At a recent anti-vaccination protest in Tel Aviv, demonstrators equated Israel’s punitive vaccine policy to apartheid. I feel those of similar disposition need a dose of reality.

 

 

As a person on the left, the fight to protect human rights from governments that pass laws that diminish basic freedoms has taken me to hundreds of demonstrations.

In these times, one of the most frequent concerns I have heard from people refusing vaccinations in Israel centres around the issue of human rights. At a recent anti-vaccination protest at Kikar Habima in Tel Aviv, protesters held signs with the word “apartheid”

One demonstrator even lifted a banner that compared the “green passport” issued by the Israeli government to those who are fully vaccinated to the yellow stars that the Nazis used to mark Jews during World War Two.

Ilana Rachel Daniel is a candidate and English language spokesperson for the anti-lockdown Rappeh party. Sharing the photos from Kikar Habima on Facebook, she added, “every one of us who has ever stood up for women’s rights, for minority rights, every single human who is witnessing the creation of a second-class citizenry being formed before our eyes, must stand up now, unequivocally, for the most fundamental of rights, that of bodily autonomy’.

 

An image of the recent rally in Tel Aviv (Credit: Plus61J/Author supplied)

 

Rejecting that she was anti-vaccine, she added that “this is a human rights issue”, saying Israel is “falling to totalitarian rule”.

So far the two most high profile events in Israel that have excluded the unvaccinated have been a concert by singer Nurit Galron and a performance of Noel Coward’s play Blithe Spirit at Jerusalem’s Khan Theatre.

While no one wants to be the subject of bias for a medical reason, this is one of the rare cases where I support discrimination.

In terms of human rights abuses, denying entry to these events cannot even be described in the same breath as any atrocity committed by the Nazis or the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

When an Ethiopian immigrant, Palestinian under occupation, LGBTQIA person or Haredi Jew faces discrimination because of their racial, religious, national or sexual identity, there is often little they can do to change the way they are being treated.

The cause of the injustice they face is related to a core characteristic of who they are, which they cannot change. This is not the same as discrimination faced by the unvaccinated, who can easily change their status in minutes by obtaining a free and widely available immunisation.

Universal human rights are inherent to us all, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. They range from the most fundamental – the right to life – to those that make life worth living, such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty.

In the past year, few forces have denied basic human rights globally as much as the pandemic. This terrible plague has kept us away from our families, closed businesses and schools, destroyed economies, and taken in excess of 2.5 million lives.

While the concern about vaccine side effects is very real for many people hesitant to get their shots, it pales in comparison to the known side effects of COVID-19.

 

Ultimately, if one wants to stand in alliance with the poor, children and working-class of society, there are few acts of solidarity as powerful as getting vaccinated.

 

Professor Kristine Macartney, an infectious diseases paediatrician at the University of Sydney, explains that “vaccines have been in clinical trials for nine months now, where they’ve been given to over a quarter of a million people in those trials. More than 200 million doses of approved vaccines have also now been given worldwide. So far, we’re not seeing longer-term side effects.

Yet regarding the virus, while most people recover completely within a few weeks, some people — even those who had mild versions of the disease — continue to experience symptoms after their initial recovery. These are all much worse than any known side effects of the vaccine and include fatigue, shortness of breath, joint pain, loss of smell or taste and even organ damage to the heart, lungs and brain.

Furthermore, the statement we often hear about coronavirus being “blind”, in that it doesn’t differentiate between age, race, class or socioeconomic status in who it attacks, is not true.

Over the past year, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected children, Haredim and Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, who have all had much higher rates of infection than the rest of the population.

Having an almost fully vaccinated population will get millions of children back to school permanently, and also free women in abusive relationships from lockdowns that keep them at home with their abusers. It will help the unemployed get back to work and reopen thousands of businesses that are bursting to reopen, bringing life back to our streets and boulevards.

Ultimately, if one wants to stand in alliance with the poor, children and working-class of society, there are few acts of solidarity as powerful as getting vaccinated.

Once Israel has achieved herd immunity through vaccination, it will serve as a global model, showing the world that science can defeat corona when social solidarity leads every citizen to view the health and wellbeing of others as no less important than their own.

 

 

 

This piece was originally published by Plus61J, and is reprinted with their permission.

 

 

 

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