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From the field

Newsletter February 2020

Dear friend,

Naturally, the COVID-19 virus is a worry and threat to us all - in Israel, the Occupied Territories, and around the globe. But human rights violations continue – and so does our work. Some recent highlights follow.

Blocking roads, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at cars and homes, raiding villages by night, torching houses and fields, uprooting trees, damaging property, physically assaulting and shooting: settler violence against Palestinians has long since become routine. This daily, severe violence is meant to drive Palestinians out of their land and make it clear who is in charge – fully backed by Israel’s official policy in the West Bank.

I’ve worked in B’Tselem’s data coordination department since 2003 and run it since 2016. Over the years, we’ve documented and investigated thousands of attacks by settlers. Unfortunately, there are too many attacks to publish every single one and some of the cases we documented remain archived. To more fully convey the frequency and severity of these incidents, we decided to start a new blog on B’Tselem’s website, giving voice to the people exposed to these acts of violence. Their helplessness comes across strongly in the testimonies they give our field researchers. They all know that no one will take any action to protect them from the recurring assaults, and that their chances of getting justice or compensation are slim to nonexistent.

It is hard not to feel indignant, or hopeless, when faced with some of these stories. Others are truly unbearable. It is hard to stop thinking about the parents of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir from Shu’afat, who was abducted and burned to death by three Israeli civilians. It is difficult to forget the husband and eight children of ‘Aishah Rabi, who was killed by a stone thrown from near the settlement of Rehelim at a car she was traveling in. It is impossible to erase the mental image of Ahmad Dawabsheh, who suffered full-body burns and lost his entire family when their home in the village of Duma was torched by settlers. In all three cases, Israel’s law enforcement system went to work and indictments were filed – but these were exceptions to the rule. Hundreds of violent offenders have never been caught and never investigated. In fact, in most cases, the authorities did not even try to apprehend the culprits. In some, security forces were present at the scene but did nothing, or worse – cooperated with the settlers’ actions.

That is how Israel sentences Palestinians to a lawless reality, with no enforcement and no justice. The authorities back the violent settlers and even help them, with the goal of taking over as much Palestinian land as possible. This is a daily, intolerable, unacceptable reality that must be brought to light.


Suhair 'Abdi,
head of B’Tselem’s data coordination department
More of our work this month:
  • Two years have passed since the March of Return protests began in Gaza, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade and fulfillment of the Palestinians’ right of return. The number of casualties is huge: more than 200 people killed, 8,000 wounded, including 1,500 minors, 155 amputees and 27 persons paralyzed, 21 people who lost one eye and one who lost both. The bullets and teargas canisters fired at the protestors have changed their lives irrevocably. Many kinds of medical treatment are unavailable in Gaza, and Israel uses its control of the crossings to refuse almost all requests for proper treatment outside Gaza, including in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. That is what revenge looks like.
  • In late 2019, Israel was holding 186 Palestinian minors in Israel Prison Service (IPS) facilities. Four were in administrative detention. Minors (and adults) tried in military courts are not afforded due process and the legal proceedings against them entail systemic violation of their rights. At no point are they given a real chance to prove their innocence, and the role of the judges is limited to signing off on a pre-agreed plea bargain between the prosecution and the defense. In administrative detention, the minors do not even know when they will be released, as the detention order can be extended indefinitely. B’Tselem’s field researchers collected testimonies in the cases of three minors held in administrative detention, describing the difficulties they face.
  • The IPS was holding 4,544 Palestinian prisoners or detainees on security grounds at the end of December 2019. Every one of these inmates has a family – parents, siblings, children – who want to visit them in prison but depend on a permit from Israel to do so. Some relatives discover they have been classified as “denied on security grounds” and are forbidden to visit their father, son or brother in jail, at times for years on end, with no further explanation. The lucky ones get a permit, spend 17 hours making an arduous journey through checkpoints, inspections, humiliation and various prohibitions, and get to see their loved ones behind a thick glass partition for just 45 minutes before they start the long journey back. B’Tselem’s field researchers collected testimonies from relatives of prisoners who undertook this ordeal.
  • A new post on our photo blog invites you into the neighborhood of Batan al-Hawa in Silwan, East Jerusalem. The neighborhood, intentionally neglected by the Israeli authorities – chief among them the Jerusalem Municipality – since the area was annexed, has recently filled with colorful murals that help hide the crumbling, crowded infrastructure and despair. Yet nothing can hide the efforts of settler organization Ateret Cohanim, backed and encouraged by the Israeli authorities and sanctioned by the courts, to evict some 700 Palestinians from their homes on false grounds. In recent weeks alone, in three separate cases, the Magistrates’ Court authorized the eviction of 47 people, including 14 minors, from homes that the settlers would then move into.
  • What will parents and teachers tell the fourth graders of Khirbet Susiya when they ask why people from the Civil Administration, together with Border Police officers, took away the pre-fab structure that was their school? A teacher and an entire class remain without a classroom, and a village without answers.
  • The infrastructure in Gaza collapsed a long time ago, and residents suffer an extreme shortage of water, minimal power supply and barely-functioning sewage systems. Israel’s repeated airstrikes have demolished thousands of homes, leaving tens of thousands homeless. Hundreds of thousands of women and girls are dealing, at this very moment, with stifling unemployment and unbearable living conditions. To mark International Women’s Day, B’Tselem has chosen to share the voices of five women describing their way of dealing with the impossible reality forced upon them. 
In the media: Thank you for your support, involvement and active partnership.