Gaza Post – Palestinians organized municipal elections in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Saturday, in a rare democratic exercise and despite mounting criticism of President Mahmoud Abbas for canceling planned parliamentary and presidential polls earlier this year.
More than 400,000 Palestinians were eligible to vote in 154 village council elections in the West Bank, where Abbas’ Palestinian Authority enjoys limited self-rule. Municipal elections are held every four or five years on average.
Municipal elections are not being held in Gaza because its Islamist rulers, Hamas, are boycotting the vote due to a schism with Abbas’ Fatah party. Municipal elections in important West Bank cities such as Ramallah, which could have been interpreted as a referendum on Abbas’ leadership, were postponed by the 86-year-old president.
“These elections cannot be an alternative to legislative elections,” said Ahmad Issa, 23, outside a polling station in the West Bank village of Bir Nabala, adding that a legislative vote could offer “a horizon for the youth” and lead to reforms.
In the village of Beit Kahil, women and men lined up outside a polling station, some in facemasks to protect against COVID-19. Once inside, they placed voting papers in envelopes and dropped them into ballot boxes, dipping their fingers in ink as they left in a move to prevent people voting twice.
Abbas, whose support has sagged in opinion polls, drew widespread anger in April when he cancelled legislative and presidential elections scheduled for the summer, citing Israeli curbs on Palestinian voting in East Jerusalem.
Abbas’ rivals, including Hamas, accused him of using the Jerusalem voting dispute as an excuse to cancel elections that polls showed he and his party would lose to the Islamist group. Abbas, who has ruled by decree for over a decade, denies this.
A spokesman for Hamas, which boycotted previous municipal elections in 2012 and 2017, said the group “refuses to participate in partial elections that are tailored to Fatah, and conducted by the Palestinian Authority,” calling on Abbas to reschedule the cancelled summer votes.
Since fighting an 11-day war with Israel in May, Hamas has seen a boost in popularity throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This year, the organization won student council elections at many key West Bank campuses, which is an important indicator of support.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in a 1967 war. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move that was not recognized by the international community, and peace efforts between the two parties broke down in 2014.
In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections. That win paved the way for a political schism. After a brief civil war with Fatah in Gaza in 2007, Hamas grabbed control of the coastal enclave and has ruled it ever since.
Nablus – Gaza Post – Israeli settlers on Saturday cut down around 600 olive and almond trees in the town of Deir Sharaf, west of the northern West Bank city of Nablus according to a local authority.
Ghassan Daghlas, an official who monitors Israeli settlement activities in the north of the West Bank said that when residents of Deir Sharaf went to their lands west of the village, near the illegal settlement of Shavi Shomron, which they rehabilitated five years ago, they discovered that the settlers had chopped down their trees.
He claimed the land, which he believed to be about 70 dunums in size, belonged to a local family.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli settler violence against Palestinian residents and their property is rampant and nearly daily, with a little attempt by the Israeli government to rein in the colonial settlers.
The wastewater treatment plants went into test operation at the end of 2020, and regular operation at the start in April 2021
Operating the three wastewater treatment plants located in the east of the Refugee camp of Al Burij, middle of the Gaza Strip, is part of a project aimed to solve the issue of critical water situation in the besieged enclave.
The wastewater treatment plants went into test operation at the end of 2020, and regular operation at the start in April 2021.
Operating the plants significantly improve resource protection and thus the conditions for a proper water supply in the coastal enclave, which has been subject to Israeli theft of underground reserves.
Israeli soldiers killed, on Friday, a young Palestinian man at the weekly protest in Beita town, southeast of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, medical sources have confirmed.
The head of the Emergency and Ambulance Department at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), Ahmad Jibril, told the Palestinian News & Information Agency (WAFA) that the army opened live fire at non-violent demonstrators on Sbeih Mountain, killing one young man, and causing at least sixty-eight cases of inhalation injuries from tear gas.
The slain young man, identified as Jamil Abu Ayyash, 31, was struck in the head with a live round, and transferred by ambulance to hospital, where he was pronounced dead due to his critical wounds shortly after arrival.
