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OPINION: Prime Minister Bennett is wrong - Coerced universal vaccination is neither medically wise nor morally right

Israelis should respectfully but firmly oppose the government’s efforts to coerce people – especially young people – to get the vaccine, and demand that the government uphold individual liberty and religious freedom

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett inaugurates the new vaccination center for Clalit Health Services in Jerusalem's Cinema City, August 8, 2021. (Photo: Haim Tzach/GPO)

On July 22, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to the nation, declaring unvaccinated Israelis to be a danger to both the health and freedom of “every Israeli citizen.”

After noting that there are still one million Israelis who have not been vaccinated, including “over 600,000 young people” between the ages of 12 and 30, Bennett stated that “those who refuse vaccines” are “endangering our freedom to work, the freedom of our children to study, and the freedom to hold celebrations with family,” and that “those who refuse vaccines hurt us all.”

The prime minister did not stop at merely using forceful rhetoric, however, in pressuring young people to get vaccinated. Bennett also announced that Israel’s Corona Cabinet had decided to use the force of law against all those who decline to be vaccinated.

“The Corona Cabinet decided today that those who refuse vaccines will not be able to go to the cinema, the theater, the synagogue, the amusement park, the soccer game, or any activity with over 100 people, indoors or out, unless they bring negative test results from a coronavirus test, at their expense.”

Rather than relying on persuasion in its pursuit of universal vaccination, the Israeli government has resorted to coercion. While Bennett did appeal to Israelis to attempt persuasion of their unvaccinated friends and family, he also stated that “there is a time and a place in which this discussion needs to stop – and it is our very lives.”

In other words, rather than respecting the individual liberties of citizens to make their own personal medical decisions and to come to those decisions through open dialogue and debate, Bennett and his government have chosen to pressure Israelis with the threat of considerable and indefinite financial burdens, or exclusion from society, including from their freedom to worship in synagogues and churches.

What was particularly alarming about Bennett’s speech was his focus on the vaccination of young people, including children between the ages of 12 and 17.

Coercing children to be vaccinated is wrong. While we should of course be concerned for the safety of every child, it is well known that COVID poses very little threat to children and young people. Last month, the Jerusalem Post reported on a study on the danger of COVID for young people. They quoted Professor Russell Viner, a researcher on the study and professor of Adolescent Health at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London, who said, “‘These new studies show that the risks of severe illness or death from SARS-CoV-2 are extremely low in children and young people.’”

This is the first time in history that mRNA vaccine technology has been used on such a global scale, and we know that there are already notable short-term side effects associated with the vaccines. What’s more, the vaccines are yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. Rather, they have only received “Emergency Use Authorization.” The Israeli government should, therefore, use an abundance of caution when considering giving children a new, experimental product whose long-term side effects are unknown.

In fact, Dr. Robert Malone, the inventor of mRNA vaccine technology, stated in a recent interview that “the evidence is quite clear – the risk that we now know, associated with these vaccines, in the pediatric cohort, outweighs the potential benefits.”

If, on the other hand, the reason to vaccinate children and young people is for the prevention of spread from them to those who are at high-risk, the prime minister’s policy is still wrong. After all, it is becoming increasingly clear that the virus is spreading not only among the unvaccinated, but among the vaccinated as well.

Last month, a Centers for Disease Control study showed that in a recent COVID outbreak in Massachusetts, 74% of those infected were vaccinated individuals. Israeli data show that while the Pfizer vaccine remains about 80-90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and severe illness, it is now just 39% effective when it comes to preventing infection.

What, then, is the rationale behind the Israeli government trying to coerce children and young people to be vaccinated? Healthy children and young people are naturally at extremely low-risk of being significantly harmed by the virus. High-risk adults now have personal protection via the vaccine. The virus is still spreading among the vaccinated. If the vaccine, then, is largely effective in preventing hospitalization and severe illness (as Bennett says and the Israeli data currently show), Israelis need not believe the falsehood that the unvaccinated are “endangering... the freedom of every Israeli citizen,” or that the unvaccinated “hurt us all.”

Sadly, rather than appealing to reason, persuasion and evidence, Bennett has adopted what essentially amounts to a one-size-fits-all policy of universal vaccination through coercion and has chosen to unfairly paint the unvaccinated as a significant public health threat, despite the scientific evidence to the contrary. Whatever the motives behind such a policy might be, the policy itself is in accordance with neither the science nor the vital principle of individual liberty.

Dr. Malone, in the interview mentioned above, argued, “Don’t vaccinate everybody, vaccinate people who are high-risk.”

This is not only common sense, it is the considered opinion of the man who invented mRNA vaccine technology.

While in Israel and around the world governments have adopted a policy of universal vaccination through coercion and mandate, using mRNA vaccine technology, the technology’s inventor calls this push scientifically unwise and “authoritarian.”

