The entire area Israel controls between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is governed by a single regime working to advance and perpetuate the supremacy of one group over another. By geographically, demographically and physically engineering space, the regime enables Jews to live in a contiguous area with full rights, including self-determination, while Palestinians live in separate units and enjoy fewer rights. This qualifies as an apartheid regime, although Israel is commonly viewed as a democracy upholding a temporary occupation.
Israel controls Gaza’s power supply, whether directly by providing electricity or indirectly by controlling fuel flow to the only local power plant. After years of allowing only enough electricity for eight-hour rotations among residents, on 10 Aug. 2020 Israel also cut off the fuel supply as the latest form of collective punishment against Gazans, reducing the power supply to 4 hours a day for three weeks. In testimonies they gave B’Tselem, residents described the daily repercussions and their deep frustration with living in an unbearable reality.
On 23 June 2020, around midnight, soldiers stopped a car at a flying checkpoint outside Hebron and ordered the driver, Mu’tasem Qawasmeh, 24, and the two friends who were with him to get out and stand by the side of the road. They then assaulted Qawasmeh while keeping his friends from intervening. The assault ended when a military jeep arrived. Qawasmeh said: “I got home at 4:00 A.M. My wife and son were awake, waiting for me. I hugged my son and burst out crying. I was exhausted and felt helpless.”
This is the story of one factory – the Sharaf Gas-Pipe and Metalwork Factory. It is the story of its owner, Yusef Rabah Sharaf, who still remembers the days when orders used to flow in. It is also the story of two of his employees, ‘Ata Abu ‘Areban and Khalil Abu ‘Amarneh, who no longer remember what a monthly wage looks like. The Sharaf Factory is one of many Palestinian businesses to have collapsed due to Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2007. As part of this policy, Israel has turned Gaza into the world's largest open-air prison. This has led to the economy collapsing, hundreds of factories closing, soaring unemployment rates and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians now dependent on humanitarian aid. Some 65% of Gazans are young people under the age of 25 whose lives are unbearable, yet their future carries no hope for change.
Since 2012, the Israeli military has treated the Palestinian residential complex northwest of Nablus as training grounds to use at will. Soldiers enter at any given time, fire live ammunition and stun grenades among homes and sleep in them, completely disregarding the fact that they are on hard-earned private property. The military treats the residents as pawns in a war game who can be detained, assaulted by dogs, their homes searched and their children woken in the middle of the night, as part of a “training routine”.
We stand in solidarity with our colleague from Amnesty International, Laith Abu Zeyad, and demand that Israel lift the movement restrictions barring him from leaving the Occupied Territories. His petition will be heard on 31 May 2020. Targeting Abu Zeyad is yet another example of Israel’s increased persecution and punishment of human rights organizations in recent years. This includes preventing international activists and human rights workers from entering the country and forming a ministry that creates blacklists and engages in censorship.
In January and February, before the corona crisis, the military blocked the entrances to five Palestinian villages in the West Bank for varying durations, collectively punishing the entire population. Blocking roads has become a routine method of oppression Israel uses against Palestinians in the West Bank. This form of collective punishment, which forces residents to live in uncertainty and frustration and waste precious time and money, is completely unjustifiable and an abuse of military force.
The spread of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip will be a massive disaster, resulting entirely from the unique conditions created by more than a decade of Israeli blockade: a failing healthcare system, extreme poverty, dependence on humanitarian aid, dysfunctional infrastructure and harsh living conditions that compromise public health – even before exposure to the new virus – combine with overcrowding to form a nightmare scenario.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.