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Oxford University ‘celebrating’ military occupation of Palestinians, rights groups say

April 23, 2021 at 2:07 pm

An army health worker prepares a dose of Covishield, AstraZeneca/Oxford’s Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute, at an army hospital in Colombo on January 29, 2021. [ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images]

Human rights groups have accused Oxford University of “celebrating” a military occupation for politicising figures collated on its website tracking coronavirus vaccine delivery, which excludes Palestinians on Israel’s vaccine rollout.

Nineteen NGOs including Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights Israel and a coalition of Palestinian human rights groups cited the Fourth Geneva Convention and stated that more than five million Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation should be included in the calculation of the percentage of Israel’s population that has been vaccinated.

The Fourth Geneva Convention states that the occupying power must ensure that all the necessary preventive means available to it are utilised to “combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics”.

Our World in Data, a website associated with the University of Oxford, has emerged as a leading tool for tracking vaccination delivery and to understand the protective effects of vaccination, its side effects, and people’s attitudes towards vaccination. It shows Israel’s remarkable achievement in vaccinating many of its citizens.

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However, “it omits the fact that, as an occupying power, Israel has failed to fulfill its obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to provide vaccines to all 4.5 million Palestinians living under its military occupation, as affirmed by leading Palestinian, Israeli and international health and human rights organizations,” the letter read.

The charities added that writing that Israel has vaccinated a percentage of “its population” without counting the population under its military control is “legally incorrect and morally problematic”.

Our World in Data agreed with their concern that the population living in Palestine should be taken into account but declined to change its way of tracking the rollout in a written response that was shared with the Independent. It said that as they have different figures and percentages for those In Israel and for Palestine and if they attempt to absorb the two it “would be double counting”.

The Zionist state has been widely criticised for intentionally barring Palestinians from getting vaccinated in the midst of a pandemic, as it is obligated to do under international law as an occupying power.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have said the exclusion means Israel is “ignoring its obligations” as an occupying force under international law and “exposes Israel’s institutionalised discrimination.”