Stephen Lendman, 23 July 2010
This article follows an earlier UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Special Report titled, “The Impact of the Barrier on Health,” accessed through the following link:
Stop the Wall.org (STW) is a “Palestinian movement against the (Separation) Wall and the settlements under Israeli repression,” calling for it to be stopped, portions built dismantled, all confiscated lands returned, and compensation paid for losses.
On July 9, it released a report titled, “People versus Oppression,” a March – June 2010 account of Israeli repression, including “large scale violations of the civil, political and human rights of activists and communities active against the Wall that compounds the dispossession brought upon them by (its) illegal construction.”
In defiance of the International Criminal Court (ICJ) ruling it illegal, calling for it to be dismantled and reparations paid for lost homes, businesses, farmland, orchards, olive groves, and other immovable property seized, construction continues unabated, committing human rights violations against many thousands affected.
Over the past year alone, harsh repression included killings, targeted assassinations, mass arrests, travel bans, raids against Stop the Wall’s offices, and other Palestinian organizations and international activists, notably Freedom Flotilla ones, up to 15 murdered in cold blood in international waters delivering humanitarian aid to besieged Gazans.
From March – June 2010, the “extent of violence and dehumanization (has been) staggering.”
The past year “marked (a) quantitative shift in….Israel(‘s) overall policies and strategies,” its ongoing deterrence and oppression agenda, punctuated by daily violence against defenseless civilians, including women and children, endangering their struggle for justice, self-determination and peace, notions Israel spurns, preferring conflict to conciliation, collective punishment to the rule of law, and crimes of war and against humanity over democratic freedoms and equal justice – how all rogue states operate.
Combined, they’re “part of a new Israeli strategy to deal with growing international (and internal) criticism – through legislation, belligerence, and repression, including Wall construction, land theft, and isolation.
The Wall and Settlements
Projected to exceed 800 km when completed, its route is mostly within the Green Line, confiscating Palestinian land and resources by:
“a network of walls, fences, military zones, 34 fortified checkpoints, 44 tunnels, 634 checkpoints and obstructions, and 1,661 km of settler roads.” Combined with settlements, military zones, parks, commercial developments, other closed areas, and open spaces, more than 46% of the West Bank will be annexed, destroying villages and isolating others into Bantustans, surrounded and denied all rights, including free movement.
Up to eight meters high with watchtowers and a buffer zone 30 – 100 meters wide for electric fences, it included trenches, cameras, sensors, and military patrols.
Other portions consist of razor wire topped fences, patrol roads, sand paths to trace footprints, ditches and surveillance cameras, encircling communities, others between the Wall and Green Line in the so-called Seam Zone, requiring landowners and residents have permits to stay in their homes and access their land.
The effect is devastating, isolating thousands from their property and means of subsistence, dispossessing others to facilitate construction, forcing over 266,000 in 78 communities to abandon their homes, land, and livelihoods, their ability to access health care, education, religious sites, and their right move freely and live normally in peace – a state of hellish dystopia.
“The Wall is an integral part of (Israel’s plan) to control the West Bank” and East Jerusalem, while avoiding its responsibilities as an occupier, ones never observed for decades. It’s part of a massive land grad, a scheme to establish and expand key settlements, seize every valued km of land, dispossess tens of thousands, make Jerusalem exclusively Jewish, and enforce its agenda by extreme belligerence, the worst of police state harshness.
Given Wall protection, settlement expansions are unimpeded, more than 500,000 occupants on confiscated land, including over 200,000 in East Jerusalem, many more to follow, dispossessing Palestinians from their land, livelihoods and futures.
During 2009, 2,316 new housing units were begun, another 2,300 completed. In the first half of 2010, East Jerusalem has been especially targeted, facilitated by evictions, home demolitions, and dispossessions.
