WASHINGTON – Several Democratic lawmakers who raised concerns about Israel's vaccine distribution to Palestinians in the West Bank have hailed the Monday delivery of 2,000 doses to the Palestinian Authority.
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Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who tweeted then deleted his concerns, sent a letter to Israel's Acting Consul General in New York Israel Nitzan questioning why Israeli settlers in the West Bank were receiving vaccines while Palestinians were not.
"I was heartened to read that the Israeli government has recently agreed to transfer 5,000 doses of the vaccine to Palestinians to immunize front-line medical workers, but the entire population in the West Bank and Gaza must also be covered," Bowman wrote.
Bowman, a first-term Congressman from New York defeated pro-Israel stalwart Elliot Engel in the Democratic primary last year, cited a variety of human rights organizations calling to ensure vaccine distribution. He noted that "herd immunity is likely impossible without ensuring that Palestinians receive the vaccine."
He added that the issue was personal for him "as a Black man living in America. I know the feeling of feeling like a second-class citizen or not a citizen at all, in my own home. I know what it feels like to see white Americans in the wealthy part of my district get different resources and treatment, while just a few blocks away, Black Americans are neglected."
Bowman noted that he hoped Israel would "build on your government's proven success and expertise in distributing the vaccine by expanding access to all people living within Israel's borders and in the occupied territories."
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Bowman's letter follows praise from Rep. Joaquin Castro, who previously said he was "disappointed and concerned," on the planned transfer of vaccines to Palestinian medical workers. He called the plan "welcome news and hope cooperation continues to grow."
"COVID-19 does not see or care about nationality, borders, or religion," Rep. Marie Newman tweeted. "I stand with Rep. Bowman in ensuring that every effort is being taken so that Israelis and Palestinians have equitable access to vaccines."
Sen. Tim Kaine, who previously raised the matter during Secretary of State Antony Blinken's confirmation hearing, said he was "glad to see this news" about the plan. Rep. Andy Levin also called it "such welcome news," adding that "it is critical that Palestinians have access to COVID-19 vaccines" and that he hopes "the Israeli government continues this urgent work so that we can put this pandemic behind us."