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March 2020

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from Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council:


​​​​​​News & Commentary
COVID-19 in

MARCH 2020

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COVID-19 comes to Gaza
We Are Not Numbers - 28 March 2020
Because this virus has been slow to come to Gaza while it spread around the world, people here felt more secure. We had high hopes we wouldn't have to deal with the virus because of the blockade--an ironic “silver lining” to this humanitarian outrage.

     There was even talk on social media about the “benefits” of the siege, which I found sort of shocking. Yes, the blockade helped prevent COVID-19 from invading Gaza for days and weeks, but realistically, it was just a matter of time. And this blockade is the reason hundreds and maybe thousands of people here have died because they couldn’t get access to proper medical treatment.

Palestinian labourers fear loss of income as well as coronavirus
Al Jazeera - 28 March 2020
For Palestinians who work in Israel, COVID-19 threatens not only health but their means to provide for their families.

"Over the next two weeks, Akram and more than 100,000 other Palestinians who travel to Israel or to illegal settlements for work would get new answers on their fates every few days - each answer raising more questions."

Israeli Forces Demolish Emergency Coronavirus Clinic for Palestinians
Palestine Chronicle- 28 March 2020
Israeli forces on Thursday entered a Palestinian village in the northern Jordan Valley to
confiscate materials designated to build a clinic to deal with the novel coronavirus outbreak. Officials from the Israeli Civil Administration came to the village of Khirbet Ibziq with a military escort, bulldozer and two trucks equipped with cranes on Thursday morning to demolish community clinic and emergency housing, according to Israeli human rights monitor Btselem.

Israeli demolitions and police raids on Palestinian towns ‘threaten public health’ as coronavirus cases soar
The Independent - 27 March 2020
The Palestinian newlyweds were first worried about where they were going to live when the Israeli authorities made them demolish their home in East Jerusalem earlier this month. Now, amid a surge in cases of the coronavirus, Mohamed, 26, and his bride fear they cannot protect themselves against the spread of the deadly disease.

Coronavirus does not stop at a checkpoint
Zoughbi Alzoughbi, Palestinian Christian leader and Director of the Wi’am Center, speaks about the COVID-19 pandemic from Bethlehem

Wi’am: The Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center is an Advance Project supported by the United Methodist Church

Mondoweiss - 27 March 2020
Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie” is no longer just a Christmas carol. It is now the daily experience of all Bethlehemites. An eerie stillness has descended on Bethlehem and the surrounding towns. Virtually every public and private gathering place has been closed on the orders of the Palestinian Authority (PA). All schools, universities, banks, stores, hotels, restaurants, mosques and churches have been shuttered—even the Church of the Nativity. Only a few pharmacies and grocery stores are open.

      With very few exceptions, Israel has closed the checkpoints for all West Bank ID holders. All public transportation and all private cars are blocked from traveling between Palestinian towns. Bethlehem and Beit Jala are contiguous but driving across the street from one to the other is impossible.

Coronavirus: Israeli settlers exploit lockdown to annex Palestinian land
Middle East Eye- 27 March 2020
Israeli settlers are exploiting a lockdown, imposed in the occupied West Bank to slow down the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, to annex Palestinian land and launch attacks against Palestinian civilians and their homes.

COVID-19 reaches Gaza as cases spike in the West Bank
Mondoweiss- 27 March 2020
Palestinians are mostly holed up inside to their homes. The West Bank is now in the third week of a state of emergency with more stringent closures announced on Monday when Prime Minister Mohammed Shatteyeh ramped up coronavirus mitigation policies. He banned travel between Palestinian governates in the West Bank, limited public activity to essential errands, asked Palestinian citizens of Israel not to visit, and prohibited Palestinians who work inside of Israeli settlements from traveling to their jobs.

Forward global thinking on COVID-19, by Alice Rothchild
Mondoweiss - 26 March 2020
The announcement that nine cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Gaza filled me with a new level of anxiety and despair. Gaza is at the beginning of the pandemic curve. With two million people crowded together in area six by twenty-five miles, 70 percent are refugees, 97 percent of the water contaminated and unfit for consumption, basic measures to prevent the spread of the virus will prove challenging. With above a 50 percent unemployment rate and a lack of supplies due to restrictions on the import of goods, it is impossible for families to stock up on essential items and shelter in place, let alone practice social distancing.

