Amnesty accuses Israel of 'institutionalised discrimination' over vaccines

The NGO released its annual report on global human rights today


Amnesty International has accused Israel of “institutionalised discrimination” in its annual report on global human rights. 

The 408-page document, released today, stated: “In December, the Israeli Health Ministry distributed Covid-19 vaccines exclusively to citizens and residents of Israel, including Palestinians living in illegally annexed East Jerusalem, discriminating against the nearly 5 million Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza in violation of its obligation as an occupying power to ensure preventative measures to combat the spread of epidemics.”

A separate statement released today by the NGO, which slams “leaders in MENA and across the world who have ruthlessly exploited the crisis to continue their attacks on human rights”, also criticised Israel.

It read: “In a clear illustration of the extent of institutionalized discrimination in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israeli authorities failed to provide vaccinations to five million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza when the vaccination drive began in December 2020.

“This move flagrantly violated Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under international law.”

The United Nations in January called on Israel to “ensure swift and equitable access” to Covid-19 vaccines for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, citing the Fourth Geneva Convention.

But Israel’s health minister Yuli Edelstein disagreed, telling the BBC that month: “I think that it’s Israel’s obligation, first and foremost, to its citizens. They pay taxes for that, don’t they?” and later saying it was in the country’s “interest, not our legal obligation” to vaccinate Palestinians in those areas. 

Mr Edelstein also cited the Oslo Peace Accords, which he argued last month “say loud and clear that the Palestinians have to take care of their own health.”

Israel last month began to vaccinate approximately 100,000 Palestinian labourers who hold Israeli work permits.

And last week, Palestinian authorities accepted a donation of 100,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China, adding to shipments received previously from Russia and the UAE. They also belong to the WHO-backed COVAX vaccine sharing programme.

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