The Use and Abuse of Administrative Detention by Israel

By Professor Kamel Hawwash

The Palestinian people rightly saluted Hisham Abu Hawash as a brave man who was prepared to die in pursuit of his freedom. On 4 January, the occupation state of Israel agreed to his release following his almost five-month-long hunger strike. Images of Hisham’s frail, almost skeletal body were widely shared on social media, together with a video of Hisham’s children visiting and hugging their dying father, raising anger amongst human rights defenders.

Those who have experienced fasting, particularly for religious reasons, will readily acknowledge how challenging experiencing hunger is. At the end of just a day of fasting, they are ready to tuck into a feast. Imagine going without food for almost five months as Hisham did. Imagine also what would drive someone to do this.

I doubt that any of his captors would be brave enough to do what he did for freedom.

Hisham was held in administrative detention, which Israel uses and abuses at will with no accountability. A practice it uses to hold Palestinians for extendable periods without charge, on suspicion that they pose a security threat. Once it has designated the evidence as ‘secret’, it can apply repeatedly for renewal of detention, which the Israeli courts almost always uphold.

Abu Hawash is not the first and he certainly will not be the last Palestinian whose rights Israel abuses in this way with impunity. The Palestinians have Britain to ‘thank’ for this law, which Israel introduced in 1979, based on the British Mandate 1945 (Defence Emergency) Regulations.

In October, five Palestinians were on hunger strike demanding their freedom, moving UN experts to point out that calls on Israel to comply with its obligation have come to no avail. “In international law, administrative detention is permitted only in exceptional circumstances, and only for short periods of time. Israel’s practices exceed all of the international legal boundaries.”

All but one of the detainees succeeded in forcing Israel to release them within days of each other, except Abu Hawash who doctors warned last week was near death.

The international community which usually rushes to claim Israel has a right to defend itself against Palestinian resistance were tongue-tied and said nothing in opposition to the practice which UN experts called an “unlawful practice”.

While Abu Hawash will be released on 26 February, there are currently over 500 Palestinians, including six children being held under administrative detention.

The remaining detainees recently announced that they will boycott the Israeli courts’ system in protest at their detention.

It is left to individual detainees to fight for their freedom from administrative detention. Israel can and in 2022 will detain more Palestinians without charge or conviction. While some foreign missions in Palestine raised their ‘concern’ in Hisham’s case, none committed to taking a stand that would place enough pressure on Israel that would force it to end this practice.

The British Consulate in Jerusalem tweeted: “Gravely concerned about the deteriorating health condition of Palestinian #HishamAbuHawash who has been on hunger strike for 141 days to protest his administrative detention in an Israeli prison since October 2020. ½”, while the European Union Delegation to the Palestinians tweeted: “1/2 Seriously concerned about the critical health condition of Palestinian Hisham Abu Hawash, who has been on an extended hunger strike for 140 days to protest his administrative detention in an Israeli prison since October 2020.”

Gravely concerned about the deteriorating health condition of Palestinian #HishamAbuHawash who has been on hunger strike for 141 days to protest his administrative detention in an Israeli prison since October 2020.

Neither embassy in Tel Aviv tweeted or made any comments about the practice. Why this division of responsibility? The missions express concern in Ramallah but blindly support Israel in Tel Aviv? As for the US, well the US Embassy Twitter account was silent on the matter and in the absence of a US Consulate in East Jerusalem, it is difficult to judge whether the consulate which Biden promised but has thus far failed to reopen, would have said in the matter.

The reaction in Palestine to Hisham’s release was joyous but Palestinians questioned whether Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had raised the issue of Abu Hawash when he met Israeli Defence Minister Gantz at his home near Tel Aviv. However, a video circulating on social media, appeared to show Abbas being thanked by a member of Hisham’s family thanking the president for his efforts in releasing him. What is clear though is that Hisham gained his freedom through his own sacrifice and the support of people around the world rather than Abbas’ intervention.

In Israel, the reaction of a society that keeps moving to the right as it continually elects extremist leaders was of anger at the agreement to release Abu Hawash. However, their anger should have been directed at their government and the legal system which allows detention without charge. They would not accept this practice for their own family or friends.

The anger was exemplified by the extremist, far right Kahanist MK Itamar Ben Gvir who on hearing the news of the ‘deal’ attempted to break into the Abu Hawash’s room at the hospital but was prevented by Hisham’s family and supporters. Another far right Israeli attacked a Palestinian cameraman outside the hospital simply for reporting on the gathering.

Britain’s legacy since the Balfour Declaration and the Palestinian Nakba that coincided with the end of the British Mandate, continues to haunt Palestinians, with the practice of administrative detention which Israel adopted to suit its oppressive policies towards the Palestinians.

Successive administrative detainees have used hunger strikes as a last weapon to peacefully seek their freedom. In addition to labelling Palestinians ‘terrorists’ and their use of peaceful means of resistance as different variations of this, including ‘economic terror’, ‘political terror’, an Israeli leader is likely to couch a new phrase to label hunger strikes as a form of terror. Perhaps this could be ‘starvation terror’ or ‘hunger terror’. The alternative will be to label it as some form of ‘new anti-Semitism’, perhaps that the administrative detainees would not do this if they were detained by another country, ‘singling Israel out’ because it is what they claim to be ‘the world’s only Jewish state’. Mad as it sounds it would not surprise me in the least if Israeli leaders attempted to smear these brave detainees for fighting peacefully for their freedom.

The easier route for the oppressive state would be to end this practice. Detainees should either be charged or released if the state cannot bring charges.

While its at it, it could recognise the rights of Palestinians to freedom, justice and equality in their homeland, end its settler colonialist Apartheid policies and make peace with the Palestinians whose land it continues to exist on through the denial of their rights, including the right for the refugees to return, oppression and most importantly, through the barrel of the gun.

