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Tell President Biden to Defend Palestinian Human Rights and Ensure COVID-19 Vaccine Access!

Tell President Biden to Defend Palestinian Human Rights! 

The Administration must urge Israel to ensure free and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

In his first foreign-policy address as President, Biden vowed that human rights and multilateralism would be the guiding principles in his approach to foreign policy, pledging to “defend equal rights of people the world over.” So far, however, the Administration has not made any significant move to end US complicity in Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinian people — a major stumbling block in the path toward reclaiming the US’s global “moral authority.”

Palestinians must be included in Biden’s promise to defend equal rights across the globe. For too long, Israel has held a position of impunity regarding international human rights law and policy while Palestinians have suffered under a brutal military occupation. The decades-long relationship between the US and Israel has been marked by virtually unconditional military and diplomatic support for Israel's denial of self-determination to the Palestinian people. Israeli exceptionalism and American exceptionalism concerning human rights and international law must both be rejected.

While Israel has celebrated its achievement of 5 million COVID-19 vaccinations, today, Palestinians’ secondary status is made clear by Israel’s vaccine rollout plan, which excludes the nearly 5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under Israeli military occupation. As noted in a joint statement signed by the Middle East Council of Churches, Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention specifically provides that an occupier has the duty of ensuring “the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.” This duty includes providing support for the purchase and distribution of vaccines to the Palestinian population under its control.

“The situation is miserable and bleak across the Palestinian Territory,” said Dr. Bernard Sabella of the Middle East Council of Churches’ Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees on March 11. “Scores of patients do not find beds in hospitals, and they are placed in corridors without the needed ventilators and other medical equipment needed to treat the more serious among them. According to some reports, patients are just sent home to take care of themselves.” 

Following calls by leading human rights organizations and medical leaders such as Save the Children, Oxfam, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, and others, Israel has begun administering vaccines to 100,000 Palestinian day laborers who carry Israeli work permits. Still, for most residents of the West Bank and Gaza, vaccines remain unattainable while coronavirus infections are on the rise and 95% of the intensive care unit beds in West Bank hospitals are occupied.

“A situation where Israelis can access a vaccine but not Palestinians living under Israel’s actual control is inherently discriminatory,” reads a Feb 18 joint letter by humanitarian organizations working in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). “Without rapid action, health inequalities between Israelis and Palestinians will worsen, and the humanitarian crisis in the oPt will become further entrenched.”

Tell President Biden to defend Palestinian human rights! Biden must hold Israel accountable to its international obligations as an occupying power and strongly appeal to the Government of Israel that it ensures that COVID-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation.

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