Kidnapped Kids / Kidnapped Society: A Legal Response or Collective Punishment?

Violence is NOT our solution! Violent acts are not heroic, brave, or honorable.

When will this insanity ends? asked Prof Mazin Qumsiyeh.  I share his anguish. Violence creates violence! It destroys us!

On finding the bodies of the three Israeli settler teenagers, Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel said:

“Deep grief. The people of Israel were unified in prayer, unity that should remain at all times. In war, as in war, the terrorists should be hit mercilessly on one hand and provide a proper Zionist response on the other. The eternal nation is not afraid of a long journey.” (Source: BBC).

There is outrage in Israel and in the world about these deaths, and a deafening silence on the multiple murders and destruction in Palestine. Said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

“We will bring the boys to be buried in Israel. Hamas is responsible – and Hamas will pay. May the memory of the three boys be blessed.”

The murder of the teens is deplorable and my heart goes out to their families and friends. But let us remember that neither the person(s) responsible for these killings nor the motivation (criminal or political) for it have yet been identified. And even if it is clear who did it and for what reasons, it can never justify Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinian civilians or any other kind of violence against civilians.

Hamas has strongly denied any involvement in the abductions. Yet for the last two weeks, Israeli occupation forces have been striking different areas of the Gaza Strip, claiming that they are targeting Hamas’ infrastructure. Scores of causalities, including another death on Friday, have been reported as a result of the Israeli attacks. (source: Middle East Monitor 30 June 2014).

Yifrah_2959998bA ball of fire is seen following an Israel airstrike in Rafah, Gaza. Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Israeli planes struck 34 sites in Gaza early on 1 July 2014 hours after the bodies of three teenagers were found in the West Bank. The airstrike killed a Palestinian from Khan Younis and wounded three others, including one with critical injuries.

Gaza

Since the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers on Thursday 12th June Israel has meted out brutal violence against Palestinians not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank where five Palestinians have been killed:

  • Mustafa Husni Aslan (22 years) died Wednesday 25th June after five days in intensive care. He was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers at Qalandia refugee camp on 20 June.
  • Ahmad Sabarin (20 years) was shot in Al-Jalazun refugee camp (17 June).
  • Mohammad Dudeen (15 years): was shot in Dura (20 June).
  • Ahmad Said Suod Khalid (27 years) was shot Al-Ein refugee camp (22 June).
  • Mahmoud Tarifi, (30 years) was shot in Ramallah (22 June).
  • Two more people have died of heart attacks following Israeli Forces raids.

Former political prisoners have been particularly targeted, and at least 52 of those released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit exchange have now been re-arrested.

Says Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh from Bethlehem, West Bank:

Dozens of Palestinian homes were demolished in the past two weeks. Over 570 more Palestinians were kidnapped in these two weeks making more than 6000 abductees languishing in Israeli gulags/prisons. 1500 Palestinian homes invaded without due process. 12 million native Palestinians still await their freedom from colonial occupation and displacement. And Israeli leaders are promising to “do more” (genocidal mayhem?). When will this insanity end?

Can it end by negotiations between occupied and occupier; negotiations that have been going on for 22 years while Israel gets $12 billion profit every year from its occupation? (that is not counting the billions from US taxpayers).

When will Israel be led by people like the previous speaker of the Israeli Knesset Avraham Berg.

berg

Listen to his wise words:

“Here are Israel’s shallow prime minister and the bumbling police, the masses who cling to futile prayers and not to a moment of human peace. Here are the country’s hypocritical chief rabbis, who just a month ago demanded promises from the pope regarding the future of the Jewish people, but in their daily lives remain silent about the fate of the people who are our neighbors, trampled beneath the pressure of occupation and racism under the leadership of rabbis who receive exorbitant salaries and benefits….Despite the enormous and inspiring success of Breaking the Silence (an NGO that collects testimony from soldiers who’ve served in the West Bank), our own total silence is still the loudest thing around us. We are willing to go out of our minds over one odd and troublesome Pollard, a lone kidnap victim or three kidnap victims, but we are incapable of understanding the suffering of a whole society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us. This, too, needs to be said and heard during this moment of clarity — and as loudly as possible.” (“The Palestinians: A kidnapped society: We are incapable of understanding the suffering of a society, its cry, and the future of an entire nation that has been kidnapped by us” by Avraham Berg in Haaretz.)