Palestinian youths have been protesting for months in rejection of Israel’s expansion of its illegal colonies in the occupied West Bank in contravention of International Law.
Earlier in the day, soldiers accompanied bulldozers which razed a power network and roads leading to the protest site, in addition to uprooting olive trees on Palestinian-owned land, Quds News Network reported.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affair and Ex-Patriates issued a statement denouncing the killing of Abu Ayyash and called The Human Rights Council’s International Commission of Inquiry to Investigate Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to investigate his death and all Israeli crimes and violations.
It said that the Israeli army’s use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters is a war crime, and a crime against humanity, and is yet another proof that Israel does not seek peace and is ongoing with its hostile policies against the Palestinian people and any treaty or resolution that would result in real and comprehensive peace based on international legitimacy resolutions.
It also called on the International Criminal Court to open an immediate inquiry into the escalating Israeli crimes and violations against the Palestinian people, their property, and their holy sites.
The Ministry urged the International Community to provide the urgently needed protection to the Palestinian people and to end its idleness by prosecuting those who commit these crimes against unarmed civilians and their property.
It is worth mentioning that the funeral ceremony of the slain young man was held, on Friday evening, in his town, with the participation of hundreds of Palestinians, including social figures.
Israeli soldiers abducted, on Friday evening, a young Palestinian man from the al-Isawiya town, in occupied Jerusalem, in the West Bank.
Local sources said police and army vehicles invaded the Obeid neighborhood in al-Isawiya, before storming and searching a home, before abducting Noureddin Obeid, and took him to an interrogation facility in Jerusalem.
They added that the soldiers violently searched the home, causing excessive property damage, and interrogated the family before abducting their son, Noureddin.
In addition, an Israeli court ordered a young man, identified as Daoud al-Ghoul, under interrogation for four days. The Palestinian was abducted four days ago from his home in the Ras al-Amoud neighborhood in Silwan.
Also, the court ordered Dr. Ahmad Safadi, who was abducted on Friday at dawn, under interrogation until next Thursday, after barring him from meeting with his lawyer, and holding a secret hearing that his attorney wasn’t even informed of.
A group of Israeli colonizers, illegally squatting on stolen Palestinian lands, attacked many cars and homes, on Friday evening, in Madama village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israel’s colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the assailants came from the illegal Yitzhar colony and added that colonizers hurled stones at many Palestinian cars on the nearby bypass road, causing damage to many cars.
He added that the colonizers also attacked homes in the southern area of the village, causing damage.
Many Palestinians protested the attack and scuffled with the invading colonizers before some colonizers fired many live rounds and withdrew from the village.
Palestinian political prisoner, Hisham Abu Hawwash, 40, is ongoing with the hunger strike he started 117 days ago, protesting his continued and arbitrary Administrative Detention, despite his serious condition.
The detainee is protesting the continued Administrative Detention without charges or trial, demanding to be released.
His lawyer, Jawad Boulus of the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS), said Abu Hawwash has constant pain, cannot sleep, in addition to being dizzy and unable to walk or even stand for a few seconds, in addition to having to use a wheelchair if he leaves his bed, and is frequently vomiting.
It is worth mentioning that, a day earlier, an Israeli court decided to delay the deliberations regarding his detention, after requesting detailed medical reports from an Israeli hospital, to determine whether he should stay there or be returned to his cell.
The court hearing is now scheduled for Sunday; the detainee was transferred, two days ago, to Assaf Harofeh Israeli medical center, after his lawyer repeatedly requested the transfer.
Abu Hawwash, a married father of five children, from Doura town, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, was abducted on October 27th, 2020, and was slapped with three Administrative Detention orders, each for six months, however, his latest order was reduced to four months that could be renewed.
He is also a former political prisoner who was frequently abducted and imprisoned by Israel since the year 2003 and spent a total of eight years in prison, including 52 months under the arbitrary Administrative Detention orders.
Illegal Israeli colonizers cut, Saturday, at least six hundred olive and almond trees owned by Palestinians in Deir Shafar village, west of the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israel’s illegal colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the colonizers invaded farmlands in the al-Harayeq area west of Deir Sharaf, before cutting at least five hundred olive and almond trees.
