Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

Sanctioned for the Exercise of Free-Will

As most Israelis, I like to keep up-to-date with the latest news via text apps, and although it shouldn’t have come as a great surprise, yesterday’s news informed us that further sanctions would be imposed upon the unvaccinated. My first response was – what further sanctions could they possibly impose short of denying access to supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential services?

The sanctions message was all the more absurd given the disclosure that our Prime Minister’s 14-year-old, fully vaccinated daughter has just been diagnosed with COVID. Yet, someone is annoyed that there are still those, among us, who have chosen to remain unvaccinated. Being healthy and fit doesn’t seem to impress anyone these days, because if you haven’t been vaccinated, you’re deemed to be more lethal than those who have been triple jabbed. Of course, anyone can get and spread COVID, and for those who argue that’s not true, Bennett’s daughter is a perfect case in point.

So given what we know, what’s up with the decision to impose further sanctions?  Traditionally, sanctions are placed upon countries or individuals as a punishment for being unwilling to govern in fair, just or humane ways. According to the Oxford online dictionary, they are a “threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule, aimed at deterring insider abuse.” But generally, they are more commonly imposed upon rogue governments which pose an existential threat to other nations of the world.  Sanctions are intended to block necessary goods and services as well as deprive you of everyday freedoms and actions. They are also often used to purposely cause economic and psychological injury.

Having said all that, this could possibly be the first time in the history of the Jewish homeland that sanctions are being imposed upon a sizable number of the country’s population. That is because although a great majority of Israeli citizens received the first two shots, anyone without the booster (third shot) is now considered unvaccinated. A recent article mentioned that some Israelis who were initially vaccinated with the first two shots, have opted out of continuing to receive further ones since the waning period has dropped down to needing a new booster every 4-6 months. Consequently, this “sanctions” precedent, which will affect a growing number of Israelis, is not just worrisome but actually alarming.

If you can be sanctioned for exercising your free choice to opt-out of a medical intervention which does not guarantee total immunity from its potential germ source, then how is one able to say that autonomy over their own body is still within their control?

Here’s why punishing one’s citizens is never a good look. One of the great benefits of citizenship is the comforting knowledge that you are protected by your government. They’ve got your back! In the event of war, invasion or any other threat, their first and foremost consideration is protecting those who have pledged their allegiance to the country and her leaders. Without citizens, no nation can stand, and without protectors, no population can survive.

So while it may seem very honorable for our leaders to declare their commitment to our safety, in the midst of a pandemic, how can they insure that, when both vaccinated and unvaccinated are vulnerable to this virus? At best, they can encourage, as they’ve been doing, that the COVID vaccine is their best advice to avoid being infected, but, given what we know now, they have to admit that it is not foolproof either.

Most unvaccinated individuals would not consider themselves unprotected. Many have decided that vitamins and other preventative therapeutics are the route they feel is best for them, and given that a good number of them have managed to escape COVID for nearly two years, might serve to strengthen their claims.

A free and democratic society which has a healthy (pun intended) respect for its citizens should be more than accommodating when it comes to allowing people to make personal medical choices. After all, they know how this will impact them and they, more than anyone else, understand what’s best for their bodies since they are intimately acquainted with their own medical history.

Yet, in today’s world, that choice is, all too often, being called dangerous, selfish, threatening and, therefore, one which must be punishable by sanctions.

Oddly enough, it seems that a number of governments have been caught off guard by the response of those who are willing to forego personal freedom of movement for the larger freedom of choice as it concerns maintaining control of their bodies.

One pharmaceutical manufacturer was heard saying that he simply can’t understand why anyone would refuse the COVID vaccine. He seemed flabbergasted that individuals could be so ignorant as to not recognize their benefits and protection.  But whether or not he is correct is not really the issue.

Do citizens of a free and democratic society have the right to self-determination over their medical choices? And if they exercise such self-determination, should it be punishable by sanctions, given that breakthrough cases, after three vaccines, does not guarantee 100% immunity?

The best way for any government to succeed in receiving the respect and loyalty of its citizens would be to trust them enough to allow personal decisions to be made concerning their bodies without threat of being labeled, singled out for being subversive or sanctioned as a result of coming to their own independent conclusions in terms of what makes sense for them.

Not to do so is to create a sub-class which will begin to resent those who are making every attempt to rule by force and remove the right to think for one’s self which is a free and G-d-given choice. Let’s face it, even  G-d, Himself didn’t force “obedience” upon His creation. He left it up to the individual, giving us the option of free choice.

Apparently, the Almighty must have believed that mankind was best served by not having created us as puppets with strings attached in order to make us do whatever He would choose. Of course, in His infinite knowledge, He already knew that we might not always opt for the best and wisest choices, but He, nonetheless, thought that free will was the way to go.

It might, therefore, serve governments well to follow that pattern and allow their citizens the same free will which our Creator granted to each one of us, because that ability to choose for ourselves often is the best facilitator of leading us to the smartest choices that make life really worth living!

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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