(Source / 08.01.2022)

In Gaza, young victims of Israeli bombing recount a brutal 2021

Al Jazeera talks to young Palestinians injured during Israel’s May offensive and now left with permanent disabilities

By Maram Humaid

In May 2021, the occupied Gaza Strip experienced renewed bloodshed and destruction as Israel launched a devastating 11-day-military-offensive on the besieged enclave.

It was the fourth major offensive launched by Israel on the Palestinian territory in 14 years, compounding the already dire living conditions and the high rates of poverty and unemployment in Gaza which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007.

The assault in May killed at least 260 people, including 39 women and 67 children, and wounded more than 1,900, according to the health ministry in Gaza. The bombardment also destroyed 1,800 residential units and partially demolished at least 14,300 other units.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians were forced to take shelter in United Nations-run schools.

About seven months later, the reconstruction process has slowly begun, albeit with Israel continuing to prevent the entry into Gaza of many materials it says could also be used for military purposes.

Talks mediated by Egypt have failed to reach a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group which rules Gaza, and tensions remain high.

Many people in Gaza have been left to cope with the aftermath of the 11-day assault, including many young people who were left seriously wounded.

Al Jazeera talked to three young people, who were injured and left with permanent disabilities during the offensive, to discuss what they endured and what they hope for in the new year.

‘Mum, I wish I could see your face’

Mohammed Shaban’s only wish for the new year is to be able to see again. The seven-year-old lost his eyesight on the first day of the Israeli offensive in May.

That day, Mohammed went out with his mother, Somayya, 35, to buy clothes for him and his siblings.

“He was very happy and could not wait to go home to show his new shoes to his sisters,” Somayya told Al Jazeera.

“Suddenly, a huge explosion hit the area. I didn’t remember what happened. Dust, chaos, people screaming, blood …”

Somayya stopped talking for a moment, then continued. “I remembered Mohammed, I started screaming: ‘Where is my son? Where is my son?’”

Mohammed’s eyes were severely wounded when an Israeli air attack hit two people on a motorcycle in Jabalia in the north of the Gaza Strip. He was rushed to hospital.

“His face was covered in blood and his eyes were bleeding terribly. I lost consciousness when I saw him,” Somayya said.

After several attempts, the doctors decided Mohammed’s eyesight could not be saved and they had to remove his eyes.

“I can’t stop crying whenever I see him. He keeps asking his siblings, ‘Why can I only see black darkness? Why can’t I go to my school?’” she said.

“Last night, he told me: ‘Mum, I wish I could see your face.’”

Mohammed was recently admitted to a school for visually challenged children, but his mother has no hope for the new year.

“After what we have seen during this year, I cannot expect any better. Our days are the same. I believe Gaza’s destiny is to face more torture and suffering,” she said.

She said her only wish for 2022 would be for Mohammed to see again. “I wish I could give him my eyes.”

report by Defense for Children International (DCIP) said 2021, which saw the killing of 86 Palestinian children in the occupied territory, was the deadliest year on record since 2014.

“During the 11-day military assault, Israeli forces killed Palestinian children using tank-fired shells, live ammunition, and missiles dropped from weaponised drones and US-sourced warplanes and Apache helicopters,” said the report on the May assault, dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls.

‘I want to be a doctor when I grow up’

Farah Isleem, 12, feels more optimistic in the new year, despite losing her leg in May 2021.

“It was around six o’clock at morning. I was sleeping. Suddenly I woke up to an explosion. I was not able to move. Everyone was screaming around me,” she told Al Jazeera.

An Israeli raid had hit Farah’s home on the fifth floor in a building in the al-Sabra neighbourhood in central Gaza City.

Hazem Isleem, Farah’s father, is a security worker in Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital. That night, Hazem was at work, dealing with patients and people being evacuated from bombed areas.

His seven children were rushed to the hospital after the bombing. Six suffered minor wounds, but Farah was badly hurt.

“When I first saw her, I realised her leg would have to be amputated,” he said. “It was shattered and bleeding severely.”

Farah was given a medical referral to Jordan, where she travelled with her mother three days after she was injured.

After trying to save her leg for 15 days, the doctors decided it would have to be amputated. A prosthetic limb was fitted to her leg later.

“Imagine your beautiful and intelligent child having her leg amputated at this young age. It is a very hard feeling,” Hazem said.

Upon Farah’s return from Jordan after a month, her family and school organised a reception party to welcome her back.

“My big focus now is my studies at school,” Farah told Al Jazeera. “I face some obstacles going up and down the stairs, but my family always helps me.”

Farah told Al Jazeera before her injury, she was afraid of the sight of blood and of injuries. But now she wants to be a doctor, and her New Year’s wish is to learn English fluently as it would help her achieve her dream.

“I was in so much pain during the treatment process. But thanks to God everything is ok now,” she said with a smile.

According to UNICEF, before the escalation in violence, one in three children in Gaza already required support for conflict-related trauma. The UN body stressed the need for mental health and psychosocial support for children facing dire living circumstances.

The organisation also said tens of thousands of children in Gaza will require humanitarian assistance to access safe drinking water and basic sanitation over electricity shortages affecting water production in the besieged territory.

‘I wish I could walk again’

Eighteen-year-old Mahmoud Naim lies on his back in bed, unable to move.

He is paralysed and unable to feel the lower part of his body since the shrapnel from an Israeli shell hit him in the back and pierced parts of his stomach on May 18.

“I went out to the street to buy bread for my siblings. I saw a friend and stood there talking to him. Suddenly there was an explosion. I don’t remember anything after that,” Mahmoud told Al Jazeera.

