Israel, the coronavirus and the Palestinians

Israel and the Palestinians are at odds over key issues, but as the coronavirus pandemic develops, the Israeli government has been offering tangible assistance to the ruling Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to the United Nations, Israel is helping the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Anti-Israel activists, preferring to accentuate the negative, reflexively refuse to recognize this fact. Their unreasonable and blinkered approach should be called out and condemned.

It has been brought to my attention that one such ideologue, a Canadian propagandist named Richard Deaton, is carrying on as usual during this terrible outbreak. A resident of Stanley Bridge, Prince Edward Island, Deaton rarely, if ever, misses an opportunity to bash Israel, even in the absence of hard evidence. Deaton is entitled to his anti-Zionist position, but he is certainly not entitled to spew out bile when the facts do not even remotely align with his political prejudices.

In an April 20 letter to the editor published by The Guardian, PEI’s leading daily newspaper, Deaton launched yet another  blistering broadside on Israel.

“Israel has failed to meet its obligation under international law, as an occupying power, to provide medical supplies to the Palestinians,” he wrote, referring to the West Bank, which Israel occupies, and to Gaza, from which Israel withdrew unilaterally 15 years ago. “During this coronavirus epidemic, this is effectively an Israeli-imposed death sentence for thousands of Palestinians.”

In addition, Deaton accused Israel of refusing to test the Israeli Arab community for the virus. “This is blatant apartheid-style discrimination,” he fumed. “It is also contrary to good public health policy.”

A report issued last month by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs refutes Deaton’s allegations: “Since the start of the crisis, the Palestinian and Israel authorities have maintained a close, unprecedented cooperation on efforts aimed at containing the epidemic. Representatives from both ministries of health, as well as from Israel’s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), have been meeting on a regular basis to agree on matters of mutual concern, such as the understandings concerning Palestinian workers employed in Israel. As part of these efforts, COGAT is facilitating training for Palestinian medical teams, while the Israeli MoH donated over 1,000 testing kits and thousands of PPEs to the West Bank and Gaza.

“Despite longstanding tensions and disputes, there has been continuous cooperation and coordination between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and the Gaza-based Hamas authorities around efforts to address the current crisis.”

The UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said recently that “Israeli and Palestinian authorities continue to coordinate their responses closely and constructively, a major factor in the containment (of the virus) so far.”

Israel has facilitated the entry of “critical supplies and equipment” into Gaza, he added.

By one estimate, 80 truckloads of medical equipment and medicine have flowed into Gaza from Israel in the past few weeks.

Mladenov’s deputy, Jamie McGoldrick, has commended Israel and the Palestinians for their “exemplary” efforts to deal collaboratively with the contagion.

It is true that early in the outbreak the Israeli Ministry of Health failed to provide COVID-19 information in Arabic to Israeli Arabs, whose second language is Hebrew and who comprise about 20 percent of Israel’s population.

Since then, however, the ministry has produced timely updates in  Arabic on its website and has delivered dedicated Arabic briefings on social media and television.

And there is no substance to Deaton’s assertion that Israel is not testing Israeli Arabs. Israel obviously has a vested interest in ensuring that its citizens, whether Jews, Muslims or Christians,   do not spread the virus and contaminate the country.

One can only conclude that Deaton is not up to speed regarding the real situation in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. But does he even care?

Last year, Deaton went off on one of his reckless rhetorical tangents on the op-ed page of The Guardian when he blasted Henry Srebrnik — a political science professor at the University of Prince Edward Island and my friend — as a “Zionist goon.”

As a result of this thoughtless and mean-spirited onslaught, Srebrnik severed his relationship with The Guardian, to which he had contributed weekly columns on international affairs.

Inexplicably, and much to its discredit, the Guardian declined to provide Srebrnik with a forum to refute Deaton’s slanderous piece.

Understandably upset by Deaton’s diatribe, Srebrnik told The Canadian Jewish News that his attack article was little more than an exercise in character assassination. As Srebrnik said, “It conjures up images of a street brawler or criminal, not a university professor with a reputation to uphold … The Deaton piece crossed a line.”

Indeed.

And now, in his latest vitriolic outpouring, Deaton is trying to create the myth that Israel is committing a war crime by withholding coronavirus aid to the Palestinians.

What nonsense.

 

 

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal, SheldonKirshner.com
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