And how about the inspiring, wise words of Catholic Patriarch Michel Sabbah writing from Jerusalem congratulating Muslims on the start of Ramadan:
“We all are sectarian, Christians or Muslims. We all need to continuously purify the faith in us to overcome the sectarian. The believer is one who remembers God and sees all as his creation… He sees any other as a brother or sister… I hope that we all become believers, and our faith overcomes all sectarian tendency.”

Peace in Jerusalem = peace on earth.

Ramadan Kareem to our Muslim Brothers and Sisters

And to all: Stay human!

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Bethlehem, Occupied Palestine

What makes a nation better and stronger: dealing with the issue, burying it in the sand, or using it as a pretext to suppress others? According to AMEC the Israeli government announced ‘Operation Brother’s Keeper’ – the most extensive military deployment on the West Bank since the second intifada:

Israeli officials said the operation had two objectives: to find the missing settlers; and to crack down on Hamas. Thus, the operation must be understood in the context of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed peace initiative, and the decision by Fatah and Hamas to form a unity government. The operation has substantially targeted Hamas: 500 abductions/arrests have already occurred; 354 of these are Hamas members and twelve are parliamentarians who could have served in a unity government.

The Israeli government has always opposed an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. For Israel, the prospect of a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, which has financial backing from the EU, moral support from the Arab world, and political acceptance from the USA, poses a huge threat. The agreement between Fatah and Hamas, fragile though it is, has the potential to shift the status quo towards a settlement favouring Palestinian statehood. A unity government would imply the inclusion of Hamas under the PLO umbrella, thus politically unifying all parties representing the Palestinian people.

In this context, Israel’s policies of occupation and expansion in the West Bank would be impossible to implement. Moreover, with Islamic militancy growing in the region, a West Bank government that includes Hamas would be seen as doubly threatening by Israel. It was therefore strategically necessary for Israel to crack down on Hamas before a unity government was formed. Operation Brother’s Keeper allowed Israel to deal a military blow to Hamas while the movement is being strangled by Egypt’s new border policy, the closure of its offices in Syria, and by the limited support it now received from Iran and Hizbullah.

The Israeli military operation has been condemned by the United Nations as alarming. If Israel truly wants peace, why then should they object to peace amongst Fatah and Hamas?

israel 2Peace for the “self” only is not true peace.  (Photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

All lives, irrespective of a person’s nationality, carries the same value. Let us not honour these lives by destroying others.

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Demolitions: An account of ONE week

To sit with a family whilst their houses or water cisterns are being demolished, or when their olive trees are bulldozed to make way for the illegal Israeli wall, is a nauseating experience.

Israel demolishes all kinds of Palestinian structures… schools, clinics, roads, houses, animal shelters, mosques…anything one can think of. They say they  do this for “security reasons,” but in reality they displace people and grab more land for settlements and agriculture – in other words for economic gain.

  • The current Palestine is only 22% of what the UN allocated to them in 1948.  Israel took the other 78% by force.
  • Israel currently occupies most (66%) of this 22% (Areas B and C in the West Bank) and they continue to grab more land, day by day.

According to international law, no occupying power may confiscate land to use it for their own gain, and everyone in an occupied territory have the right to basic human rights.  Yet there are many, many, many (yes many) examples of how Israel violates these laws (and the USA consistently vetoes UN resolutions that want to stop Israel).

The examples below, are a collection of some (yes some) of the things I encountered during ONE WEEK.

HEBRON:
One farmer, fifteen soldiers, a bulldozer and loads of rocks…

While visiting the Hebron EAPPI-team (a programme of the World Council of Churches) I witnessed the demolition of a farmer’s water cistern on 17 November 2011.  After destroying the cistern, the hole was filled with 20 truck-loads of rocks.

