Although the recent Saturday Night Live (SNL) joke has sparked backlash, from pro-Israel advocates, Comedian Michael Che has managed to bring the conversation on Israel’s deprivation of Palestinians under occupation of Covid-19 vaccinations.
The joke itself was short and simple, Michael Che humorously states on NBC’s comedy program SNL that “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population… and I’m gonna guess it’s the Jewish half”. Supporters of Israel’s regime, however, did not exactly know how to take the joke, lashing out online and attempting to literally interpret what he said in order to prove him wrong.
What the pro-Israel advocates did not expect, is that their outrage and inability to take the joke, has led to the conversation around Israel’s denial of Palestinians, under its occupation, vaccines.
If we are to look at Israel’s highly praised rollout of covid-19 vaccines, Israeli citizens are being entitled to the jab, but for around 5 million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, they have not been granted access.
Israeli Medical Apartheid?
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention ‘Israel’ is obligated, as an occupying power, to provide medical supplies during a pandemic to those living under its rule. ‘Israel’ has however refused to fulfill its obligations during the course of the pandemic with the distribution of PPE and testing kits, as well as now with the roll-out of the vaccine.
Israel will argue that everyone in Israel is granted equal access to the vaccine regardless of religion, gender or race, and that it does not treat those living in the occupied territory as the same as those living inside Israel. But this argument doesn’t even make sense if we choose to forget about International Law, as illegal Israeli settlers living in Palestinian occupied territory are granted equal access to the vaccine, as those in Israel.
Furthermore, leading human rights organisations have demanded Israel provide vaccinations to Palestinians living under their control in the West Bank and Gaza. Human Rights Watch (HRW) had even called on Israel, in mid-January, to allow vaccines to get to Palestinians.
The Israel and Palestine director for HRW, Omar Shakir, said in a statement on the issue, that “Nothing can justify today’s reality in parts of the West Bank, where people on one side of the street are receiving vaccines, while those on the other do not, based on whether they’re Jewish or Palestinian,” which directly contradicts those pro-Israel advocates who claim that there is not any proof to the claim that Jews are being favoured over Palestinians when it comes to vaccinations.
“Nothing can justify today’s reality in parts of the West Bank, where people on one side of the street are receiving vaccines, while those on the other don't, based on whether they’re Jewish or Palestinian." @hrw on Israel's discriminatory vaccination push https://t.co/qMPWHE4i79 pic.twitter.com/5ZuEjR8KsS
— Omar Shakir (@OmarSShakir) January 19, 2021
‘Israel’ claims, in response to its critics, that due to the Oslo Accords having been signed, leading to the creation of the Palestinian Authority, that they are not responsible for vaccinating Palestinians. But not only is this incorrect according to international law, as it pertains to ‘Israel’ as an occupying power, but it is also a ridiculous assertion considering their illegal settlers are vaccinated as mentioned above.
‘Israel’ also claims that it does not even occupy Gaza and the West Bank, but conveniently for the occupier, they shift the conversation to anti-Semitism, when it is pointed out that they are the only country on earth which says as such.
In International Customary law, it is also stipulated by the Hague Resolutions of 1907 – specifically article 43 – that the longer an occupation remains, the more emphasis there is on the legal obligation to ensure the safety and health of the occupied population.
‘Israel’ also claims that it did let in vaccines to Gaza and attempts to mislead the public on what that really looked like. The vaccines allowed into Gaza were originally held up by ‘Israel’, for no justifiable reason and are not Israel’s vaccines but rather Russia’s Sputnik vaccines. Also, only 2,000 were allowed in, not nearly enough to vaccine those in need, with no essential workers having had access to it. On top of that, the amount of vaccines allowed into Gaza are not even enough to vaccinate 0.02% of the territory’s inhabitants.
For a country that purchased so many vaccines and is praised round the clock on mainstream television for its progress in vaccinating Israelis, it is in reality placing roadblocks in front of Russia getting its vaccine to Palestinians, let alone its own vaccines. There was even a debate amongst Israeli politicians as to whether they should withhold vaccines from entering Gaza, only allowing them to enter in return for the bodies of Israeli soldiers, who were defeated on the battlefield by Palestinian resistance.
According to the top Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, ‘Israel’ is an Apartheid Regime from the river to the sea. This statement is key in that it views ‘Israel’, realistically, as controlling all of the territories in historic Palestine and hence ‘Israel’ has completely neglected up to 5 million people living in the land they control. So when ‘Israel’ said they had vaccinated 50% of its population, the joke made about it being the Jewish half, is close to being an accurate statement when we include the West Bank and Gaza.
All jokes aside, what ‘Israel’ has done throughout the Pandemic, when it comes to their lack of aid to Palestinian’s in the occupied territories, shows that ‘Israel’ is not one of the best at handling the health crisis, but perhaps the worst.