Amid a global pandemic, Palestine has been wiped from the map. Again.

A boy holding hands with a man in Gaza
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Amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, Palestine has been removed from the map. The global tracker for cases from Johns Hopkins University no longer lists Palestine. This couldn’t come at a more poignant time. Because 30 March is Land Day in Palestine. This has been an important date since 1976 which honours six Palestinians shot dead by Israeli police that year and the ongoing apartheid and violence Palestinian people suffer as a result of the illegal Israeli occupation.

Where is Palestine?

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center developed a vital tool to track the pandemic. According to Palestinian Chronicle, it initially listed “Palestine and Israel separately”. But it’s since removed Palestine. And although “West Bank and Gaza” do now appear on the tracker, this doesn’t change the fact that it’s removed an entire country:

 

 

Palestine doesn’t appear as a separate country on Google Maps either. So, “according to Google”, Palestine doesn’t even “exist”.

A report from Al Jazeera noted that many Palestinian people also fear that:

 At a time when the world is focused solely on the pandemic and the Israeli regime has the full support of the US administration to do as it pleases, Israeli aggressive expansionism seems inevitable.

“A nightmare scenario”

With much of the world now in lockdown, for most Palestinian people this experience is nothing new. Before the coronavirus outbreak spread around the world, a UN report identified that “over two million Palestinians – around 40 per cent of the population” face:

conflict and violence, displacement, and denial of access to livelihoods, among other threats; entrenched levels of food insecurity… [and] inadequate access to essential services for the most vulnerable households 

The UN estimated that around “three-quarters” of those people live in Gaza. Israel’s blockade of this area and violence against its inhabitants has already “devastated public infrastructure” and “disrupted and overwhelmed basic services”. On 23 March, B’Tselem warned:

The spread of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip will be a massive disaster, resulting entirely from the unique conditions created by more than a decade of Israeli blockade: a failing healthcare system, extreme poverty, dependence on humanitarian aid, dysfunctional infrastructure and harsh living conditions that compromise public health – even before exposure to the new virus – combine with overcrowding to form a nightmare scenario

“Unimaginable suffering”

By 27 March, there were nine confirmed cases in Gaza. According to the Palestinian Chronicle: “hospitals that were once overwhelmed by gunshot wounds and amputations” got ready:

for a very different challenge in a densely populated, coastal enclave of two million Palestinians, many living in refugee camps.

On 29 March, the West Bank and Gaza reported “97 confirmed cases” and one death. After years of occupation, Gaza’s broken hospitals simply can’t cope:

On 26 March, as the crisis escalated, Israeli forces also removed equipment needed for emergency clinics in the occupied Jordan Valley.

Rashid of Jordan Valley Solidarity said:

As medics throughout the world battle against the deadly coronavirus and Palestinians are denied freedom of movement, the Israeli military continues to drive Palestinians from their land and increase the risk to these families.

Palestine Land Day

Amid the pandemic, people around the world used social media to honour Land Day:

Coronavirus now affects us all. But in the midst of our personal chaos and confusion, the challenges we face seem easy in comparison to those facing people in Palestine. Not only has a US-based global tracker removed an entire country, but the horrific situation people in the occupied territories face trying to deal with the outbreak mean they need our solidarity now more than ever.

Featured image via Pixabay – honsy salah

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