Becca Wertman

On World Health Day, end the COVID-19 blood libels


April 7 marks “World Health Day,” which according to the WHO is aimed at creating “awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization.”

This year, attention will obviously be centered on the COVID-19 pandemic. Political leaders, activists, and officials of humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will flock to social media to proclaim their solidarity in the fight against the virus.

However, for some NGOs, their battle is not against coronavirus – it is against Israel. Claiming to advocate for Palestinian human rights, these groups push narratives of demonization and blaming Israel instead of supporting local health care workers, increased testing, and #StayatHome.

The most aggressive and hysterical attacks, as usual, revolve around Gaza, where NGOs are exploiting the pandemic to recycle their nearly 20-year-old campaigns of blaming Israel for the plight of Gaza’s population and alleging that Israel will be responsible for the potential spread of the virus and resulting deaths. In parallel, these propagandists erase the fact that the Hamas terror group controls Gaza and for years has diverted funds from health care to terror. Reminiscent of medieval blood libels, they accuse Israel of exclusive responsibility for non-Jewish deaths and ascribe nefarious motives to the Jewish state.

A clear example of this theme is reflected in a letter written by a group of anti-Israel activists and published in The Lancet (not the first such letter from repeat offender Mads Gilbert and the Palestinian NGO Al-Haq). The since-removed letter attacks “Israeli oppression and international complicity” mentioning only Israel as the cause for the health care crisis in Gaza. Ironically, the letter pushes a Palestinian “right of return” myth, calling for Palestinians to “return” to Israel precisely when Israel is suffering from a much higher rate of infection than Gaza. The authors, all with long records of anti-Israel campaigning, shamefully declare “no competing interests,” hiding their histories behind the façade of objectivity.

The NGO publications, posts, tweets, and press releases on Palestinians and COVID-19, like the one above, are eerily similar to statements made by Hamas officials, who seek to deflect their own central roles in diverting aid to terror and failing to build a functioning society. For instance, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum claimed that the ‘“Israeli occupation’ bears the results and consequences of the danger of the virus to the life of the Gaza Strip and its residents” calling to “end the ‘siege.’” This language is reflected in Jewish Voice for Peace’s (JVP) campaign, featuring Linda Sarsour, that claims that Israel must “End the Blockade in Gaza” as “COVID-19 is uniquely threatening to Palestinians in Gaza.”

Another blatantly false NGO claim found throughout these campaigns accuses Israel of preventing the entry of essential medical products into Gaza. In reality, the Israeli government coordinates the provision of humanitarian aid with the UN praising such efforts as “excellent” and recognizing Israel’s provision of “swabs for collection of samples and other laboratory supplies required for COVID-19 testing, and Personal Protective Equipment to protect health workers.”

The only supplies limited to Gaza consist of “dual-use” items that can be, and have been, utilized for terror causes. According to the IDF Spokesperson, no COVID-19 related supplies fall into this category. Yet, NGOs are prioritizing fundraising for the only medically related dual-use item listed – the X-ray machine. The political – and not humanitarian – motives behind this fundraiser are stark.

NGOs also completely ignore the massive amounts humanitarian aid that pour into Gaza. In 2016-2019, UNRWA alone projects to spend approximately $1 billion in aid and the UN’s OCHA-oPt another $25.9 on top of this, with $6.7 million specifically to Gaza’s “Health Cluster.” Hamas itself has an annual budget of around $700 million, including approximately $100 million for terror infrastructure – $40 million of which, according to estimates, is diverted to the digging of cross-border terror infiltration tunnels.

Ignoring the clear evidence, these NGOs deny Hamas or other Palestinian actors any agency in prioritizing tunnels, rockets, and violent marches along the Gaza border over health infrastructure. They similarly ignore past incidents of where NGO officials have themselves been arrested for their roles in providing humanitarian aid to terror groups. In parallel, these propaganda campaigns delegitimize Israeli policies aimed at preventing weapons smuggling and abuse of “dual-use” items.

As had been the case for years, it is illogical to think that these campaigns will somehow help Palestinians. On World Health Day, the campaigns will surely continue this pathetic rebranding of the past 20 years of NGO anti-Israel hatred that has been repackaged to exploit the current COVID-19 global pandemic.

About the Author
Becca Wertman-Traub is the Director of Research at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, representing Jewish Federations across Canada. Becca previously worked for Member of Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh as her Political Aide in Israel's 23rd Knesset and served as managing editor and was responsible for the Canada portfolio at NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute. Born in Vancouver, Canada, Becca earned her BA in international relations from the University of Southern California and her MA in political science from Columbia University. Her articles have appeared in The National Post, The Hill Times, The Jerusalem Post, and the Macdonald Laurier Institute, among others.
Related Topics
Related Posts