Further concerns have been raised over Israel's ongoing failure to include Palestinians in its COVID-19 vaccination programme dubbed by critics as "medical apartheid". The latest comes from Dr Yousef Jabareen, head of the International Relations Committee of the Joint List, a political alliance of the main Arab-majority political parties in Israel.
In a letter addressed to the UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories Michael Lynk earlier today, Jabareen denounced Israel for failing to "fulfil[ing] its obligations under international law" and urged the UN official to raise his concerns over the denial of vaccine to Palestinians with the Israeli government.
Some 20 per cent of the Israeli population has already received their first shot, according to Jabareen but no plans exist to include Palestinians in the vaccination program. "The Israeli Ministry of Health has not yet publicly formulated a policy that includes reserving allocations of the vaccine for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip," the member of the Knesset said, "nor has it established a timeline for the transfer of these vaccines."
Citing Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Jabareen argued that Israel, as an occupying power, must ensure "the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics."
Over 20 leading Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations, are said to have expressed concern regarding this matter, Jabareen noted.
Urging Lynk to raise his concerns with Tel Aviv, Jabareen insisted that "the Israeli government should publish the number of doses reserved for Palestinians in the OPT, provide a specific timeline for their transfer, ensure that vaccines allocated to Palestinian populations are of the same quality as those distributed to Israeli citizens, facilitate entry of vaccines and medical devices to the OPT and lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip in order to ensure that the Palestinian healthcare system can function properly."
Jabareen echoed concerns raised by five Israeli human rights organisations that petitioned the Supreme Court against the Israeli Public Security Minister Amir Ohana's directives to prevent Palestinians detained by Israel from receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in violation of mandatory Health Ministry guidelines.
Last week Amnesty International called on Israel to start providing coronavirus vaccine doses to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. "The Israeli government must uphold its obligations as the occupying power, under international humanitarian law and human rights law, to provide the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health to the population of the OPT without discrimination," said the rights group.
Israel has rejected the World Health Organisation's (WHO) informal request to immediately provide Palestinian medical staff COVID-19 vaccinations.