Necropolitics in the Time of COVID-19: An Analysis of Response Policies in Palestine and Israel
COVID-19 pandemic
West Bank
health policy
health disparities

The COVID-19 pandemic reached all parts of historic Palestine around the same time, but by the end of December 2021, only 29.02 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were fully vaccinated compared to 63.82 percent of Israelis (including Palestinians with Israeli citizenship). The mortality rate from COVID-19 in the West Bank and Gaza was also higher, with 941.84 deaths per million, compared to 887.20 in Israel. This essay argues that these differences are a direct result of Israel’s COVID-19 response policies toward the Palestinians throughout the pandemic, as well as its ongoing siege of Gaza and its military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The analysis is framed through the lens of necropolitics, defined as the use of political power to decide who lives and who dies. Using the four waves of the COVID-19 pandemic across historic Palestine as a case in point, the essay focuses on the different political states in which Israel abused necropolitical power: the states of emergency, exception, siege, and acceptance.

Author biography: 

Yasmeen Abu Fraiha, MD, is a senior physician in the Department of Internal Medicine at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba and a MC/MPA graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School.