Op-Ed: COVID-19 in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Monica Sager, Scarlet Staff

Through concerted partnerships between the Israeli government and many Israeli-based NGOs, medications and treatments to combat disease have made their way to the world’s most disenfranchised populations for decades. Amid the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, Israel is once again leading efforts to mitigate the global spread of the virus and in the race to develop a vaccine.   

Despite these monumental achievements, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign (BDS) supporters continue to   A disconcerting trend extending to major universities. Bowing to pressure from these fringe groups, Harvard and Columbia have agreed to once again host deliberations. On other campuses, their misconduct is rewarded. Just a few weeks ago, Tufts University gave a pro-BDS group, a club collaboration award, despite their polarizing and divisive tactics built upon falsehoods.

Earlier this month, campaign founder Omar Barghouti made a puzzling assertion during a live Facebook webinar; “if Israel invents a coronavirus vaccine, those who boycott Israel can take it regardless. To date, we [Palestinians] have not been in a situation where we desperately need Israel and no one else can save us but Israel. If this happens, saving lives is more important than anything else.”

No one would argue that “saving lives” is unimportant. But a significant question looms behind this assertion.

Does Barghouti consider Jewish lives worth saving?

Barghouti’s racist campaign and refusal to condemn attempts on Israeli lives provides evidence to the contrary.

Consider his response to Palestinian terrorism in 2014:

“[Palestinians have the right to] resistance, including violent resistance, by any means. [Jews] aren’t indigenous simply because you say you are …. [Jews] aren’t a people … the UN principle of the right to self-determination applies only to colonized people who want to acquire their rights.”

Even now, in the midst of a pandemic, let the record show that Barghouti has not made one effort to denounce rocket fire into populated Israeli cities or condemn the pay for slay policy responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians at the hand of P.A President Mahmoud Abbas.

And that’s just where the hypocrisy starts. With a Tel Aviv University graduate degree and documented as an ardent user of Israeli developed computers and cell phones, Barghouti is only interested in BDS so long as it does not present a personal inconvenience.

Barghouti’s campaign is not based on an ethical principle. It is built on a bed of anti-Semitism, holding Jews to a double-standard. We cannot forget that BDS targets Jews on the basis of who they are, not what they do.

Jewish students are frequently intimidated into silence by proponents of BDS on university campuses around the world. Any attempts to honor or express their Jewishness or speak about Israel are met with protests, vandalism, and hate crimes.  In 2016, student groups at Oberlin University accompanied their endorsement of the BDS campaign with slanderous statements against Jews on campus and last Fall,  Brown University voted for BDS citing “ethical and moral concerns,” ignoring the adverse impact of a 2018 Pro-BDS resolution on the safety and inclusion of  Jewish students at NYU.

Even so, when a cure to a virus unexpectedly enters the scene, BDS activists look forward to taking full advantage of Israeli innovations, while continuing to target Jews and the world’s only Jewish state. It is hypocritical to take an Israeli-made vaccine claiming to “save lives,” and support BDS. If Barghouti believes the right to live in peace and free from threats is granted to all, Jews should be no exception whether they are living peacefully in their indigenous homeland, running a business in America, praying in a house of worship or studying on a college campus.

With over 15,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel and the Palestinian territories and 212 deaths, this is a moment when we all need to come together and stand against hate and racism — to work together to fight this pandemic.