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Rashida Tlaib decries 'racist' Israel for not vaccinating Palestinians

Rashida Tlaib is a Palestinian-American congresswoman [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 January, 2021

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Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has lashed out at Israel for refusing to vaccinate Palestinians against coronavirus, saying this is proof that Israel is 'a racist state.'

Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has condemned Israel for its discriminatory policy of only providing Israeli citizens vaccines against coronavirus. 

In an interview with Democracy Now, Tlaib on Tuesday said that Israel’s policy of excluding Palestinians during the vaccination process emphasises that “Israel is a racist state.” 

“I mean, I think it’s really important to understand Israel is a racist state and that they would deny Palestinians, like my grandmother, access to a vaccine, that they don’t believe that she’s an equal human being that deserves to live, deserves to be able to be protected by this global pandemic,” she stated.

Tlaib said that it was “hard to watch” her family suffer Israel’s systemic discrimination against Palestinians and does not understand why Israel is denying people who live in the same communities their human right to protection against deadly disease.

“It’s really hard to watch as this apartheid state continues to deny their own neighbours, the people that breathe the same air they breathe, that live in the same communities.

"You could put a settlement wherever you want, but on the other side of that wall is a farm community, a village, where my grandmother lives, and many of our, you know, various family members and others that I know are trying, again,” she said. 

She added that Palestinians want “to live a good life, a free life, free from these oppressive policies, these racist policies, that deny them access to public health, deny them access to freedom of travel, deny them access to economic opportunities.”

Read also: Amnesty calls on Israel to give Palestinians coronavirus vaccine

Tlaib went on to say Israel’s coronavirus discrimination didn’t start with the vaccines, but that Palestinians have been denied access to basic mechanisms which can control the pandemic.

“My family told me they didn’t have access to testing. They would get some side effects, and they would use the small little house that they had and quarantine the family member. They had no access at all for any preventive measures, any medication. And again, that continues on,” she explained. 

“And we allow, again, enabling Israel to continue to do that. They have the power to distribute that vaccine to the Palestinian people, their own neighbours, again, feet away from where they live, many of which, again, could expose them and their family. And it doesn’t — if anything, it just reiterates what the Palestinian people and even human rights groups have been telling us, is that this is an apartheid state."

Human Rights Watch and other groups have pointed out that under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel, as an occupying power in Palestinian territories, has an obligation to maintain “public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.” 

Israel has occupied the West Bank illegally since 1967, and commits various abuses against Palestinian civilians, according to human rights groups.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are illegal under international law.

While the Palestinian Authority has limited authority in some areas of the West Bank and a Hamas-led administration exists in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch has pointed out that Israel is still an occupying power in both territories, because it controls borders, access, supply, and other key aspects of life. 

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