OP/ED: Israel-Palestine Conflict & Its Effects on COVID-19 Vaccination for Palestinians


(Image Source: Al Jazeera)

Rinnie Jardini

Though the Israel-Palestine conflict originated in the 19th century, tensions between the states have never been higher. Pushed from their historic homes in Palestine–known as the Kingdom of Israel–during the Roman Era, the Jewish people sought refuge in a variety of locales worldwide, including parts of Eastern Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa and the Middle East.


After enduring centuries persecution and anti-Semitism in their new homes, the Jewish community wanted a place where they could live in peace and without fear. 


It is this search for freedom that motivated the idea of Zionism in the late 1890s, the concept of Jewish nationalism, promulgated by Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian leader in the Jewish community. This also led to a complete resurrecting of the Hebrew language–now the official language of the State of Israel. 


Throughout the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, many Jews from across Europe, migrated to Palestine–then part of the Ottoman Empire. It is here that they hoped to create a secular state and modern Jewish homeland.


After World War I, the British acquired Palestine as a mandate territory. Colonial authorities enacted the Balfour Declaration, vocalizing their support for a Jewish nation state in Palestine. 


However, the British also promised the Middle Eastern territory to the ruler of Mecca, and in an agreement with France, declared that they would also rule the region. As a result, the British ignored their agreement with Mecca and told Palestine that they would rule until they believed that Palestine was ready to rule themselves.


However, the British did try to honor the Balfour Declaration, and aided in transporting Jews to Palestine. By 1938, almost 30% of the population of Palestine was Jewish.


As more Jews migrated to Palestine, tensions grew between them and the Arabs, who had also made their homes in Palestine since ancient times. Overtime, the Palestinians became angry with England for allowing their country to be overtaken by Jews, and hence the conflict began. 


Israel declared independence in 1948, with their territory overlapping with much of that of Palestine. Shortly thereafter, the Arab-Israeli War began, setting off a series of conflicts over land that continue to this day. 


As violence escalated, the conflict became less about difference of religion, and more about land. Israel began a campaign of expansion into much of the land in the Palestinian region through warfare. 


Today, neither side are happy with where they stand, as the Palestinians have been denied their promised nation state and hence, global recognition, and now live under a military occupation. The Israelis on the other hand, believe that the land is their rightful homeland, a place where they can live in peace without the ever-present threat of exodus, which has been denied to them for for centuries. 


“The argument I think most people, including myself, subscribe to is not that the nation of Israel hasn’t a right to exist, but purely that their violations of the human rights of Palestinians is morally and objectively wrong.” – Ibrahim Khan, SA sophomore


Fast forward to 2021. Israel’s population is recorded to be over 8.7 million. By February 7th, 2021, about 60% of the Israeli population had received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccination. Although, factually, the State of Palestine occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem, these locations are governed by Israel due to the military occupation. Despite this, the Israeli government refused to vaccinate Palestinians until the very beginning of February. 


The total population of the State of Palestine is 5,175,903 people, and of those people, 2,000 received doses of Moderna vaccines from Israel and 10,000 received doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia. This means that around .232% of Palestinian citizen have recieved the potentially life saving innoculation. 


However, by March that number is projected to increase to almost 41% of the Palestinian populace, with the help of the World Health Organization’s COVAX global-sharing initiative. 


Though this intentional exclusion of medical aid is shocking and possibly horrific, it cannot be described as fully unexpected. Tensions between Israel and Palestine are at a boiling point, the vaccine crisis simply adding to an already complex history of injustice.