This is the weekly report of the Health Advisory Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, first posted here on Sunday.
As of August 22, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 24,589 (includes 6,222 in East Jerusalem)
As of August 15, the numbers of Coronavirus cases (as best I can figure out) in the region:
West Bank 21,471 (includes 5,401 in East Jerusalem)
August 16 – 22, 2020
US focus on disparities in education: Having access to high quality educational opportunities is one of the most important social determinants of health.
A 2016 article in the American Public Health Association’s journal, The Nation’s Health stresses the importance of education on health outcomes “Education is the single most important modifiable social determinant of health. Income and education are the two big ones that correlate most strongly with life expectancy and most health status measures.”
As we are all aware there are multilayer issues regarding school reopening and how to achieve educational equity to those who are most vulnerable when schools are closed.
The issue of the widening educational gap is discussed by the NAACP in their statement about the impact of coronavirus on students and educational systems. Low-income communities, disproportionately represented by people of color, rely heavily on the support of a robust early childhood and K-12 school system. For many families, school meals are a critical part of children’s nutritional intake. Early childhood programs, schools and after-school programs are essential to enable parents to work. There is also, of course a huge digital divide along racial and income lines. Thus the magnitude of school closure and at home schooling creates an inequitable burden on low income parents, and disproportionately on families of color. The lack of investment in education and planning for how to safely provide learning opportunities for all children is a further failure of our nation’s lack of an effective strategy for dealing with this pandemic.
Racial Inequalities in Education talks about the pre-pandemic underfunding of schools in communities of color, and the fact that this divide, like so many others made clear by COVID-19, will only widen as more time passes without the safe opening of schools. The huge negative impact and racial disparities of learning loss due to the virus necessitating school closure is discussed in a report by McKinsey & Co.
The complex matrix of how to safely re-open schools is discussed in The New York Times article, How to Reopen Schools: What Science and Other Countries Teach Us. Clearly, providing adequate educational opportunities for all children is complicated but also essential. What is also clear is the need for national investment to support states and school districts, and the national leadership to set high standards, and to fund what it takes to get there.
And now back to Israel/Palestine:
***Indicates Haaretz headlines only for articles that cannot be accessed without a paid subscription.
Important correspondence in The Lancet in September
Battling COVID-19 in the occupied Palestinian territory
The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the occupied Palestinian territories, and Gaza specifically, highlights the effect of an ongoing blockade on public health [write Dana Moss and Ghada Majadle]. The extensive nature of the blockade has had a devastating impact on the health and wellbeing of residents in Gaza. Public health measures have erred on the side of caution and largely contributed to a very low infection rate during the first 3 months of the crisis. The separation between East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank, and the restrictions that Israel imposes on the freedom of movement of patients, medical equipment, and health-care personnel, structurally impedes the proper functioning of the Palestinian health-care system.
More than 9,000 patients need Israeli exit permits to leave the Gaza Strip each year for treatment that is unavailable locally, a quarter of whom are patients with cancer.|
The insufficient amount of equipment needed to treat COVID-19 in the occupied Palestinian territory (87 intensive care unit beds with ventilators for nearly 2 million people and a paucity of personal protective equipment) is compounded by poor public health conditions: a water and electricity crisis, rampant poverty, and a high population density.
Physicians for Human Rights Israel has demanded that Israel acts transparently and publishes the country’s policies on preventing an outbreak in the occupied Palestinian territory.
To enable the Palestinian health systems to manage the outbreak, Israel must lift its closure of the Gaza Strip to enable the proper functioning of Gaza’s healthcare system and other essential services in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Palestinian and Israeli health professionals, let us work together!
These authors blame the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The Oslo Accords state that health is under the aegis of the Palestinian Authority. It is only in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority that health professionals in Israel can provide assistance to people in the West Bank. Sadly, the PA has decided on a general policy wherein opposing steps, which are claimed to represent so-called normalization with Israelis, override such cooperation by forbidding Palestinian healthcare personnel from working with their Israeli colleagues, thus medical cooperation is impossible. The blockade of Gaza exists to prevent Hamas from creatively transforming imports meant to build health-care facilities into rockets meant to kill Israelis. The Israelis are generously doing what they can.