“Palestinians are (systematically being) expelled from their capital and their lands….herded into walled-in ghettos….in a well planned, low speed ethnic cleansing operation,” to be replaced by illegal settlements in violation of international law, aided by international complicity and indifference to a defenseless people, abandoning them for their own self-interest.
Along with international campaigns and legal measures, Palestinians have protested through regular demonstrations despite harsh Israeli recrimination. In 2002, they began in Qalqilya and Jenin. By 2004, they were large-scale, in 2005 weekly, and throughout 2008 and 2009 gained momentum and strength despite “extraordinary Israeli repression” against organizers and village leaders, beating and arresting them.
The “Stand up….and Break the Siege” initiative continues to demand removal of the military checkpoint, isolating 17 villages north and northeast of Ramallah. On June 18, 2010, a mass demonstration was held in front of the Bet El settlement on Beitin land, condemning the occupation, settlement expansions, checkpoint policies, Wall construction, and collective punishment of an entire people, denying their basic freedoms and self-determination.
Others occur regularly in al-Ma’sara, Wadi Rahal, al-Walaja, and Beit Jala near Bethlehem. Also around Nablus, activists conducting sit-ins against land theft, home demolitions, and isolation, despite beatings, arrests and other forms of abuse.
In addition, major resistance persists in Jerusalem against demolitions and settlement expansions, activists flooding streets in protest. Throughout May and June, 2010, daily mobilizations occurred, resulting in over three dozen arrests, including 14 children.
The ICJ Opinion and its Implications
UN resolutions and the ICJ called the Wall and settlements illegal, the latter, according to the Security Council in “flagrant violation” of Fourth Geneva, the Court saying they were “established in breach of international law,” both the Wall and settlements “tantamount to de facto annexation.”
The ICJ also said the Wall’s “infringements (can’t be justified) by military exigencies (or) requirements of national security or public order.” In other words, the Wall and settlements are land grabs under international law.
Because of Israeli non-compliance, affected residents formed committees of human rights defenders (HRDs), staging mass civil protest actions, legitimate under Fourth Geneva and other international law against an illegal occupation, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Preamble stating:
“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”
Under General Assembly Resolution 2625 – Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, every state must “refrain from any forcible action which deprives people (of) their right to self-determination and freedom and independence.” When denied, “such peoples are entitled to (resist) and receive support in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter.”
The UN also passed numerous resolutions affirming Palestinian self-determination, including 3070 in 1973 supporting “all available means” to achieve it, including in times of conflict.
HRDs anti-Wall resistance is “unique,” representing an effort to enforce international law and the ICJ ruling, especially with no outside support. They’re on their own because Israel and the world community violated their legal obligations to halt construction, dismantle portions built, and make restitution for damages.
Resistance and civil disobedience are legitimate forms of self-defense against lawlessness and repression, Henry David Thoreau saying people shouldn’t let governments overrule or atrophy their consciences. They’re obligated to confront injustice directly, including by defying the law when it’s wrong.
Stop the Wall.org asks:
“does the continuing confiscation of houses, destruction of property and forced evictions taking place in the West Bank in order to build the Wall constitute big enough crimes or risks to justify the measures taken by Palestinians to dismantle the Wall? And can these measures be further justified by showing that they have a notable impact on those crimes or risks?”
Forms of Repression
From April through June, 2010, STW recorded 114 arrests (mostly minors or persons in their early 20s) compared 89 during 2009 – “a dramatic increase in repression” against legitimate resistance, Adeeb Abu Rahmah, a member of the Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements, one of many affected.
On July 10, 2009, he was arrested during a weekly demonstration, spent 11 months in the Ofer Military Complex, then, on June 30, 2010, was sentenced to two years in prison for “encourag(ing) violence….activity against public order (and being) present in a closed military area,” Bil’in’s designation every Friday from 8AM – 8PM to prevent demonstrations.
Amnesty International (AI) expressed concern saying he could be “the first activist against the fence/wall to be brought to a full evidential trial in a case of this kind,” setting a worrisome precedent for others, criminalizing their legitimate resistance, how all police states operate, Israel one of the worst, a democracy in name only like America.
