Israel is not showing vaccine leadership, it is demonstrating medical apartheid

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Medical Professional holds a vial of the Pfizer-Biontech Covid-19 vaccine in December 2020. (photo: Lisa Ferdinando / Wikimedia)
Below the headlines celebrating Israel’s vaccination rates lies a far darker story about health inequality.

By Ariel Gold  | Mondoweiss  |  Jan 6, 2021

Perhaps Israel’s most flagrant demonstration of having two sets of laws for two groups of people is its court system in the West Bank.

The media is abuzz these days with headlines such as “How Israel Became a World Leader in Vaccinating Against Covid-19.” While the U.S. has so far vaccinated only 1.3% of its population against COVID-19, Israel has already given the vaccine to over 14% of its citizens. In explaining this, the media cites Israel’s socialized medicine, the fact that the country is small but wealthy (allowing Israel to pay $62 a dose, compared to the $19.50 the U.S. is paying), and the heavily digitized nature of Israel’s health care system. But below the headlines celebrating Israel’s vaccination rates lies a far darker story about health inequality.

Israel has a population of around nine million. 20% of Israel’s population are Palestinian citizens of Israel. These people can vote in elections, have representation in the Knesset, and are being vaccinated against COVID-19. But, there are another around five million Palestinians who live under Israeli rule, without rights, and like the rest of the world, are suffering from the pandemic.

Since 1967, Israel’s settler population has ballooned to close to 500,000, with Israeli settler regional councils controlling 40% of West Bank land. Despite the U.S.-facilitated normalization deals with the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco that occurred during the latter half of the year, that were supposed to have halted Israel’s annexing of the West Bank, 2020 has seen the largest number of settlement unit approvals since the watchdog group Peace Now began tracking in 2012.

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