“The coronavirus pandemic,” the Washington Post observed in a May 16, 2020 report, “has upended the international hierarchy.” While some larger nations have struggled with their responses, “some smaller countries, however, have gained newfound recognition as the world takes note of their early, and still tentative, successes.” The newspaper proceeded to detail several smaller nations that might offer lessons for successfully combatting COVID-19.
Yet one small nation was conspicuously absent in the Post’s report: Israel. By nearly every metric, the Jewish state has been extremely successful in its fight against the coronavirus.
Israeli deaths and hospitalization rates have been far below what they were initially predicted to be. Indeed, despite the coronavirus, the month of March saw a twelve percent drop in the number of deaths compared to last year and a five percent drop compared to the average monthly rate (4,066) from the past decade—although experts expect that to eventually reverse.
In many respects Israel has been a model for containment and management of COVID-19. In fact, the country is part of an informal group known as “First Mover” nations, countries that have done relatively well suppressing COVID19, including Israel, Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic, New Zealand and Greece.
Many in the international community seem to recognize Israel’s success—even if the Washington Post doesn’t.
Indeed, Israel’s coronavirus figures are much less severe than other countries of comparable size, including nations that imposed stay-at-home orders relatively early in their outbreaks. Sweden, with a population only slightly larger than Israel’s, has more than 10 times as many deaths as the Jewish state. Belgium, with a population of 11 million, has over 9,000 fatalities—more than 34 times as many as Israel. Britain, with a population six times Israel’s, has had 35,000 victims. Spain, with five times of Israel’s population, has nearly 28,000 dead.
By contrast, as the Times of Israel highlighted in a May 6, 2020 dispatch, “Israel had close to 16,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of whom some 10,500 had recovered. Daily new cases were in the low dozens. And there were almost 240 fatalities.” That’s significantly less than comparably sized nations like Sweden and Belgium, for example.
To be sure, there are significant differences between Israel and Belgium or Sweden. As The Jerusalem Post noted in a May 7, 2020 editorial: “Belgium is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, France to the west and Luxemburg to the south. ‘Bordered’ is also a wrong term. Those countries might have lines that separate them on a map, but these are not real border crossings. This is the European Union: under the 1985 Schengen Agreement, citizens of these countries can cross from one nation into the next without border checks.”
That being said, the obstacles that Israel has faced, while different in some respects from Belgium’s, are no less problematic. Unlike Belgium, hostile neighbors, all of whom have less developed healthcare infrastructure, surround Israel. And while the situation is different, it does not mean that lessons—including those of stricter border controls—can’t be drawn from Israel’s example, even in regions with more porous borders.
The Post’s decision to ignore Israel is particularly egregious considering the outsized role that the country has played in the international fight against COVID-19.
Israel has led efforts to study the novel coronavirus, and has been a leader in researching and developing possible treatments.
For example, the Israeli government has pledged 60 million USD towards a coronavirus vaccine and various Israeli institutions have been making progress on developing a vaccine. The Galilee Research Institute (MIGAL) is reportedly in the final stages of developing its vaccine and the Israeli Institute for Biological Research has been testing it on rodents. On April 19, Tel Aviv University professor Jonathan Gershoni obtained a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a COVID-19 vaccine; he estimated at the time that he was two-thirds of the way toward completing it.
Additionally, Israel’s coronavirus efforts merit attention in that they offer an example of how to work with neighbors—many of them overtly hostile—in joint efforts to combat the virus. As CAMERA has frequently highlighted, Israel has provided generous medical aid, including extensive training, to Palestinians in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and in the Gaza Strip. Israel even established a joint “operations room” with the Palestinian Authority, the entity that rules the West Bank, in order to share relevant intelligence and assets. This cooperation is particularly noteworthy given that the PA and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, have remained hostile to Israel and have continued to incite violence against the Jewish state despite its aid.
The Post’s decision to ignore Israel is particularly striking considering the disproportionate attention that the newspaper generally gives the country. Israel is one of the few countries where the Post maintains a foreign office, and the country is frequently the subject of media coverage.
It is interesting—and perhaps unintentionally revealing—that Israel’s remarkable success in dealing with the preeminent issue of the day is ignored. Positive news, it seems, doesn’t fit the preferred narrative.