Medical apartheid double jeopardy – no vaccines for Palestine, no vaccines for Africa. By Hugh Lanning, ‘Labour & Palestine’


“As the occupying power – under the Geneva convention – Israel is responsible for the health of the occupied Palestinian population. It has washed its hands of this responsibility – a direct, conscious, political decision not to make the vaccine available.“

Hugh Lanning, Labour & Palestine

By Hugh Lanning, Labour & Palestine

While Israel boasts of having the highest rate of vaccination in the world, this is only true if you ignore Palestinians – for whom Israel, as the occupier, is both legally and morally responsible. At the Labour & Palestine event on May 3rd (see ) Mustafa Barghouti set out clearly how this ‘medical apartheid’ works and it is not just vaccination. In relation to Covid, it has been the case with treatment, testing and recording – with many cases feared passing under the radar.

The global rich countries are spending billions in the fight to control Covid – including through testing, lockdowns and now vaccines. Covid is a virus that is hitting Western countries and economies; it is not a disease in some remote, low-income country – so no effort is being spared by the drug companies in the race to develop a vaccine, not least because they anticipate making huge profits if they are successful. This outcome is guaranteed by massive pre-orders for un-tested drugs.

This has resulted in one form of medical apartheid – an indirect, but predictable and avoidable consequence of rich countries buying and stockpiling vaccines, so far 4 billion doses. Canada will be able vaccinate its population five times over. The result is that the WHO (World Health Organisation) reported in January that only 25 people in Africa – out of a population of 1.3 billion – have been vaccinated. It is not anticipated that most of Africa will be vaccinated, if ever, well into 2023.

In Palestine, the situation is different. Israel has the vaccine and it is rapidly giving the jab to its own citizens within Israel and those living in the illegal settlements. As the occupying power – under the Geneva convention – Israel is responsible for the health of the occupied Palestinian population. It has washed its hands of this responsibility – a direct, conscious, political decision not to make the vaccine available. It is a decision not made on medical need, but racial prejudice.

When interviewed on British TV by Andrew Marr, the Israeli Health Minister tried to hide behind the Oslo Accord agreements, claiming that health was the responsibility of the Palestinian authorities. This claim would ring truer if Israel had not been in breach of the Oslo accords – the alleged roadmap to a two-state solution – since the day they were signed, with every settlement that is built, with every piece of land that is stolen and ethnically cleansed.

It is an opinion not shared by the WHO, but a decision better understood when the Health Minister likens Israel making the vaccine available to Palestinians to the Palestinians looking after dolphins – in essence likening Palestinians to animals, not disguised by the choice of animal. It exemplifies the prejudice and hatred that is the basis of Israel’s attitude to the Palestinian population over which it rules militarily.

This was recently described in a report by B’Tselem – a large Israeli human rights organisation – as Israel practising the crime of apartheid “through laws, practices and organized violence”.

Israel’s claims to be a democracy have any validity only if you turn a ‘Nelson’s eye’ to the Palestinians it rules over without rights or votes.

Labour & Palestine has recently circulated a draft motion to over 10,000 Labour Party members urging them to submit it for discussion at CLP meetings – which is already being taken up and passed by CLP’s. Covid should not be used as an excuse for the Labour Party to absolve itself of its international responsibilities, rather an opportunity to morally lead on how we should respond globally.

At a time when there is, thankfully, a new administration in the United States, the Labour Party – as a traditional ally and supporter of the Democratic Party – needs to be making clear that a real shift in US policy is required. Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Keir Starmer cannot be friends claiming to support human rights and international law, while ignoring Israel’s continuing blatant breaches and transgressions and also Israel’s contempt not just for Palestinians’ rights but for the Palestinians as people and human beings.

It is clear that a Biden/Starmer alliance is not going to be a golden bullet for Palestine. Within the Labour Party let’s do what we can by ensuring as many local parties debate and discuss Palestine. The model motion can be found at

Please let L&P know if you have a debate and the outcome and we will publicise a list.


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