The vaccine blood libel

The lies about Israel, Covid and the Palestinians sit within a horrific trajectory

Simon of Trent blood libel; in Hartmann Schedel's Weltchronik, 1493

I wrote here last month about the vaccine libel, the falsehood being peddled that Israel was refusing to vaccinate the Palestinians living in the disputed “occupied” territories.

I wrote that media outlets were persisting in this incendiary falsehood despite all the facts being to the contrary. Under international law as laid down by the Oslo Accords, responsibility for providing health care in these disputed territories rested with the Palestinian Authority; the PA had ordered its own supply of vaccines and had not asked Israel for any help in supplying them; and the Arabs of east Jerusalem, who are not Israeli citizens but have a special status, were being offered the Israeli vaccine along with Israeli Arabs and the rest of Israel’s population. 

All such attempted corrections were to no avail. All the lawyers and media monitors who have been pointing all this out might as well have saved their energies. For the libel has continued regardless, with the Israel-bashers doubling down and reinforcing the distortions and the falsehoods. 

US Democrat Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who regularly trashes Israel and promotes the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign whose purpose is to destroy Israel altogether, told a news programme: 

I think it’s really important to understand Israel is a racist state and that they would deny Palestinians, like my grandmother, access to a vaccine, that they don’t believe that she’s an equal human being that deserves to live, deserves to be able to be protected by this global pandemic.

Untrue in every respect. In similar vein, Britain’s Labour MP Nadia Whittome tabled a motion in Parliament last month in which she said: 

The Israeli government is shirking its legal and moral obligations to 4.5 million people. While it has already vaccinated more than a fifth of its population, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have not even begun to receive their jabs. Israeli settlements are being vaccinated yet Palestinians living metres away are not… The British government cannot be neutral in the face of such injustice and must make clear to the Israeli government that it is obligated to vaccinate all those living under its occupation without discrimination.

Not only legally false but stupid: since the Palestinians are indeed close neighbours, with many of them coming into Israel to work, Israel has every interest in all Palestinians getting vaccinated as fast as possible.

And then there’s The Lancet, once again allowing its hatred of Israel to trash any reputation it still has for evidence-based health information. It has published an article in the name of The Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance which says:

Israel has denied its status and role as an occupier of the West Bank and the attendant responsibilities for the health of the occupied population, as laid down in the Geneva Convention and highlighted by the UN and 18 human rights organisations…Israel is complicit in the increased vulnerability of the Palestinian population to COVID-19… We call on physicians and other health professionals to raise their voices and put pressure on the Israeli Government to provide vaccines to Palestinians, including Palestine refugees on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This is factually wrong and legally illiterate. Israel has no such legal obligation. The PA has ordered its own vaccine supplies in conjunction with the World Health Organisation’s Covax scheme. It  did not ask Israel for help until recently when its supplies were delayed; Israel quietly provided it with vaccines on that occasion, and this week provided 5000 more doses.  As for Gaza, the IDF say they have facilitated all requests for medical assistance there, including the provision of ventilators, oxygen generators, hospital beds and Covid-19 testing equipment. 

All this, note, while Gaza’s terrorists continued to fire rockets into southern Israel in order to murder Israeli civilians.

The vaccine libel is frightening for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it involves a stunning denial of evidence, law and reason. Its perpetrators are simply immune to any facts that contradict their claims. So great is their venomous bigotry towards Israel, there is simply no argument that can stop this libel rolling on. 

I previously suggested various reasons for this extraordinary determination to persist with it: the opening it provides for another malicious attack on Israel; the urgent need to deny that the Palestinians are responsible for their own affairs; and the determination to squash any evidence of Jewish exceptionalism. 

The trigger for the libel was the fact that Israel started to receive admiring notices from around the world for its astonishingly fast vaccination roll-out. Those who seek to depict Israel as irredeemably bad in order to destroy it had to stop this dangerous admiration in its tracks and turn Israel’s exceptional scientific and moral triumph into an act of evil.

And that leads into the further and even more terrible point that needs to be made. For this is not just a libel against the State of Israel. It is redolent of the ancient blood libel used against the Jewish people. 

That horror originated in medieval England with the accusation that Jews murdered Christian children to drink their blood, a demented fabrication which directly incited the murder of countless thousands of Jews. And there have been many other instances over the centuries of baseless accusations levelled against the Jews for spreading disease, notably when Jews were blamed for outbreaks of plague as a result of which thousands of Jews were slaughtered. 

Today’s vaccine libel sits squarely within that horrific trajectory. For it promotes the grotesque lie that the Jews of Israel are deliberately helping cause the spread of disease and death among the Palestinians by refusing to make available to them a life-saving vaccine.

This not only weaponises yet another lie to demonise and delegitimise Israel. More fundamentally and devastatingly, it presents Israeli Jews as evil. It denies the fact that Israel is the most humane and moral country in the world, not least in the consideration it repeatedly extends to its Palestinian neighbours who never stop trying to murder its citizens and colonise its land. Instead, the vaccine blood libel suggests that Israeli Jews are devoid of compassion, empathy or moral sense and would callously cause the Palestinians to die from Covid-19.  

And that is is one of the reasons why antisemitism isn’t just “another kind of racism,” as it is so ignorantly and often described, but is uniquely malevolent and murderous. For it presents the Jews as evil, a blight on humanity, a mortal threat to the rest of the world. In doing so, antisemitism incites the obvious impulse to eradicate such an evil, which has resulted over the centuries in countless massacres, pogroms and eventually the Nazi attempt to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the earth. And presenting Israeli Jews as similarly evil fuels exactly the same impulse to destroy them.    

The claim is often made that the venomous falsehoods about Israel are not antisemitic but merely legitimate criticism of its policies.  Well, the vaccine blood libel graphically demonstrates that this is not so. It is instead the latest, foul iteration of the attempt to demonise and destroy the Jews. 

As the eternal people, the Jews will survive this. The society which gives rise to it will not.

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