Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A Palestinian paramedic takes a nasal swab to test for the coronavirus, at the Ministry of Health Sabha Al Harazeen clinic, in Al Shejaeiya neighborhood, in the east of Gaza City, 22 March 2021. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A Palestinian paramedic takes a nasal swab to test for the coronavirus, at the Ministry of Health Sabha Al Harazeen clinic, in Al Shejaeiya neighborhood, in the east of Gaza City, 22 March 2021. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Not Providing Covid-19 Vaccinations to Palestinians Is Proof of Israel's Medical Apartheid

The coronavirus does not stop at checkpoints. As an occupier, Israel must provide medical supplies to Palestinians and adopt measures to combat the disease there.

Diana Buttu

 by Al-Jazeera English

In Israel, more than five million people, or more than half the population, have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and case numbers are dropping.

Just a few kilometres away in Palestine, COVID cases are rising, all of its estimated 200 ventilators are in use, and the Palestinian Authority announced it can no longer put additional COVID patients on ventilators.

Israel has refused to provide vaccines for the more than four million Palestinians living under its military rule.

Why the disparity? Because Israel has refused to provide vaccines for the more than four million Palestinians living under its military rule.

In short, this is medical apartheid where one group gets the privilege of being vaccinated while the other suffers under the weight of disease, forcing doctors to make decisions about who lives and who dies.

Living under Israeli military rule means virtually all decisions, particularly regarding movement, are controlled by Israel. These rules apply to people, and to goods, too. Israeli permission is needed to send anything into or out of the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. With no airport or a seaport of their own, everything sent to Palestinians must also be brought in through Israel—including vaccines.

To make matters worse, while refusing to provide vaccines to Palestinians, Israel has sent vaccines to Guatemala and Honduras—two countries that moved their embassies to Jerusalem in defiance of international law; countries whose actions further harm Palestinians.

COVID-19 is not the only example of Israel’s medical apartheid. Israel controls so many aspects of Palestinian life, including healthcare. It has even stopped medical supplies, like radiation equipment for cancer treatment, from reaching Palestinian hospitals—leaving patients without care options at home.

Many argue that Israel is under no obligation to provide the COVID vaccine to Palestinians. But they are wrong. International law firmly establishes that an occupier— which Israel is—must provide medical supplies and adopt measures to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.

And beyond law, what about the moral or ethical obligation to help?

This virus does not discriminate between those who are Christian, those who are Muslim and those who are Jewish. It does not stop at checkpoints. The time to end the medical apartheid is now.


© 2021 Al-Jazeera English
Diana Buttu

Diana Buttu

Diana Buttu is a Palestinian lawyer and analyst who served as a legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team from 2000 to 2005.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

UN Chief Urges Global Solidarity on Covid, Climate, and Debt Relief

"The last two years have demonstrated a simple but brutal truth, if we leave anyone behind, in the end, we leave everyone behind," said the secretary-general at the opening of the virtual Davos summit.

Jessica Corbett ·


Sinema's MLK Day Tweet Sparks Online Fury

One group criticized the Democratic senator from Arizona as "the white moderate MLK warned us about."

Andrea Germanos ·


Why Did Democratic AG Kill Flint Water RICO Case?

"Political corruption poisoned Flint and political corruption shielded the wrongdoers from accountability," said one critic following new revelations.

Kenny Stancil ·


Progressives Counter Cherry-Picked Quotes With MLK's True Legacy

Calling out those who have "weaponized" his words "to justify legislated white supremacy," Rep. Ayanna Pressley said King "was a radical dreamer with a bold vision for revolutionary change."

Jessica Corbett ·


'No Celebration Without Legislation': King Family Leads Voting Rights March

"I will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father's dream," said Martin Luther King III.

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo