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Unrestrained apartheid

THE PALESTINE ANNEX / Israel was quick to portray the Palestinians as carriers of the virus and as a health threat. Today, Gaza's crisis is both territorial, demographic, political – and biological.


The ongoing global demand for aid and solidarity to curb infections and deaths from COVID-19 generally meet positive attitudes, but such initiatives were outside the Israeli authorities' hearing. At least when it came to his neighbors – the Palestinians.

Da Israel expected to lend a helping hand against growing epidemic infections, they refused to ease the iron grip forced on the Palestinians.

UN Nickolay Mladenov

Despite what should be called a "common enemy", he expressed FN a "glimmer of hope" when Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, pointed to the "inspirational examples" of cross-conflict collaboration in a joint war to hold back the new outbreak of the corona virus – and opened new avenues for progression in the pursuit of peace.

"Recognizing this independence – if it is politically motivated – can be translated into a tangible process to resolve the conflict," he said, noting how Israel and Palestine – with UN support – coordinates its efforts against COVID-19.

Photo: Aiman ​​Nubany
Photo: Aiman ​​Nubany

Nevertheless, this "little pleasure" disappeared immediately when Mladenov expressed his concern about both the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz's intentions to advance in the annexation of vast areas of the West Bank from July: "Measures to annex land and accelerate more settlements, combined with the overwhelming impact of COVID-19, can set fire to the situation and destroy any hope for peace, "he said. "The path of unilateral action will only lead to more conflict and suffering."

On the ground, punitive attacks against the Palestinians have continued as the Israeli forces have used the excuse of increased police personnel to carry out attacks on the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Bethlehem was shut down

A shocking incident occurred in April when residents of Beit Iksa, close Jerusalem, reported Israeli settlers spitting on cars entering and exiting a village surrounded by illegal settlers. Evening home with the soil in the city of Kafr Qasim and disappointing crops in the country's Bedouin districts was also not stopped.

This was outside the prison walls, but inside did not go much differently: When four Palestinians tested positive for the coronavirus, Israeli authorities ignored this, rather than release nearly 5000 Palestinians (including 180 minors) who were behind bars. And in Gaza there is not a single sign that one wants to soften the 13-year blockade.

The Israeli apartheid-like approach went deeper as the authorities were quick to portray the Palestinians as carriers of the virus and as a health threat.

Photo: Aiman ​​Nubany
Photo: Aiman ​​Nubany

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett was quick to shut down the city of Bethlehem in March as soon as the Palestinian government reported the first seven cases of the coronavirus on Palestinian territory – then in the occupied territories where the Israelites have been strictly advised not to travel.

The Israeli targets were undoubtedly not taken for Palestinian city security, but against the risk of the virus spreading to the Israelites. This even though "Efrat", the nearby settlement that had also reported infections, was not shut down as it was done in the holy city.

Crowded hospitals

On March 1, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Palestinian residents of Israel to apply and heed the Health Ministry's warnings. But no such thing was expressed to any of the members of the Jewish population who totally refused to shut down their religious schools and commercial businesses.

A failed Palestinian health system will have serious consequences during the pandemic.

In the mid-1990s, the Palestinian Authority took over the health system itself – but with ongoing occupation and the fact that the budget of the Autonomous Authority is funded by international donors. In addition, they experience corruption among their own officials. Therefore, overcrowded hospitals, lack of equipment and low-level infrastructure are a familiar sight in the West Bank. A failed Palestinian health system will have serious consequences during the pandemic.

Inhumane living conditions in Gaza

Despite this bleak situation in the West Bank, it does not look brighter Gaza. The UN warned that the enclave would be uninhabitable by 2020. It is now, and in addition to inhumane living conditions, the population has also had to live with the pandemic since the first cases were reported in March. The spread of COVID-19 in Gaza will lead to a human disaster.

Apart from the exponential deterioration compared to the West Bank, Gaza's health sector is not qualified to face a global virus outbreak. They only have one bed per 760 people. This, according to the head of the WHO branch office in Gaza, Abdulnasser Soboh: "Gaza can only deal with the first hundred cases, and then we will meet the same fate as the Italian hospitals".

Photo: Aiman ​​Nubany
Photo: Aiman ​​Nubany

The health system in Gaza is further weakened by the emigration of many health workers due to the economic situation.

More than 35 Palestinians have left the site since 000, including dozens of doctors and nurses. A health department official stated that they would need at least 2018-300 more doctors to meet the basic needs of the population only.

Unworthy poverty and war

The threat of the deadly virus over Gaza is perhaps the last chance to tell what many are ignoring to know or not to know: Gaza's crisis is not just a lack of basic needs. It is also territorial, demographic and political. It is about who, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, is successful and who lives in unworthy poverty and war. Who gets to live and develop a country, and who comes up short.

While Israeli residents invest in the country's resources, their neighbors on the same land are deprived of the same right. While the world is mainly concerned with the threat of Israeli "annexation" of its illegal settlements in the West Bank, many ignore the disastrous truth of the enclosed enclave.

Gaza sums up many of the world's crises: war, poverty, forced displacement and racism. Still, they express a glimmer of hope through their compassion and adaptability.

The article is printed in our Palestine annex June 2020.

Nadia Othman
Nadia Othman
Othman is a regular correspondent for Ny Tid, living in Gaza.

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