German vaccine pledge appears to discriminate against Palestinians

Israeli settlers accompanied by occupation soldiers tour the West Bank city of Hebron, May 2020.

Mosab Shawer APA images

The UK government has become the first in the world to approve general use of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech.

Other countries can be expected to follow quickly, marking a new phase in the fight against the deadly pandemic.

Israel may be among the first in line to receive the vaccine. According to Israeli media, Germany is planning to give Israel special access to vaccine stocks.

“A report by the Ynet website claimed Germany used its influence in the EU to bend the rule that a European-produced vaccination would be given first to European countries,” the JTA news agency reported in October. “Germany justified the decision in part through its historical commitment to supporting Israel.”

German foreign minister Heiko Maas and health minister Jens Spahn made the promise to Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Israeli ambassador in Berlin Jeremy Issacharoff, according to JTA.

The measure is “in keeping with Germany’s ‘special relationship’ with Israel as a response to the Holocaust,” the news agency added.

The reported vaccine deal can be read as a continuation of German state racism against Palestinians.

Martin Konečný, a Brussels-based policy analyst, has raised the question of whether residents of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank will be “entitled to the European vaccine while the Palestinians living in enclaves surrounded by them won’t?”

The German embassy in Tel Aviv did not respond to a request from The Electronic Intifada for an answer to this question.

But it is a safe assumption Palestinians will indeed be denied the vaccine while Israeli settlers living illegally on their land gain privileged access.

Separate and unequal

This is because Jewish settlers are fully integrated into Israel’s political, health and legal systems.

Meanwhile, Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must deal with a healthcare system that is grossly under-resourced.

This results in glaring disparities between Palestinians and Israelis, according to a 2015 report by Physicians for Human Rights Israel.

“The average life expectancy of Palestinians residing in the occupied territories is about 10 years lower than average life expectancy in Israel,” the report states. “In recent years, the life expectancy gap between Israel and the occupied territories has increased.”

Gaza’s health system was already at breaking point after 13 years of Israeli siege and successive military attacks.

It now faces disaster with the pandemic.

Physicians for Human Rights makes clear that the massive health inequalities result from Israeli-imposed limits on freedom of movement for Palestinian patients and medical professionals and ambulances, as well as other Israeli control mechanisms that “prevent the Palestinian ministry of health from providing full health services to the residents of the occupied territories.”

The group demands that Israel bear the responsibility for the health of the Palestinian population, as required under international law for an occupying power.

Yet rather than hold Israel accountable for its lethal violations of its basic legal and humanitarian obligations, Germany appears eager to help exacerbate them.

Germany “atones” by helping Israel’s crimes

German elites have long held that coddling Israel, an apartheid settler-colony that systematically violates the rights of millions of Palestinians just because they are not Jewish, qualifies as atonement for the German government’s murder of millions of European Jews in its death camps during World War II.

This has included providing Israel with billions of dollars in weapons and other support to further its crimes.

Israel is currently showing off its latest, German-supplied and funded warships.

Germany’s support also includes its intensifying campaign to suppress any criticism of Israel and its racist state ideology Zionism by smearing critics as anti-Semites.

In other words, the lesson that German elites have taken from the German government’s crimes against Jews is not that all forms of aggressive war, colonization, apartheid and discrimination must be opposed.

Rather, it is that aggressive war, colonization, apartheid and discrimination must be supported as long as the Israeli perpetrators purport to be acting in the name of the “Jewish people” and as long as their victims are non-Jewish Palestinians.

Presumably, once Israel’s colonial settlers get their German-supplied vaccines, they will be able to intensify their land theft, while Palestinians continue to be ravaged by the pandemic.

German officials, meanwhile, will feel that they have once again done a good deed absolving them of their forebears’ crimes.

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German politicians who support apartheid Israel in its inhuman treatment and occupation of the Palestinians are not in my opinion making up for the Holocaust, but in fact compounding the events during World War Two. Germany by its actions is complicit in Israel’s war crimes.

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I've lived in Austria for fifteen years. You are right of course, but the governments of these two countries THINK that, in Zionist eyes, they are making up for the Holocaust. The truth is lost on them. However, a lot of people I've met DO GET IT, and are appalled at Israel's treatment of Palestinians. But I can't say for certain how many "a lot" is.

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Germany is as Orientalist as ever was any low melanin European nation and that has not stopped. For the German hierarchy at least that Palestinians have paid and continue to pay the ultimate price for their war crimes is simply shrugged off: "Palestinians" are unimportant because not like us...Akin, in fact to Iranians (forget, apparently, that Iranians were fully civilized millennia before Germans etc.) who apparently are now told (as in told) to relinquish all defensive weapons, non nuclear included. Right. This from the nation that invaded neighboring countries and slaughtered tens of millions (not only the Ashkenazim) between 1914-1945...Iran, on the other hand hasn't invaded anywhere in 200+ years...Western hypocrisy knows no bounds, and German hypocrisy is right up there with the clearest of hypocrites....

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well said...a lot of truth in your points...I'm American but have lived in Austria for fifteen years. I can say with conviction that the governments of Austria and Germany refuse to acknowledge the lesson of the Holocaust. Never again...to ANYONE. Instead, they just think kissing Israel's ass all the time is the guaranteed way to make up for their past.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.