers,” and featured a lead photo of an ultra-Orthodox Jew being vaccinated.

The subhead reads: “Human rights groups accuse Israel of dodging obligations to millions in occupied territories who may wait months for vaccination.”

NPR, meanwhile, published a piece entitled, “As Israel leads in COVID-19 vaccines per capita, Palestinians still await shots.”

The Associated Press ran a piece, republished by scores of news outlets including PBS and Al Jazeera, headlined: “Palestinians left waiting as Israel is set to deploy COVID-19 vaccine.”

But as critics have noted, Israel has neither the responsibility nor the authority to provide Palestinians with the vaccines. Instead, it is up to the Palestinian Authority to do so.

The PA, which chose to cut off coordination and security ties with Israel last year, has not even approached Israel for help on the matter — a fact Oliver Holmes and Hazem Balousha, the authors of the Guardian piece, themselves admit, but only midway through the article do they bother to mention it.

“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 who may have to wait for weeks or months,” Holmes and Balousha write.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews slammed the Observer and the Guardian over the piece, saying it “provided grist to the mill of far-right and far-left antisemites alike.”

Sheila Gewolb, the group’s Senior Vice President, said in a statement, “We are extremely troubled by the Observer’s blatantly false headline claiming that Israel has ‘excluded’ Palestinians from its Covid-19 vaccination program.”

“The Palestinian Authority is responsible for vaccinations provided to Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza,” she went on. “As reported within the same article, the PA has not even asked Israel for help in this regard, looking to source the vaccines elsewhere.”

She continued by saying the paper fueled antisemites who “seek to take anything positive Israel does and twist it beyond recognition,” and called on the papers to change the headline and issue and apology.

Shany Mor, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, said on Twitter that “no mainstream outlet has done more than the Guardian in the past 30 years to normalize the view that the Jewish state is uniquely diabolically evil.”

He said that the Guardian perpetuates a “sub-genre” of journalism that presents a “false story of Israeli medical malpractice which is supposed to prove the innate moral rot of the Jewish state,” and pointed to a slew of discredited articles published by the paper, including a 2009 claim that Israel harvests Palestinians’ organs, a 2013 claim that Israel forced contraceptives on Ethiopian citizens, and a 2014 claim that Israel deliberately targeted Gaza hospitals.

Those articles invariably involve “1) Crazy Jewish doctors doing something fishy. 2) Broad hints that their motivations are racist supremacy. 3) Heroic humanitarians bravely standing up to the nefarious Jewish plot.”

Despite the PA’s choice to cut ties, Israel has been helping it stem the infection rate with a variety of different initiatives including training medical personnel and donating testing kits.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein last month told The New York Times that it was in Jerusalem’s interest to ensure that Ramallah was on top of the virus spread in Palestinian areas.

As the Jerusalem Post notes, Israel is already vaccinating Palestinians living in Jerusalem, because healthcare for those Palestinians, unlike those in Gaza and the West Bank, do fall under Israel’s jurisdiction. Israel also plans to vaccinate Palestinians who are currently serving time in Israeli prisons.

The country has also rolled out its nationwide vaccine drive with a heavy emphasis on Arab areas, which have disproportionately been affected by the coronavirus. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has visited vaccine centers in two Arab cities in recent days in an effort to convince more Arab-Israelis, who are wary of the jab, to get vaccinated.

Follow @danandeborah on Twitter. 

 

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