Jonathan interviewed in The Middle East Eye by bAli Harb
“Israel-Palestine, we are interrelated; we are one entity. To say there are two states is silly; there’s only one state between the river and the sea. And that is the state of Israel. It controls everything, and it treats Arabs and Jews differently,” said Jonathan Kuttab, a Palestinian-American attorney specialising in international law.
Kuttab said Israel’s obligation to vaccinate Palestinians is clear under international law. “The matter is not open to interpretation.”
Not only does the Geneva Convention dictate that the occupying power is responsible for the health and well-being of the occupied, the treaty – which is the bedrock of international law – specifically spells out an obligation to prevent the spread of pandemics.
“To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the occupying power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the co-operation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory,” the convention says, “with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.”
Moreover, Kuttab details three major flaws in using the Oslo Accords as a justification for Israel’s vaccination policies:
- International law trumps Oslo, and Israel’s obligations as the occupying power cannot be signed away by the Palestinian Authority
- Israel is in constant violation of the Oslo Accords
- The infrastructure needed to import, distribute and administer the vaccine in the Palestinian territory is under stringent Israeli control
“For Israel, Oslo is like an alibi,” Kuttab said. “To some degree, the Palestinian Authority allows them to do that because it is desperate to pretend it is a state; it’s not a state. The PA wants to pretend that they have authority; they don’t have authority. They only have authority to the extent that allows them to have it.”
“It’s meaningless. Israel is still the occupying power, and it’s still responsible,” Kuttab told MEE. “It’s like you can’t just say this labourer agreed to accept less than minimum wage and agreed to have his children work despite the laws against child labour. It’s illegal.”
Kuttab said Israel uses Oslo to escape its responsibilities as an occupying power without living up to its own commitments in the accords.
“Equally important is that in order to take care of the health needs of your people, you need to have international agreements with the World Health Organization; you need to have access to orders through which they can import and export; you need to be able to build facilities and all these things that Palestinians can’t do,” Kuttab said.
Kuttab said Israel is risking its own citizens by refusing to vaccinate Palestinians. “If you allow half the population under your control – millions and millions of people – to go around unvaccinated, it’s going to affect you, sooner or later.”