The Invention of a Legal Obligation for Israel to Vaccinate Palestinians Betrays Resentment at the Successes of the Jewish State

On March 12, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, and two other senators sent a formal letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to pressure Jerusalem into providing vaccines to Palestinians, claiming that the Jewish state has a duty to do so under international law. Other members of Congress have made similar statements as well. But, Eugene Kontorovich explains, international law requires no such thing:

The central source of international law is treaties—agreements between the parties. While treaties often do not address many specific questions, in this case, there is a clearly applicable international agreement that directly addresses the vaccine issue—the Oslo Accords. . . . Oslo provides that “Powers and responsibilities in the sphere of health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be transferred to the Palestinian sides.” It also makes clear that this includes vaccination.

Because Oslo directly contradicts their claim, the vaccination-obligation exponents base their argument exclusively on Article 56 of the [1950] Fourth Geneva Convention, which was quoted extensively in the senators’ letter. . . . First, the contention that the Geneva Convention supplants Oslo is preposterous—it makes much of the latter agreement a dead letter, something none of these “experts” argued when Oslo was first signed. But even if one thinks the Geneva Convention is relevant, it clearly does not require Israel to supply the Palestinians with vaccines.

Kontorovich shows in detail why this is so, and then turns to the question of how such baseless interpretations get passed off as international law by people who should know better:

The claim of Israeli responsibility for vaccinating the Palestinian populace was never made before Israel achieved global renown for its rapid vaccine rollout program. The accusations against Israel now are designed to besmirch and belittle this remarkable achievement. But absolutely nothing in the Geneva Convention says that [Palestinian must be vaccinated at] the speed of the fastest country on earth. This idea is baseless and preposterous. In fact, the Palestinian Authority is receiving vaccines at roughly the same speed as are comparable governments.

Read more at Newsweek

More about: Bernie Sanders, Coronavirus, Elizabeth Warren, International Law, Oslo Accords, Palestinians


The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law