Pandemic has brought a significant rise in racism and xenophobia

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This COVID-19 update appeared first on the Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory site on May 23.

This is my weekly report for the Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council on the spread of COVID-19 in Israel and Palestine, but I begin with a global focus.

Health Inequities and COVID-19

The rise in the pandemic of racism and xenophobia during the COVID-19 pandemic:

As the incidence of COVID-19 infections is disproportionately affecting many communities of color (most notably in the US, African Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders), there is concurrently a significant rise in racism and xenophobia. The below articles are not exhaustive on this trend, but represent the concern that this illness, like many throughout history, brings with it a rise in hate.

​In this Washington Post article on May 19, health professionals of Asian heritage report on their personal experiences of having racist slurs and threats hurled at them and patients refusing to have these practitioners care for them. Each of these health practitioners is currently working on the front lines in caring for patients with COVID-19 infection. An additional story about a number of Asian American health professionals who responded by making a powerful video with the title, #IAmNotAVirus is found here.

​A Washington Post interview with Professor Darren Hutchinson, Associate Dean of the University of FL Law School, reveals how structural racism is intensified not only in the physical health disparities of the virus, but in terms of mental health toll and the historic trauma that is reactivated.

​African American men fear the targeting and profiling that they face when wearing face covers.

​On May 8, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering” and urged governments to “act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate.” Here is a statement by Human Rights Watch urging governments to take meaningful steps to prevent the racism and xenophobia that has intensified since the beginning of the pandemic. (We all know how our government leaders have fueled such racism and xenophobia right from the top).

Oregon, for example has seen a 366% rise in hate crimes in 2020 – many associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

The articles linked below document the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Native American population, as well as the lack of resources available for native peoples to diagnose and treat the disease. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are layered on top of the long history of dispossession and denial of resources, including those needed to provide healthcare, for the native population.

There are many parallels between the situation of Native Americans and that of the Palestinians — both indigenous peoples, huge numbers of whom were killed, whose land was stolen, and who have been impoverished and denied equal access to healthcare and other basic human rights. This is also the story of black and brown people in the U.S. and colonized people throughout the world.


By the numbers

As of May 23, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:

  • Israel 16,712
  • West Bank 547 (includes 179 in East Jerusalem)
  • Gaza 55

​As of May 16, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:

  • Israel 16,606
  • West Bank 534 (includes 173 in East Jerusalem)
  • Gaza 20

​As of May 9, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:

  • Israel 16,454
  • West Bank 527 (includes 172 in East Jerusalem)
  • Gaza 20

​As of May 2, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:

  • Israel 16,152
  • West Bank 500 (includes 164 in East Jerusalem)
  • Gaza 17

​As of April 26, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:

  • Israel 15,398
  • West Bank 319 (144 in East Jerusalem)
  • Gaza 17

​As of April 19, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:

  • Israel 13,265
  • West Bank 300
  • Gaza 13

​As of April 12, numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:

  • Israel 10,878
  • West Bank 256
  • Gaza 13

​As of April 5, numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
Israel 8018

  • West Bank 214
  • Gaza 12

As of March 27, numbers of Coronaviruses cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:

  • Israel 2693
  • West Bank 82
  • Gaza 9

There are also several organizations you may wish to donate to that are providing assistance to people in Palestine:

Al-Shabaka webinar Palestinian Leadership in the Time of Pandemic

In this policy lab, Al-Shabaka analysts Mohammed Al-Khaldi and Fadi Quran join guest host Marwa Fatafta to weigh in on current emergency measures in the West Bank and their ramifications on the Palestinian people’s trust in leadership. They will also look at connections between the PA’s past public health policies and their impact on its capacity to handle the pandemic. Watch the program here.

And now to Israel/Palestine…

Timeline on the spread of Coronavirus:

May 17 Gaza
This video shows the creativity of a Palestinian artist in quarantine making cartoons to educate people about COVID-19 safety. Middle East Eye

May 18 Israel
70% of cases of Covid 19 in Israel originated in the US. Approximately 1% of Israelis have been infected, far from “herd immunity.” Thousands of people who returned to Israel directly from hotbeds of the virus in the United States were not quarantined, due to Netanyahu’s fear of provoking Trump. Haaretz

May 19 Occupied territories
As of 19 May, 567 Palestinians in total are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 in the oPt, with a total of 20 new cases recorded during the reporting period. These include 179 in East Jerusalem,1 a total of 368 in the remainder of the West Bank, and just in the Gaza Strip. The number of active cases is 99, with 464 cases recovered and four deaths since the start of the epidemic. No deaths have been recorded since 20 April. OCHA Relief Web

May 19 Gaza
In spite of isolation and lack of resources, this video shows how Palestinians found ways to celebrate Ramadan during the pandemic. Electronic Intifada

May 19 East Jerusalem & Israel
After two months of closure, Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque will reopen to Muslim worshippers after the Eid holiday. The Western Wall was opened with restrictions early in May and Israeli beaches will open this coming week. Aljazeera