He added that the lands are close to the illegal Shavei Shomron colony, which was built on stolen Palestinian lands,
Daghlas also said that the Palestinians managed to rehabilitate their lands and prepare them from planting five years ago, after being denied access to them, and planted them with olive and almond trees.
The invaded lands are about 68 Dunams (16.80 Acres) and are owned by the families of Awad Abu Safad, Ghazi Antar, Abdul-Rahim Suleiman, and Noureddin Suleiman.
Britain’s role in betraying the Palestinians means we have a duty to help solve the crisis. To do so, we must be able to talk to all stakeholders – and that includes the political wing of Hamas.
The UK parliament’s feeble examination of the case for the proscription of the whole of Hamas – the majority party in the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the de facto administration of nearly two million people in the besieged enclave of Gaza – was a personal and institutional nadir in the cause of justice for the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian people have been on the wrong end of history for over a century, and the accumulated case of injustice to them, both individually and collectively, is now morally and legally overwhelming.
Contrast the action against Hamas with our approach to Israel. The laws of armed conflict are governed by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the fourth of which affords protection to civilians, including in occupied territories. Israel ratified the conventions in 1951, and after the Six-Day War of 1967 found itself in occupation of new territory by conquest. You are simply not allowed to occupy someone else’s territory, then expel civilians from it, and then settle it with your own people. The reasons that this is universally forbidden are obvious, with their roots in the post-Second World War settlement.
The UN’s founding charter “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial domination, apartheid and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle”.
Whatever case you can make for it, and despite any potential legitimacy under international law, lethal violence hurts and corrupts the instigator as well as the victim – as all will condemn the killing of innocent people. However lofty you believe your principles, they are likely to be painfully compromised.
Hamas’s use of violence as a political tool has been both short-sighted and counter-productive. It has reinforced the narrative used by Israel since its founding about the threat Israel, Israelis and Jews face globally. It also weakens sympathies for the Palestinian cause. The violence also leads to the Palestinian people paying a very high price for the moral and legal undermining of their cause, with no advance in their position.
Both sides have paid in civilian deaths, but it’s far from equal. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 38 Israeli citizens have been killed by Hamas’s indiscriminate and unguided rocket attacks since 2000. On the other hand, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 5,983 Palestinian civilians have been killed between 2008-2020 as a result of Israeli air strikes, with an additional 131,000 injured.
With an annual military budget of $17.95bn in 2021, and an additional $3.8bn given by the US in military aid annually, Israel has one of the world’s most advanced armed forces, with widespread access to sophisticated targeting systems. Yet the Palestinian civilian casualty figures confirm that even with Israel’s much greater capacity than its opponents to target armed fighters, its actions are far from proportionate – another law of conflict ignored.
We have not proscribed the Israeli army – nor have we held to account any Israeli official involved in the indiscriminate use of artillery. The UK has voted for numerous UN resolutions but, along with much of the rest of the world, has done nothing as a consequence.
As a serious war crime by an accountable state (Israel) has drawn no effective sanction in over half a century, it’s not difficult to put oneself in the position of an occupied or displaced Palestinian, or peoples inclined to be sympathetic to them – such as fellow Arabic speakers or co-religionists – and understand why they see the most egregious case of international double standards.
Hamas ban a ‘smokescreen’
This also helps explain the widespread sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people in western liberal nations seen as those most responsible for the double standards. And despite the centuries of oppression by their host countries culminating in the greatest crime in human history, many in Jewish communities around the world share this concern about the relative injustice, not least in Israel itself.
The official reason for the total proscription of Hamas – an inability to differentiate between the political and military parts of the movement – is a smokescreen. In the UK, for example, we accommodated the shading between Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish republican movement, while we were in open conflict with the IRA, its paramilitary wing, as this enabled popular support for the republican position to be expressed at the ballot box.
Such an accommodation helped undermine the case that violent resistance was the only option, and eventually led to a negotiated settlement that brought along most of those actively engaged in or supporting violent resistance.
