Almost two years ago, I penned an article highlighting the possibility of governments around the world – particularly Western democracies – using the spreading Covid-19 pandemic to implement a series of harsh restrictions on their populations in order to grant themselves sweeping new powers in a taste of totalitarianism.
Back then, the situation was still enveloped in a mist of very genuine fears that the world could be witnessing a new 'black death', or unstoppable plague, which would wipe out entire chunks of the global population. Back then, restrictions seemed necessary. We embraced them with understanding.
However, in the third year of the pandemic, it is safe to say that – despite over five million reported deaths and the loss of some people we once knew and loved – the situation is, fortunately, nowhere near such a devastating plague. The spread eventually seemed to settle; some countries saw it contained, and multiple vaccines were produced and promised to battle the virus.
The worldwide panic over the virus has not disappeared, of course, with new variants such as Omicron and a vast variety of others being cautioned of by governments, health officials and the media. Alongside that, though, is the growing frustration amongst populations with the increasing of draconian restrictions and the fact that life has still not eased.
In fact, things have only gotten far worse. Throughout the world, governments are imposing vaccine mandates on their citizens, workers and foreigners who enter the country, at the threat of not being able to travel, go to shopping malls or restaurants and, generally, being cut out from society and a healthy social life. A two–tiered society seems to be forming, with one group having all the amenities and freedom of movement that they had before – for now – and the other being severely restricted and marginalised.
It is not only the division itself that is concerning, but also the way it is being imposed. Within months, Austria is set to fine the unvaccinated thousands of euros on a regular basis while, in Germany, the government has locked down the unvaccinated and plans to make the shots compulsory. Some parts of Australia have done the same, mandating either two or three jabs and, last month, French President, Emmanuel Macron, even admitted that it is his government's strategy to "piss off" the unvaccinated.
Millions of people in those countries have expressed their discontent through mass protests and attempts at civil disobedience, resulting in a brutal crackdown by police and security forces. Many around the world were shocked when they saw footage of a police dog being set on a protestor in the Netherlands and biting through his arm. Such scenes were a surprising sight in developed European countries propagated as bastions of human rights.
Without stooping to classic orientalist tropes about Eastern populations' subservience to authoritarian regimes, it is no surprise when countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait forbid the unvaccinated from entering malls and public spaces, or when China forcefully vaccinates its citizens who have not yet been jabbed. These countries have not claimed to be the guardians of human rights and international law.
All of this is contrary to what people were guaranteed as the pandemic progressed.
If you accept two doses of the vaccine and enough people receive it, we were told, the virus will be sufficiently brought under control and all restrictions will be lifted. That has proven to be far from the truth, however, with transmission rates and hospitalisations continuing to soar throughout nations in which the majority of the population is fully vaccinated and where restrictions were still in place.
While the data does differ from country to country, of course, critics of the vaccines pointed out inconsistencies in the claims by vaccine defenders that the jabs are effective and that the unvaccinated are holding back the progress. Popular inconsistencies include the fact that a small nation such as Gibraltar, where the entire population is fully vaccinated, has been suffering from a sudden spike in Covid cases over the past few months.
That phenomenon has also been seen in much larger countries where the vast majority of the population is vaccinated, yet cases mysteriously soar. On the other hand, countries which have incredibly low vaccination rates – such as many throughout Africa – have seemingly managed to largely evade the virus, with few to no restrictions or measures.
Then, there is the fact that health authorities in the United States and the United Kingdom have acknowledged that the majority of patients infected by new variants are in fact double or triple vaccinated, with some figures claiming that the vaccines are responsible for the variants by allowing mutations to form and escape.
Such nuances make it all the more confusing for those who are hesitant to take the vaccine. But that only scratches the surface, as there are far more than just data inconsistencies and governmental overreach at play here – the monetary interests of the vaccine manufacturers cannot be overlooked.
In a ground-breaking, though largely ignored, report released by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) last year, it was found that the company Pfizer had engaged in "high-level bullying" of governments and had "held to ransom" states around the world, especially developing ones.
Under secret contracts and documents which had been leaked, Pfizer demanded guarantees – in exchange for the provision of its Covid vaccines – that it be granted indemnity, or the lack of legal liability, from any adverse reactions from the vaccines, making the client government shoulder any legal costs. In some countries, it even forced the government to offer up sovereign assets such as military bases and embassy buildings as a guarantee against any potential future legal costs.
Add to all that the fact that the safety data for the Pfizer vaccine was intended to be sealed for 75 years until the year 2097, and the result is a deep mistrust in the attempted inoculations of all of the Covid vaccines, generally, and the coercive measures to make populations take them. Many are increasingly seeing the shots as simply a product of 'big pharma' firms which aim to expand their profits at the potential expense of peoples' health through admitted side-effects and far less efficacy than was promised.
The power imbalance and lack of accountability represents a phenomenon long foretold by political scientists over the decades: the domination of governments by transnational corporations which have grown wealthier and far more powerful, making the sovereignty of states largely an "illusion."
The creation of a two-tiered society has been compared by some to an apartheid system, somewhat likening it to the situation of Palestinians suffering under Israeli apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories. The systematic discrimination and the segregation of the Palestinians in their own land by the Israeli occupation is based on race, identity, ethnicity and, in some aspects, religion. The discrimination against and segregation of the unvaccinated from society, on the other hand, would be based on the personal choice of individuals who are reluctant to undergo a medical procedure.
The irony here is that Israel itself has implemented its own 'green pass' for its citizens, meaning that unvaccinated Israelis – an ever-changing term as more booster shots are considered – are now experiencing something similar to an apartheid which their government has long subjected Palestinians to.
This should also give cause for people on both sides of the political divide, between the Left and the Right, to reconsider their stances. Right-wingers who oppose forced or coerced vaccination but support the Israeli apartheid state, as well as left-wingers who oppose the Israeli apartheid but support the discrimination of the unvaccinated, should both realise the hypocrisy and incompatibility of their positions.
It is the overall responsibility of governments around the world, however, to reconsider the ethics of creating a two-tiered and segregated society under what the governor of Florida called a "biomedical security state". If governments continue to sweep aside human rights and liberties apparently for the perceived benefit of public health, then we could perhaps very well see the expansion of Israeli apartheid-like systems.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.