It’s Time to Help Vaccinate the Palestinian People

Picture by Jon Tyson

Israel, leading the global coronavirus vaccination drive, should now give the Covid-19 vaccine to the Palestinians.

It’s in Israel’s own interest that the Palestinian people, starting with their essential workers, sick and elderly, are vaccinated.

Why? Firstly, because 200,000 to 300,000 Palestinians (numbers vary depending on the source) work in Israel every day.

Secondly, why would any country want the virus on its doorstep?

Thirdly, this is an opportunity for Israel to help our Palestinian brothers and sisters. That’s right, brothers and sisters, it really is like family.

And just like a family that puts differences aside when there is a crisis or illness, Israel should leave its ego aside and just deliver the vaccine. Israel’s fortune is intertwined with its neighbours – a healthy, stable and educated Palestinian population is good for both sides.

The noises coming out of the current Israeli government that, “Palestinians need to fend for themselves,” or that “Israel is not obligated to help”, are not helpful and display a downright stubbornness and misunderstanding of the situation.

I’m not saying that providing the vaccination to Palestinian people will heal all wounds and all the blood of past wars will be forgotten. Far from it, administering the vaccination should have nothing to do with peace or politics, or receiving some kind of reward, it’s just a basic issue of human rights.

Vaccination Not Annexation

I’m not aware of the logistics of such an operation and it may be that the Palestinian Authority would block any outside help from Israel’s health services, but if it’s at all possible, then it should be done. And as soon as possible.

If health workers entering the West Bank or Gaza is not feasible, then perhaps providing a temporary vaccination camp on the borders could be a solution.

The PA said a month ago that they are securing the vaccination from different sources. One is Russia, another is COVAX, the international effort for developing countries. However, corruption is rife in the PA and often foreign aid doesn’t get to where it’s needed; it’s said that it could be months before they reach even 20% of the population.

Yet, Israel is supposed to be a ‘light unto the nations’, and this is a moment to shine. Although at the time of writing, Israel still has a high infection rate, in broad terms, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thanks to a well-organised health system and a relatively small population, more than 40 per cent of Israelis (including Arabs who live in Israel) have already received the vaccination. It is by far the highest rate in the world.

I hope that Israel will come to its senses soon, and extend this fortune to its neighbours. After vaccinating Israelis and Palestinians, perhaps it could help other nations that are struggling to vaccinate their populations.

Anyone who has spent time in an Israeli hospital will know that they are places without cultural boundaries – filled with Arab and Israeli doctors, nurses, patients, and visitors. But this is something the global media doesn’t show. Similarly, helping the Palestinians fight Covid-19, should not turn into a photo-shoot. It’s simply the right thing to do.

Tikun HaOlam – to fix the world – is an integral part of Judaism. The stubbornness, selfishness and bragging needs to stop – it’s time to share.

About the Author
Dan Savery Raz is a Lonely Planet author, and has written for BBC.com, Time Out & various websites. Born in England, he lives in Tel Aviv with his wife & children.
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