“My life has been turned upside down,” he said.

Mahmoud stayed in the intensive care unit for several days before he was referred to Egypt for further treatment. He underwent seven surgeries and still needs intensive physiotherapy sessions and medication.

Shrapnels are still stuck in Mahmoud’s back. They should be removed as soon as possible so that his condition improves.

“Currently I can’t move at all on my own. My mother helps me, but my brothers are [too] young,” he said.

“Sometimes I stay on the bed waiting for my cousins to come if I want to move.”

Before his injury, Mahmoud worked in a shop to support his family. His father has been sick for a long time and his condition deteriorated after his son’s injury.

Mahmoud told Al Jazeera he heard of reports claiming the shell that hit him was not Israeli, but a Palestinian shell that hit him by mistake.

“It was a continuous state of war in which everyone was under bombardment and terror, and the victims were all innocent people,” he said.

“Despite what happened to me, I am optimistic about the beginning of 2022 as every year is a new start.

“Enough of the war and enough of what is happening to us in the Gaza Strip. I hope calm prevails, our living conditions improve and I wish I could walk again.”

(Source / 06.01.2022)

What’s behind the deal to release hunger striker Hisham Abu Hawash?

After 141 days on hunger strike in an Israeli prison, Palestinian prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash has agreed a deal with the occupation authorities that his administrative detention will end on 26 February. The Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission announced the deal between Abu Hawash and the Israeli occupation authorities, but did say what led to the agreement or who played a role in it.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said that the hunger strike and deal highlighted the issue of the prisoners held by Israel. “The struggle by Abu Hawash has brought the issue of the prisoners, specifically the issue of administrative detention, back to the forefront, despite all the challenges,” said the society.

Father of five Abu Hawash, 40, is from Dura, south of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. He was detained on 27 October, 2020, and was immediately put under administrative detention for six months. Facing neither charges nor a trial his detention order was renewed several times, prompting him to go on an open-ended hunger strike in protest.

The most important fact in his case is that the Israeli authorities agreed on his release against their wishes. Neither the politicians nor the military wanted him to be released. They waited for him to end his protest, but when his health condition deteriorated critically and he was on the verge of dying, they accepted that he preferred death over administrative detention. So why didn’t Israel just let him die?

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the Israeli authorities came under massive pressure from the Palestinian Authority to release Abu Hawash. PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of the General Intelligence Service, Majed Faraj, are said to have made intensive representations to the Israelis for his release.

However, Israeli journalists dispute this. Although the PA should have played a major role in getting Abu Hawash released from prison, I doubt that it did. The evidence for this is the PA’s own detention of Ziad Al-Kilani, a Palestinian from Jenin who was released recently by Israel. With their own prisons full of Palestinian political prisoners, many of them ex-prisoners of the Israelis, why should Abbas and Faraj seek to have Abu Hawash released?

Commenting on the reports about Abbas’s involvement in the deal to release Abu Hawash, former West Bank hunger striker Sheikh Khader Adnan said, “If the PA’s political pressure is effective, it should seek the release of Marwan Al-Barghouti or hunger striker Naser Abu Hamaid, who is on the verge of death.” Adnan added that if the PA is able to do anything at all, it should at least push Israel to end the isolation of the Palestinian prisoners in Al-Ramla Prison.

Immediately following the announcement of the deal between Abu Hawash and the Israeli occupation authorities, the Times of Israel reported that his marathon hunger strike attracted intense interest from Palestinians as well as international pressure on Israel. UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric welcomed the deal, and said, “We have always made it clear that detainees must be tried according to legal procedures or released.”

Israel did not want to release Abu Hawash precisely because it will now come under more pressure to release prisoners held without trial under the archaic administrative detention system. Moreover, the government will be condemned by extreme right-wing Israelis for buckling under pressure from “terrorists”. On hearing about the deal, one extremist member of the Israeli parliament, Itamar Ben-Gvir, stormed into the hospital where Abu Hawash is being held and tried to attack him.

The Palestinian resistance did not claim to have put any pressure on Israel to release the hunger striker, but hailed his patience and resilience. However, Israeli media have revealed that pressure from the Palestinian resistance in Gaza pushed Israel to promise to bring his administrative detention to an end.

Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported that threats from Gaza prompted the Public Prosecution Service to agree on Abu Hawash’s release on 26 February. According to Israeli journalist Gal Berger from Kan, “The release of Abu Hawash reiterated the connection between Gaza and the West Bank.”

Baruch Yedid of Channel 14 told me that it is not in doubt that the threats from Gaza played a role in the release of the hunger striker. “Currently, Israel does not want a confrontation. It does not want a confrontation with Hamas.” He confirmed that many right wing Israeli media are using this incident to attack the government.

Well-respected columnist Gideon Levy of Haaretz told me that Israeli did not want Abu Hawash to die. “They know that this would cause more unrest in the West Bank and rockets from Gaza,” he explained.

The Israeli government, said Meron Rapoport from +972 magazine, reiterated to me that Israel did not want a dead prisoner. “It seems that the release of Abu Hawash was related directly to Gaza, but Israel always gives up at the last moment.”

The PA may be trying to claim the credit for the end of Abu Hawash’s hunger strike and his release next month, but it shows itself up by doing so. If Abbas and Faraj think that political prisoners should be released, then they should empty the PA’s own prisons of every member of every resistance faction. The fact that they won’t tells us all we need to know about their real intentions.

(Source / 06.01.2022)

Why Israel wants a state of permanent war

By Joseph Massad

Over the last few decades, Israel has been threatening war against Iran incessantly. Theatrical performances have been staged at the United Nations, such as in 2012, when former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a cartoonish diagram of a bomb symbolising Iran’s alleged nuclear threat; or when, in 2018, he brandished an amateurishly labelled Google map of an alleged Iranian nuclear site.

