On 8 June 2017, Amnesty International launched an urgent appeal to the international community to support BDS and fully boycott Israel. Amnesty’s Secretary-General, Salil Shetty, commented: “States that continue to help [illegal Israeli] settlements flourish economically are blatantly undermining their international obligations and the very policies they have pledged to uphold.” Failure to uphold the provisions of international humanitarian law imperils us all. Shetty noted that, “Fifty years on, merely condemning Israel’s settlement expansion is not enough. It’s time for states to take concrete international action to stop the financing of settlements which themselves flagrantly violate international law and constitute war crimes.”
“Israel has made it abundantly clear that maintaining and expanding settlements takes priority over respect for international law”, observed the NGO’s Secretary-General. The West’s gift to Israel of impunity for its war crimes and violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention is destabilising in the extreme; the undermining of respect for such tragically hard-won international law can only bring ever more chaos. Israel’s 1967 aggression saw the belligerent military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights. The 300,000 Palestinians displaced from their homes in 1967 continue to suffer horribly; for them and all the Palestinian people, the war has never ended. The UN Co-ordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities, Robert Piper, says: “. . . this is the most long-standing protection crisis in the UN’s history. It should be obvious, but it bears repeating, that Occupation is ugly. Living under foreign military rule for years on end, generates despair, suffocates initiative and leaves generations in a kind of political and economic limbo. Israel’s occupation is backed by force.”
Try to imagine
Imagine the grim reality of daily life in refugee camps that offer no refuge from constant armed Israeli Army incursions and home invasions. Living with the unavoidable fear and indignity that the endless Orwellian population-control methods impose. Lives controlled by Identity cards (ID) and checkpoints. Think of the denial of access to adequate healthcare, and the daily risk of death or injury due to fanatical settler attacks (at times with Israeli Army complicity). And, of course, there are the constant raids by Israeli Army troops. The PHRC newsletter In Occupied Palestine gives day-to-day accounts of this remorseless oppression. Last month, May 2017, was, compared with most, relatively quiet for Palestinians. Even so, seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and 142 wounded or injured. Israel claims that its violence in Gaza, on land and at sea, is only ever in response to Palestinian missile firings, yet there were 45 Israeli violations of the Gaza Ceasefire in the month of May and not one Palestinian violation. Palestinian agriculture in Gaza and the West Bank suffered a total of 82 acts of sabotage. In Gaza, the sabotage was carried out by the Israeli Army and in the West Bank by both the Army and settlers. There were 26 night peace disruption and/or home invasion raids in UN refugee camps and 232 in Palestinian towns and villages. Forty-three Palestinian minors (aged from 14 to 17) were abducted by the Israeli Army during the month. Israel is bent on total domination over the Palestinian population and no Palestinian home is safe from invasion by Israeli troops. The people are expected to obey the commands of Israeli soldiers at all times.
Examples of Israeli Army and settler terrorism during May 2017:
Occupation settler raid – destruction – water crime – agricultural sabotage: Bethlehem – Zionist militants from the Sede Bo’az Occupation settlement outpost raided agricultural land in the Thaher al-Ziyah area of al-Khadr and destroyed a well.
Israeli Army – robbery – water crime: Jericho – Israeli soldiers robbed an al-Jiftlik villager, Anwar Mahmoud Abu Judah, of the bulldozer he was working with while installing an irrigation pipeline.
Israeli police attack – young woman shot dead: Jerusalem – Israeli police in the Old City shot and killed a Palestinian teenager, Fatima Affif Abdel-Rahman Hajiji (16), a resident of Qarawat Bani Zeid village. The Israeli police alleged that the dead woman had been seen holding a knife.
Ceasefire violation – Israeli Navy attack – 1 injured – economic sabotage: Northern Gaza – Israeli gunboats opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off al-Sudaniya, ramming into and damaging one of them and injuring a Palestinian crew member, Mohammad Khaled Abu Raya. Raya suffered a broken arm in the attack. An al-Jazeera video shows examples of this kind of Israeli Navy terrorism.
Israeli Army attack – 8 wounded – live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas: Ramallah – Israeli soldiers, manning the al-Mahakma checkpoint, opened fire with live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas at protesters, wounding eight residents: Ahmad Mohammad Sharaka (16), Mohammad Saher Al-Taweel, Hadeel Mohammad Shatarah, Mohammad Issam Al-Barghouthi, Salim Mahmood Wathra’, Majdi Jamal Kamil Karakra, Qayes Abdel-Fattah Al-Barghouthi and Fadi Hussein Mahmoud Abdel-Majeed.
Ceasefire violation – Israeli Navy attack – hijackings – abductions – economic sabotage: Northern Gaza – the Israeli Navy pursued, and opened fire on, Palestinian fishing boats off al-Walaja, before hijacking them. Taken prisoner were a child, Hussein Ameen Rushdi Abu Wrada (14), a 17-year-old youth, Mohammad Sa’id Abdel-Raziq Baker, and four adults: Mohammad Tarik Abdel-Raziq Baker, Adallah Sabri Mahmoud Baker, Mohammad Ameen Rushdi Abu Wrada and Yusef Amin Rashid Abu Warda.
