State-backed settler violence against Palestinians has become a routine part of the occupation. In two cases documented in March and April, settlers not only harmed Palestinians and their property but claimed the victims had been the ones to attack them. Settlers are backed by the military and receive nearly automatic impunity, while Palestinians are guilty until proven innocent. If a settler files a report against a Palestinian, the latter is immediately arrested and given high bail for conditional release – even when there is no evidence.
On 25 May 2020, Israeli media reported that two Palestinians had tried to stab soldiers in the West Bank. B’Tselem’s investigation found that, in fact, a settler had called soldiers claiming that Palestinians were attacking settlers. When the soldiers arrived, they opened fire without warning at farmers who were uninvolved in any alleged clashes, injuring two. The policy of collusion between settlers and the military assists the dispossession of Palestinians, who are afraid to enter their land for fear of violent attacks.
While the news are full of the plans to annex the West bank and legalize construction in settlements – Israel is busy creating facts on the ground, as usual. Annexation or not, Israel has been demolishing homes in the West Bank and trying to drive Palestinians out of their homes for decades. These attempts to take over the coveted land are carried out in utter indifference to the severe damage to Palestinians’ property, livelihood, water and power supply infrastructure they set up themselves, and their ability to plan their lives.
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 early May, B’Tselem has documented 4 cases in which soldiers ambushed Palestinian laborers trying to enter Israel through gaps in the Separation Barrier south of Tulkarm and shot them in the legs, and another case in which soldiers severely beat a 15-year-old in similar circumstances. In a chilling procedure, four of the wounded were given first aid and photographed at a nearby checkpoint before being taken to hospital. As this unjustifiable injury of non-dangerous persons is a military policy, no one will be held accountable.
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”.
On 13 May 2020, during a military incursion into al-Fawar Refugee Camp, a sniper shot and killed Zeid Qeysiyah (17), who was standing on a rooftop without endangering anyone, far from the clashes between camp residents and soldiers. While the IDF spokesperson stated that the MPIU has launched an investigation, years of experience show that the goal is not to uncover the truth but to serve the MAG Corps’ whitewashing mechanism. This policy allows the lethal, unlawful, immoral shooting of Palestinians to continue unchecked.
In recent weeks, Israeli soldiers have deliberately fired at water tanks in Kafr Qadum during weekly protests held against the closure of the village’s eastern exit. Since April, soldiers have punctured at least 24 tanks on rooftops. This is sheer abuse and constitutes collective punishment for protesting. This conduct is especially grave given the high level of hygiene needed to fight the coronavirus. The shooting continues unbated, indicating support by commanders in the field and conveying disregard for residents’ lives and property.
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.
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.