Such Israeli propaganda has been accompanied by much huffing and puffing by the country’s military and civilian leaderships, which have been interchangeable at least since General Yigal Allon became acting prime minister in 1969 (although earlier Israeli prime ministers, including David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol, also played major military roles).
Yet it is Israel, not Iran, that has been in possession of nuclear bombs since the 1960s – and it is Israel that allegedly had plans to use them during the June 1967 war, and again when it was losing in the early days of the October 1973 war.

Israel had acquired the ability to make nuclear weapons from none other than France, which conspired with Israel in the latter’s 1956 invasion of Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai, in return for which the Israelis demanded that France build them a nuclear reactor at Dimona.

In 1973, Israel reportedly loaded 13 nuclear bombs and was ready for them to be dropped on Egypt and Syria, had the US not come through with an air bridge of weapons that turned the war in Israel’s favour.

The irony of Israel, which is a nuclear menace and major aggressor in the Middle East region, portraying itself as a victim of its neighbours cannot be overstated. One of the most remarkable features of the establishment of this settler-colony in 1948 was its insistence on establishing a state of permanent war in order to expand its territory for further zionist colonisation and to safeguard its colonists from anti-colonial resistance.

Ongoing persecution
Many western countries that supported the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which gave Israel its birth certificate, claimed that in supporting Israel’s creation, they aimed to avert war and the persecution of Jewish colonists if Palestine’s Arab majority achieved independence in one state.

But in supporting the creation of a settler-colonial state, they inflicted on the Middle East as a whole a state of permanent war and ongoing persecution of Palestinians and other Arabs whose territories Israel conquered.

To legitimise the state of permanent war, Israel sought early on to portray its citizens as actual or potential victims of wars and persecution inflicted by Palestinian resistance and Arab states, which in turn necessitated Israel’s use of permanent war and persecution as “retaliation”.

Israeli propagandists insist that Israel is merely ‘defending’ itself against the aggression of those it oppresses, colonises and invades

This was clear to Israel’s western supporters as early as 1948. The Israeli expulsion of the Palestinian population, along with Israel’s territorial encroachment upon their UN-designated territories, became the casus belli for weak and ill-equipped neighbouring Arab armies to intervene in May of that year to put a stop to the ongoing ethnic cleansing and colonisation. The weakness of the Arab armies, however, was well-known to the Americans and the Zionists.

Former US Secretary of State George Marshall’s assessment was as follows: “whole govt structure [of] Iraq is endangered by political and economic disorders and Iraq Govt can not at this moment afford to send more than [the] handful of troops it has already dispatched. Egypt has suffered recently from strikes and disorders. Its army has insufficient equipment because of its refusal of Brit[ish] aid, and what it has is needed for police duty at home.

“Syria has neither arms nor army worthy of name and has not been able to organize one since [the] French left three years ago. Lebanon has no real army while Saudi Arabia has [a] small army which is barely sufficient to keep tribes in order. Jealousies between Saudi Arabs and Syrians on one hand and Hashemite govts of Transjordan and Iraq, prevent Arabs from making even best use of existing forces.”

‘Threat to international peace’
A member of the US delegation to the UN observed on 4 May 1948 – just days before Arab armies intervened – that the Security Council would soon be confronted with the question as to “whether Jewish armed attack on Arab communities in Palestine is legitimate or whether it constitutes such a threat to international peace and security as to call for coercive measures by the Security Council”. The draft memorandum noted that if Arab armies entered Palestine this would lead Jewish forces to claim “that their state is the object of armed aggression and… use every means to obscure the fact that it is their own armed aggression against the Arabs inside Palestine which is the cause of [the] Arab counter-attack”.

When Israel conspired with France to invade Egypt in October 1956, it was part of the cycle of permanent war it sought. The Israelis occupied Gaza and the Sinai and refused to withdraw for four months, despite UN and US condemnation. Israel finally had no choice but to withdraw and try again a decade later.
In 1967, Israel would claim that it had to invade three Arab countries pre-emptively before they attacked it, deploying the very same arguments as in 1948. It occupied more lands and persecuted more Palestinians, Syrians, and Egyptians. This would be followed by its unceasing war against Lebanon, which began in the form of periodic raids in the late 1960s to outright invasions in 1978 and 1982, and more occupation and persecution of the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples.

In 1973, Israel shot down a Libyan civilian airliner over the Sinai, killing all 106 people on board. Israel’s 1981 attack on a nuclear reactor in Iraq, which was still under construction by France, was also justified with Israel’s claim that “we were therefore forced to defend ourselves”.

Over the decades, in addition to killing tens of thousands of Arab civilians and creating millions of Palestinian refugees, Israel displaced a million Egyptians during the War of Attrition in the late 1960s, and hundreds of thousands of Lebanese people through its invasions of Lebanon since 1978.
Killing machine
Under the pretext of defence, in the last few years, Israel has periodically bombed Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza. Meanwhile, its killing machine and military persecution, along with its colonial settlers, continue to target Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as Syrians in the Golan Heights.

Israel’s racist police and legal apparatus unceasingly target Palestinian citizens of Israel. Yet, Israeli propagandists insist that Israel is merely “defending” itself against the aggression of those it oppresses, colonises, and invades.
Israel’s ongoing attack on the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, triggered by its theft of Palestinian homes; its continued racist persecution of Palestinian citizens of Israel; and its jailing of two million Palestinians in Gaza triggered massive Palestinian resistance this past May.

This year, the Palestinians’ ability to bring the state of permanent war home to Israel was unprecedented, transforming the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation and the regional military equation in major ways.

