Over the past twenty years, Israel has taken measures to guarantee a nearly blanket exemption from its obligation under international law to pay compensation to Palestinians harmed by its security forces. In a new report released today (Wed., 8 March), B’Tselem traces the development of this practice and illustrates how it has led to a major drop in the number of claims for damages Palestinians filed in recent years. Israel’s policy reflects how little value it places on the lives, bodies and property of Palestinians living under its control.
The report B’Tselem published today shows how Israel has been taking over Palestinian rural space, fragmenting it, dispossessing its residents of land and water, and handing over these areas to settlers. The process is illustrated through a case study of three villages in the Nablus District - ‘Azmut, Deir al-Hatab and Salem - telling what these communities have undergone since Israel established the Elon Moreh settlement nearby. Through this case study, the report illustrates a broader policy Israel has been implementing throughout the West Bank for decades, and in which the settlers play a key role.
In the summer of 2014, Israeli security forces killed 1,391 people, including 526 minors, who did not participate in the fighting. The report describes how Israel creates the false appearance of investigations into alleged breaches of law during the fighting, when in fact, those who are truly responsible for the violations, those who designed the policy and issued the orders, were never investigated. The MAG Corps’ investigations focus only on the responsibility of the lower ranks for cases considered “exceptional”, ignoring the fact that scores more nearly identical cases ended with horrifying outcomes. The MAG’s stand, which absolves himself of responsibility and allows decision makers to repeatedly ignore these outcomes is illegal and immoral.
The occupation is 49 years old. That’s 17,898 days. International law defines occupation as a temporary situation, but after nearly 50 years the reality in the West Bank and Gaza can no longer be considered temporary. It is unreasonable to keep hoping that Israel end this situation of its own volition. As the occupation enters its 50th year, B’Tselem presents the current situation in the West Bank and Gaza. The facts are well-known. Equally well-known is that standing idly by means perpetuating the current situation. Determined action is needed now to clearly demonstrate the termination of local and international cooperation with the occupation.
The report explains the reasons behind B’Tselem’s decision to no longer refer complaints to the military law enforcement system. It was made based on information compiled from hundreds of complaints B’Tselem has filed with the military, dozens of military investigations and many meetings with officials. B’Tselem will continue reporting violations but will no longer help a system which serves as a whitewash mechanism and that also, in advance, absolves senior military and government officials of responsibility for the policy they set out.
Joint report with HaMoked, Center for the Defence of the Individual
Sleep deprivation; prolonged binding; verbal and sometimes physical abuse; exposure to heat and cold; poor, meager food; small, foul-smelling cells; solitary confinement; unhygienic conditions. A new report by HaMoked and B’Tselem shows these to be standard in interrogations at Israel Security Agency’s (ISA) facility at Shikma Prison. The report is based on affidavits and testimonials by 116 Palestinians interrogated there from Aug. 2013 to March 2014, including at least 14 who had been interrogated under torture by the Palestinian Authority shortly before. The ISA’s interrogation system is run with the approval of Israeli authorities, including the High Court of Justice.
A new report B’Tselem published today indicates that remand in custody is the rule rather than the exception for Palestinian defendants. Most cases, therefore, end in plea bargains. To all intents and purposes, the Israeli military court appears to be a court like any other. There are prosecutors and defense attorneys. There are rules of procedure, laws and regulations. There are judges who hand down rulings and verdicts couched in reasoned legal language. Nonetheless, this façade of propriety masks one of the most injurious apparatuses of the occupation. The rules of Israeli law, ostensibly applied to the military court, have been rendered essentially meaningless - merely serving to whitewash the flaws of the military court system.
The report looks at the policy of bombing residential buildings in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. This policy was one of the horrifying hallmarks of the fighting in Gaza in the summer of 2014, leading to the death of hundreds of people – more than a quarter of the operation’s Palestinian casualties. The report examines the recurrent stories of many Palestinian families who lost everything in a split second and analyzes Israel’s contention that it followed IHL provisions. While Hamas openly declared its intent to harm Israeli civilians, Israeli officials kept saying, both during and after the war, that the military had obeyed the law and done everything in its power to avoid harming civilians. The report indicates that these claims are entirely baseless.
This report concerns the village of Burqah, Ramallah District. A rather unremarkable village, Burqah has never taken center stage in the fight against the occupation, and has not been subjected to extreme punitive measures. In fact, we chose to focus on Burqah precisely because it is unexceptional, as a case in point demonstrating what life under the occupation is like for residents of Palestinian villages. Burqah is a small, picturesque village, set amidst fields. Like many other villages, it endures severe travel restrictions which isolate it from its surroundings. It is also subject to massive land-grabs and stifled planning, all of which have turned it into a derelict, crowded and backward village with half its population living at or below the poverty line.
During Operation Protective Edge, Israel violated international humanitarian law in some cases, and many other cases are highly suspect. However, B’Tselem does not intend to demand that these suspicions be investigated by Israel’s current investigation mechanisms. This is due to the experience that B’Tselem gained following past military offensives in the Gaza Strip, which shows that there is currently no official body in Israel capable of conducting independent investigations of suspected violations of international humanitarian law.
At times, the occupation seems to be a thing of the past, but it is still going strong. A third, and even fourth, generation of Palestinians and Israelis has been born into this reality, and they know no other. Israel has created a reality in which the Palestinians live under a harsh military regime, which serves first and foremost Israeli and settler interests. This reality of dispossession, oppression and violation of human rights in the West Bank has lasted almost fifty years, and indicates far-reaching intentions for the future. While this state of affairs is progressively entrenched, the illusion that it can continue indefinitely grows stronger. The inevitable result is daily violation of the human rights of Palestinians living under occupation. Only ending the occupation will alter this reality.
Joint report with HaMoked, Center for the Defence of the Individual
The report explores Palestinians’ right to family life in view of Israel’s isolationist policy, which practically prohibits passage between Gaza and the West Bank, thereby severing families and keeping couples from living normally, if one spouse is from Gaza and the other from the West Bank. Tens of thousands face this impossible reality, whereby Israel intrudes on the most intimate aspects of life. Basic features of life–building a family, living with one’s spouse and children and regular contact with the extended family–become a pipedream.
Six months after the Turkel Commission’s issued its report on Israel’s investigative policy of alleged violations of laws of war, B’Tselem published a position paper on the report. While the commission held that Israel fulfills its obligation to investigate, it noted: “in several of the areas examined, there are grounds for amending examination and investigation mechanisms and in several areas, there are grounds for changing the accepted policy”. The commission’s recommendations are far-reaching. Nonetheless, B’Tselem emphasizes that greater systemic change is needed to bring Israel’s military investigative policy up to par.
60% of the West Bank is designated Area C, under exclusive Israeli control. It is home to 180,000 Palestinians and includes most West Bank land reserves. Israel, citing “state lands” or “firing zones”, largely prohibits Palestinian construction. Israel’s planning policy ignores local needs: refuses to recognize villages or draft plans; blocks development and infrastructure hook-ups; and demolishes homes. Thousands are in danger of expulsion for living in firing zones or “illegal” communities. Israel has appropriated most water sources and restricts Palestinian access to them.
The report reviews civilian casualties during Operation Pillar of Defense. It provides statistics regarding the number of Palestinians and Israelis killed during the operation (14-21 November 2012). The report challenges the prevalent perception among the Israeli public and media that the operation was “surgical” and caused practically no fatalities among uninvolved Palestinian civilians. The report also demonstrates a significant difference between the first and second half of the operation: 80% of the fatalities of uninvolved Palestinians occurred in the last four days of the operation.
Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end this regime, 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.