Many others are also targeted, arrested, bogusly charged, imprisoned, and tortured for their legitimate right to resist, including children, one 15-year old explaining:
In January 2010, he was arrested at home, detained and tortured – shackled, blindfolded, beaten, and ordered to confess (to stone-throwing a year earlier), his interrogator saying, “I’ll break (and) shock you if you” refuse. “Because of the beating, I had to confess….I wanted him to stop hitting me because” of the pain. He spent three and a half months in prison followed by eight months probation and a 1,000 shekel fine.
He wasn’t alone. Defense for Children International (DCI) – Palestine section recorded at least five cases of threatened or actual inhumane treatment and sexual assaults against minors in Israeli prisons.
Violence is official Israeli policy, to intimidate and suppress resistance. “Overwhelming aggression” follows threats, including use of live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets, high-velocity tear gas canisters that can harm or disable, sound bombs, and other measures intended to willfully injure or kill.
The UNESCO Chair of An-Najah National University described the murder of two unarmed boys, aged 16 and 19, in Iraq Burin near Nablus saying:
“One Israeli soldier (came) out of one of the army jeeps and position(ed) himself (with one knee on the ground) on the road, directing his weapon toward the western end of the street and crossroad,” about 60 meters from the boys. They opened fire, “hit(ting) Abd Qadus in the forehead….As Muhammad Ibrahim Abdel-Qadr Qadus rushed to his cousin (and) reach(ed) down to help him, he (was) shot in the chest….” They were both killed in cold blood. No investigations followed, Israel’s usual whitewash, absolving state-sponsored terrorism.
Rarely ever are soldiers held accountable, and almost never their commanders, effectively legalizing the murder of Arabs, even children. “Palestinians are consequently left without remedy or recourse to justice.”
Tear Gas to Intimidate and Injure
On the pretext of dispersing crowds, high-velocity tear gas canisters are used as a weapon, causing a significant number of injuries, many serious, including asphyxiation, skull fractures, brain hemorrhages, and others requiring hospitalization.
Sound bombs, live fire, and rubber-coated bullets also cause casualties when fired directly into crowds, inflicting serious wounds, burns, and deaths. In addition, new weapons have been tested in real time, one in late April producing thick smoke and shrapnel in all directions after exploding. A new type tear gas was fired directly into the face of protestors, causing severe breathing problems.
Against a May demonstration, eyewitnesses described a powerful device detonated by an electrical wiring system, Rali Galli, Corporate vice president of Major Campaigns for Elbit Systems saying:
In “fighting terror,” Israeli companies have an advantage when it comes to the “development of new systems, testing them in real time and adapting and fine tuning following feedback from performance in the field.”
Fourth Geneva’s Article 33 is unequivocal, stating:
“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited….Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”
Spurning the law, Israel targets villages as well as people, al-Ma’sara repeatedly raided in the past three months, mostly at night, including Muhammad Brijiyyeh’s home affecting him and his family. He’s the Bethlehem coordinator for the popular committee against the Wall. Israel’s aim – wear him down, “wear him (and his family) out,” including his elderly mother, one and a half year old daughter and infant twins.
Another tactic involves spraying phosphorous green “skunk water” into homes and workplaces, emitting an unhealthy stench lasting weeks. It not only damages property, it harms human health and constitutes humiliating and degrading treatment.
Military zones are also established, repressively closing and isolating villages, Bi’lin and Ni’lin two examples, closed every Friday from 8AM – 8PM to prevent demonstrations. Residents participating are targeted, assaulted and arrested, their property damaged, including by randomly fired tear gas into agricultural fields, igniting fires, consuming large areas of land, homes and other property.
