Inoculation, incompetence and intolerable exceptionalism

Alas, there’s no vaccination against Jew-hatred

A letter to The Times of London this morning from Lord Warner reads as follows: 

I write as a former minister responsible for the regulation of medicines to ensure their safety and efficacy. I am also 80 and fortunate enough to have received two jabs of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine. 

A pillar of medicines safety is manufacturer’s information accompanying the medication. Pfizer-Biontech has made clear “there is no data to demonstrate that protection after the first dose is sustained after 21 days”. The WHO has echoed this. Other scientists have said that the decision to postpone the second jab to 12 weeks is not based on data from clinical trials. 

As a minister I tried hard to follow the science, just as present ministers claim to. If I had been instructed by a prime minister to delay to 12 weeks the second jab of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine in these circumstances, I would have resigned.

Quite so. It is astonishing that the British government is ignoring Pfizer-Biontech's advice and postponing the second jab from three weeks to 12 for thousands of people. The problem the government faces is obvious: there’s not enough vaccine to go round, so ministers have decided to spread it more thinly.

Maybe that will turn out to be just as effective. But given how much is riding on vaccination to end the Covid-19 crisis, and since government health advisers’ assurances that the first dose will provide significant protection for 12 weeks have as much authority as a wetted finger put up to the wind, the panic-stricken decision to brush aside Pfizer-Biontech’s warning is extraordinarily irresponsible. 

The real question, however, is why Britain is so short of the vaccine. The answer is that the government didn’t order enough vaccine quickly enough. 

Much has been written about Israel’s astonishing vaccination programme which started just under four weeks ago. Beginning with health workers and everyone over 60, it is on track to vaccinate the whole population by the end of March. I am in Israel and had my second jab this morning.

There are two reasons why Israel is managing to do this so fast. Everyone has to belong to one of four health providers, and the competition for patients makes these organisations efficient and creative. With patient details stored digitally, the health providers have been able to locate people eligible for the vaccine through texts and phone-calls and process them through assembly-line vaccination centres.

But the crucial point is that the Israeli government moved last year with lightning speed, even before some of the final safety trials for the vaccines had started, to order up vast amounts of vaccine to cover the entire population — and reportedly paid over the odds for it.

It helps, of course, that with around 9 million citizens Israel is a small country.  Even so, acting so fast and making sure it ordered enough vaccine was essential. However efficient Britain’s NHS might ever manage to be, if it hasn’t got enough vaccine it can’t deliver it into enough arms fast enough.

But Israel’s phenomenal success over its vaccination programme has had an unforeseen result. It has engendered yet another mutation of the antisemitic blood libel. 

In Britain, America and Ireland media outlets including the BBC, ABC News, Reuters, Associated Press, Washington Post, Guardian, and many others have been pumping out the vicious lie that Israel has failed to meet its obligation to vaccinate the Palestinian Arabs living in the disputed territories. As David Herman writes in The Article

In the last week, Sky News, CNN and the BBC News Channel have all misrepresented the story about Israel and Covid vaccinations, implying that Israel has some obligation to vaccinate Palestinians, when in fact the Palestinian Authority has refused to accept vaccines from Israel. 

In an extraordinary item on the BBC News Channel last Friday, most of the BBC’s introduction to their item on this story was taken almost word for word from a similarly hostile piece in the New York Times, which also focused on Dr Gerald Rockenschaub, Head of the WHO Office for the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Curiously, he forgot to mention to BBC News, France 24 or the New York Times that Israel has no obligation to vaccinate Palestinians living in Gaza or the West Bank — and the BBC interviewer forgot to ask. I wrote to the BBC’s editorial director several times about this. He never replied. 

In vain have Israeli media monitors, lawyers, journalists and others pointed out that Israel has no such obligation because these Palestinian Arabs are not Israeli citizens. That under the Oslo Accords they are legally responsible for their own health care. That until recently they did not ask Israel for help in obtaining any of the vaccine, as Khaled abu Toameh reported in the Jerusalem Post in December, and were working to secure supplies on their own; and that when they changed their tune and asked Israel for help, as Honest Reporting observes:

Israel provided a small number of vaccines while opening discussions with the World Health Organisation with a view to facilitating the delivery through international intermediaries of additional vaccines to Ramallah and Gaza City.

