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.”
Alice Rothchild grew up with a deep love for Israel, the redemptive, out-of the-ashes, kibbutz-loving, feisty little country that could do no wrong. Yet she writes, “it is often said, if we don’t know our history, we are destined and doomed to repeat it.”
If we do not distinguish between valid critiques of the policies of the Israeli state and anti-Semitism, we are allowing rightwing forces to weaponize anti-Semitism, suppressing freedom of speech and open debate, and making the term anti-Semitism meaningless at a time when it is critical to identify and oppose it.