About ten years ago, B’Tselem gave the first camera in our video camera distribution project to a young girl named Rajaa Abu ‘Ayeshah from Tel Rumeidah, Hebron. A few weeks later she sent us a tape. It contained the first footage B’Tselem would publish as part of this project. The clip shows a woman settler screaming abuse at Rajaa. The video quickly went viral, generating public debate over the consequences of the settlements in Hebron, and incurring domestic and international criticism.
A decade later, at a spot just fifty meters from Rajaa’s home, ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh filmed the recent footage that has Israel in an uproar (see below).
For those fighting to end the occupation these are not simple times, to put it mildly. Anti-democratic voices in Israel have never been so vociferous. A poll by Israel’s Channel 2 shows that most Israelis are fine with the extrajudicial killing of assailants who no longer pose a danger. More than ever before, now is the time to recall the hundreds of videos filmed by Palestinians which succeeded in bringing the injustices of the occupation into millions of living rooms in Israel and around the world, in spite of and to the chagrin of many. For these Palestinians and for B’Tselem, video cameras have become an unparalleled means to an end in the fight to protect human rights in the Occupied Territories. Footage such as the incident that ‘Imad captured in Hebron strikes a telling blow in the fight against attempts to silence the voices of Palestinians who live under occupation and the voices of the human rights community in Israel.
Over the past decade, Palestinian volunteers have filmed more than 4,000 hours of footage documenting the reality of living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. Our volunteers and staff will go on filming the occupation and exposing its injustices – until the occupation comes to an end.
On 24 March 2016 ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, a B’Tselem camera project volunteer, heard shots outside his home and went out to record. The footage Abu Shamsiyeh sent B’Tselem shows ‘Abd al-Fatah a-Sharif, a Palestinian who stabbed a soldier and was then shot, lying injured on the road, ignored by all around him, including medical staff who did not attend to him. The footages shows a soldier going up to al-Sharif and executing him by a bullet shot to the head from close range. Extrajudicial killings are the direct result of inflammatory remarks by ministers, politicians and a public atmosphere of dehumanization. The message is clear: any attempt by a Palestinian to injure an Israeli means a death sentence.
On the night of 12 March 2016, there was an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF Spokesperson said the attack targeted a Hamas training camp, in response to a rocket fired at Israel. No one was injured on the base. The spokesperson failed to mention that a nearby family home was also hit and two children killed. This attack is part of a longstanding unlawful and immoral policy of air strikes on Gaza. It was carried out in circumstances that were completely under Israel’s control, including the time and location of the strike. Whoever planned the attack ought to have known there were civilians nearby and ensured their safety. Having failed to do so, the military and political decision makers are liable for the children’s death.
In March, authorities demolished 32 dwellings and 52 other structures, including a school, in communities whose residents Israel has been trying to displace, rendering 125 people - incl. 55 minors - homeless. These actions are part of an unusually massive demolition campaign that Israeli authorities launched in January 2016 in Palestinian shepherding communities throughout the West Bank. Since Jan., authorities have dismantled and demolished 120 dwellings and 135 other structures in these communities; 476 people, including 256 minors, lost their homes. This government policy, which has been implemented for years, constitutes the forced transfer of protected Palestinian residents in an occupied area.
In March, in view of the more imminent threat to demolish the villages of Masafer Yatta [Greater Yatta] and expel their residents, we went to visit the area. We visited Khirbet Jenbah, Kh. al-Fakhit and Kh. al-Mufaqarah, and looked out over Kh. Bir al-‘Eid and the settlement outposts Mitzpe Yair and Lucifer Farm. A month ago, a mediation process between the parties failed. The very next day, authorities demolished 22 homes in the communities of Kh. Jenbah and Kh. al-Halawah. Meanwhile, legal proceedings resumed in the principle petition residents filed against the authorities’ plan to expel them from their homes for living in an area Israel declared Firing Zone 918. Later in March, Israel demolished additional structures, this time in the communities of Kh. Jenbah and Kh. a-Taban.
In March, Israeli human rights and civil society organizations condemned in the strongest possible terms the ongoing anonymous attacks against Palestinian human rights organizations, and most recently against Al-Haq. As Israeli organizations, we express our solidarity with our Palestinian counterparts. Al-Haq has indeed been faced with increasing pressure, which started with anonymous emails to staff and donors, citing non-existent fraud investigations, continued with daily calls from blocked numbers meant to intimidate the staff, and culminated in death threats to a staff member and to its General Director, Shawan Jabarin. These recent threats were directly connected to Al-Haq's ongoing work before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
On 8 March 2016 the media reported that a Palestinian stabbed and killed Taylor Force, a 29-year-old U.S. citizen. The assailant stabbed and injured another eleven people, one seriously; four moderately, including a pregnant women; and the rest lightly, before he was shot dead by security forces. B’Tselem expresses deep sorrow over Taylor Force’s death and conveys its sincerest condolences to his family. B’Tselem sends its best wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded. The deliberate targeting of civilians undermines every moral, legal and human standard. B’Tselem strongly condemns any and all deliberate attacks against civilians and once again calls on politicians and leaders to act responsibly and avoid fanning the flames of violence.
The demand for work in the Gaza Strip is enormous, and unemployment is at roughly 40%, primarily due to the prolonged Israeli-imposed siege. To mark International Women’s Day, we spoke with three women – a carpenter, a blacksmith, and a vegetable market laborer – who are all trying to sustain families in this near-impossible economic reality. Gazan women face a particularly trying challenge, as they must deal not only with a reality in which so few can get any job at all, let alone one that matches their skills, but also, like women around the world, they must contend with a society in which women are deemed less valuable and work harder for lower pay.
According to Israel Prison Service figures, the last quarter of 2015 saw a marked rise in the number of Palestinians in Israeli custody. There are 6,066 Palestinians being held on what Israel calls “security grounds”, the highest number since July 2010. The figures for administrative detainees (584), and minors (422) and women (44) in custody are the highest they’ve been in years.
On 9 Feb. 2016 D.W., who turned 12 two months earlier, reached the settlement of Carmei Tzur, a knife concealed in her clothes. She was captured and taken into custody. Nine days later she signed a plea bargain. She was convicted of attempted manslaughter and given a 4½-month prison sentence. D.W. was completely alone during the entire proceedings, and the prosecution was not required to present a shred of evidence to prove her guilt. Though exceptional, this case illustrates the way in which the military judicial system tramples defendants’ rights, even when faced with a 12-year-old girl. Instead of ensuring that justice is done, the system seeks to preserve the occupation regime.