Since its founding, Israel has invaded Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria; bombed Iraq, Sudan, and Tunisia; taken an aggressive posture towards Iran, Libya, Yemen, Morocco, and Algeria; and is the only country in the region that possesses and threatens to use nuclear weapons. Yet, Israel continues to claim unabashedly that it is the victim.

It is clear that Israel’s pretexts and justifications for its continued aggression and imposition of a state of permanent war on the region still rely on the very same arguments, and aim to achieve the very same goals, that it set for itself at the moment of its birth.

(Source / 04.01.2022)

Analysis: Israeli Settler Violence Pushes Palestinians to the Point of No Return

Palestinians react as Israeli settlers attack Palestinian homes in the village of Kasra, in Nablus, West Bank on September 26, 2020

By Dr Adnan Abu Amer

The attacks carried out by the Israeli settlers against the Palestinians in the West Bank alongside violations of the occupation soldiers have continued to the extent that they have prompted Israeli alerts and fear that these attacks will ignite the security situation in the Palestinian areas.

The Israeli security alerts mention the existence of preliminary information from the settlers that they may carry out sabotage operations against Palestinians and their establishments, homes and farms, including burning of cars and buildings, beating with batons, and throwing stones. These and other factors could ignite the area as they may provoke Palestinians’ attempts to take revenge for any aggressive attacks that the settlers may carry out.

In light of the series of Palestinian attacks that took place in recent weeks, the Israeli military establishment fears that the violence of settlers and right-wing activists against the Palestinians may worsen the security situation in the Palestinian territories even further, especially in view of the escalation of field tensions between the Palestinians on the one hand and the settlers backed by the Israeli army on the other.

In addition to the recent Palestinian operations, the Israeli army and the Israel Security Agency Shabak have monitored the flare-up of field protests in various areas of the West Bank. During these protests, stones and explosives were thrown at army forces and settlers’ vehicles. They have, on their part, responded with gun fire in addition to launching several arrest campaigns against Palestinian youths, whether they were suspected of carrying out offensive operations or participating in throwing stones and planting explosive devices. Additionally, there are other forms of popular resistance taking place in various cities across the West Bank.

Israeli warnings of bloody attacks that may be carried out by settlers against Palestinians coincide with the release of Israeli statements accusing the settlers of enflaming the security situation. A notable example of these has been the recent by statement Omer Bar Lev, Minister of Public Security who accused the settlers of carrying out violent acts to ignite the field security situation with the Palestinians, so they are forced to respond to the attacks through stabbings and shootings. There are Israeli fears that these attacks will continue in the coming days.

The occupation army has monitored 15 incidents against Palestinians in recent days, including cases of burning a building, burning a car, throwing stones, raiding a house, hitting with batons, using pepper gas and the like. During one of these violent attacks, a Palestinian truck driver was hit in the head with a stone thrown at him by a group of Jewish settlers in Chumash.

For quite some time there was no such settlement violence against Palestinians. However, when the atmosphere is “saturated with a large amount of fuel,” which is the expression used by the occupation security services to refer to the tense security situation, then these aggressive actions of settlers against Palestinians can lead to devastating consequences. The army and the public security are aware that if “extra fuel leaks on to the fire,” it will be very difficult to stop the ongoing escalation of settlers against the Palestinians.

The ongoing settlement attacks against the Palestinians can be traced back to 1891 when the Jewish settlement project began. In the ensuing years the settlers showed extreme hostility ad cruelty toward the Arabs. They attacked them without justification and beat them in a humiliating manner for no reason. They were proud to do so and there was no one to stop the tide of this dangerous trend.

Coinciding with the continued violence of settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank and complicity of the occupation forces with them, some Israeli voices, although few, have called for curbing the military policy adopted by the occupation army and stopping the “soft hand on trigger” policy because it is enough to increase the number of Palestinian victims.

These Israeli voices do not necessarily express their keenness to save the blood of the Palestinians, but they fear of what they call “the genie coming out of his bottle,” and then the transition of the security situation in the West Bank to a point of unprecedented escalation, which may burn everything with it. Therefore, these voices are calling for changing the way in which occupation soldiers work in the occupied territories, especially the West Bank.

Having engrained in its soldiers the “soft hand on the trigger” policy, the Israeli occupation now seem unable to change the mindset of its soldiers. Perhaps the General Staff is responsible for that, although it pretends to hold its breath when any new Palestinian death occurs. The result is that “the genie has come out of the bottle” and the only way to return it is to fundamentally change the Israeli political conduct in the occupied Palestinian territories, which they have turned into a ticking time bomb that could explode at any moment.

On the other hand, there are genuine Israeli fears that occupation will eventually destroy the very fabric of Israeli society by turning its soldiers into a group of killers shooting at every moving object without endangering their lives.

These Israeli voices believe that their army have no strategy or tactics to engage in battle. They are, at best, proficient in offending the Palestinians and disrupting their daily lives. They claim that the Palestinians threaten their lives so they continue to beat them while they are handcuffed in military vehicles. When they reach their bases, they continue to beat them and tie their guns to the bodies of their detainees. All this occurs while their detainees are still handcuffed, blindfolded and subject to insults.

In the circumstances, all the disclosures about initiating security and criminal investigations by the Israeli Military Police must be seen as attempts to pull the wool over the public’s eyes; even after the formation of security and military criminal investigation committees. Although these investigations may result in the arrest of some soldiers and the extension of their detention, they are, nevertheless, ample measures that will not deter others from committing similar abuses.

