British pharmaceutical site smears Israel over Gaza COVID-19 woes

The London-based describes itself as “a leading portal for the pharmaceutical industry, providing industry professionals with pharma news, pharma events, and pharma service company listings”.  But it also occasionally veers into politics – at least when political decisions are seen as impacting public health or medicine policy, particularly of late with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, they recently published an article critical of those pushing the drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment, despite what they claim is “a lack of evidence for its effectiveness.”  Yet, a more recent piece on Gaza shows that editors themselves are not above sacrificing facts, history and empirical evidence to advance a desired narrative.

The headline alone is astonishing, echoing the narrative of radical anti-Israel groups like IfNotNow in suggesting that, though there haven’t been any COVID-19 deaths in Gaza, blame for any such fatalities that may occur as a result of the virus should “lay squarely with the Israeli government”.

The headline was evidently culled from the opening paragraph of the article.

Nida’a Abu Saleem, a 21-year old student, has described contracting the virus as a “death sentence” adding that: “Being locked in a cage, we thought we were protected, but in fact, one patient is all it takes to put 2 million at risk. We never made a choice to live in a cage, and we should not die in that cage either.”

First, prior to the current pandemic, which prompted countries throughout the world to restrict entry or even close their borders outright, hundreds of Gazans entered Israel daily – far from the “prison” narrative Saleem describes. In 2019, according to the UN, a daily average of 526 Palestinians exited Gaza via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing.  This number includes Palestinian patients referred for medical treatment, labourers employed in Israel and for other commercial reasons. By contrast, a daily average of only 213 Palestinians exited the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing in 2019.

In fact, even with Israel’s tightened border restrictions imposed in March, Palestinians in Gaza in need of urgent medical care are still granted entry into Israel.

The next paragraph in the article repeats a lie we have exposed in previous posts:

Gaza had already been suffering from a lack of medicinal supplies before the spread of COVID-19. The 13-year Israeli blockade and attacks on Hamas, which often result in civilian casulties, has put the region’s healthcare system on the brink of collapse.

However, there are no Israeli restrictions on the import of medicine, and almost no restrictions on medical supplies to Gaza – with the narrow exception of radio isotopes used in bone scans or for guided biopsy of axillary lymph nodes, presumably because they’re considered dual-use.

Even the anti-Israel NGO Gisha has acknowledged that, since the pandemic, “Israel has met all of the Palestinian requests for medical assistance,” transferring equipment from the international community, including “testing kits and protective gear, as well as disinfecting materials, lab equipment, repair parts for medical equipment and alcohol jell”.  In the last week of March alone, 145 tons of medical supplies reached Gaza through Israeli crossings.

Further, the article ignores the role of the ongoing rivalry between Hamas and the PA in their deteriorating healthcare system.  The problems plaguing their healthcare system is also the result of decisions by Hamas to prioritise terror tunnels and rockets over their territory’s social and health needs.  As we noted in a recent tweet (sources included), for each terror tunnel Hamas built (they’ve built dozens) they could have bought roughly 100 ventilators.

Further into the article, the issue of COVID-19 testing kits is raised:

The region currently has 12 confirmed cases, but this is expected to be much higher and the number is low due to a lack of testing. Israel has provided Gaza just 200 testing kits while being able to procure 500,000 for themselves from undisclosed nations.

The writer fails to reveal that, in addition to the 200 testing kits he mentions, 1,000 additional kits, donated from the World Health Organization (WHO), reached Gaza via Israel on March 26, and an additional 1500 kits were transferred to the strip on April 2. 

Moreover, the suggestion that Israel has a moral or legal responsibility to pay for Gaza healthcare is an untenable position.  Even the most hardcore pro-Palestinian activists who argue for an easing of or end of Israel’s blockade don’t argue that Israel should actually use its own funds to purchase items needed by the territory, only that there should be an interrupted flow of people and goods.  And, as we stated, there are no restrictions on COVID-19 related or any other medical items entering Gaza.

The article continues:

The Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip was imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas took control of the region during the 2006 elections and the subsequent conflict with Fatah. This devastated the region’s economy leading to a shortage of basic necessities like food, water and electricity and also put a huge strain on the region’s hospitals.

In addition to the fact that there are absolutely no Israeli restrictions on food, basic necessities and purely humanitarian aid entering Gaza, the paragraph erases the most vital context: more than 12,000 rockets fired at Israel by terrorists in the strip since 2005 – including around 1,000 from 2005, the year of Israel’s withdrawal, to 2007, the year the blockade began.  It’s of course the terror directed towards Israeli civilians – in flagrant violation of international law – by fanatical groups committed to the state’s annihilation which prompted the blockade.

Just as bad science and faulty data lead to bad outcomes for infectious disease patients, irrational, hate-driven decisions by Hamas inevitably lead to bad outcomes for Palestinians.  

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