They’re assaulted and arrested for their activism or presence near demonstrations, Defence of Children International (DCI) recording 335 detained in April 2010 alone, 32 aged 12 – 15, two held in administrative detention without charge. In May, another 305 were detained, 25 aged 12 – 15, two held administratively. Usually they’re accused of stone-throwing whether or not true. Yet they’re brutally treated in detention, as harshly as adults.
In 2009, DCI obtained 100 sworn affidavits, collected by lawyers and fieldworkers, citing the following forms of mistreatment:
— forced confessions in Hebrew;
— midnight – 4AM home arrests;
— threats and other forms of intimidation;
— solitary confinement;
— threatened or actual sexual assault; and
— painful position abuse.
In monthly updates, the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) reported that in April 2010, journalists covering demonstrations were assaulted, five arrested, and two injured. Affected were:
— cameraman Hazem Bader, arrested on April 10 in Beit Safa, Hebron;
— Al-Hayat Al Jadedah correspondent Muheeb Al-Barghouthi, arrested covering the weekly Bil’in April 23 demonstration;
— Al-Jazeera cameraman Majdi Abu Zer and technical assistant Nadir Abu Zer on April 30 in Bil’in; and
— APA photographer Najeh Hashlomoun on April 24 in Beit Ummar, Hebron.
In addition, AP photographer Mahfouz Abu Turk was injured in East Jerusalem on April 9 covering clashes, and other arrests and injuries were reported in May and June, part of Israel’s ongoing campaign against free expression and dissent.
Targeting Human Rights Defenders (HDRs)
Recently in East Jerusalem, they’ve increased as a result of “significant resistance from (residents) under siege,” their homes and land threatened, especially in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.
In Silwan alone, 39 arrests were documented, including 14 children. In April, four Sheikh Jarrah families got demolition orders – the Al Kiswani home for the second time, and the Salah family, fined and forcibly evicted from the house they’ve lived in for over 40 years. Other raids targeted numerous residents, eight HRDs arrested including two children. One was charged with threatening Jews during Passover.
In May, 22 more raids were conducted, mostly at night, as well as other clashes with settlers, resulting in 11 arrests, including children. In June, a demolition plan passed an initial Local Planning and Construction Committee hearing, focusing on the Al-Bustan neighborhood where 88 face demolitions on the bogus grounds that they were illegally built. Protests followed, resulting in 60 or more arrests. On June 26 and 27, another 50 were injured.
Other harassments include closures, mobile checkpoints, vehicles stopped and searched, and Jerusalemites ticketed for driving unsafe cars.
Settler violence compounds the abuse. On April 5, a group of extremist Jews tried to provoke Palestinians with racist posters, shouts of “Death to Arabs….Leave Jerusalem now….go to Amman,” and stone-throwing, nearby Israeli security forces doing nothing to stop them, even arresting a targeted child.
“Israeli (violence and other abuses) in Jerusalem are increasing. However, Palestinian Jerusalemites and their international supporters are resisting the oppressive (occupation) and will continue to stand in solidarity for (their) human rights even though their activism comes at a huge cost,” including their freedoms and lives.
Targeting International HRDs
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was most prominent, causing the cold-blooded murder of up to 15 activists. In addition, international HRDs against the Wall and settlements are routinely assaulted and arrested.
On May 31, Emily Henochowicz, a US citizen was peacefully present during a Qalandiya demonstration when she and other HRDs were assaulted by tear gas canisters. She lost an eye and sustained fractures when struck in the face.
“They clearly saw us,” said Soren Johanssen, a participating Swedish citizen. “They clearly saw that we were internationals and it really looked as though they were trying to hit us. They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face.”
Although international law obligates other countries to hold human rights violators accountable, they, in fact, collaborate by supporting Israel against the rule of law and well-being of their own nationals.
As a result, Israel gets away with beating, torture and cold-blooded murder, claiming self-righteousness and self-defense – against nonviolent men, women and children guilty of defending their rights, common decency, and the notion that laws are meant to be obeyed, not abused, the latter an Israeli specialty, mainly against the most vulnerable.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.