A week ago, Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che drew controversy when he used a portion of the show’s satirical news section to say that Israel vaccinated most of its population from COVID-19, adding “I’m guessing it’s the Jewish half.”
The joke didn’t tell the whole story, but it’s something we need to discuss since we continue to see news sources praising the Israeli government’s distribution of vaccines while not mentioning their failure to include occupied Palestinian terrorities they should also vaccinate.
I will start off and say that the joke – in all fairness – is partially inaccurate because Israel is vaccinating its Arab non-Jewish Israeli citizens as they are vaccinating its Jewish citizens.
With that said, the joke speaks to the medical apartied happening in Israel and Palestine. The Israeli government has a legal and moral responsibility to vaccinate Palestinians in territories they occupy, according to the Oslo Accords and the Geneva Conventions.
Instead, they continue to make excuses. It is immoral to argue that this is up to the Palestinian Authority. It seems to allude that when it comes to something life-saving like the vaccine, this is the only thing the Israeli government seems to want to give Palestinians autonomy over.
This excuse is happening at the same time in which the Israeli government controls a large portion of water, electricity, and other resources in Gaza and occupied territories. (But, apparently, with the COVID vaccinations, power to the people with very few strong allies to help out, right?)
In fact, the oppression of resources is so bad that Isreal had initially blocked the vaccines from entering Gaza, and Gaza finally received their first doses of the vaccine in mid-Feburary — long after the Israeli government, and many governments in the Middle East, had started vaccinations.
Alongside blocking vaccines, the Israeli government has also given a surplus of vaccines to Guatemalans, Hondurans, Hungarians, and Czechs rather than prioritizing Palestinians. While it’s good to help distribute the vaccine to as many nations as possible, it would be remiss to not see the hypocrisy of not helping your neighbors before sending vaccines to other continents.
So while the joke might have initiated controversy, we should allow it to spark conversation and raise awareness about vaccine equality and equity in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict right now.
To say that medical apartheid isn’t happening right now is a blatant slap in the face to Palestinians and anyone who cares about humanitarian rights worldwide. Because of that, we shouldn’t praise the Israeli government’s vaccine distribution because it’s not a “success” until they successfully vaccinate and provide vaccines to everyone they’re obligated to vaccinate.