Instagram video from IMEU: What happens if Covid 19 spreads in Gaza.
August 16 Israel
According to a survey taken in April, only 61% of Israeli nurses and 78% of Israeli doctors say they would be willing to get a coronavirus vaccine, with safety being the biggest concern.
The Israeli government announced on Sunday, August 16, that visitors from 20 countries would no longer be required to self-quarantine for two weeks after their arrival, as they have been designated “green countries.” The Health Ministry updates a searchable list of green countries on its official website. These locations on 8/16 included Austria, Italy, Estonia, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Georgia, Germany, Denmark, Hong Kong, Hungary, Greece, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia, Finland, Canada, Cyprus and Croatia.
ACRI (The Association for Civil Rights in Israel), along with Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel), PHRI (Physicians for Human Rights – Israel), and Privacy Israel filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court calling for repeal of a law authorizing Shin Bet domestic intelligence service to use mass surveillance capabilities to monitor COVID-19 patients and those who have come in contact with them. In previous petitions filed by ACRI and Adalah, the Supreme Court ruled that the government must cease using the Shin Bet unless it were to promote legislation that would authorize its use. The court also ruled that the proportionality of using mass surveillance tools as such should be examined and that civil alternatives are imperative.
August 17 Israel
Addameer, Al-Haq, and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) sent a follow-up urgent appeal to UN Special Procedures on the situation of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli detention centers, highlighting Israel’s failure to uphold its legal obligations. The appeal stressed the urgency of its demands to protect prisoners and detainees due to concerns over COVID-19 exposure.
August 18 East Jerusalem
Since the beginning of the pandemic Palestinians in East Jerusalem, who live under the jurisdiction of Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality, have reported major disparities in how Israeli authorities have handled containment efforts in their communities, versus Jewish Israeli communities in West Jerusalem. In the early stages of the outbreak, rights groups reported a severe lack of testing centers and containment efforts on part of Israeli authorities in East Jerusalem’s neighborhoods. In the meantime, locals accused Israeli authorities of actively hindering their efforts to fight the virus in the form of the harassment and arrest of local volunteer health workers, continued over-policing of Palestinian neighborhoods, and a disproportionate amount of fines for health code violations (i.e. not wearing a mask) compared to Jewish communities in the city.
August 18 Israel & Occupied territories
For five months Israel has been imposing a corona virus lockdown on Gaza, in addition to the usual, permanent closure. This is a sweeping, disproportionate and cynical decision because it’s exploiting a plethora of circumstances to exacerbate a long-term policy that has branded Gaza a tainted territory, a penal colony, an isolated enclave. This policy is trying to sever and isolate the two jurisdictions in which the Palestinians live – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – in a demographic move being adopted for political reasons. The claim regarding the health danger posed by the entry of Gazans is particularly infuriating because it’s known that Gaza hasn’t had a single case of community contagion.
August 19 Israel
With rising infection rates and declining trust, the beleaguered Israeli coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu sought to buy time to improve the logistics of a new proposal. He was expected to present a comprehensive plan on Thursday for imposing another lockdown during the High Holidays as Israel’s infection rate keeps rising. Should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accept the plan, the lockdown would likely last for several weeks spanning the Jewish holidays that start in mid-September.
Israeli coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu compared the spread of the virus in the Arab community to a “mass terrorist attack” after cases rose subsequent to the Eid-al-Adha holiday. Gamzu said his words had been misunderstood, and denied accusations that his imposition of a partial closure of the Druze village of Yarka in northern Israel resulted from racism. Ayman Odeh, chair of the Joint List coalition, condemned Gamzu’s remarks and stated, “Instead of miserable statements like those, I invite him to work together to defeat the pandemic.”
