Your support helps us stay focused on our shared goal of fighting to protect human rights in the Occupied Territories and end the occupation. As you can read below, we have been continuing our work undeterred by the bill to tag members of foreign-funded NGOs or by the recent slew of smear campaigns targeting human rights organizations. Your moral and material support for B’Tselem’s work is indispensable and means so much to us: on behalf of all of us here at B’Tselem, I want to express our gratitude to the hundreds of individuals, in Israel and around the world - many of them first-time donors - that have given to B’Tselem as 2015 came to a close. Thank you all so much, and if you happen to have not yet followed that “Donate to B’Tselem” link, you can easily do so now via our secure website.
December marked the end of yet another year of occupation - but also International Human Rights Day, (December 10). In view of recent attempts in Israel to undermine the very legitimacy of human rights advocacy work in the international arena, particularly with regard to human rights in the Occupied Territories, it’s important to remind the public that human rights know no borders, and that the occupation is not an internal Israeli affair. It is a matter of great Palestinian, Israeli and international concern. Fighting the occupation both within Israel and abroad is not only a legitimate mission, it is a vital one and we at B’Tselem are determined to keep at it.
Last month also saw the passing of former Meretz MK and Minister of Education Yossi Sarid. A leader in the Israeli peace camp, he is the one who came up with the name B’Tselem. Sarid instilled the values of conscientious, critical and free thinking in generations of Israelis and was a role model for brave objection to consensus opinions. His special brand of clear-minded, unwavering leadership would serve us well today. We at B’Tselem will continue to follow in Sarid’s footsteps, carrying on until the occupation is a thing of the past.
Wishing us all success in rising to the challenges of 2016,
On 30 Dec. 2015 the two soldiers who shot and killed Samir ‘Awad near the Separation Barrier in Jan. 2013 were indicted. The facts described in the indictment are very similar to those found by B’Tselem’s inquiries, clearly indicating the shooting was unjustified and an outright breach of the open-fire regulations. The disparity between the soldiers’ egregious conduct and the minor charges being brought against them beggars belief, and sends security personnel in the OPT a clear message that the system will allow them to continue to operate with impunity, even if they kill Palestinians who pose no danger and even if they breach regulations.
Op-ed by Yael Stein, Director of B'Tselem’s Research Dept., first published in Ynetnews. In response to allegations that torture was used in interrogating the suspects in the torching of the Dawabsheh family home that killed three people, PM Netanyahu was quick to reassure: “All the investigations are being conducted in accordance with the law” The question is not whether a given act is in accordance with a specially tailored law. The fact that something is legal does not make it justifiable. Sometimes the fact that something is legal serves only to illustrate the bankruptcy of legislative mechanisms.
On 9 Dec. 2015 soldiers at a flying checkpoint near Silwad fired at a car shuttling school boys as it drove off after inspection. A bullet shattered the back window and lodged in the windshield. The four boys, aged 8-16, suffered anxiety attacks. The military said one of the boys had thrown a screwdriver at the soldiers, a claim unbacked by evidence and contradicted by the accounts given by the driver and children. Even if the claim were true, the shooting was unwarranted and violated open-fire regulations. Fortunately, no one was hurt by the bullet that penetrated the car.
On 24 Nov. 2015, security forces arrested two young minors in Beit Ummar. Khatab Abu Mariyah, 12, who was arrested on the street, told B’Tselem he had been kicked and beaten. Yusef ‘Alameh, 8, was taken by force from his home despite being under the age of criminal responsibility. Security forces did not allow the parents to accompany the boys, who were then held for hours and interrogated without the presence of an adult on their behalf. This disregard of the basic protections afforded to minors along with the violence used are another example of cases previously documented by B’Tselem in which the military blatantly violates the rights of minors – with legal backing.
In recent months, the Israeli military held on to the bodies of Palestinians - including minors - killed during the recent wave of violence, rather than returning them to their families for burial. This measure does not punish the dead but their families, who were neither involved in nor responsible for the actions of their relatives. The non-return of bodies is an official policy justified by the Israeli government on the grounds of deterrence. Yet “deterrence” cannot justify all actions, and certainly not a policy that gravely injury human dignity. Not only is this policy patently immoral, it is yet another instance of Israeli authorities’ disregard for the lives of Palestinians – even after their death Israel has gradually begun returning some of the bodies. On 1 Jan. 2016 it was reported that Israel was returning 23 bodies to the Palestinian Authority.
In Dec., media reports stated that the Israel Security Agency (ISA) has used “special measures” against the suspects in the Duma torching which killed three members of the Dawabsheh family. These measures are a code name for abuse used in the interrogation system developed since the 1999 court ruling banning torture. Authorities must fully investigate and prosecute this heinous crime, one of the worst perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians, but it must do so without resorting to prohibited measures or violating suspects’ rights. The same must apply to all Palestinian detainees, who are routinely abused and at times tortured.
From Oct. to mid-December dozens of assaults by Palestinians have left 16 civilians and 3 members of Israel’s security forces dead. Up to 11 Dec. 2015, 71 assailants were shot dead by security forces or civilians. This wave of violent assaults is appalling, and clearly Israel’s security forces must protect the public. The law is also clear: shooting to kill is permissible only in cases of mortal danger. Yet analysis of 12 cases widely covered in the media and examined by B’Tselem paints an alarming picture of excessive and unwarranted use of lethal gunfire, which in some cases was tantamount to summary execution of assailants or suspected assailants.
In early Dec. Israel demolished the homes of two West Bank families as collective punishment for attacks relatives perpetrated or allegedly aided in. Damage by the blasts left 6 more units unhabitable: 27 people (includ. 16 minors) suspected of no wrongdoing were left homeless. Demolishing family homes of suspected attackers is collective punishment, prohibited under international law. Despite the sanction’s extremity, and the clear position by legal scholars that it is unlawful, the HCJ repeatedly upholds this draconian and vindictive measure used against entire families accused of no wrongdoing.
From 26 to 30 Nov. 2015, Israeli authorities came three times to the al-Hadidiyah community in the northern Jordan Valley to demolish and confiscate tents there. Two of the families (15 people, incl. 4 minors) whose tents were confiscated were left exposed to the elements, with no shelter from the cold and rain. On 3 Dec. authorities came back once more, confiscating seven tents a French aid organization had donated just the day before. Four of the seven tents had already been erected and were in use. The ongoing harassment of this community is part of authorities’ efforts to remove Palestinians from Area C, in contravention of international humanitarian law. These actions amount to the forcible transfer of protected persons in an occupied territory, be it directly through the demolition of homes, or indirectly by making life there unbearable.