So in Israel, while the state remains unsanctioned for an occupation in grave violation of international law, the proscription of the whole of Hamas can only make the prospect of any negotiated peace settlement more remote.
In its governance of Gaza, Hamas is responsible for the security of its population of two million. If it had no military wing, the security vacuum would quickly be filled by even less scrupulous organisations, such as Islamic Jihad or Islamic State.
So, how to understand the UK’s move to ban Hamas in its entirety?
Along with the US, the UK has become incapable of judging Israel’s actions using independent evidence and set against the values we claim to hold. The part of the Israeli polity that now holds control does not want to face up to addressing a century and more of injustice between Israelis and Palestinians.
If the prospect of a negotiated settlement can be put off, so much the better for Israel. Disrupting the creation of a unified Palestinian negotiating position has become a central feature of Israeli policy.
The Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995, signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, brought the prospect of peace closer than ever. But the 1995 assassination of Rabin by an Israeli ultranationalist, the bus bombings carried out in Israel by Hamas, the separation barrier and the ensuing economic failure of Oslo have all played their part in the collapse of the agreement.
Putting Hamas beyond the pale keeps the prospect of a negotiated settlement unlikely, if not impossible. Keeping Palestinian representation in disputatious flux was, after all, part of the purpose in the support given by Israel to the creation of Hamas in the first place. This proscription is all of a piece.
Just over 100 years ago, in 1917, the UK government issued the Balfour Declaration, which, while aligning the UK with the objective of a safe homeland for Jews, recognised the rights of people already in Palestine.
We have delivered on the first half of that declaration, yet the second half is undelivered and largely forgotten: “It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
It is evident that those existing non-Jewish communities have been prejudiced. Palestinian citizens of Israel face discrimination and racist abuse. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip live in what has frequently been described as the world’s “largest open-air prison”. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank face life under a modern apartheid – tried for civil crimes in Israeli military courts, where the rights of defendants are minimal, with a 99.74 per cent conviction rate.
The injustices that continue to exist as a result of broken British promises place a special onus on us to help solve this crisis. However, in order to assist, we must be able to talk to all stakeholders – and that includes the political wing of Hamas. If we are to dissuade them from the further use of force, we must engage them in dialogue and provide them with other recourses through which to resist the egregious breaches of international law that they face.
The proscription of Hamas will only hurt more innocents. It will limit the ability and willingness of British nationals and NGOs to conduct humanitarian work in the Gaza Strip. It will constrain our ability to engage with Hamas’s political leaders to help find a route away from violence driven by despair. It will make the case to turn to self-defeating violence stronger among those vulnerable to the siren voices calling them there, as the injustice grows and gross western liberal double standards get worse, not better.
We must uphold the law and make it the vehicle by which we address this terrible imbalance of justice. The legal rights of Palestinians are just as important as the legal rights of Israelis or Britons.
Earlier this year, I helped found the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians, in an effort to better coordinate legal work in jurisdictions around the world to promote and protect Palestinian rights through the law. We can demonstrate to Palestinians that there are other ways to resist, that do not involve killing and maiming the innocent, but grow the legal and moral strength of the Palestinian position.
If the UK doesn’t wake up to the threat our double standards pose to the rules-based system we fought so hard to create, we will rue the day we abandoned our principles. What will global Britain be for then?
Israel is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture and yet it continues to torture Palestinians with impunity.
On June 15, 2016, Israeli forces arrested Mohammed El-Halabi, the director of the Gaza branch of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian aid organisation. Mohammed was accused of funnelling money from World Vision to resistance groups in Gaza. Probes conducted both by World Vision and the Australian government found no evidence of any diversion or misuse of funds.
Mohammed was nevertheless subjected to 52 days of interrogation and torture. His father, Khalil El-Halabi, testified to the torture his son endured during those months in detention: “Israeli intelligence officers placed a filthy bag over his head and hanged him from the ceiling for prolonged periods.”
