Top UK Jewish group slams leading daily for claim that Israel is denying Covid-19 vaccine to Palestinians

The article blamed Israel for the lack of vaccines in the Palestinian Authority-ruled areas.

By Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner

A leading Jewish group in the United Kingdom blasted a major British newspaper on Monday for an article blaming Israel for the lack of coronavirus vaccines in Palestinian areas of Judea and Samaria and Gaza, saying that the piece had “provided grist to the mill of far-right and far-left antisemites alike.”

The story, published Sunday, in the Observer, a sister paper of the left-leaning daily the Guardian, was headlined “Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout as jabs go to settlers,” and featured a lead photo of an ultra-Orthodox Jew being vaccinated.

The article blamed Israel for the lack of vaccines in the Palestinian Authority-ruled areas. “Israel transports batches of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine deep inside the West Bank. But they are only distributed to Jewish settlers, and not the roughly 2.7 million Palestinians living around them who may have to wait for weeks or months,” authors Oliver Holmes and Hazem Balousha wrote.

As the Board and Deputies and other critics noted, the responsibility and authority to acquire and distribute vaccines in these areas belongs to the PA, not Israel. This much was partly indicated in the article, which noted that the PA “has not officially asked for help from Israel” and it was the PA’s decision to cut off coordination with Israel last year.

Sheila Gewolb, the Senior Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said in a statement, “We are extremely troubled by the Observer’s blatantly false headline claiming that Israel has ‘excluded’ Palestinians from its Covid-19 vaccination program.”

“The Palestinian Authority is responsible for vaccinations provided to Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza,” she noted. “As reported within the same article, the PA has not even asked Israel for help in this regard, looking to source the vaccines elsewhere.”

“The Observer’s headline — and the picture alongside it, of an Orthodox Jew being vaccinated in Israel — has provided grist to the mill of far-right and far-left antisemites alike, who seek to take anything positive Israel does and twist it beyond recognition,” Gewolb asserted. “The paper should change this headline immediately and issue an apology.”

Shany Mor, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, claimed on Twitter that such stories are not atypical at the Guardian and the Observer, saying they constitute a “sub-genre” that presents a “false story of Israeli medical malpractice which is supposed to prove the innate moral rot of the Jewish state.”

These stories, he said, always involve “1) Crazy Jewish doctors doing something fishy. 2) Broad hints that their motivations are racist supremacy. 3) Heroic humanitarians bravely standing up to the nefarious Jewish plot.”

He cited previous false stories such as a 2009 claim that Israel harvests Palestinians’ organs, a 2013 claim that Israel forced contraceptives on Ethiopian citizens, and a 2014 claim that Israel deliberately targeted Gaza hospitals — each of them discredited.