JJP criticises Board of Deputies for defending Israel’s shameful failure to vaccinate Palestinians in the OPT

JJP wrote to the Senior Vice President of the Board, Dr. Sheila Gewolb, criticising her statement about an Observer article on the issue. Instead of holding Israel to account for its inaction, she misrepresented the Observer article and incorrectly claimed that responsibility for vaccinating the Palestinian population of the OPT lay with the Palestinian Authority.

Our letter to Dr. Gewolb and her statement are printed below:

JJP Letter to Dr. Gewolb

Sheila Gewolb 21 January 2021

Senior Vice President

Board of Deputies of British Jews

Dear Dr. Gewolb,

We are writing to you about your statement of 4 January concerning The Observer article about Israel’s Covid vaccination programme. Your description of the Observer headline was misleading. Your claim that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for providing Covid vaccinations was incorrect.

The headline has to be read in conjunction with the sub header, which makes it clear that the article is about the failure of Israel to provide vaccinations to the Palestinians in the OPT while it is providing them to settlers, not about vaccinating Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Here are headline and sub header together:

Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout as jabs go to settlers

Human rights groups accuse Israel of dodging obligations to millions in occupied territories who may wait months for vaccination

Israel, as the occupying power, is responsible under the 4th Geneva Convention for health in the occupied territories. If local facilities are inadequate to provide a particular service, it is required to provide the service itself (Articles 55 and 56). That certainly covers Covid vaccinations because the Palestinian Authority does not have the funds to buy vaccines on the world market, nor the number of medical staff to mount a concentrated vaccination campaign. These requirements take precedence over anything in the Oslo Accords.

Because of its occupation policies, Israel bears a heavy responsibility for the inadequacy of local healthcare facilities It has stunted Palestinian economic growth by treating the OPT as a captive market for Israeli goods and illegallyusing West Bank agricultural land and mineral resources for its own benefit.

Moreover, the occupying power cannot discriminate against the occupied population in favour of its own citizens in the occupied territory. Therefore Israel is required to provide the same vaccination service, at the same time, to the Palestinians in the OPT as it does to the settlers.

Instead of trying to deflect attention from what the Observer actually said by claiming that its headline was false, and going on to claim incorrectly that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for providing the vaccinations, we believe you should have taken Israel to task for not meeting its moral and legal obligations. We are confident the majority of the Jewish community here would share our view.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur Goodman
Parliamentary and Diplomatic Liaison Officer

c.c. Marie van der Zyl, President, Board of Deputies

Dr. Shiela Gewolb

Dr. Gewolb’s statement

Board of Deputies calls for the Observer newspaper to apologise for false Covid headline

JANUARY 4, 2021 –


Sheila Gewolb, Senior vice President, has raised concerns over a false headline in the Observer claiming that Israel has excluded Palestinians from Coronavirus vaccinations.

Sheila said: “We are extremely troubled by the Observer’s blatantly false headline claiming that Israel has ‘excluded’ Palestinians from its Covid-19 vaccination programme.

The Palestinian Authority is responsible for vaccinations provided to Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza. As reported within the same article, the PA has not even asked Israel for help in this regard, looking to source the vaccines elsewhere. Israel is therefore vaccinating its own citizens, as every country in the world is trying to do. This includes millions of Arab citizens of Israel.

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. The paper should change this headline immediately and issue an apology.”

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