Israel was beginning to receive praise throughout Western mainstream media for a deal it had struck to hand over 1 million plus Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines to the Palestinian Authority for inoculating Palestinians in the West Bank. Yet there appears to be much more to this story.
This Friday the Palestinian Authority (PA), which partially controls areas of the occupied West Bank, cancelled its deal with Israel to receive upwards of 1 million vaccines, of which Israel had a surplus. Technical Experts working for the PA then concluded that the vaccines were too close to expiration.
Palestinian Authority Spokesman, Ibrahim Melhem, stated in a joint press conference with the PA’s Health Minister Mai al-Kaila, this Friday, that 90,000 vaccines that were inspected did not reach specifications within the agreement with Israel. According to an Israeli military body facilitating civilian affairs, 100,000 vaccines were transferred to the Palestinian Authority.
Melhem said, “Accordingly Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh instructed the minister of health to cancel the agreement with the Israeli side on exchanging the vaccine and returning the quantity that was received today to Israel.”
Israel is also at a point of crisis after receiving roughly 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine earlier this year, having been provided an accidental surplus which they had reportedly agreed to cover the costs of when the next doses were ordered.
When the Palestinian Authority announced the agreement, that it would swap vaccines in its own possession – which are fresh shots – for “nearly expired” Pfizer vaccines from Israel, this provoked outrage from Palestinians. Many Palestinians online saw the deal as the PA yet again jumping in to save Israel when it is facing a crisis, which has added another issue to the many that have West Bankers enraged at what has been described as a puppet regime of Israel.
Since the cancellation of the vaccine agreement by the PA, Israeli pundits and Israel’s vocal supporters have attempted to make the issue about the Palestinian Authority refusing vaccines. Clearly the vaccines received are dated to expire this month, yet claims are being made that somehow the PA has the power to vaccinate 1 million people in the West Bank in just over 10 days. This also assumes that there are no other problems with the vaccines, as has been alleged but not yet substantiated, by some Palestinian skeptics based upon statements about the vaccines from the Palestinian Authority.
But the argument that these vaccines could be administered by the end of the month is an invalid one statistically. Whilst Israel held off from giving Palestinians any access to their vaccines, countries like Russia and China filled in and so the Palestinian Authority has been in possession of alternative vaccines. The inoculation rate in the illegally occupied West Bank also only sits at around 4650 per day, which even if we were to be generous and say the PA could get the numbers up, would make it a far cry from achieving a million vaccinations by the end of the month. Many Palestinians are also skeptical about the vaccinations, and in the case of Palestinian citizens of Israel, their population are the least likely of any group to be vaccinated.
The reason that it’s so important to explain this key context, is due to the mainstream Western media’s lauding of Israel for what was presented as a type of generosity towards the Palestinians. Now we see that in reality this was something which worked to the benefit of Israel, as it was getting rid of nearly expired (or according to some reports, possibly already expired) vaccines and receiving new fresh doses in return and that according to the PA it had perhaps not held to its end of the bargain anyway.
There are also questions as to whether expired vaccines, if unknowingly administered to Palestinians, could cause a health crisis.
Interestingly, it was not just Israel that was behind the deal of trading these vaccines to Palestinians either, in fact it was Pfizer itself. Speaking to WAFA News, Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaili said that Pfizer had advised the PA to take on Israel’s excess Pfizer stock, prior to a deal they were looking to sign for 4 million vaccines to be sold to the PA later this year. This was allegedly part of the pharmaceutical company’s plan to “accelerate the vaccination campaign” according to the Health Ministry.
So this begs the question as to why Pfizer would advise the PA to take “nearly expired” vaccines, as it would surely know the details of their own stock. This is especially the case as we are dealing with potentially deadly results of expired vaccines being administered. At the very least, knowing the daily number of those being vaccinated, it wouldn’t exactly make sense to advise taking the vaccines from Israel. These are of course questions based only upon what we currently know, yet are nonetheless valid to ask.
The ridiculousness of Western mainstream reporting on this issue, framing the deal as if Israel was doing some sort of humanitarian deed, is on every level beyond defying logic. Most coverage interestingly failed to report that no vaccines would be allowed entry into Gaza as part of their deal, only the West Bank, which immediately does away with the notion that the Israeli government was acting to “help the Palestinians”, and instead makes clear that this was a self-serving trade-off of expiring goods. Using purely their own logic and narrative, nothing makes sense here.
Such a deal, if no condemnation had come towards the Palestinian Authority and its experts had not checked the quality of the vaccines, may have had truly horrifying consequences – and this has been utterly ignored. It should not be permissible for such an incident to pass without investigations as to exactly what went on here. Israel’s intentions and commitments under the deal should be investigated, so too should the Palestinian Authority, and the Pfizer company should also be made to go on the record as to what exactly it communicated to the Palestinians regarding Israel’s stock.