The rule that the Israelis refuse to recognise is that for every action there is a reaction. Hence any violations committed by the occupation army against the Palestinians are met with retaliatory offensive operations against these soldiers. Notwithstanding, the occupation army continues its crimes against the Palestinians despite the bloody prices paid by its soldiers and settlers. Clearly the ongoing wave of settler violence is pushing the territories toward an explosion from which there is no return.

(Source / 03.01.2022)

Analysis: ‘Previously Unknown Massacres’: Why is Israel Allowed to Own Palestinian History?

By Ramzy Baroud 

Haaretz’s investigative report – ‘Classified Docs Reveal Massacres of Palestinians in ’48 – and What Israeli Leaders Knew’ – is a must-read. It should be particularly read by any person who considers himself a ‘Zionist’ and also by people who, for whatever reason, support Israel, anywhere in the world.

“In the village of Al-Dawayima (…), troops of the 8th Brigade massacred about 100 people,” Haaretz reported, though the number of the Palestinian victims later grew to 120. One of the soldiers who witnessed that horrific event testified before a government committee in November 1948: “There was no battle and no resistance. The first conquerors killed 80 to 100 Arab men, women and children. The children were killed by smashing their skulls with sticks. There wasn’t a house without people killed in it.”

The Haaretz report of nearly 5,000 words was filled with such painful details, stories of Palestinian elders who could not flee the Zionist invasion and ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine (1947-48), who were lined up against various walls and massacred; of an older woman being shot point-blank with four bullets; of other elders who were crammed inside a home and shelled by a tank and hand grenades; of many Palestinian women raped, and other devastating stories.

Quite often, historians refer to the way that Palestine was ethnically cleansed from its native inhabitants by making this typical assertion regarding Palestinian refugees: “.. those who fled or were expelled from their homes”. The reference to the word “fled” has been exploited by supporters of Israel, by making the claim that Palestinians left Palestine on their own accord.

It was also Haaretz that, in May 2013, reported on how Israel’s founding father and first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, had fabricated that very history to protect Israel’s image. Document number GL-18/17028, which was found in the Israeli military archive, demonstrated how the story of the fleeing Palestinians – supposedly at the behest of Arab governments – was invented by the Israelis themselves.

Sadly, as Haaretz’s latest revelations prove, Palestinians who chose to stay, due to their disability, age or illness were not spared, and were massacred in the most horrifying way imaginable.

But something else struck me about the report: the constant emphasis by delusional Israeli leaders, then, that those who carried out the numerous grisly murders were but a few and that they hardly represent the conduct of an entire army. Note that the ‘army’ in reference here are Zionist militias, some of whom operated under the title of ‘gang’.

Moreover, much emphasis was attached to the concept of ‘morality’, for example, “Israel’s moral foundations” which, according to those early ‘ethical Zionists’, were jeopardized by the misconduct of a few soldiers.

“In my opinion, all our moral foundations have been undermined and we need to look for ways to curb these instincts,” Haim-Mosh Shapira, then-Minister of Immigration and Health, was reported by Haaretz as saying during a meeting of the government committee.

Shapira, who represented the voice of reason and ethics in Israel at the time, was not contending with Israel’s right to be established on the ruins of colonized – and eventually destroyed – Palestine. He was not questioning the killing of tens of thousands of Palestinians or the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands during the Nakba, either. Instead, he was referencing and protesting the excesses of violence which followed the Nakba, now that the future of Israel and the destruction of Palestine were assured.

This branch of ‘humanistic’ Zionism, that of selective and self-serving morality, continues to exist to this day. As odd as this may seem, the editorial line of Haaretz itself is the perfect manifestation of this supposed Zionist dichotomy.

Needless to say, very few Israelis, if any, have been held accountable for the crimes of the past. 73 years later, Palestinian victims continue to cry out for a justice that continues to be deferred.

One might find this conclusion a bit harsh. Zionist or not, one may protest that, at least, Haaretz has exposed these massacres and the culpability of the Israeli leadership. Such assumptions, however, are highly misleading.

Generation after generation of Palestinians, along with many Palestinian historians – and even some Israelis – have already known of most of these massacres. In its report, for example, Haaretz refers to “previously unknown massacres”, which include Reineh, Meron (Mirun) and Al-Burj. The assumption here is that these massacres were ‘unknown’ – read unacknowledged by the Israelis themselves. Since Haaretz’s editorial line is driven by Israel’s own misconstrued historical narrative, the killings and destruction of these villages simply never happened – until an Israeli researcher acknowledged their existence.

Walid Khalidi, one of Palestine’s most authoritative historians, has been aware, along with many others, of these massacres for decades. In his seminal book, ‘All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948’, Khalidi speaks of Al-Burj, of which the only claim to existence is now “one crumbled house (…) on the hilltop.”

In reference to Meron (Mirun), the Palestinian historian discusses what remains of the village in detail and precision: “While the Arab section of the village was demolished, several rooms and stone walls still stand. One of the walls has a rectangular door-like opening and another has an arched entrance”.

This is not the first time when an Israeli admission of guilt, though always conditional, has been considered the very validation of Palestinian victimization. In other words, every Palestinian claim of Israeli misconduct, though it may be verified or even filmed on camera, remains in question until an Israeli newspaper, politician or historian acknowledges its validity.

Our insistence on the centrality of the Palestinian narrative becomes more urgent than ever, because marginalizing Palestinian history is a form of denial of that history altogether – the denial of the bloody past and the equally violent present. From a Palestinian point of view, the fate of Al-Burj is no different than that of Jenin; Mirun is no different than that of Beit Hanoun and Deir Yassin is no different than that of Rafah – in fact, the whole of Gaza.

