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Vaccine Corruption Within the Palestinian Authority’s Echelons

Palestinian human rights groups urged an investigation into the vaccination programme, stating, “The incoming information and testimonies point to ongoing cases where vaccines are obtained by several parties, in disregard of the principle of priority in distribution.”

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Palestinian human rights groups urged an investigation into the vaccination programme, stating, “The incoming information and testimonies point to ongoing cases where vaccines are obtained by several parties, in disregard of the principle of priority in distribution.”

Barely a week had passed since the Palestinian Authority called out Israel for its “vaccine diplomacy”, that it embarked on a similar strategy to appease Jordan and the Palestinian political elite. One major difference, however, is that the PA does not have enough vaccines to cover the population with at least a single dose.

Israel’s vaccine surplus was yet another tool that the settler-colonial state wielded to gain further diplomatic allies and support within the international community. Honduras was the first country to receive a batch of vaccines, in return for promising to open an embassy in Jerusalem. Other countries benefiting from Israel’s vaccine diplomacy include Guatemala, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Both European countries partaking in this scheme have already voiced opposition to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigations into Israeli war crimes.

With the Palestinian people excluded from access to vaccines, the PA’s Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki was within his rights and duty to voice opposition to Israel’s scheme. “We will carry out an international campaign to confront this exploitation of the humanitarian needs of these countries,” Al-Maliki declared.

Since the start of the pandemic, UN institutions have, on several occasions, pointed out the increased hardships faced by the Palestinian people, particularly as Israel reneged on its word to halt demolitions, thus exacerbating the plight of forcibly displaced Palestinians. It also hailed the initial collaboration between Israel and the PA as exemplary and a foundation upon which to restart diplomatic negotiations for the two-state compromise; perhaps this exposed the UN’s interest more than the failing humanitarian agenda it likes to promote. 

As the vaccination campaign started, Israel blocked a truckload of vaccines sent to Palestinians by Russia, allegedly on grounds that only half of the vaccine doses were listed on the request. 

Human rights organisations emphasised Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under the Geneva Conventions, to provide medical supplies for Palestinians on a par with what it provides for Israelis. 

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A week later, Israel is still not fulfilling its duties, yet the PA was brought to international attention for its mismanagement of the vaccines it managed to procure. Out of 12,000 doses, 10 percent were diverted towards PA officials, the Palestinian football team, and the Jordanian Royal Court, following a request from Amman. 

Carrying out a campaign against Israel’s vaccine diplomacy is indeed ethical. If only the outburst did not come from an entity that has proved itself to be as equally corrupt as the Israeli government. 

Palestinian human rights groups urged an investigation into the vaccination programme, stating, “The incoming information and testimonies point to ongoing cases where vaccines are obtained by several parties, in disregard of the principle of priority in distribution.”

The PA justified its elitism, stating that people who were vaccinated were close to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh – the new parameters establishing who should be prioritised in the vaccination programme. Unlike most Palestinians, PA officials are assured of preferential treatment when it comes to illnesses, hence the PA was merely applying its exclusionary politics once again, and to the detriment of the people. 

With the elections looming, the PA has given Palestinians yet another reason not to trust its hierarchy and politics. Leaving a trail of broken promises and fulfilled corruption deals, the PA proved it can’t be trusted with the welfare of the Palestinian people, not even when lives are imminently at risk. Perhaps while Al-Maliki calls out Israel for vaccine diplomacy, the PA can also call out its own echelons in tandem, for replicating a similar scenario that likewise jeopardises the Palestinian people’s health. 

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