May 19 West Bank
Although 80% of Palestinian coronavirus cases are in recovery and no new cases were detected for almost 10 days, 13 new cases were found in the village of Beit Ula in the Hebron district. Thought to stem from a man returning from work in Israel, the outbreak prompted a lockdown and 3-day ban on movement during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations. Mondoweiss

May 19 Israel & the Occupied territories
Driven by mutual fears of Iran, relations between Israel and Gulf states have been thawing during the pandemic. With assistance from the UN, the first known commercial flight from the UAE to Israel brought 16 tons of medical supplies for the Palestinian Authority. Electronic Intifada

May 19 Israel
Over 2 ½ months, the medical focus has been on counting the sick, the tests and the ventilators, along with the mathematical models, the scenarios and the directives, as well as taking care of the critically ill. Doctors and researchers focused on testing, respiratory support, medications, and children. Haaretz

May 20 Israel & Occupied territories
Palestinian grassroots organizations operating under Israeli occupation are stepping up to lead the response to the coronavirus pandemic, filling a gap left by a weakened Palestinian Authority (PA). While this activism has centered more around public health than politics, the atmosphere has drawn comparisons with grassroots organizing during the 1987 Palestinian uprising. Some observers are wondering whether the twin pressures from the pandemic and Israel’s looming annexation of part of the West Bank, sanctioned by the U.S. administration, could jump-start a long overdue national dialogue leading to institutional reforms. Carnegie Endowment for Peace

May 20 Israel
The pandemic has been profitable and further entrenched the power of both private and state-owned military corporations. The militarization of Israeli society is underlined by the defense-related technology put to use in the pandemic response. Electronic Intifada

As Israel opens schools, Adalah, The Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel, has petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to connect Bedouin schoolchildren to systems for distance learning. Children in Bedouin villages stay sheltered because of crowded school conditions, but families lack computers and internet connections. Adalah

May 20 United Arab Emirates
Another personal story illustrates the family bonds and traditions that survive the lockdown during Ramadan through a mother’s instructions to her sons for cooking to break their fast. +972

May 21 East Jerusalem & West Bank
As UNRWA has mobilized operations to deliver medicine and medical equipment, they report no cases of COVID-19 at their health centers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. With support from the EU and others, they are adapting to meet the needs of Palestinian refugees in their five service areas. UNRWA

May 21 Occupied territories
The Palestinian Authority rejected UAE’s ‘uncoordinated’ coronavirus aid, sent via Israel, because the PA opposes normalization. The aid included personal protective equipment, PPE, and medical equipment. Most notably, it included 10 ventilators that are acutely needed. The New Arab

May 21 Israel and Occupied territories
Dozens of Palestinian children remain in Israeli detention amid the Covid-19 pandemic. “The prison guards disinfected the facilities twice only. They disinfected the showers, the stairs and the corridor. They did not disinfect our cells, not even once. They gave us a bottle of disinfectant that lasted about 15 days, and they never gave us more after it ran out.” Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons are enduring the precise conditions health experts have warned against in the fight against coronavirus. Middle East Eye

May 21 Israel
Israeli Arabs make up 21% of Israel’s population, but only 6% of coronavirus cases and 2% of deaths. In spite of the special challenges of Ramadan, the virus seems well controlled in the Arab population. The community was motivated by more than just a fear of the virus: the awareness that it is a minority, and the fear of sparking hatred. Haaretz

Demands increase for the immediate release of all Palestinian children from Israeli jails, with their inhumane conditions and lack of precautions against the coronavirus. Not only are the children left uninformed about their risks and denied access to preventive measures, their incarceration has become even more repressive during the pandemic. Middle East Eye

May 22 Israel & Occupied territories
16,712 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 279 people have died. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 554 people tested positive; two people have died. In the Gaza Strip, 55 people were diagnosed, 16 of whom recovered, and one person has died. Haaretz

May 22 Gaza
Covid-19 infections in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza have more than doubled over the last few days, rising from 20 to 55. Medium

May 23 Gaza
Fears of a new outbreak follow the first COVID-19 death in Gaza, reported to be a 77-year-old woman who had returned from Egypt. 35 new cases have been identified in Gaza, all of which were tied to a group of 1,500 Palestinians who returned to the enclave from Egypt this week. Haaretz, Mondoweiss, Aljazeera

A wave of coronavirus infections among residents returning to Gaza has more than doubled the number of cases in the strip in recent days, raising fears of a bigger outbreak. In recent days, around 1,500 Palestinians who had been stuck in Egypt were allowed to return via the Rafah crossing, while smaller numbers were permitted to enter from Israel. They were all quarantined, but mingled with other residents at the center. The border with Egypt was resealed. Daily Star

May 23 Occupied territories
Thousands of Palestinians have been stranded abroad seeking repatriation during the pandemic. Feeling lost and unmoored, many are in desperate straits for their basic needs. Aljazeera

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According to a recent poll , most Israelis think that the coronavirus crisis has caused an improvement in Jewish-Arab relations. Asked what the impact has been, these were the results: 57% – has caused an improvement 11% – has caused a deterioration 32% -don’t know /won’t answer As Dr. Rothschild has noted, Israeli-Arabs  have been hit by the virus less than any other sector in Israeli society. Update: Israel : 16,743 cases, 281 fatalities PA:… Read more »