Vaccination without Discrimination
Our post last week called out the spurious charges of antisemitism used by NZ Jewish institutions to deflect attention from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. They were deflecting attention from Israel’s illegal policy of not providing Covid-19 vaccinations to the Palestinian people who live in the territory it occupies.
We called on the Israel Institute of New Zealand and the New Zealand Jewish Council to cease labelling speakers for Palestinian rights as antisemites. Our human equality is not antisemitic. It isn’t anti-anyone.
In response, some readers replied that they thought the NZ Jewish Council represents all NZ Jews.
Indeed, the NZ Jewish Council records its mission thus: “The Council is the representative organisation of New Zealand Jewry. Its objective is to promote the interests, welfare and wellbeing of New Zealand Jewry.”
However, calling the organisation a the representative is different from being representative in practice.
As we understand it, NZ Jewish Council members are chosen by a number of regional Jewish councils. The NZ Jewish Council members seem to be appointed through a series of indirect institutional processes. Members of Alternative Jewish Voices who belong to synagogues, some for many years, have never had any sort of direct say in who should be on the Council. Jews who are not members of a synagogue don’t appear to have any voice in these processes at all. The NZ Jewish Council does not attempt to elicit, include or represent the spectrum of views within the Jewish community.
We came together as a collective to demonstrate that the Jewish community is diverse in every sense, including our politics. The ardent Zionist voices of the NZ Jewish Council and Israel Institute do not represent the whole community of New Zealand Jews.
As with any other diverse community, more voices need to be heard.
Having condemned the name-calling, it remains to address the urgent issue of Covid-19 vaccinations for Palestinians living in the territories that Israel has occupied since 1967. Newshub reported on the name-calling, as if a social media scrap could stand in for the larger issues. It cannot.
Israel’s Covid-19 vaccination programme has been touted internationally as a success. It is essential to situate that claim within the framework of law and ethics. But why – why does it always need that context?
When we write, we ground the occupation in law and human rights as well as morality, for two reasons. First, the law and the overwhelming preponderance of international institutions agree on the framing of this issue (Donald Trump’s administration being the major outlier). Occupation happens within a legal framework, not a difference of opinions. We want the media to incorporate that factual context.
Second, the laws of occupation and human rights are ours to uphold or abandon. Law and justice make the rights of Palestinian people everyone’s business, and we call once more on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Nanaia Manuta to make it New Zealand’s business.
Why do we say that NZ has a particular responsibility to Palestinians? The situations of occupier and occupied people are not equivalent. They have different obligations and protections. The violence and the losses of this occupation are grossly one-sided. The law recognizes this imbalance when it protects the occupied people, but the law relies on others to bring it to life and impose penalties. If we New Zealanders wish to live in a world of laws, a world more aspirational than that of Donald Trump and his beneficiary Netanyahu, we need to take up our responsibilities.
To understand the obligations of states toward occupier and occupied people, see Part III of this report on “Accountability, Impunity and the Responsibility of the International Community,” written by UN Special Rapporteur and associate law professor, S Michael Lynk.
States’ responsibilities are prominent in the media right now, because Israel is vaccinating Jewish citizens and some Palestinians within its borders at a great rate. In the occupied West Bank, Israel is vaccinating its Jewish settlers in illegal settlements, but not the Palestinians on whose land those settlements have been built.
Israel is not providing vaccine to the blockaded Gaza Strip, although Gaza’s suffering is most acute and its options are disastrously limited. Behind concrete walls, 9373 people are crushed into each square kilometer. 2.05 million people are facing Covid without reliable supplies of clean water or electricity – or vaccines. More than 47,500 cases of Covid have overwhelmed Gaza’s medical services. Israel’s military blockade is “effectively trapping them in a territory it continues to actively destroy.” The Al Shabaka Policy Network writes this week that Gaza as “confronting total collapse … arguably in a state of post-collapse.”
What is Israel’s responsibility? UN human rights experts said this week:
“According to the World Health Organisation, more than 160,000 Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian Territory have tested positive for the coronavirus … with more than 1,700 deaths…. [A]s the occupying power, Israel is required under the Fourth Geneva Convention, ‘to the fullest extent of the means available to it’, to maintain health services in the occupied territory… [T]he occupying power is required under the Convention to facilitate relief schemes ‘by all means at its disposal’. Even if relief consignments, including ‘medical supplies’ are provided by others, Article 60 states that such consignments ‘shall in no way relieve the occupying power of any of its responsibilities’…
“The right to health is also a fundamental human rights issue…. International human rights law… applies in full to the occupied Palestinian territory… The denial of an equal access to health care, such as on the basis of ethnicity or race, is discriminatory and unlawful…. [T]he Oslo Accords cannot derogate from [the law’s] broad protections. The ultimate responsibility for health services remains with the occupying power until the occupation has fully and finally ended.”
Israel’s responsibility is unconditional and non-negotiable. And the morality? Ask yourself how we would regard a policy to vaccinate and care for Pakeha New Zealanders. It would be repugnant, and to us, it is just as repulsive to know that an occupied people, an ethnic group, are being left susceptible to contagion, illness and death.
Palestinian people are not beyond our reach. Their rights are our responsibility.
We call on the media to report this story more appropriately and more prominently. When the experience of occupation is grounded in human rights, settler-colonial wrongs, and the equal value of human lives we recognise it as being our business. Those experiences resonate with us and link Palestine to our own work on Aotearoa’s colonial legacies and contemporary racism.
If those are issues that you care about, then Palestine is your issue, too.
Jacinda Ardern, Nanaia Mahuta, where are you?
Signed by Alternative Jewish Voices and Friends
Marilyn Garson Prue Hyman
Fred Albert David Weinstein
Ilan Blumberg Tami Louisson
Sue Berman Sarah Cole
Jeremy Rose Lynn Jenner