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From the field

Newsletter January 2020

Trump plan or no Trump plan, the occupation continues, and so does our work. Especially today, we'd like to share with you several recent updates from the field.

Dear friends, 

In 2019, Israeli security forces killed 133 Palestinians, 28 of them minors. B’Tselem’s investigations found that almost all casualties resulted from the reckless open-fire policy Israel applies in the Occupied Territories: bombing densely populated areas, unlawfully shooting unarmed demonstrators near the fence between Gaza and Israel, and opening fire in incidents of assault or stone-throwing when there is no threat to anyone’s life.

The sheer number of cases defies giving an individual description of every person whose life was cut short and whose family will never be the same again. Video footage allows some incidents to penetrate public consciousness, such as the killing of 22-year-old ‘Omar al-Badawi from al-’Arrub Refugee Camp. While clashes were taking place in the camp, some youths threw a Molotov cocktail at soldiers that set fire to the entrance of al-Badawi’s home. He did what any person in his place would have done and stepped out of the house to put out the fire. At that moment, a soldier shot al-Badawi, and he died of his wounds an hour later. Journalists who were at the scene caught the entire incident on film, from the moment the shots hit al-Badawi to him falling on the ground and then being evacuated, wounded and bleeding. This footage offers a rare glimpse into a daily routine of death and injustice.

B’Tselem releases this type of annual summary every year, and while the numbers may fluctuate to some degree, the reality remains unchanged. Israel continues to uphold its open-fire policy despite the horrific outcomes and to cement the occupation – which has long since ceased to be a temporary affair. The two are, of course, inextricably linked – the occupation cannot be maintained without violence.

The good news is that the occupation is not a force of nature. It is a human choice, and humans are the ones who can – and must – work to end it, in order to ensure a different future for our region.

Hoping for better days, 
Eyal Sagiv,
data coordinator for B’Tselem


  • During the olive harvest, many Palestinian families – especially in the northern West Bank – suffered serious, intentional damage to their olive groves by settlers, who acted with the full support and even the cooperation of the military. Olive-growing is not a hobby in the West Bank, but a major source of income for thousands of households. Where settlements have been built on or near Palestinians’ olive groves, Israel prevents the owners from harvesting their crops freely – whether through settler violence or by means of draconian restrictions on movement. Over the course of the last harvest season, we documented dozens of cases in which settlers assaulted Palestinians picking olives, harmed trees, damaged farming equipment and stole olives, or in which the military prevented farmers from harvesting their olives. The testimonies of the owners, detailed on this interactive map, reveal a mechanism of dispossession thinly camouflaged by the military’s show of coordinating access and upholding public order.
  • Is there ever justification to shoot an unarmed person who is endangering no one, without any prior warning? Obviously not. Yet from October through December 2019, soldiers were sent to ambush Palestinian workers who tried to enter Israel without a permit by crossing through gaps in the Separation Barrier in the Tulkarm area. When the workers approached the barrier, the soldiers shot at their legs. B’Tselem documented more than ten such cases.
  • What were soldiers doing in ‘Izbat a-Tabib one gray day in late November? Harassing a family for tying a Palestinian flag to the fence of their home. In footage of the verbal confrontation, the soldiers’ arrogant disdain – the bread and butter of the occupation – is laid bare. 
  • Benjamin Netanyahu exploited the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, held last week in Jerusalem to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, to call on world leaders to back Israel’s absurdly evasive position that the International Criminal Court in The Hague has no jurisdiction in the Occupied Territories. He went so far as to state that “new edicts are being issued against the Jewish people – anti-Semitic edicts by the International Criminal Court.” Equating a people’s attempt to achieve justice with anti-Semitism not only betrays the Palestinians’ hope for freedom and dignity, but joins in the slow death of the lessons of the Holocaust. Executive Director Hagai El-Ad decried Netanyahu’s cynical move in an op-ed in Ha’aretz.
  • In December 2019, B’Tselem marked 30 years since its founding with a solidarity visit to the Palestinian community of Khan al-Ahmar, which Israel plans to forcibly transfer. Executive Director Hagai El-Ad spoke there about what we have learned over three decades: “We’ve learned there’s hardly any aspect of Palestinian life that Israel can’t arbitrarily subject to a permit, a checkpoint, a paper-pusher or a soldier. We’ve learned that demographic reengineering of physical space – with decrees, expulsions or demolitions – can be official government policy… After thirty years, these are our humble conclusions. Without fear or fatigue, we are ready for the hard years ahead, and the better ones that will follow. We’ve learned that a Palestinian will be able to go to sleep at night and wake up to see not a wall or a soldier but the morning light on the horizon, waking up free and equal in value and in rights. That is the only self-evident moral future: one of full and equal rights to everyone on this land. That morning will come.

B’Tselem in the media:

B’Tselem is grateful to over 1020 people who donated in December to our crowd funding campaign and raised more than 500,000 ILS .
Every contribution, in any amount, strengthens us and enhances our ability to work to end the occupation.

Banner photo: Muhammad Sabah