The Gaza Strip Has Been Under Siege for Years.
Covid-19 Could Be Catastrophic.

The Nation - 25 March 2020
For the past few weeks we have been inundated with information about the preparedness of health care systems and how they affect mortality rates. Giving South Korea as an example, experts suggest that testing for Covid-19 is essential for saving lives, comparing that country favorably with Italy and Spain. Yet in Gaza, there are currently very few test kits (about 200), and, according to Ghada Majadli of Physicians for Human Rights, Israel, as of March 23, only 99 people have been tested.
      We also know that people are dying in many countries because hospitals are overwhelmed, unable to cope with the mass influx of new patients in need of ventilators. Doctors are warning that with 52 and 40 ventilators per 100,000 people in the United States and Israel, respectively, stocks are simply insufficient. In the Gaza Strip, by contrast, there are three ventilators per 100,000 people. This will undoubtedly become a death sentence for many.

In Palestine, the Unequal Effects of an Epidemic in a Settler Colony
Jadaliyya - 25 March 2020
We are far from comprehending the full scale of potential harm to people’s lives and the economy due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In the complicated reality of Palestine/Israel, where the outbreak is just beginning, it requires a deeper analysis. We know from history that the poor and oppressed bear the brunt of epidemics and disasters, and thus the danger of this virus for Palestinians is of grave concern.
      The Titanic in 1912, for example, carried 2,201 passengers and had the capacity to save 1,178 of them via lifeboats. Though more than half of the travelers could have been saved, only 32 percent survived. When we look at the numbers, it is clear that the chances of survival were not random, but were based on class and privilege.

LISTEN: Podcast: Gaza physicians brace for impact
Electronic Intifada - 24 March 2020
The first two cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, have been confirmed in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians in the West Bank are on lockdown, compounded by the Israeli military occupation.
     Meanwhile, two million Palestinians confined by Israel in Gaza for the past 13 years are facing the crisis amidst a deliberate diminishing of Gaza’s health system capacity. Israel has continued to prohibit vital supplies from entering the territory.
    Dealing with a problem like the COVID-19 pandemic consists of three major pillars: diagnosis and identification of infected patients, protection of healthcare workers, and treatment, Dr. Tarek Loubani tells The Electronic Intifada Podcast.

Holding our breath in Bethlehem as springtime passes us by,  by Yumna Patel
Mondoweiss - 24 March 2020
The first edition of special coverage newsletter on the COVID-19 crisis in Palestine featuring dispatches directly from Mondoweiss' Palestine correspondent Yumna Patel on the ground in Bethlehem.

Coronavirus outbreak in the time of apartheid
Al Jazeera - 24 March 2020
As the number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 multiply by the day, there have been increasing calls across the world for people to show solidarity and care for each other. Yet for the Israeli government, there is no such thing as solidarity.
     As soon as the first coronavirus infections were detected, the Israeli authorities
demonstrated that they have no intention of easing apartheid to make sure Palestinians are able to face the epidemic under more humane conditions. Repression has continued, with the Israeli occupation forces using the excuse of increased police presence to continue raids on some communities, such as the Issawiya neighborhood
in East Jerusalem, home demolitions in places like Kafr Qasim village and the destruction of crops in Bedouin communities in the Naqab desert.

Coronavirus: Gaza records first cases as health officials warn they have only 8 ICU beds ready for patients
The Independent  - 23 March 2020
The coronavirus has reached Gaza, igniting fears that a deadly epidemic could spread
unchecked, as health officials warn they have only eight ICU beds and a week’s supply of medical masks, goggles and gloves. Two men aged 63 and 79 returning from Pakistan via Egypt tested positive on Sunday and are being treated in insolation in a special facility beside the southern Rafah border.
An outbreak could wreak havoc in the 25-mile long strip which is home to over 2 million
people, many living in cramped cities and refugee camps.

