Israeli lawmaker defends value of life after making insensitive COVID remark

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked issued clarification after saying Israelis needed to “accept deaths” from the pandemic.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

In the face of mounting criticism, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked issued a clarification after she appeared to minimize Israeli deaths and suffering from COVID on Tuesday.

Shaked, member of the Yemina party, appeared on Channel 13 defending the government’s handling of the latest wave of COVID and explaining why more restrictive measures have not been enacted. She then said, “We have to to know how to accept severe cases and also to accept deaths, because this is a pandemic and in a pandemic people die,” she said. “It’s happening all over the world right now.”

She then added: “If the experts approve it, we will vaccinate people ages 45 and over, beginning next week.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Health Ministry announced that 11 people had died of COVID that day and that 6,300 new cases were recorded. Health officials attributed the spike to the Delta variant, which is more communicable and more resistant to vaccines. Recent research also indicates that the protection provided by the vaccines fades over time.

Health experts have been calling for a lockdown to bring down the numbers, while political leaders have questioned the effectiveness of more restrictive measures.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Monday, “It is not clear that there is a correlation between lockdowns and a decrease in the number of cases and seriously ill patients, but it is clear that there is a correlation between lockdowns and economic damage.” Liberman added that just as Israelis “know how to live alongside the flu, the same thing [should be the case with the] coronavirus.”

Opposition MKs seized on Shaked’s remarks to insist the government was not taking the outbreak seriously enough.

Religious Zionism MK Ofir Sofer tweeted, “Shaked’s wretched comments reveal the government’s failed handling” of the pandemic.

Shaked later clarified her comments on Channel 13 and issued the following statement: “Every deceased person is a whole world, and human life is a high and sacred value. What I meant was to explain the costs of the ongoing struggle with the global pandemic. It would have been better to formulate my words in a better way. I again ask everyone to get vaccinated, it saves life.”

Israel is currently dealing with 38,942 active cases, of which 87 are critical and 67 are on ventilators. The death toll stands at 6,580.