US Congresswoman slams Israel’s Covid-19 vaccination drive which excludes Palestinians

Marie Newman was sworn into her first term in Congress earlier this week (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  January 5, 2021

Democrat Marie Newman said Israel has ‘humanitarian obligation’ to ensure Palestinians living in occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are vaccinated.

US Congresswoman Marie Newman has hit out at Israel’s Covid-19 vaccination plan, which excludes millions of Palestinians from receiving treatment, and said Israel has a “moral and humanitarian obligation” to ensure access for Palestinians living under occupation.

In a series of tweets directed at the administration of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Newman said the virus “does not see or care about nationality, borders, or religion” and its devastating impact was being felt everywhere.

“The Netanyahu administration has a moral and humanitarian obligation to ensure that both Israelis & Palestinians have access to vaccines,” she said on Twitter on Tuesday.

“Whether we’re talking about our own communities, the United States, or nations across the globe, we must do everything in our power to ensure vaccines are not only distributed rapidly but also equitably.”

Last week, Netanyahu received his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, kick-starting the biggest inoculation drive in the country’s history.

Israel is reported to have secured eight million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and another six million of the Moderna vaccine, enough to vaccinate nearly all of the country’s Israeli citizens.

However, millions of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have not been included in the drive. Instead, they will have to wait for the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank, to provide them with the vaccine.

The PA hopes to get vaccines through Covax, a World Health Organisation-led partnership with humanitarian organisations, which has so far fallen short of the two billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year for those in poor countries.

Officials from Hamas, the movement that administers the besieged Gaza Strip, have estimated that vaccines could arrive “within two months”.

Israel’s deputy health minister Yoav Kisch told Kan Radio last month that Israel was working to obtain a surplus of vaccines for Israelis. He said if there is “additional capability, we will certainly consider helping the Palestinian Authority”.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian health ministry reported 1,009 new Covid-19 cases and 20 deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 160,043.

Newman is the first person on Capitol Hill to discuss the inequalities faced by Palestinians in accessing the vaccine.

The progressive Democrat, who was sworn into her first term in Congress on Sunday, defeated Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat who is a staunch supporter of Israel.

Newman has previously criticised Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and has also alluded to being open to conditioning military aid to Israel.