Even as Palestinians battle pandemic, they are tormented by occupation
Mondoweiss- 23 March 2020
In 2 weeks, Israeli forces kill Palestinian, injure 200, detain 100, demolish 16 structures, displace 35 people, bulldoze road - see reports for incidents of violence and violations throughout the 2 week periodwhile COVID-19 cases rise.

How a shoemaker started the West Bank's only mask factory overnight
972 Magazine - 23 March 2020
Two days after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Bethlehem, Amjad Zaghir, a shoe factory owner from the Palestinian city of Hebron, realized the West Bank would soon run out of face masks. Less than three weeks later, he is now the only mask manufacturer there. Zaghir’s factory, which he started overnight, now produces thousands of masks a day, and has made him a national hero for helping Palestinians protect themselves from the virus.

Can Gaza cope with Covid-19 after years under lockdown?
The Guardian- 23 March 2020
As countries shut borders, enforced curfews and suspended much of daily life, Gaza – under a blockade for years – was somewhat isolated from the coronavirus pandemic. But as it has with so much of the rest of the world, Covid-19 found a way. In the early hours of Sunday morning, Palestinian health officials announced the first two cases in Gaza, from travellers returning from Pakistan via the Egyptian crossing. They were part of a trickle of people heading into the strip, around 1,300, who were placed into quarantine facilities, mostly in empty schools and hotels.

Israel rights org: ‘abuse of Palestinians overrides fear of COVID-19’
Middle East Monitor - 20 March 2020
Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem has charged police officers with “continu[ing] to abuse Palestinians” in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood Issawiya, despite the COVID-19 emergency.

Coronavirus: As Israel shuts down, authorities destroy Bedouin crops
Middle East Eye - 20 March 2020
Israeli authorities destroyed hundreds of hectares of agricultural land in two Bedouin communities in the Negev desert this week while most other government activities were curtailed to contain the spread of coronavirus. As Israelis were banned from meeting in groups of more than 10 and those flying in from abroad were quarantined, departments overseeing land use in the Negev continued to order evictions and clear land, a move that activists say violated the government's own ban
against large gatherings.

Israeli apartheid, COVID-19 and Palestinian prisoners: Freedom now!
Samidoun - 18 March 2020
Palestinian prisoners and human rights organizations have expressed serious concerns about the threat of coronavirus inside Israeli prisons. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Palestinian prisoners are already suffering from severe conditions of medical neglect and denial of adequate health care.
      The Israeli response to the coronavirus pandemic has been characterized by the racism and repression inherent in the settler-colonial, apartheid project, denying Palestinian rights and intensifying attacks against the prisoners while failing to provide any meaningful protection against infection.

WATCH: Palestine Know the Difference Between Apartheid and Quarantine
Interview with Rifat Kassis, Director of Kairos Palestine
The Real News - 17 March 2020

Coronavirus lockdown turns Bethlehem into a ghost town
972 Magazine - 13 March 2020
It has been over eight days since Israel and the Palestinian Authority imposed a full closure on the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The lockdown was announced after seven Palestinians in the city tested positive for the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19. As of March 13, the number of cases has risen to 35 — all except one in Bethlehem.
      The Palestinian Authority declared a state of emergency within hours of discovering the outbreak, closing all schools and universities. All civil society organizations were asked to shut down, all events were canceled, and public gatherings were prohibited. The PA stationed members of its security forces across the city, only allowing people to travel in urgent cases. Almost overnight, the city turned into a ghost town. The streets are empty, shops and businesses are shuttered, and no one is setting foot outside.

Israel fails to provide updates in Arabic for Palestinian citizens
Adalah - 10 March 2020
Palestinian citizens of Israel constitute approximately 20 percent of total population; Adalah sends urgent letter to Health Ministry on behalf of MK Sami Abu Shehadeh demanding immediate Arabic-language updates and access to essential public health information. Israel is failing to provide essential real-time coronavirus updates and public health information in Arabic for Palestinian citizens of Israel who make up roughly a fifth of the country’s total population.