Israeli occupation authorities should provide Covid-19 vaccines to the more than 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday.
While Israel has already vaccinated more than 20 percent of its citizens, including Jewish settlers in the West Bank, it has not committed to vaccinate Palestinians living in the same occupied territory under its military rule.
Israel’s duties under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure medical supplies, including to combat the spread of pandemics, are heightened after more than 50 years of occupation with no end in sight, said HRW in a statement.
These responsibilities, alongside its obligations under international human rights law, include providing vaccines in a nondiscriminatory manner to Palestinians living under its control, using as a benchmark what it provides for its own citizens. The Palestinian authorities’ own obligations to protect the right to health of Palestinians in areas where they manage affairs do not absolve Israel of its responsibilities, it explained.
“Nothing can justify today’s reality in parts of the West Bank, where people on one side of the street are receiving vaccines, while those on the other do not, based on whether they’re Jewish or Palestinian,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch. “Everyone in the same territory should have equitable access to the vaccine, regardless of their ethnicity.”
HRW said that after more than 53 years of occupation, Israeli authorities have the obligation to fully respect the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territory, including their right to health, using as a benchmark the rights they grant to Israeli citizens, as Human Rights Watch has set out.
The fact that Israeli citizens, including settlers in the West Bank, are receiving vaccines at one of the most rapid rates in the world indicates that Israel has the ability to provide the vaccines to at least some Palestinians in the occupied territory, but has chosen to leave them unprotected, it said.