by: Ilse Strauss, News Bureau Chief
The tragic tale tugged at the heartstrings of readers the world over. It painted a pitiful picture of the plight of two neighboring families, both exposed to the ravages of a terrible plague with but one cure. Sadly, one of the families—a brutal, tyrannical type—controlled the cure, and chose to dispense the life-saving remedy to its own members while cruelly withholding it from the other.
Those who heard the tale seethed in outrage, hopping onto every conceivable soapbox to tar, feather and malign the oppressor—and for good reason. One did, after all, need no affiliation with either family or prefer one over the other to condemn the jarring injustice—simply some general compassion for humanity. Soon public officials got involved, lending their voices to the chorus of ire until, finally, the world resounded with reproach, and the tyrannical family was condemned for its dastardly deeds.
The crusade would have been justified, applauded even—had the tale been true. But it wasn’t.
In January, Jerusalem emerged as the world leader in vaccinating its population against COVID-19, far outstripping the rest of the developed world. Yet instead of focusing on Israel’s rapid response, extraordinary efficiency and impressive organization skills—if nothing else—the international media employed the record-setting vaccine drive as proof of the Jewish state’s perfidy. Israel’s alleged crime? Inoculating its own citizens while supposedly denying the Palestinians the life-saving cure.
In what seemed like a race between media outlets to see who could fire the most lethal shot at the Jewish state, the Guardian led the charge with “Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout as jabs go to settlers,” effectively presenting Israel as a racist, apartheid state. The Public Broadcasting Service’s News Hour wasn’t far behind with “Palestinians left waiting as Israel is set to deploy COVID-19 vaccine,” while the Washington Post proclaimed that “Israel is starting to vaccinate, but Palestinians may have to wait months.” For its part, CNN charged that vaccination rates highlight the “stark differences between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Soon NGOs, world bodies and representatives of congress leapt onto the Israel-bashing bandwagon, with the UN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the World Health Organization (WHO) lending their voices to the chorus of ire—and ultimately whipping hundreds of thousands into a misguided frenzy—until, finally, the world resounded with reproach, and Israel was once again cast in the role of tyrannical oppressor.
Meanwhile, even a superficial review of the facts proves these charges ludicrous. From the start of the inoculation drive, Israel has vaccinated its population across the entire spectrum of demographics, with kippah-wearing Jews and keffiyeh-wearing Arabs—all of whom enjoy the same healthcare benefits—sitting down for the shot side by side. In fact, with neighboring countries like Lebanon campaigning against the vaccination of “foreigners”—mainly referring to Palestinians living in the Lebanese Republic—Israel has vaccinated more Palestinians than any other Arab country, explains Arab Muslim scholar Bassam Tawil.
But what about Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens or residents? The simple truth is that Israel doesn’t administer or govern the daily lives of the Palestinians in Gaza or the Palestinian Authority (PA)-administered parts of Judea and Samaria. Moreover, the 1993 Oslo Accords state that the Palestinians, not Israel, hold control of the “powers and responsibilities in the sphere of health”—including vaccination—for its people in Gaza and Judea and Samaria. This begs the question: why are the voices baying for Israel to vaccinate Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens failing to call on the US to inoculate the Canadians or the Germans to jab the French?
Further contradicting the smear campaign is the fact that Israel did offer assistance—which the PA rejected—choosing to depend on the Russians and the WHO for vaccines. The PA even publically acknowledged this fact, only changing its tune recently when given the opportunity to play the victim in front of a sympathetic international audience. Moreover, Israel did share some of its vaccine supply with the PA, sending thousands of doses to inoculate Palestinian health workers, and opened its hospitals to Palestinian coronavirus patients.
The international media chose to ignore these facts, just as they glossed over the so-called “cash-strapped PA” spending millions of dollars on the salaries of terrorists who maimed and murdered Israelis, money that could have bought vaccines for every single Palestinian.
But why let the truth interfere with a good Israel bashing session, especially if the lie has the potential to morph into something more sinister?
According to Jonathan S. Tobin, editor-in-chief of the Jewish News Syndicate, the latest smear campaign goes beyond uninformed journalists doing an incompetent job. The accusation that Israel withholds a life-saving cure from the Palestinians breathes new life into an ancient blood libel.
The Jewish people are no strangers to demonization based on falsehoods. Although medieval libels and slanders have evolved to stay in step with the times, graduating from the accusation that Jews slaughter Christian children to use their blood in unleavened bread for Passover, the smears have simply morphed into more modern editions of the same accusation. Poisoning the wells to cause the Black Death made way for Jewish financiers unleashing COVID-19 to control over a world in chaos, and the blood of Christian babes made way for Israeli soldiers harvesting the organs of Palestinian prisoners. The vaccine libel also joins the ranks of, among others, mass child slaughter, the Jenin “massacre,” using white phosphorus and committing other “chemical atrocities,” perpetrating “war crimes,” stealing and illegally occupying Palestinian lands and targeting civilians with impunity. While these accusations have been refuted, they continue to linger as truth in the hearts and minds of millions who essentially judge and condemn Israel based on misinformation. In that we see a tragic example—and a dire warning—of history repeating itself. Just like the ancient blood libels and slanders sought to sanction the annihilation of the Jewish people in generations gone by, these modern libels are once again wielded as a weapon to portray Israel as inherently evil and thus deserving of eradication.
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