In vain were these media outlets told that that Israeli Arabs are receiving the vaccine like any other Israeli citizens; and that the Arabs of east Jerusalem, who are not Israeli citizens but whose status is different from those living under Palestinian Authority administration on the “West Bank,” are being offered the vaccine but are largely refusing to have the jab.

Astonishingly, the media have simply ignored these facts and continue to promulgate the vaccine libel against Israel. As a result, in a grotesque inversion of roles, the Palestinians have now belatedly jumped on the Israel-demonisation bandwagon that the western media have provided for them. Palestinian Media Watch provides this telling timeline:

Nov. 21, 2020:
PA meets with WHO, UNICEF, UNRWA “to ensure that Palestine is provided with adequate Coronavirus vaccines” (Israel not invited)

Dec. 12, 2020:
PA orders “four million doses of the Russian vaccine... expected in Palestine by the end of this year” (Israel's help not requested)

Jan. 9, 2021:
PA announces: “Four vaccine producer companies [will deliver for] 70% of the Palestinian people... the WHO will provide for 20%” (Israel's help not needed)

Jan. 9, 2021:
PA announces: “Two million doses were ordered [from AstraZeneca]... we received an official response from the company... [Also] the Russian company Sputnik, and a vaccine was ordered... We are not just waiting... we are working...” (Israel's help not needed)

Suddenly, after everything the PA was doing independently — it was time to blame Israel: 

Jan. 10, 2021:
PA Foreign Ministry demands that Israel “supply the Palestinian people with Coronavirus vaccines... [Israel is] racially discriminating against the Palestinian people, and negating its right to health [services]... an apartheid against the Palestinian people in the field of health”. 

The sustained nature of the media vaccine libel requires some explanation. After all, unlike previous blood-libels against Israel over its behaviour during military operations to deter Palestinian attacks, the facts about the vaccine and the Palestinian Arabs are easily ascertainable. So why is the media persisting with this? I suggest three reasons.

First, having been deprived of opportunities to demonise Israel because the  Palestinian Arabs are no longer the story in the Middle East and there haven’t been any wars recently to facilitate the usual lies about Israeli “atrocities”, the media spotted in the vaccine story an opening at last for malicious attack and now won’t relinquish the opportunity. 

Second, to accept that the Palestinian Arabs are actually responsible for administering their own health care would knock a big hole in the central falsehood that Israel is an “occupying” and oppressive force.

Third, the vaccine libel possesses a key characteristic of antisemitism through the ages: that what drives antisemites absolutely wild with pathological jealousy is the evidence of Jewish exceptionalism. 

What such people find utterly unsupportable is the idea that the Jews are special in any way. This taps into the prejudice that the Jews are “chosen”, which Jew-haters interpret not as chosen for a particular moral burden, which is actually the case, but exceptionally privileged. 

This pathology is so twisted that such people are even jealous of the exceptional nature of Jewish suffering, which provokes the ludicrous complaint that the Jews “suck up all the victimhood so there’s none left for the rest of us”.  

So for the Jew-hater, the evidence of exceptional Jewish achievement — worse still, exceptional moral achievement — has to be denied, repudiated or twisted into its opposite. 

That’s why the fact that the Israel Defence Force is the most moral army in the world, going to lengths to avoid unnecessary loss of civilian life among its enemies that no other other country would even attempt, is turned grotesquely into the depiction of the Israeli military as Nazis. 

That’s why attempts to improve Israel’s image by drawing attention to its exceptional record in humanitarian work or scientific advances to the benefit of all mankind merely multiply the calumnies.

And that’s why Israel’s exceptional achievement in vaccinating its population against Covid-19 has produced a libel aimed at transforming its exemplary focus upon saving lives into an example of exceptional depravity.

But of course, the only depravity is to be found among those perpetrating this latest malevolent lie.

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