The joint briefing paper by Al-Haq, the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre (JLAC), and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) exposes how systematic neglect and de-development of Palestinian healthcare has left Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem extremely vulnerable to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The joint paper highlights how Israel’s discriminatory response to COVID-19 in East Jerusalem, coupled with long-standing failures to fulfil fundamental human rights, has compounded Palestinians’ susceptibility to the pandemic.
It explores the situation in East Jerusalem before the outbreak of COVID-19, including the impact of prolonged occupation, illegal annexation, and structural discrimination in the city. It then discusses how these long-standing politically driven barriers, have enabled and exacerbated the systematic neglect of Palestinians in East Jerusalem during the pandemic.
The briefing highlights a lack of COVID-19 testing facilities in East Jerusalem, inaccurate and unreliable data to track the spread of the disease, and the harassment, arrests, and persecution of Palestinian health activists working to prevent the further spread of the disease.
It also warns that the capacity of Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem, the main providers of care for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, to respond to a widespread outbreak of the disease has been undermined by decades of occupation and financial constraints, leaving them at near breaking point.
The briefing paper ends by stressing that, as a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be breaking out, questions regarding its handling regain importance. It importantly highlights that “a return to pre-COVID-19 normality in Jerusalem would only signify the entrenchment of existing abuses and the aggravation of an unjust reality for Palestinians” and outlines seven key recommendations for the international community to take to protect the fundamental rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.