Reclaiming history is not an intellectual exercise; it is a necessity, yes, with intellectual and ethical repercussions, but political and legal, as well. Surely, Palestinians do not need to re-write their own history. It is already written. It is time that those who have paid far more attention to the Israeli narrative abandon such illusions and, for once, listen to Palestinian voices, because the truth of the victim is a wholly different story than that of the aggressor.

(Source / 24.12.2021)

Analysis: Will Israeli Wall Around Gaza Stop Palestinian Resistance?

By Motassem A Dalloul

Israel announced, last week, the completion of the highly technological security wall on its side of the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip. This sensor-equipped underground wall, Israel claims, is a counter-measure developed to prevent Palestinian resistance in Gaza from digging tunnels that they use to carry out resistance attacks against Israeli soldiers during wars.

During the 51-day Israeli offensive on Gaza carried out in 2014, when Israel killed more than 2,260 Palestinians and wounded more than 11,000 others, the Palestinian resistance used the tunnels to infiltrate into the military sites of the Israeli occupation soldiers and clashed with them, killing a number of them.

The Israeli occupation raised the issue of the wall in 2016, noting that it consists of an above-ground fence and subterranean barricade, includes a naval barrier, radar systems, hundreds of cameras, sensors, remote-controlled weapons system and command and control rooms.

In a statement issued by his Ministry, Israeli Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, said: “The barrier, which is an innovative and technologically advanced project, deprives Hamas of one of the capabilities [defence tunnels] it tried to develop. [It] places an ‘iron wall’, sensors and concrete between the terror organisation and the residents of Israel’s south.

Will this 3.5 billion shekels/NIS ($1.1 billion US) wall, which is 40-miles (65-kilometer) long, prevent Hamas and the other Palestinian resistance factions from reaching out to the Israeli occupation soldiers during any Israeli offensive?

First and foremost, the Palestinian resistance will not see anything impossible to hit back against Israeli occupation aggression. Israeli writer, Amos Harel, who is described by Israeli daily, Haaretz, as one of Israel’s leading media experts on military and defence issues, said that the Palestinian resistance used the tunnels to carry out attacks against the Israeli occupation after the operation of the Iron Dome system, which is being used to intercept the homemade Palestinian rockets.

About the barrier, he wrote on Haaretz that the new Gaza barrier “proves that it (Israel) prefers walls to war,” pointing out that this barrier is just a huge project that consumed much money that would have been better spent on education, social and healthcare programmes. “Would-be attackers in Gaza will probably seek and find more detours around the $1.1 billion wall,” he said, noting that the Palestinian resistance has already started investing in attack drones.

Gideon Levy, a senior Israeli journalist, told me that he did not think that this barrier would reduce the Israeli attacks on Gaza, nor would it protect the Israeli occupation from the Palestinians. Harel asked if Israel was obliged to go for a ground operation on multiple fronts, would it be able to win?

Meron Zev, an Israeli journalist, told me: “The barrier will not solve any problem. I do not think it will stop Israel from attacking Gaza … I suppose it will not be easy to cross, but I do not think it will stop Palestinians from carrying out attacks against Israel.”

Yoav Zitun and Matan Tzuri reported a senior Israeli military official saying to Yedioth Ahronoth that the barrier cut the Palestinian tunnels from Gaza to Israel, there is nothing that guarantees an absolute solution for Palestinian infiltration into Israel.

Palestinian writer, Mustafa Al-Sawwaf, commented on the issue of the barrier, saying: “It seems that it does not make any obstacle ahead of the Palestinian resistance. I am sure the Palestinian resistance will find any way to leap over it and get behind the enemy lines. It only reflects the weakness of the State which counts itself one of the major world powers.”

He stressed: “As long as the Palestinian resistance has not surrendered, there would be a solution for every Israeli obstacle. The creativity of the Palestinian resistance proved that it is able to deal with every Israeli measure taken to stop it or undermine its tools.” Al-Sawwaf considered this as part of conflict of brains between the Israeli occupation and the Palestinians.

It is worth noting that Zev compared this barrier with the Chinese wall, which is an attractive place for tourists and visitors. Zev and Levy said that this wall just tightened the Israeli occupation siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

In 2002, late Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, decided to build a wall in the occupied West Bank in order to prevent Palestinian resistance attacks. The wall was completed, but the attacks did not stop.

Harel said that this wall proved the weakness of the Israeli army; however, Baruch Yedid, an Israeli journalist, denied this, telling me that every army in the world has attack and defence strategies, pointing that this barrier is part of the Israel army’s defence strategies.

Meanwhile, sources from the Palestinian resistance revealed that there are currently tunnels, similar to those used during the 2014 Israeli offensive on Gaza, through which the Palestinian resistance fighters reached the military bases of the Israeli army.

“We do not speak too much,” a Palestinian resistance source told me. “But when the Israeli occupation carries out any attack against the Palestinians, the whole world will be shocked with our resistance abilities.”

He added: “The creativity of our resistance does not stand paralysed in front of this Israeli barrier or any other Israeli measures aimed at paralysing it. We have our plans and the Israeli army will be under our feet in any future confrontation.”

(Source / 17.12.2021)

Palestine is still torn between Israel’s brutal occupation, a compliant PA and resistance

A Palestinian protestor lifts a national flag across from Israeli settlers and security forces blocking the entrance to the Palestinian al-Lubban al-Sharqiya village, preventing its pupils from going to school, south of Nablus city in the occupied West Bank on 28 November 2021. [JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images]
A Palestinian protestor lifts a national flag across from Israeli settlers and security forces blocking the entrance to the Palestinian al-Lubban al-Sharqiya village, preventing its pupils from going to school, south of Nablus city in the occupied West Bank on 28 November 2021 

By Nasser Nasser

The ongoing situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 sees Israeli brutality continuing alongside a high level of security cooperation from the Palestinian Authority while the people of Palestine uphold their right to resist whenever possible. In the Israeli-occupied West Bank this is mainly on an individual level, while in Gaza it is organised by the legitimate resistance factions, especially Hamas.

