AP Clarifies: Israeli Work Permits for Palestinians Not Dependent on COVID-19 Vaccine

CAMERA’s Israel office this week prompted clarification of an Associated Press article which had quoted without challenge a Palestinian worker who wrongly stated that Palestinians laborers are not eligible for an Israeli work permit unless they received the covid-19 vaccine. On March 8, Israel began a campaign to vaccinate over 100,000 Palestinian who hold jobs in Jewish communities in the West Bank or within Israel’s pre-1967 lines.

The March 8 article, “Israel celebrates 5 millionth coronavirus vaccination,” had reported:
“I got the vaccine so I can work,” said Awarin, who received his inoculation at the Meitar checkpoint in the West Bank. “If you don’t get the vaccine, you don’t get the permit. So, I got the permit and my health as well.” (Emphasis added.)

A Palestinian worker receives the coronavirus vaccine at an Israeli-run facility, March 8 (Photo from COGAT)

To the contrary, a COGAT official informed CAMERA: “A worker who wishes not to get vaccinated will be able to continue working in Israel and the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria so long as the political echelon does not decide otherwise.” The COGAT official unequivocally confirmed that contrary to the information in AP’s story, a Palestinian worker is currently not required to be vaccinated to receive an Israeli work permit.

In response to communication from CAMERA, AP updated the article, adding the following paragraph:

According to COGAT, the Israeli defense agency that orchestrated the vaccine campaign, the workers are not required to be vaccinated in order to keep their entry permits at the current time. But many laborers said their Israeli employers have pressured them to be vaccinated, and there were widespread concerns they could lose their jobs if they do not get inoculated.

Moreover, AP commendably added the following note alerting readers to the change:

This story was first published on March 8, 2021. It was updated on March 9, 2021, to make clear that Israel does not require Palestinian laborers to be vaccinated, though many workers say their employers want them to do so.

It should be noted that if employers are threatening unvaccinated workers with their jobs, they are doing so against COGAT directives.Haaretz reported:

According to the plan announced on Wednesday, the Palestinian workers are to be vaccinated on a voluntary basis, and COGAT said they had explained to employers they are not allowed to force employees to vaccinate.