August 20 Gaza
The Gaza Strip’s only power plant shut down on Tuesday after Israel stopped the transfer of fuel to the territory. The halting of fuel transfers is among a series of collective punishment measures Israel has imposed on Gaza. Israel has claimed the measures are a response to incendiary balloons released from Gaza. The launching of such balloons by some Palestinians is, in reality, a symbolic effort to draw attention to the deteriorating situation in Gaza, long subject to an Israeli siege. Although incendiary balloons caused several fires in Israel, “no injuries or damage have been reported,” according to The Jerusalem Post. Israel has also bombed Gaza on an almost a daily basis over the past week.
August 20 Israel & Occupied territories
98,550 people in Israel have so far tested positive for the coronavirus; 789 people have died; in the past 24 hours, more than 580 people tested positive. In the West Bank, there are 8,953 active cases; 130 people have died. Experts say there will not be a vaccine soon. Abu Dhabi’s G42 Healthcare has signed a preliminary agreement with Israel’s NanoScent to develop, distribute, and manufacture a test that detects COVID-19 from exhaled air, UAE state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday. The test, called Scent Check, will provide results in 30 to 60 seconds, WAM said, adding G42 will undergo thousands of tests for the device in coming weeks. Netanyahu decided on no lockdown, instead there will be a “traffic light program” assessing levels of risk in various communities and customizing restrictions. Ultraorthodox and Arab communities are particularly hard hit. Palestinians in East Jerusalem have shunned army run testing facilities, Local sources say that the facility, which is run by the IDF’s Home Front Command, is repelling the local Palestinian population due to its military elements. This includes Israeli flags, army trucks, and uniformed soldiers on the premises. In response, the army said it would make changes at the site “in order to be considerate of the feelings of the residents.” East Jerusalemites have a 43 % positivity, over 11 times the national rate for the same day.
August 20 Israel
In recent weeks three groups, Palestinians , Druze, and ultra-Orthodox, are by far the hardest hit. These groups share certain characteristics – larger than average families, crowded living conditions, relatively low income and poorer communication with the authorities – that have helped to make them more vulnerable to the virus. In the first wave, Palestinian communities did better than average, but this changed with family gatherings around Eid al-Adha. Newly confirmed cases are of young, asymptomatic carriers. However, the general situation remains bleak: The number of daily cases and deaths in Israel are higher than any other Western country except the US. Ultraorthodox resistance to restrictions on attendance at yeshivas was likened to Antiochus’ decrees against the Jews. There has been some decline in the number of new
confirmed carriers each day, but the decrease is very slow and still hasn’t dipped below 1,600 new cases on weekdays (when there is more testing). Meanwhile, the number of seriously ill patients continues to creep upward and has now passed the 400 mark. In the past week, the average daily fatality rate stood at 12.
August 21 Israel
Israel’s Health Ministry has approved a new COVID-19 testing method using sample pooling. The new system enables clinical labs to add a stage to the process of analyzing the nose and throat swabs taken from patients, and test eight people simultaneously using the same amount of reagents and raw materials needed for testing, which are in short supply all over the world.
August 21 US
Mufid Abdulqader, now 60, has been incarcerated in the US for 14 years. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years after the 9/11 attacks on charges of using a Muslim Charity called the Holy Land Foundation as a front to send funds to Hamas, an accusation he vehemently denies. His family hoped he would receive a compassionate release waiver or approval for home confinement as the coronavirus has been raging in US prisons. Shortly after his request was denied, he began to experience symptoms; he was not tested until two weeks later, when he was confirmed positive for coronavirus and sent to the hospital wing of Seagoville Prison in Texas, where at least 75% of prisoners and 300 employees have contracted the disease.
August 22 Occupied territories
Latest graphics on the pandemic.
August 22 Israel
The August 22 update in Haaretz listed a total of 100,716 COVID-19 cases in Israel with 77,785 recovered and 809 deaths.