“We’re doing stuff that is gonna drive viral evolution to be able to further escape vaccines, and we’re doing it in an authoritarian fashion,” he says.

Dr. Malone elaborated on the danger of this policy of universal vaccination in a recent Washington Times article, in which he and Peter Navarro argue that universal vaccination in the midst of a pandemic will lead to a “vaccine arms race” between the vaccines and the virus.  

“The more people you vaccinate, the greater the number of vaccine-resistant mutations you are likely to get, the less durable the vaccines will become, ever more powerful vaccines will have to be developed, and individuals will be exposed to more and more risk.”

Dr. Malone and Navarro also point out that for those that are not high-risk, “there’s nothing to fear but fear of the virus itself. This is particularly true if we have lawful outpatient access to a growing arsenal of scientifically proven prophylactics and therapeutics.”

This is a reference to the fact that the mRNA vaccines are not the only possible way to prevent COVID. Doctors around the world, including Dr. Malone, have pointed to the mounting evidence that several cheap and safe repurposed drugs, such as ivermectin, are showing significant effectiveness in preventing and treating COVID. Indeed, ivermectin’s effectiveness has been recently reported by the Jerusalem Post.

Since the spread of COVID began in Wuhan (likely from the Wuhan Institute of Virology), many people around the world have become gravely ill, and many have passed away – governments and individuals alike should thus take this virus seriously. It is right for Bennett, and all governments, to take the threat of COVID seriously, and that includes encouraging people to study the facts and seriously consider if getting the vaccine is right for them. But Bennett’s effort, and that of the Corona Cabinet, to coerce Israelis to take the vaccine is unacceptable.

All citizens of Israel should be free to make their own risk/benefit analysis regarding the vaccine, based on the available scientific evidence, without government coercion. Allowing governments to coerce its citizens into medical procedures by imposing heavy financial and societal burdens on those who resist, and implementing a digital vaccine passport system as an enforcement mechanism, sets a dangerous precedent, and the people of Israel should oppose it.

American lawyer Daniel Horowitz has noted that the U.S. has gone down the slippery slope of medical coercion before. A 1905 Supreme Court decision upheld a fine for a man who refused to get the smallpox vaccine. He was fined a one-time payment of $5 (what would today equal about $150). In 1927, the Supreme Court made another decision on the basis of that 1905 decision: the affirmation of the government’s ability to enact compulsory sterilization. This was upheld with the following logic: “The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.”

Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post has pointed out that Israel already has a law which in principle allows the government to imprison citizens who decline vaccination. “The law... was enacted in 1940, during the time of the British Mandate, but is still enforceable,” she wrote. “The law states that the health minister is empowered to impose a duty on all individuals to be vaccinated, and a person who refuses to do so would be subject to sanctions, including imprisonment.” While Jaffe-Hoffman’s article argues that this law will not likely again be enforced, the legal precedent is there.

Israelis must not take another step down this road. Lord-willing, the medical coercion we are now witnessing will never lead to the imprisonment of the unvaccinated nor open the door to a future of compulsory sterilization a la Huxley’s Brave New World (as is currently being done to Uighurs by the Chinese Communist Party). But what will stop governments in the days ahead from using this pandemic as a precedent to strip people of all manner of other freedoms in the name of “public health”? What will prevent governments from expanding the capabilities of such digital health passes and implementing something akin to the “social credit” system used in China?

While we should pray that such things never come to pass, we must also take action now to ensure that they don’t. Mass medical coercion, vaccine mandates and digital vaccine passports open a door to a path we dare not tread.

The Israeli government’s current policy does not simply pose a threat to our individual liberties – it does not align with the reality of COVID, which is a danger overwhelmingly to the elderly, the overweight and obese and those with other underlying medical conditions, and not primarily to healthy children and young people. No man, woman, boy or girl should be excluded from society on the basis of his or her vaccination status, and no one should have to pay for and perform continual tests just to attend religious gatherings with his or her loved ones.

Israeli citizens should say no to this medical coercion and should peacefully make clear to their government that they will not tolerate such a dramatic disregard of their God-given freedoms. The government does not exist to grant us our freedoms, nor to arbitrarily take them away – it exists to protect them, to approve good and to punish evil, under the authority of God. As it is written in Romans 13, the “one who is in authority” is “God’s servant for your good.” When a government steps outside of its rightful bounds, tries to redefine good and evil, and tries to enforce misguided and dangerous policies, we have a responsibility to stand up for the truth – for the good of our neighbors and the coming generations.

Jacob Leonard Rosenberg is an American-Israeli, an Evangelical Christian and the son of the founder of ALL ISRAEL NEWS. He writes about the intersection of science, technology, individual liberty and religious freedom.

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