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Covid Under Apartheid: Palestinians Coping with Covid-19

Over 4000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons, many of whom are administrative detainees with no charges or trial, are extrememly vulnerable to infection.

A recently published feature in the Indian Express detailed the collaborative work done by Israel’s embassy in India along with a number of NGOs to provide masks, sanitizers as well as other forms of hand-outs to underprivileged communities. The feature also detailed the growing collaboration between India and Israel in agriculture, technology and homeland security. Quite apart from the cover up all of this provides to Israel’s ongoing and egregious violations of Palestinian rights, this also demands a look at its denial of fundamental access to health to Palestinians during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some recent reports coming from Palestinian and other human rights groups shed light on this:

Israel’s decades long occupation and settler colonialism has ensured de-development of Palestinian health sector. Gaza Strip has been under a 13 years long blockade, and on top of that Israel’s regular assaults have enforced a shortage of food, medicines and destruction of basic health infrastructure. Similarly in the West Bank, defunding of the public sector and fragmentation of land impacts the health system as well. Not only does the Palestinian health system depend on aid, any travel for health (or any other purposes) depends on permits from Israel. During this pandemic, Israeli forces as well as settlers have destroyed testing centres and displaced communities. A report by Housing and Land Rights Network states,

In real-time, Palestine’s Land Research Center – Jerusalem (LRC) mapped the spike in land theft, house demolitions and agricultural sabotage aided by settler movements operating through the pandemic, seeking either to accelerate, preempt or replace the US-Israeli annexation scheme by their own undeterred crimes. Meanwhile, LRC also documented the instances of a particularly cruel Israeli form of punitive house demolitions, which involves forcing owners to demolish their own home, often with the humiliating witness of their own onlooking family and neighbors.

Over 4000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons, many of whom are administrative detainees with no charges or trial, are extrememly vulnerable to infection. Numerous reports of prisoners and prison guards testing positive have surfaced. While globally there is a move towards releasing prisoners due to the pandemic, and while Israeli prisoners have been released on preventive basis, Israeli Supreme court has accepted the authorties’ argument that Palestinian prisoners have no right to social distancing.  

Yara Asi, a scholar of health and development in conflict-affected populations, notes

While the structural violence of the occupation is especially apparent in this time of global crisis, direct violence has not ceased. Gaza has been engaged in an active conflict for most of the summer, as Israeli aircraft and artillery have struck areas in the Strip in response to incendiary balloons and rockets. In the West Bank, incursions and raids by the Israeli military have continued, leading to fears within the Palestinian population that Israeli soldiers entering their homes or staffing the checkpoints might be infectious.

Finally, this factsheet by the BDS movement, provides an overview of Palestinians’ vulnerability, enduring Israeli apartheid and a global pandemic:

Courtesy: Indian Cultural Forum

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