Ceasefire violation – Israeli Navy attack – crew member shot dead – economic sabotage: Northern Gaza – the Israeli Navy opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off Beit Lahiya, killing a fisherman from the al-Shata refugee camp: Mohammad Majed Fadil Baker (25).
Raid – agricultural sabotage – 60 olive trees uprooted: Tubas – the Israeli Army raided Khirbeit Ibziq village, uprooted 60 olive trees and destroyed protective fencing.
Murderous settler terrorism – Israeli Army complicity: Nablus – an Israeli settler terrorist, driving through Huwara, shot and killed a young Palestinian man, Mu’taz Hussein Hillal Bani Shamsah (23). The Israeli opened fire as he passed, killing Shamsah and wounding another person, cameraman Majdi Mohammad Soliman Ishtayeh. The Israeli Army immediately came to the aid of the terrorist, opening fire with rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas, and escorted the assassin out of the area.
Israeli Army – child critically injured – stun grenades and tear gas canisters: Bethlehem – Israeli forces in al-Khadr, firing stun grenades and tear gas canisters, critically injured a seven-year-old child: Hassan Ahmad Hassan Issa.
Israeli Army attack – 2 children wounded – live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas: Jerusalem – two children, Mustafa Ammar Anani (13) and Mohammad Abu Latifah (15), were wounded when Israeli forces, manning the Qalandiya checkpoint, opened fire with live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas at protesters demonstrating support for Palestinian hunger-strikers.
Israeli Army attack: Ramallah – Israeli soldiers opened fire on and wounded a 19-year-old woman, Taqwa Bassam Hamad, then later forced her out of the ambulance in which medics were treating her wounds, and took her prisoner.
Israeli Army attack on UNWRA Hospital: Qalqiliya – during the night, the Israeli Army opened fire on the Children’s Department of the UNWRA Hospital, forcing patients and medical staff to evacuate after having fired stun grenades and tear gas while searching local homes and warehouses. One person, Sa’ed Abu Hamad, was injured.
Population control – the Registry
The Oslo Accords gave the power to administer the Population Registry of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority (PA) but stipulated that the PA must notify Israel of every change made to it and seek Israel’s approval for the granting of residency to Palestinian spouses and children through the family reunification procedure. Israeli approval was also required for the issuing of visitor permits, which makes it plain that the so-called Palestinian Population Registry is actually entirely controlled by the Occupying power. Israel oversees all changes, including registration of births, marriages, divorces, deaths or changes of address. Regarding travel permits, Israel alone determines who may be recognised as a Palestinian resident. The Palestinian Authority may grant passports only to Palestinians listed in the Population Registry. Israel thus has total control over where Palestinians may live and when and where they may travel. One of the most cruel abuses of power in the hands of Israeli soldiers is the confiscation of ID cards. An Israeli soldier only has to believe that a Palestinian has looked at him the wrong way and his or her ID may be taken away from them. This leaves the victim liable to be taken prisoner by the next Israeli soldier who demands to see that person’s ID.
Keeping families apart
A 90-page report, Forget about Him, He’s Not Here, describes how Israel has used its military to arbitrarily exclude hundreds of thousands of Palestinians since 1967. The report documents the tragic impact that this control has on individuals and families. This form of population control has separated families, cost people their jobs and lost them educational opportunities. Palestinians have been barred from entering Occupied territory and others have been trapped inside it. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch, commented: “Israel has never put forth any concrete security rationale for blanket policies that have made life a nightmare for Palestinians whom it considers unlawful residents in their own homes.” She said that families had been divided and people trapped on different sides of the Gaza and West Bank borders.
In September 1967, an Israeli census of the West Bank and Gaza counted 954,898 Palestinians physically present. The census excluded at least 270,000 Palestinians who were absent during the census, either because they had fled the war or had been abroad for study, work, etc. Denying their right of return, Israel prevented many of these Palestinians, including all men aged 16 to 60, from coming home. Israel also excluded from the Registry thousands of Palestinians who had travelled and stayed abroad between 1967 and 1994. This denied the right to return home to a further 130,000 West Bank Palestinians.
And so it continued. In 2000, Israel began the process of refusing applications for registration and residency by unregistered Palestinians, their spouses and close relatives, even if they had lived in the West Bank or Gaza for years and had families, homes, jobs or other ties there. A survey conducted in 2005, on behalf of B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, estimated that more than 640,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza had a parent, sibling, child or spouse who was unregistered.
Imagine living in your own country with a foreign Army in control of your everyday life. There is no privacy – even your home is liable to intrusion, or even demolition, by foreign soldiers and you cannot live just anywhere you choose in your homeland. The foreign power determines where you may or may not live and if that happens to separate you from your family, so be it. What Israel demands always takes precedence over your human rights and if you show the slightest sign of resistance you are branded a terrorist.
