Israel’s ’Racist’ Bid to Swap Expiring Vaccines with Palestinians Draws Criticism
Story Code : 939168
The Palestinian Authority (PA) canceled on Friday a vaccine swap deal that would see Israel sending up to 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine made jointly by Pfizer and BioNTech to the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip in exchange for receiving a reciprocal number of doses later this year.
PA spokesman Ibrahim Melhem announced that an initial shipment of around 90,000 doses was sent back to Tel Aviv after the Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila said the delivery failed to meet the agreed specifications and was to "expire soon."
Melhem said the initial doses showed a June expiration date while a July-August date had been agreed on.
“They told us the expiration date was in July or August, which would allow lots of time for use,” the Palestinian health minister told reporters. “But the expiration turned out to be in June. That’s not enough time to use them, so we rejected them.”
Rights groups censured Israel for not doing more to ensure Palestinian access to doses in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip, the territory it captured in 1967.
The vaccine swap attempt also sparked outrage among Palestinian officials and rights activists, who denounced it as a racist and cynical move by the Israeli regime.
'Palestine used as dumping ground by Israel'
Hanan Ashrawi, a former member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), blasted Israel’s “racism and corruption,” and said the regime was using “Palestine as a dumping ground for expired vaccines.”
“What is more cynical and twisted than giving the people you oppress and occupy nearly expired vaccines so you can get their new vaccines later in the year,” said Salem Barahmeh, executive director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy.
“Palestinians were demanding vaccines for months, but Israel equates us with its discard pile. It sees us as lesser than human.”
Mohammed al-Kurd, a Palestinian activist in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied east Jerusalem al-Quds, said in a thread of tweets on Saturday that the shipment was falsely being framed as an act of humanitarian goodwill.
“This isn't a charity. The occupation authorities will take over the PA's incoming shipment of perfectly good vaccines. They're not doing us a favor,” al-Kurd said.
“Were we not living under brutal colonialism, we wouldn't need colonizer-provided healthcare. This shipment of vaccines is entirely too many months too late,” he added.
“Even if the vax weren't expired… even if Israelis cured every cancer ever, the material reality doesn't change: Zionist colonialism and military rule continue to destabilize and destroy our physical and psychological health.”
The Israeli health ministry claimed on Saturday that the COVID-19 vaccines delivered by the regime and then rejected by the PA over their expiration date were “perfectly in order."
Under international law, occupying powers are responsible for the health care of the population they control.
Israel has vaccinated nearly 85 percent of its population.
Nevertheless, just over 270,000 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian health ministry, have received two doses in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip, home to a combined 5.2 million people.
Palestinian officials say that some 30 percent of eligible Palestinians in both Palestinian territories have received at least one vaccine dose.
The Palestinian health ministry’s figures also show that more than 300,000 infections have so far been recorded in the West Bank and Gaza, including 3,545 deaths.