Pro-Israel NGO UN Watch has accused the United Nations Human Rights Council of misrepresenting “facts and the law” in its criticism of Israel for not doing more to vaccinate Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
During a general debate this week, some members of the council accused Israel of enacting “apartheid” and taking a “racist” approach by failing to provide for the Palestinians.
Human rights groups charge that international law requires Israel as an occupying power to provide vaccines for Palestinians. Israel rejects the characterization that it occupies Palestinian territory, deeming the West Bank “disputed.” Israeli officials have also pointed to bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestinians which designate responsibility for health care to the Palestinian Authority.
UN Watch said in a statement that the accusations “misrepresent both facts and the law.
“The truth is that everyone in the Israeli health system, including two million Israeli Arabs and hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who live in Eastern Jerusalem, qualify for the vaccine. Those who are not part of the Israeli health system, whether they are Arabs living under PA rule or Jews in Israel who are tourists, do not qualify. Race has nothing to do with it.”
Addressing the council Wednesday, Arab Israeli activist Yoseph Haddad said accusations that Israel’s vaccination program is racist and discriminatory are baseless.
“This is false,” he said. “Like me, my family, friends and hundreds of thousands of other Israeli Arabs have been vaccinated.”
“The State of Israel is running campaigns in Arabic to encourage us Arab Israelis to get vaccinated, and Israel’s National EMS Magen David Adom, composed of Jews and Arabs, is working directly in Arab communities to vaccinate,” he said.
“Any attempt to claim that Israel’s vaccine policy is racist is a blatant attempt to smear Israel and distract from the corruption of nations on this very council.”
Haddad is CEO of the organization Together Vouch for Each Other that works to connect the Arab sector to Israeli society. He sometimes blogs for The Times of Israel.
Israel earlier this month launched a major campaign to inoculate around 122,000 Palestinians who work in Israel and in settlements against the coronavirus.
“This is truly an opportunity that isn’t available for everyone yet. I’m very happy that I had the opportunity, and I hope that everyone will be able to soon,” said Ahmad Atwan, 31, who works in construction near Beit Shemesh.
Israel has heavily criticized the rights council over the years, saying it focuses disproportionately on the Jewish state while ignoring abuses by autocratic regimes and governments — and even accepting them as members.
Former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the council in 2018 due to its disproportionate focus on Israel and because it failed to meet an extensive list of reforms demanded by then-US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
Under the new Biden administration, the US announced it would return to the council, but stressed that it was “flawed and needs reform.”