Democrat politicians in the US have slammed Israel for preventing Palestinians from accessing the coronavirus vaccine.
In an Instagram post by the Institution of Middle East Understanding (IMEU), politicians criticised Israel for its lack of responsibility in ensuring Palestinians also received the vaccine to protect against COVID-19, which has ripped across the world, causing a global pandemic.
Newly elected Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman said: "[Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu must ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians have access to the Covid vaccine. This cruelty is another reminder of why the occupation must end."
Congressman Joaquin Castro said: "I'm disappointed by [Israel's] exclusion of Palestinians under Israeli occupation from these vaccination efforts, despite making Covid vaccines available to Israeli settlers in the West Bank."
This comes as Israel enjoys the world's fastest vaccine distribution rate. With regular imports of Pfizer Inc. vaccines, it has administered at least one dose to more than 25 per cent of its nine million population since 19 December, its Health Ministry says.
However, while Israeli nationals, including those living in illegal West Bank settlements, receive the inoculation, Palestinians forced to endure Israel's decades-long occupation have not been offered access to the medication, in contravention of international humanitarian law.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who is a Palestinian-American, accused Israel of being a racist state, which would deny her grandmother access to a vaccine.
Israel is a racist state, and that they would deny Palestinians like my grandmother access to a vaccine, [shows] that they don't believe she's an equal human being that deserves to live.
Israel's Health Minister Yuli Edelstein claimed that whilst it was in Tel Aviv's interest to vaccinate Palestinians, Israel had no legal obligation to do so.
Edelstein told the UK's Andrew Marr Show on Monday: "As far as vaccination is concerned, I think it is Israel's obligation first and foremost to its citizens. They pay taxes for that, don't they?"
"But having said that, I do remember that it is our interest – not our legal obligation, but our interest – to make sure Palestinians get the vaccine, that we don't have Covid-19 spreading," he added.
Congresswoman Marie Newman said: "The virus does not see or care about nationality, borders or religion -its devastating impact is everywhere. The Netanyahu administration has a moral and humanitarian obligation to ensure that both Palestinians and Israelis have access to vaccines."
Israel collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, and often withholds money rightfully belonging to the Palestinians.