On April 20, 2020, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) published a “fact sheet” titled “Coronavirus under Israeli Apartheid.” The document promotes numerous allegations originating with Israeli and Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which, since their original publication, have been removed, have been proven false, or are simply outdated. This failure to utilize factual and accurate information and make reasonable policy recommendations demonstrates that the purpose of this document is to demonize Israel and not to advocate for Palestinian health.
A core component of the “fact sheet” is the intersectional claim that Israeli policies “embody” something called “#CoronaRacism,” drawing false parallels between Palestinians and minority communities in the US and the UK. BNC also negates the responsibility of Palestinian actors for healthcare and ignores the diversion of resources by Hamas and other actors to weapons, tunnels, and terror, instead of public infrastructure in Gaza.
Distortions in the document include:
- “Epidemics … are disproportionately violent to populations burdened by poverty, military occupation, discrimination and institutionalised oppression.” — Letter in The Lancet, March 26, 2020: The document opens by quoting a letter to The Lancet, which was, in fact, removed by the journal shortly after its publication. The letter was written by a group of anti-Israel activists, including repeat offender Mads Gilbert, and attacked “Israeli oppression and international complicity.” Ironically, the since-removed letter calls for Palestinians to “return” to Israel precisely when Israel was suffering from a much higher rate of infection than Gaza. The authors shamefully declare “no competing interests,” hiding their years of virulent anti-Israel advocacy behind a pledge of scientific objectivity.
- Palestinian communities in Israel are “likely to become epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak” due to deficiencies in testing, information and health services: BNC links to an opinion article published on March 31, which provides no citations to back up its allegations, and is in any case, outdated. Reality over the ensuing month showed the prediction to be false: Jewish communities, in particular Ultra-Orthodox areas, were the epicenters in Israel, whereas Arab communities were relatively unaffected. Indeed, Haaretz now features an “update” in the article, linking to an April 2 piece titled “Israel ramps up coronavirus testing in Arab cities where infection rate relatively low.”
- Israel’s prison authorities have failed to adequately protect 5000 Palestinian political prisoners from the threat of a coronavirus outbreak: BNC ignores the fact that Israel has taken steps to protect Palestinian prisoners, by restricting visits and limiting interactions with individuals outside the prison system. NGOs, like BNC, however ignore these steps in favor of pushing an agenda delegitimizing Israel’s prison system in its entirety by including convicted terrorists in its “political prisoners” category. Additionally, BNC links to a March 23 article published by Addameer, an NGO tied to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group.
- Israeli soldiers dumped a number of Palestinian prisoners and laborers displaying virus symptoms at Israeli checkpoints without medical care: According to a March 24 article about the story in Haaretz, the individual in question, who was in Israel illegally, received medical treatment and was tested for COVID-19 at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv prior to being brought to a Palestinian-controlled area. According to the article, “Officials at Ichilov responded by saying that ‘the Palestinian man was released from the hospital after receiving medical treatment’ and that they do not get police involved while somebody is being treated.”
- Israel destroyed a health clinic serving a vulnerable Jordan Valley Palestinian community: According to Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the demolished building was not a health clinic, but was a guard post “built illegally without permits by a resident.” The false claim originates with a March 26 article published by B’Tselem, cited by BNC. In response to B’Tselem, COGAT stated, “We are sorry to see a Human Rights NGO choosing to exploit a global crisis to spread fake news.”
- Israel has conditioned allowing coronavirus-related medical supplies into Gaza on Palestinian political concessions, a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law: As noted by the UN, humanitarian aid and COVID-19 supplies are being efficiently transferred by Israel to Gaza. Israel has and continues to coordinate the provision of all medical aid to Gaza without restrictions or conditions. BNC cites to an April 5 article by the PFLP-linked Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), but mispresents the details. PCHR does not refer to an actual policy, but to political statements made by Israel’s (outgoing) Defense Minister.