International Human Rights is observed today, 10 December. We’d like to take this opportunity to take a look at the past year through the photo blog we launched a year ago. All year long B’Tselem publishes investigative findings, updates, video footage and in-depth reports on a variety of human rights issues in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Our photo blog gives us a slightly different view of life there. The dozen photos we chose – a small selection of the images published– are a portrait of the past year as it was reflected in our photo blog.
Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein died today, Human Rights Day, after joining farmers in nonviolent protest against barred access to their land in the West Bank. While the circumstances of his death need clarifying, the reason for the protest and how Israeli security forces handle Palestinian protests are well-known. The state sends settlers to grab Palestinian land in the West Bank and then sends the army to forcefully silence protest – sometimes, at a lethal price. That is how Human Rights Day looks under occupation.
On 4 Dec. 2014 two settlers were driving near Wadi a-Nasara checkpoint when a Palestinian youth threw stones at them. They got out of the car and attempted pursuit. Footage by a B’Tselem camera volunteer shows that when the pursuit proved unsuccessful, they vandalized nearby Palestinian property. Police and soldiers who arrived at the scene did not detain the two and allowed them to leave unhindered. This incident is part of the reality of live in Hebron, with the military and the police standing by as settlers take the law into their own hands.
Images of people hard put to find adequate shelter in the recent heavy rainstorms serve as a reminder that Operation Protective Edge, which ended three months ago, continues to have serious consequences for life in Gaza. The following account by Shadi Barakeh is the second in a series of voices from Gaza that we will be presenting in the coming weeks. Shadi, 12, lost his father and his home in Operation Protective Edge. He now lives in an improvised tent with no facilities: “We have no happiness now… My mother cries for hours on end… It’s cold at night and I’m afraid when I hear dogs bark and the wind whistle.”
At around 2:00 A.M. on 12 Nov. 2014, Ahmad Hasunah and his sister stepped outside to throw out garbage after a family gathering at their home in Bitunya, Area A. B’Tselem found that soldiers lying in ambush fired live bullets at Hasunah as he walked back home, badly injuring him. The soldiers then questioned him for 20 minutes before giving him first aid. They also confiscated security camera footage in an apparent cover-up attempt. Shortly after the shooting the soldiers arrested a neighbor, and only then permitted a Palestinian ambulance to take Hasunah to hospital.
Yesterday (1 Dec. 2014) HCJ held first hearing in petition by Ahmad ‘Awad whose son Samir, 16, was shot and killed by soldiers in Budrus nearly two years ago. The petition, filed with B’Tselem, calls for a decision by the MAG on whether to indict. The Court added the Attorney General as respondent because Military Justice Law no longer applies to the since-discharged soldiers suspected in the incident. Justice Melcer: “In future, MAG Corps officials must know that […] they must complete all proceedings before the soldiers are discharged.”
On 27 Nov. 2014, Adv. Michael Sfard petitioned the High Court of Justice on behalf of HaMoked and 7 other Israeli human rights organizations to rule the policy of punitive home demolition unlawful. The petition is backed by a legal expert opinion authored by some of Israel’s top jurists, asserting that the policy severely contravenes international humanitarian and human rights law and the fundamental tenet of Israeli law whereby people cannot be punished for actions other than their own. The opinion stresses that this policy may be considered a war crime in certain circumstances, with the attendant risk for those involved in its implementation.
The 2014 Stockholm Human Rights Award was presented to Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem at a gala event in Stockholm, Sweden, last night (25 November 2014). Established in 2009, the Stockholm Human Rights Award is awarded annually by the International Bar Association, the International Legal Assistance Consortium and the Swedish Bar Association to an individual or an institution for outstanding contributions to the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights. B’Tselem was represented at last night's ceremony by B’Tselem Executive Director Mr. Hagai El-Ad, his predecessor Ms. Jessica Montell, and by Ms. Salma a-Deb'i, B’Tselem’s field researcher for the Nablus District.
According to media reports, the Israel Police notified the families of the perpetrators of the horrendous attack that it may withhold the bodies at this stage because a funeral procession and erection of a headstone "may glorify… the terrorist and make him a role model,” and that this step may “serve as a deterrent". This is another form of harm to innocents official justify as deterrence. B’Tselem calls upon the authorities to make a clear distinction between the grave actions of the deceased and any harm to their relatives, who are not suspected of any offense.
East Jerusalem does not exist in a vacuum. The recent violence in East Jerusalem is happening against the backdrop of a harsh, ongoing state of occupation. There are land grabs and discrimination, as well as severe restrictions on construction and development. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the violence is a “direct outcome of incitement by Abu Mazen”. Yet the direct, causal link Netanyahu is trying to portray ignores the overall picture, which includes Israeli authorities manipulating the declaration of national parks in East Jerusalem for political ends.
