Palestinian Workers Forced to Stay in Israel, but With No COVID Vaccine

Despite calls from unions and NGOs, doors to coronavirus vaccination centers remain closed to thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank who work in Israel

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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Palestinians on their way to Israel at a checkpoint near Ramallah, last year.
Palestinians on their way to Israel at a checkpoint near Ramallah, last year. Credit: Emil Salman
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers from the West Bank are forced to spend the night in Israel due to the pandemic, but Israel refuses to vaccinate any of them.

Since the start of the third lockdown, some 30,000 workers have been sleeping in Israel on a daily basis and assessments are that many others return to the West Bank each day illegally.

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The rules say these workers will have to stay inside Israel until further notice. A Health Ministry statement from February 10 says that Palestinians working in Israel legally or not will not be vaccinated against COVID.

Most of these workers are employed in the construction industry. On Thursday the head of the construction union, Raoul Sarugo was scheduled to meet with officials at the ministry to resolve the issue. He said the union has proposed a plan to vaccinate laborers at eight checkpoints, and that it would finance the logistics of the operation. The plan is pending Health Ministry approval.

MK Hiba Yazbek of the Joint List sent a letter to the ministry demanding that the Palestinian workers in Israel be vaccinated, calling Israel’s policy “cruel, racist and outrageous.” The ministry has not yet responded to the letter.

Palestinians get their temperature taken before entering Israel, in April 2020.Credit: MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA / REUTERS

Israel has also failed to vaccinate Palestinians living in the country without clear status. These include for example, alleged 'collaborators' who cannot safely live in the West Bank, and Palestinians whose center of life is in Israel, most often through marriage.

Physicians for Human Rights says that Palestinians who have sought to get a vaccine in Israel have thus far been rejected. The organization has appealed to the ministry to clarify instructions that Palestinians living in the West Bank are entitled to be vaccinated. The ministry has not yet responded to the letter.