Haaretz has revealed that Israel issued 797 orders to demolish Palestinian homes in Area C between 2016 and 2020, an unprecedented number. In the same period, the occupation authorities granted only 24 building permits to Palestinians out of more than 2,500 applications. This is a clear indication of Israel’s insatiable quest for more land to annex in all but name.

Moreover, Israel completed its separation wall along the nominal border with the Gaza Strip last Tuesday. The wall has taken four years to build at a cost of 3.5 billion shekels, and there is no guarantee that it will be able to stop the resistance of the Palestinians in the coastal territory. It is, however, consistent with the settler-occupier mentality of hiding behind concrete walls and exhibiting faux anxiety and fear about the victims of the occupation. What is strange about the latter is that, according to Haaretz analyst Amos Harel, it portrays Israel as not wanting to occupy Gaza, but rather to defend itself from the “Gaza Empire”.

Haaretz also revealed that Palestinian prisoners have confirmed that during their interrogation, police beat and insulted them without any justification other than revenge for the escape of six prisoners from Gilboa Prison in September. One of those who were beaten was Othman Saeed Bilal, who has been held by Israel since 1995 and who was targeted for no other reason than that he is an icon for the other prisoners.

READ: The US keeps turning a blind eye to Israel’s settlement expansion

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Benny Gantz evaded justice thanks to a court in Europe which acquitted him in a case about the 2014 murder of six members of the Ziada family in Gaza, when Gantz was a senior Israeli army officer. Instead, the court fined the person who brought the case, Ismail Ziada, €7,763 to be paid to Gantz and another officer. It is worth noting that human rights group B’Tselem investigated 70 cases where buildings in Gaza were bombed by Israel while their residents were still inside, including 20 in 2014 alone.

Palestinians continue to resist the Israeli occupation war machine. A girl from Sheikh Jarrah, for example, stabbed an Israeli settler in Jerusalem recently. She was described in the racist Israeli media as a “saboteur”, but the journalist did not see fit to mention that settlers — whose presence is illegal under international law — continue to steal the land, lives, hopes and dreams of Palestinian children and adults alike.

Palestinian protesters respond to Israeli intervention during a protest against building of Jewish settlements in Beit, Nablus, West Bank on 19 November 2021. [Nedal Eshtayah - Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian protesters respond to Israeli intervention during a protest against building of Jewish settlements in Beit, Nablus, West Bank on 19 November 2021

Israeli officials, haunted by their crimes and obsessions about their Palestinian victims, viewed the incident as the beginning of a new wave of “terror”, as it was the sixth resistance act with the past four weeks. The previous incident was also carried out by a teenager, 16-year-old Muhammad Yunus.

The PA security services continue to cooperate with the Israeli occupation. A security analyst for Yedioth Ahronoth noted on 9 December the need to strengthen this cooperation, which is extremely useful for the Israelis. It was PA security officers who rescued two illegal settlers in Ramallah last week.

According to this particular expert, security coordination is one of the necessary requirements to combat individual and spontaneous Palestinian resistance, alongside monitoring social media, avoiding operational errors by officers and soldiers, and deterring Palestinian families and others from responding positively to resistance operations so that others will not be inspired to carry out copycat acts. Typically, the expert did not think it appropriate to suggest that the real solution to the problem of Palestinian resistance operations and the suffering of the region is to end the brutal Israeli occupation, end the imposition of Israeli apartheid and leave the Palestinians to decide their own fate in their own country without the burden of Israeli oppression, tyranny and terrorism.

Instead, Yedioth Ahronoth believes that it is necessary to weaken Hamas by all means. This is the mentality which saw Israel making many arrests in advance of the 34th anniversary of the movement on 14 December.

READ: Israeli fears a decline in the ‘Jewish State’ project

In the same context, Maariv newspaper confirmed that the internal security agency, Shin Bet, and the army demanded that the Israeli government should support the PA and prevent its collapse given its “significant” role in combating the “terrorism” of the Palestinian people and protecting the illegal settlers. According to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s political school of thought, the higher national interest requires this.

It is appropriate to note here that another opinion is developing in Israel. Journalist Ravit Hecht stated in Haaretz a few days ago that, “Fatah, the party on which the Palestinian Authority is based, is going to do a total about-face. In order to salvage what remains of its legitimacy on the Palestinian street, it’s going to go for broke, and that story is going to emerge from Jenin. It will storm the Muqata [PA headquarters in Ramallah]. Abu Mazen [Abbas] isn’t relevant. He’s a dead horse. He’s building a house in Jordan, and he’ll probably flee there.”

This what the Palestinian scene looks like: a brutal occupation; a collaborative authority that does not respond to the demands and aspirations of its people to resist the occupation; and Palestinian children stepping up to confront and defend their homes and dignity. It’s an old-new scenario which doesn’t look like it is going to change any time soon.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 12 December 2021

(Source / 16.12.2021)

Israel-Palestine: Proscribing Hamas only guarantees more violence

A Palestinian girl giving a fist pump to a fighter in Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, during celebrations in Gaza following the ceasefire last May

By Crispin Blunt

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”.

Painfully compromised

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.

Oslo Accords

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.

Broken promises

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?

(Source / 11.12.2021)

When will Israel stop torturing Palestinian prisoners?

Ja’far Awaad (22 years old), a Palestinian who died in 2015 due to complications he had when he was in Israeli prison. Awwad’s family said Israeli jailers had injected him with insulin, causing his health to deteriorate

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.

(Source / 11.12.2021)