Palestinians wishing to travel abroad are not allowed to travel via Ben Gurion International Airport or even the seaports. The only way out is via the Allenby Bridge Border Crossing, near Jericho. They can never know in advance whether or not they will be allowed through. To find out, they must first turn up at the Crossing. Israel uses control of the Crossing to keep many people confined, even for years, in the West Bank. Arbitrary administrative decisions are imposed without judicial review or any form of explanation. In some cases, the Israel Security Agency (ISA) uses its power to pressure Palestinians into collaborating with Israel. B’Tselem, last month compiled accounts of the individual experiences of just five of the thousands of Palestinians who are subjected to Israel’s heartless control over Palestinian rights to freedom of travel. These experiences can be read in full on B’Tselem’s website.
Israel’s control of Palestinian demographics
Israel’s declaration that East Jerusalem is part of what it calls ‘the eternal capital of Israel’ has never been recognised by the international community. But in contemptuous disregard of international law, Israel is working to reduce the number of Palestinians in Jerusalem by, among other means, the use of its residency law to prevent Palestinian holders of Jerusalem IDs who are presently living in, or even visiting, Gaza from going back to their city. The Occupying power is physically isolating East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank while expropriating more land and, at the same time, revoking the residency status and social benefit entitlements of Palestinian residents who study or live abroad. Palestinian Jerusalemites and people from the West Bank, who reside in Gaza for reasons of marriage or work, are treated by Israel as residing “abroad”. Those who lose their Jerusalem ID have to leave their homes forever. Prevented from working or living in Israel or East Jerusalem, families lose all their social benefits. Israel also seeks to control the demographics of Occupied Palestine by confiscating people’s Jerusalem IDs and replacing them with Gaza IDs.
One person’s story
Camilia was born in Occupied East Jerusalem and grew up there. She moved to Gaza to marry a man and have a family. She used to visit her parents in Jerusalem but one day, while visiting, her ID was confiscated. When she returned to Gaza with a photocopy of her ID, the border guards told her if she entered Gaza she would not be allowed to leave. Alternatively, if she went back to Jerusalem she would never see her husband and children again. She chose her husband and family. Eventually she was given a Gaza ID, which she described as a “useless piece of paper that doesn’t allow you to leave Gaza”.
The world’s largest displaced population
The world knows this intolerable and monstrous crime against humanity must be brought to an end but still chooses to do nothing. With all the headlines concerning Trump’s gaffs and reports of ISIL terrorism, especially those attacks that occur in European cities, Israel’s daily toll of Palestinian life, limb, liberty and dignity never makes it to the mainstream news media. Pious Security Council Resolutions deplore Israel’s violations of international law but fail to impose sanctions. With 4.5 million Palestinians, including internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees living under malevolent foreign occupation and 7.98 million in diaspora, the Palestinian people are the world’s largest displaced population. They have been rendered stateless through the denial of their right to self-determination and right of return. Yet without remorse, or even the slightest expression of humanity towards them, the British Government arrogantly intends to celebrate the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration that facilitated the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian People. The discredited leader of the British Government declares her loyalty to Zionism and continues to support efforts to denigrate any who criticise Israel. Another permanent UN Security Council member, the US, continues to reward Israel with more aid than it gives to all other countries combined.
We are all responsible
Longing to return to their homeland, the vast majority of Palestinians struggle to stay as close as possible to their home villages. The price they must pay for their resistance is forced isolation from the rest of the world, the restriction of movement in their own land, Israeli Army brutality towards their children, hunger, destruction of their homes and businesses and sabotage of their agriculture. While Occupation settlers enjoy an abundant water supply, Palestinians are forced to manage with less than the WHO stated minimum for sustaining health. The Palestinian people’s steadfastness deserves recognition. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has published an appeal to Israelis from a Palestinian millennial, Salem Barahmeh. The following extracts should serve equally well as an appeal to the United Nations and the wider world community:
“. . . We are shaped by our experiences as children standing at a checkpoint and not fully comprehending why a soldier with a gun won’t let us pass; and to learn later in life that it was simply because we were Palestinian. This reality casts a cloud of darkness over our hope for the future. It sows deep frustration that can sometimes lead to desperate actions on the fringes of society, which should not be condoned. But most of the time it is met with resilience and the triumph of the human spirit. How much longer will you allow children to be gaoled? How much longer will you tolerate 1.8 million people in Gaza living in an open-air prison? Is it right for villagers to be displaced by those who claim to be “divinely chosen” to take their land? How much longer will children in East Jerusalem fear bulldozers demolishing their homes? How many generations of refugees will you exclude from justice? At what point do Palestinian lives matter?
“. . . our struggle for freedom will continue. We will either exercise our right to statehood or we will seek equal rights and citizenship for all. I can assure you, we will never accept anything less. We will continue to exist. We will persist. As we reach this historic marker, let us end this injustice.”