Mohammed was also subjected to sleep deprivation and frequently physically assaulted by the Israeli officers who slapped him, “kicked him, especially in his genitals, and then strangled him until he felt that he was about to die … At times, they placed him in a small room and played extremely loud music until the pain in his ears became unbearable. In the summer, they would strip him naked, and then blast him with flashes of hot air. They would repeat the same process in the winter, but with cold air, instead.”
More than five years later, Mohammed remains in Israeli detention.
For Palestinian detainees in Israel, these experiences are unfortunately far from rare. On the 37th anniversary of the United Nations drafting of the Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), the international community must demand an end to the continuing systemic torture of Palestinian detainees by Israel.
The UNCAT was implemented on June 26, 1987, and ratified by Israel on October 3, 1991. Israel’s participation might seem surprising in light of the numerous human rights violations it has been accused of during the last few decades, including the use of torture, by well-respected human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Until 1999, torture was considered a legal means of extracting confessions in Israel, especially for Palestinian “security” detainees. However, once it was made illegal by Israel’s Supreme Court, the Israeli attorney general promised to protect any interrogator who continues to use “special means”. And indeed, special means continued to be employed as Israel made broad exceptions to this law, most notably in what they call “ticking bomb” scenarios. According to Amnesty International, “Shin Bet operatives have tortured hundreds of Palestinians, citing the ‘ticking bomb’ scenario.”
Not only do these exceptions allow these egregious, yet routine practices to continue without consequence, but they directly violate Article 2 of the Convention. Article 2, section 2, states, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Israel has been criticised by the UN Committee Against Torture for its failure to meet this fixed standard.
In addition, the failure of Israeli courts to fully define what they consider torture does not exonerate Israel from its obligation towards the UNCAT’s definition of torture. According to the Convention, the term “torture” is defined as:
“[A]ny act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
Common forms of physical and mental torture that are often practised by Israeli interrogators and officers, typically on Palestinians during interrogation and while in detention, include painful handcuffing, being held in painful stress positions, and sleep deprivation. There have also been reports and accounts of threats of rape, and actual rape or sexual assault of, mostly, Palestinian women by Israeli prison personnel. Former detainees have also reported being forced to watch the torture of fellow prisoners to frighten them into compliance with the interrogations, or even being threatened with the detention and torture of their family members, which has been carried out on occasion.
The physical and mental abuse and torture of Palestinian children are also disturbingly common. The advocacy organisation Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) collected the sworn affidavits from 752 child detainees between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2019. These testimonies revealed that 95 percent of the children had their hands and feet bound, 72 percent were subjected to physical violence, 21 percent were subjected to stress positions, and 18 percent were detained in solitary confinement for two or more days.
On October 22, DCIP and five other rights groups were designated as “terrorist” organisations by the Israeli Ministry of Defence in a cruel effort to criminalise their advocacy for Palestinian child and adult detainees.
Many of these abuses are justified by Israel’s differentiation between “security” prisoners and criminal prisoners, as well as its broad limits for what is considered a security offence. This permits Israel to practise torture under the guise of neutralising threats to state security. Notably, “security” offences in Israel include the act of stone-throwing, the most common conviction among children.
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, “Israeli authorities have incarcerated hundreds of thousands of Palestinians for what it deems ‘security offenses’ since 1967, including hundreds at virtually any given time held in administrative detention based on secret evidence without charge or trial for renewable periods that can extend for multiple years.”
The classification of “security” prisoner or detainee is particularly significant as it denies that person certain rights typically afforded to other prisoners in Israel. For example, according to the US Department of State’s 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights, this classification exempts Israeli interrogators from filming and audio recording interrogations with security detainees, allowing abusive interrogators to evade accountability.
Though the prospect of accountability may seem bleak, there have been recent legislative efforts in the US to produce mechanisms to properly hold Israel accountable, most notably the introduction of Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s bill, HR 2590: Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. HR 2590 raises the issue of Israeli detention by means of military courts, and aims to condition aid on the addressing of human rights violations that regularly occur under this unjust system.
As the international community commemorates the adoption of the UN Convention Against Torture, it must also remember the many Palestinians like Mohammed El-Halabi who have been tortured by a country that time and again elides true accountability at the UN.