Above photo: Oded Balilty/Associated Press.
Six Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday demanding that Israel take immediate steps to ensure regular supply of vaccines to the Palestinian population under its occupation, control and influence, in the West Bank and Gaza. The petitioners also demand that the state transfer its surplus vaccines to the Palestinians immediately.
The petition was submitted by Adv. Adi Lustigman on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights Israel; HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual; Al Mezan Center for Human Rights; Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement; Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; and Rabbis for Human Rights. It was motivated by the sharp increase in COVID-19 morbidity and mortality in the occupied Palestinian Territory.
According to recent data presented in the petition, the rates of COVID-19 mortality in the West Bank and Gaza have reached a new peak, with 25 fatalities a day, and the percentage of positive tests stands at 30%. Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank are filled to capacity, and some of them have stopped admitting cancer patients from the Gaza Strip who require urgent and lifesaving treatments. Together, the number of fatalities in the West Bank and Gaza has crossed the 2,500 threshold, with a mortality rate of 1.1% of validated cases, a high rate compared to Israel’s. The vaccines hitherto provided to the occupied Palestinian territory number about 135,000, enough for only 67,500 people, or less than 2% of the population in the West Bank and Gaza, and not enough to provide for all at-risk groups, including the elderly and sick.
In their petition, the organizations emphasize that Israel has legal, moral and ethical obligations towards the Palestinians, deriving from its occupation and ongoing control of Gaza and the West Bank. These duties are anchored in international law as well as Israeli court precedents. The Palestinian health and economic systems have been subjected for many years to severe restrictions imposed by Israel, which have led, among other things, to severe shortage of doctors and medical supplies, de-development, and difficulty dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its periodic waves. In addition, the petitioners remind the court that “the Oslo Accords, to the extent that they are at all relevant, do not and cannot revoke the authority of the applicable laws, which require Israel to act to vaccinate the Palestinian population”.