‘A glimpse into the chaos’: How Israel’s COVID-19 policy neglects Palestinian citizens

A man checks the temperature of a customer to identify if he has a fever, in the northern Arab town of Deir al-Asad, April 18, 2020. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
A man checks the temperature of a customer to identify if he has a fever, in the northern Arab town of Deir al-Asad, April 18, 2020. (photo: Basel Awidat / Flash90)
Experts warn that Israel’s failure to conduct Arabic outreach and include Arab professionals has made it harder to stem the spread of the virus in Palestinian towns:

By Makbula Nassar | +972 Magazine |  Sept 21, 2020

‘Not only is there no spokesperson for Arab communities [during the second wave], but Palestinian experts are excluded from decision-making around stemming the spread of the virus, and there is no serious consultation with Arab medics,’
— Faten Ghattas, public health expert

Israel entered a weeks-long lockdown on Friday to stem a second wave of the coronavirus. As is in other parts of the world, statistics are showing that minority communities, in this case Palestinians, are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

It is a cliche, and an inaccurate one, to say that the coronavirus does not distinguish between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel. Even the struggle shared by Jewish and Palestinian medical workers in hospitals and clinics is not proof that we are all in the same boat. If anything, the Arab community is on a boat that is floating to a particularly dark place.

In mere weeks of the second wave gripping the country, Palestinian citizens went from constituting 10 percent of patients who tested positive to the virus, to 30 percent — and the curve is rising sharply. The English Hospital in Nazareth, which has traditionally treated mostly Palestinian citizens, has had to open another coronavirus clinic.

The map of the outbreak is increasingly falling along ethnic, national, and geographic lines — just as poverty and crime have long been. Will we, Palestinian citizens, become Israel’s backyard for the coronavirus as well, such that the hardships we endure will barely matter to the country?

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