At a hearing in the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights this afternoon, B’Tselem’s Executive Director, Hagai El-Ad, spoke about the urgent need for determined European action, which would clarify to Israel that violating the rights of Palestinians will carry consequences: Consequences for human rights violations can be introduced through European foreign policy, by effectively using Europe’s considerable leverage. Clearly, the decision to not do so is a political choice. It undermines Europe’s commitment to human rights and weakens the rules-based international order. It normalizes oppression and dehumanizes Palestinians, because – apparently – no one has to be held accountable for their permanent subjugation.
The representatives of 17 countries, including EU members as well as other countries, are currently visiting Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills, whose residents Israel is seeking to expel. Since 2000 the residents have been waging a legal struggle in Israel's High Court of Justice. Last August, before the last hearing in the case, the Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research revealed a document that proved what was already clear: Israel had declared the area a firing zone to facilitate the expulsion of its residents. The judges ignored that information and the residents are currently awaiting their ruling.
As the whole world battles an unprecedented and paralyzing healthcare crisis, Israel’s military is devoting time and resources to harassing the most vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank, that Israel has attempted to drive out of the area for decades. Shutting down a first-aid community initiative during a health crisis is an especially cruel example of the regular abuse inflicted on these communities, and it goes against basic human and humanitarian principles during an emergency. Unlike Israel’s policies, this pandemic does not discriminate based on nationality, ethnicity or religion. It is high time the government and military acknowledged that now, of all times, Israel is responsible for the health and wellbeing of the five million Palestinians who live under its control in the Occupied Territories.
The report shows how the justices of Israel’s Supreme Court have validated the state’s planning apparatus in the West Bank, enabling it to continue implementing illegal policies. Time and time again, the justices have ignored the fact that the planning apparatus imposes an almost blanket prohibition on Palestinian construction with the object of enabling Israel to take over as much Palestinian land as possible. The report, Fake Justice: The Responsibility Israel’s High Court Justices Bear for the Demolition of Palestinian Homes and the Dispossession of Palestinians, is based on a careful examination of hundreds of High Court cases, judgments and decisions regarding the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank. In none of these cases did the justices accept the arguments of the Palestinian petitioners.
In their ruling, Justices Amit, Meltzer, and Baron described an imaginary world with an egalitarian planning system that takes into account the needs of the Palestinians, as if there had never been an occupation. The reality is diametrically opposed to this fantasy: Palestinians cannot build legally and are excluded from the decision-making mechanisms that determine how their lives will look. The planning systems are intended solely for the benefit of the settlers.This ruling shows once again that those under occupation cannot seek justice in the occupier’s courts. If the demolition of the community of Khan al-Ahmar goes ahead, the Supreme Court Justices will be among those who will bear responsibility for this war crime.
On 1 Aug. 2018, the court ordered the state to detail its proposed alternative for the community. On 7 Aug., the state responded in bad faith, suggesting a site to be prepared sometime in the future that does not meet the residents’ needs, lies close to a sewage treatment plant and requires expropriation of Palestinian land. It also demanded that the residents first move to the site near the Abu Dis garbage dump, cynically tying the alternative to their persuading 3 other communities to move, too. The immediate threat to Khan al-Ahmar must be stopped now. Its fulfillment will heighten the danger facing ~200 other Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
For years Israel has been endeavoring to displace this community for a variety of reasons, including the expansion of nearby settlements, de facto annexation of the area – without its Palestinian residents – and bisecting the West Bank, cutting it in two. To that end, Israeli authorities have made the lives of the residents intolerable, hoping to make them leave their homes, ostensibly of their own volition.
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.