Operation Protective Edge ended in late August 2014, but most residents of the Gaza Strip are still suffering its consequences. The video shows the apartment of the Sukar family in a-Shuja’iyeh neighborhood in Gaza City, which was heavily shelled in the operation. The parents and their seven children now live in an apartment that does not provide them shelter from the cold and rain: “This apartment had been hit by shells and parts of it were destroyed. Whenever it rains, the house is flooded. The children get sick with colds. I hope we’ll be able to go back to our apartment, with all our belongings and furniture, especially the washing machine… This war set us forty years back…"
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced yesterday (22 November 2014) that he plans to promote a bill which would revoke the residency status and social security benefits of individuals who commit terrorist attacks or other serious offenses from nationalistic motives and their families. incoming Minister of Interior, Gilad Erdan, has revoked the permanent residency status of the man who drove the perpetrator of the suicide attack at the Dolphinarium nightclub in Tel Aviv in 2001, to the site of the attack. Residency status and social security benefits are not a favor or boon granted by the authorities. It is Israel’s fundamental obligation toward all individuals living in its territory, be they citizens or permanent residents.
B’Tselem is shocked by and finds abhorrent this morning’s attack, in which Palestinians killed Jewish worshippers at the Bnei Torah Synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. We extend our condolences to the families of the people killed and convey our wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded. B’Tselem strongly condemns any and all intentional assaults against Israeli or Palestinian civilians and reiterates its call to politicians and leaders to act responsibly and avoid fanning the flames of violence.
Hagai El-Ad, B'Tselem Executive Director has been included in Foreign Policy's sixth annual “100 Leading Global Thinkers” issue, the magazine announced today in Washington DC. The list, recognizes a year of "tumult, protest, inspiration, and new beginnings" to quote the magazine's editors.
Israeli Prime Minister has ordered the demolition or sealing of the homes of the families of the Palestinians who carried out recent attacks against Israelis. This action constitutes harming the innocent. It is collective punishment that is both unlawful and immoral. The security establishment has announced its intention to demolish or seal six homes: three in East Jerusalem, one in Nablus and one in Hebron. Since 1967 Israeli security forces have demolished hundreds of homes to punish relatives of Palestinians who harmed or allegedly harmed Israelis.
The arrest of a Border Police officer suspected of killing Palestinian youths at Bitunya confirms B’Tselem’s finding that Nadim Nawarah and Muhammad Salameh were killed by live fire and not rubber-coated bullets. Officials and pundits initially attempted to divert attention from the grave outcome by smearing the credibility of security camera footage. The authorities would do well to focus on uncovering the truth, instead of creating media spins to shirk responsibility. The investigation must be speedily completed and those responsible tried.
B’Tselem extends its condolences to the family of Dalia Lemkus, who was killed by a Palestinian in a stabbing-attack near the settlement of Alon Shvut, Bethlehem District, yesterday (10 November 2014). We send our wishes for a speedy recovery to the individuals injured in the attack. B’Tselem condemns any and all intentional assaults targeting Israeli or Palestinian civilians and reiterates its call to politicians and leaders to act responsibly and avoid fanning the flames of violence.
In March 2014 soldiers shot and killed Yusef a-Shawamreh, 14, as he crossed the Separation Barrier to pick edible plants. Our investigation indicates that he was shot in broad daylight, with no advance warning, although he posed no danger. In July, the military declared the investigation closed, suspecting no criminal action or breach of regulation. The appalling, fatal outcome cannot be tolerated. The responsibility lies with the military’s bodies who issue commands to the troops and the judicial arm which closed the case.
B’Tselem extends its condolences to the family of the man killed by a Palestinian in the car attack earlier today (5 November 2014) in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarah. We send our wishes for a speedy recovery to the individuals injured in the attack. B’Tselem condemns any and all intentional assaults targeting Israeli and Palestinian civilians and reiterates its call to politicians and leaders to act responsibly and avoid fanning the flames of violence. We are therefore extremely disturbed by the statement by Israel’s Minister of Public Security that “a terrorist who harms civilians should be killed”. This provocative call by a government minister to break the law and for execution without trial deserves the strongest possible censure, all the more so for being made by the minister responsible for law enforcement.
In response to recent events in East Jerusalem, officials made statements about measures they think should be taken to ensure order in the city, and some of these have been implemented. These measures constitute selective enforcement of laws in order to pressure a population that already suffers from a severe shortage of infrastructure, housing and public services. Law enforcement authorities must act to curb violence. However, the draconian measures currently being taken against Palestinians in East Jerusalem amount to collective punishment of a population that lives under occupation and already suffers systematic discrimination.