COVID-19 and the Systematic Neglect of Palestinians in East Jerusalem

The joint briefing paper published in July 2020 by Al-Haq, the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre (JLAC), and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) exposes how systematic neglect and de-development of Palestinian healthcare has left Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem extremely vulnerable to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The joint paper highlights how Israel’s discriminatory response to COVID-19 in East Jerusalem, coupled with long-standing failures to fulfil fundamental human rights, has compounded Palestinians’ susceptibility to the pandemic. It explores the situation in East Jerusalem before the outbreak of COVID-19, including the impact of prolonged occupation, illegal annexation, and structural discrimination in the city. It then discusses how these long-standing politically-driven barriers, have enabled and exacerbated the systematic neglect of Palestinians in East Jerusalem during the pandemic. The briefing highlights: a lack of COVID-19 testing facilities in East Jerusalem; inaccurate and unreliable data to track the spread of the disease; and the harassment, arrests, and persecution of Palestinian health activists working to prevent the further spread of the disease. It also warns that the capacity of Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem, the main providers of care for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, to respond to a widespread outbreak of the disease has been undermined by decades of occupation and financial constraints, leaving them at near breaking point. The briefing paper ends by stressing that, as a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic threatens, questions regarding its handling regain importance. It importantly highlights that “a return to pre-COVID-19 normality in Jerusalem would only signify the entrenchment of existing abuses and the aggravation of an unjust reality for Palestinians” and outlines seven key recommendations for the international community to take to protect the fundamental rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Author biography: 

Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization based in Ramallah, West Bank. Al-Haq was established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the occupied Palestinian territory. Al-Haq documents violations of Palestinian rights, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, and seeks to end such breaches through advocacy before national and international mechanisms.

The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) is one of the pioneering human rights organizations in Palestine providing legal aid to vulnerable communities in combating human rights violations. It was established in 1974 by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)- formerly known as the Quaker Service Information and Legal Aid Center.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) works for the health and dignity of Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees. MAP provides immediate medical aid to those in great need, while also developing local capacity and skills to ensure the longterm development of the Palestinian healthcare system.

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