Last night I heard Bill Gates explain the correct global public health response to coronavirus on CNN, and realized that one result of the pandemic is that Israel’s apartheid moment has arrived. Corona will undermine the long public relations campaign carried on by Israel’s friends to prevent a recognition of systematic ethnic discrimination in Palestine.
But let’s look at the global response first. Gates has pedigree in having warned for years about the emergence of a new pandemic; he said such a virus was inevitable five years ago (I learned today). On CNN, he said that the countries that have done best in responding to the pandemic are the ones that got a taste of it with the SARS outbreak some years ago, they knew what to do, while the rest of us are in shock and just coming to terms.
Gates says the answer to Covid-19 is what the U.S. is doing now, bit by bit — and shutting down completely for six to eight weeks. Given the proliferation of the virus throughout the country– the horse has left the barn– and the virus’s incredible infection efficiency (using the asymptomatic), efforts to contain it will be a failure until the entire country ends up imitating New York City and the other big metro areas and Wuhan too, and shuts down.
Then the virus can be limited and hunted down.
Gates differs here with both the famous Imperial College study and Andrew Cuomo– both predicting a large percentage of the population getting the virus. No, Gates said. You have to smash the curve, don’t flatten it. The whole point is to sequester infectious cases through testing etc, and thereby reduce the percentage of infection, so that the overall population can be cleansed of the virus, till the virus dies out inside political borders. The smallpox model. Not a herd immunity model. China is down to .01 percent infection rate, not the 40-to-80 Cuomo talks about. 40 to 80 percent means a death rate that societies can’t accept, even if you stretch the toll out by flattening the curve.
Gates said the U.S. will be able to crush the curve with the strong medicine of shutting down the country for the next six to eight weeks. He seemed to predict gradual resumption of normal activity by the end of May in the United States.
Now here is where the politics enter, the role of the nation-state. Political boundaries in the United States are too porous for us to be able to enforce a quarantine on New York or, say, have counties in upstate NY lock their borders to city residents. Again, this is a nationwide problem now.
And ultimately our economy/society depends on people being able to travel to New York and New Hampshire, etc.
So we have to regard the U.S. as one community, and a very privileged one, globally.
Rich countries will be able to act to knock this out, Gates said, while poorer societies lack the resources/abilities to do so– poor people in crowded sections of a city need to go out for food and work– and the virus will ultimately proliferate in some poorer countries, and rich countries will then enforce travel bans on those countries, etc, until the conscience of the world, such as it is, compels the wealthy to help out the poor.
I’m not going to that awful scenario in this post. I’m going to Palestine.
Right now Israel is acting like Florida or Rhode Island– selfishly, defensively– to separate itself from other communities. Israel is acting as if there is a two-state solution, and Palestine is an independent state alongside it; and Palestine can go to hell if it doesn’t muster the resources to fight corona on its own. So if Israel as a rich country is able to smash the curve and lower infection rate to nothing, it can claim victory even if Palestine’s fragile medical system is overwhelmed and people are dying in their homes.
But there is no two state solution. Israel is the sovereign in all of historical Palestine. Its troops and colonists are all over occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank. Its economy depends on a Palestinian working class, a large number of Palestinian workers who come into Israel from the West Bank and who build the Jewish-only settlements inside the West Bank. And Israeli soldiers are enmeshed in Palestinian communities, doing the urgent business of raiding Palestinian homes, and ethnically cleansing villages.
Corona shows that the two societies are one public-health community. Israel may have succeeded in cutting itself off from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt such that a total outbreak in any of those poorer countries won’t reinfect Israel. But if Palestine gets fully embroiled by the disease it will prevent Israel from following through on a prudent public health policy. There seem to me two obvious outcomes:
1, Israel will try to turn the entire Palestinian population into Gaza– the Bronx-Queens-sized territory that Israel maintains as a prison for 2 million people — so that few/no Palestine-based Palestinians enter Israel, and Palestine goes to hell.
2, Israel recognizes its responsibility for one community public-health-wise and ends up enforcing that hunt-the-virus-down-and-smash-the-curve policy inside Palestine. And so it supervises and cooperates with Palestinian health authorities to do so over coming months.
In either case, the apartheid is blatant. In the first case, in the most cruel way: Israel locks the door on a subject population. In the second because Israeli control over a subject population that is second- or third-class because it’s not Jewish will be obvious for all to see: a government that just officially reaffirmed through three rapid-fire elections that it can and will and must be only-Jewish will be making decisions for a population that is not Jewish.
And of course, many of the medical professionals carrying out the plan and saving lives will be second and third-class Palestinian doctors and nurses, with no power in running the society. Corona doesn’t discriminate, Israel does.
Israel’s friends have been telling us for years that one day Israel will face the choice whether to be a democracy or an apartheid state. Corona exposes a choice made long ago, there is a system of apartheid in place right now, one state containing two communities mingled but separated by legal/racial status distinctions.
It’s time for Americans, and liberal Israelis too, to acknowledge this and take appropriate action. Maybe something good will come of this.