To the editor:
(re: “Bowman is critical of Israel,” Feb. 4)
Over the past few weeks, I have grown increasingly disappointed in my community’s response to Israel’s refusal to provide vaccines to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Most recently, I was deeply saddened by the slate of premature and misguided attacks on U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman’s (now deleted) tweet criticizing the failure to inoculate Palestinians. As an occupying power with military control over the people of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel has a moral obligation to safeguard the health of those whom they occupy.
As a Jew, I cannot be silent while those who purport to stand for me use my religion as a justification to deny basic human rights to Palestinians. These defenses of Israel’s actions conflate the legal with the ethical.
While it is true that, in signing the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority assumed responsibility for vaccinations, nobody could have predicted in 1995 the global disaster that is COVID-19. Furthermore, this criticism conveniently leaves out the fact that Palestinians have not had elections since 2006.
Indeed, a January article in +972 Magazine reports that at least 75 percent of Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza want President Mahmoud Abbas to resign.
It is indefensible to argue that it is not only legal but ethical for Israel to deny medical aid to a people without a representative government, and over whom they exercise military control.
I am disgusted by the use of technicalities to justify immoral actions. For example, a recent article in the New York Daily News attempts to refute the claim that Israel is obligated to vaccinate Palestinians under international law because Oslo was more recent, and therefore supersedes the Fourth Geneva Convention.
While these technicalities may justify the legality of Israel’s actions, they most certainly do not make them ethical.
In addition, in a recent letter to The Riverdale Press, Rabbi Avi Weiss simultaneously insisted that Israel has no obligation to vaccinate Palestinian non-citizens while touting its vaccination of Syrian refugees as a moral success. While I am relieved that Israel saw fit to vaccinate Syrian refugees, should this moral impulse not apply to Palestinian refugees?
As of this writing on Feb. 1, Israel has agreed to provide some vaccines to the Palestinians whom they occupy.
I cannot help but wonder whether this would still be the case had the very people who Rabbi Weiss and the Daily News criticize not raised their legitimate moral concerns.
Finally, I am saddened by the fact that I must go to such great lengths to prove the moral necessity that Israel take responsibility for the health and safety of Palestinians. It should be clear that, as human beings, Palestinian people deserve protection from this deadly virus.
COVID-19 already has taken so much. We cannot let it take away our conscience.