On 7 December 2020, Al-Haq published its latest legal briefing paper titled ‘COVID-19 and the Right to Health of Palestinians under Israeli Occupation, Colonisation, and Apartheid.’ The briefing paper examines how deep-rooted structural inequities have detrimentally impacted the enjoyment by Palestinians of their right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
In brief, the paper shows how decades of ongoing Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid have precipitated the continued denial of Palestinians’ individual and collective rights. Israel’s settler-colonial project and institutionalised regime of systematic racial oppression and domination compound the denial of Palestinians’ underlying determinants of health on both side of the Green Line, thereby amplifying the susceptibility of Palestinian communities to COVID-19.
The Palestinian healthcare system has suffered decades of deliberate neglect, de-development, and strategic fragmentation, which hamper an effective COVID-19 response. For instance, the World Health Organization’s first recommendation for basic protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been to ‘clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.’ Nonetheless, Palestinians’ right to adequate water and sanitation, as an underlying determinant of health, has been fundamentally undermined as a result of Israel’s continued exploitation of Palestinian natural resources.
Al-Haq concludes that Israel’s prolonged suppression of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination requires consideration of the responsibility for the collective suffering and serious injury to health of Palestinians, as a people, and that meaningful and effective steps are taken to bring the unlawful situation faced by the Palestinian people to an end.
It is paramount today, more than ever, that the human rights of Palestinians, particularly in the context of COVID-19, are understood, recognised, and upheld as human rights derived from international law, and that there is legal obligation, beyond any moral or charitable inclination, to ensure, until such time that the occupation is brought to a close, that Israel, as Occupying Power, meet its legal obligations towards the protected Palestinian people.
Accordingly, Al-Haq’s new legal briefing paper advocates for structural interventions as well as concerted efforts by third States not only to support the Palestinian healthcare system and enable an effective response to COVID-19 but also to address the root causes prolonging Palestinian oppression by adopting effective measures to bring an end to Israel’s prolonged occupation, colonisation, and apartheid regime over the Palestinian people.