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'Outrageous': Sanders Rips Netanyahu for Sending Covid Vaccines to Foreign Allies as Palestinians Denied Access

The U.S. senator from Vermont denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for sending spare vaccines overseas "while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting."

A Palestinian health worker gives a dose of the Russian Sputnik coronavirus vaccine in Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip on February 24, 2021.

A Palestinian health worker gives a dose of the Russian Sputnik coronavirus vaccine in Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip on February 24, 2021. (Photo: Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for shipping spare doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to allies thousands of miles away while leaving millions Palestinians in the occupied territories largely without access to the life-saving shot.

"Israel is actively, illegally, and intentionally denying the vaccine to Palestinians and using it instead for political gain."
—Jewish Voice for Peace Action

"As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for the health of all the people under its control," Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted Wednesday evening. "It is outrageous that Netanyahu would use spare vaccines to reward his foreign allies while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting."

Earlier this week, as Common Dreams reported, began sending thousands of vaccine doses to Honduras, Guatemala, and the Czech Republic—nations that have either moved or pledged to move their embassies to Jerusalem.

The Czech Republic and Honduras confirmed Tuesday that the Israeli government promised them 5,000 doses each, and the New York Times reported that "Hungary and Guatemala would be sent a similar number."

"The donations are the latest example of a new expression of soft power: vaccine diplomacy, in which countries rich in vaccines seek to reward or sway those that have little access to them," the Times noted. "The vaccines allocated on Tuesday were given without conditions, but they tacitly reward recent gestures from the receiving countries that implicitly accept Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians consider their capital."

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Meanwhile, just a tiny fraction of the populations of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have received the Covid-19 inoculation as the deadly virus continues to spread there. After weeks of needless and harmful delay, the Israeli government finally began allowing vaccine shipments into Gaza last week.

"Only several thousand doses are available in the Palestinian West Bank, and a delivery of 20,000 reported to have arrived last weekend in Gaza scarcely scratches at the surface of the needs," Matthias Kennes, a registered nurse and medical referent for the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Covid-19 response in the West Bank city of Hebron, wrote in a blog post Monday. 

"At a generous maximum, assuming that the 35,000 reported Sputnik and Moderna vaccines are all available, that would be around 0.8 percent of the Palestinian population," Kennes wrote.

Jewish Voice for Peace Action, a progressive advocacy organization, applauded Sanders and other progressive U.S. lawmakers—including Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—for "speaking out against this injustice."

"Israel is actively, illegally, and intentionally denying the vaccine to Palestinians and using it instead for political gain," the group tweeted Wednesday.

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