Authors in the Lancet say Israel must lift “closure” on Gaza because 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.
The pandemic has exposed the degree to which structural racism and cross generational trauma have public health consequences. From childhood to adulthood, people of color are at risk for stress related illnesses: hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Now that list includes COVID-19.
On June 25, 2020, the Jewish Voice for Peace Health Advisory Council cohosted with founding members of the Palestine-Global Mental Health Network a webinar titled “Resisting Occupation and Pandemic: Mental Health in Palestine Now.”
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. That includes Oregon’s threefold increase in hate crimes this year and black males saying they fear being profiled for wearing masks.
Data on coronavirus in Palestine reveals a context of structural racism and apartheid, a reliance on military solutions, and a disregard for the health and lives of Palestinian people who matter less than their Jewish cohorts in the eyes of the Israeli government, Alice Rothchild writes.
Dr. Alice Rothchild writes, “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.”
The Trump administration strategy is to bully Palestinian leadership into submission, from defunding UNRWA, which supplies care to millions of Palestinian refugees, to removing support for a major tertiary care hospital in East Jerusalem.
As Trump announces further travel bans, we must recognize the hierarchy of vulnerability: who gets into which fortress, who is left banging on the doors, who is trapped in an increasingly impoverished ghetto. Having papers is both an opportunity and a marker in a surveilled world.
Alice Rothchild responds to a recent op-ed in the NYT about antisemitism within progressive spaces, “It is not possible to be a progressive, to celebrate human rights, gay rights, democracy, etc., etc., and then to have a different set of rules for Israel.”