Fifteen soldiers, the contractor, the media, internationals as well as the owner and his friends and family stood by as it happened.

The Equipment:

The farmer….

The soldiers…

On what level does this make sense?

We do not know…

JERICHO, AL QASAB:
In one sweep – houses, furniture, everything…

My team and I were working on our advocacy strategy for former Ecumenical Accompaniers on 15 November 2011 when we got the call.

In total 21 people including 15 children were displaced by the three demolitions on 15th November. One person told EAPPI:

“Everything is gone. All my daughter’s toys – it is so hard.”

The New Age in South Africa published an article on the demolitions:

http://www.thenewage.co.za/35146-1020-53-Israel_demolishes_Palestinian_homes_near_Jericho

I replied to this letter on 16 November, but do not know if they published my comment:

Dear Editor of The New Age,

As my team were present at the site of the demolitions yesterday and took testimonies, we would like to draw your attention to the following:

You quote Israeli civil administration spokesman Guy Inbar saying that the structures were “uninhabited”.  In fact two of the demolished houses were inhabited, but the owners were simply not home when the Israeli Defense Force demolished the structures. The owners received no warnings, neither written nor verbal. The first house had some items removed by the soldiers before it was demolished. Nothing was removed from the other two which were demolished with everything still inside.

According to Inbar the houses were built “near an archaeological site with the risk of endangering it”.  Yet the houses were on a street amongst other houses so it was not clear to the EAPPI eye witnesses (or to the owners and their neighbours) why these particular houses posed a threat.

My team and I form part of a group of internationals who monitor human rights violations and transgressions of applicable international law in the West Bank.  We report these to the United Nations, the Red Cross (ISCRC), the Quartet and other partner organisations.

We all participate in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) of the World Council of Churches.  Some of us are affiliated to churches and some are not, but we all subscribe to an ending of the occupation and a just peace based on international law and human rights.

Please see the attached photo by Eduardo Minossi, one of our team members, taken yesterday at one of the demolished houses.

These photos in Al Qasab were all taken by my colleagues Linda Bailey (Wales) and Eduardo Minossi de Oliveira (Brazil):

AL ‘AQABA: 95% of this village has demolition orders…

We visited this village on 14 November 2011 to interview learners and teachers for Save the Children.  This village is considered as a place of training by Israel, as “it looks like South Lebanon”.  The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) conducts regular training in this village, i.e. weekly sessions.  They practice by “arresting” locals and “releasing” them after their training.

When we spoke to them, the mayor told us that the last army incursion into the village was two days ago.  95% of the village has demolition orders but they are on hold as they are waiting for a ruling by the High Court of Israel.

Here are some verbatim comments from the teachers and children we spoke to:

“We don’t teach the children about the war or the occupation, we teach them peace.”

“I am so afraid when the army trains here and I’m an adult – so you can just imagine how the children feel.  They can’t concentrate.  They want to watch what happens and want to know how they will escape and what they need to do.”

“Our minds are not with our teachers when there is training happening.”

“I am scared when I see their guns and that they may hit me with it. I have seen them hitting motorists at Tubas with the back of their guns.”

“When I see them, I think they came to demolish my home.”

“They sometimes knock on our door (at night) and search our house.  They ask if we have guns. We are scared that they may leave guns in our house just to be able to say that it belongs to us so that they can arrest us.  They once took my neighbour’s father far away for a week.”

“I started to cry when I arrived at my house after school and saw that it was demolished. We couldn’t remove anything from the house.”

The town’s mayor is in a wheel chair after being hit by three bullets when he was 16 years old.  Over the years, 50 people in this village have been injured and 13  killed as a result of the IDF’s training.

The next two photos feature Mayor Haj Saml Sadiq.  He travels the world to spread his message of peace and the ending of the occupation:

AL AUJA: A mud school threatening Israel?

This mud school of the Bedouin community outside Al Auja received a demolition order (the green in the background is an illegal Israeli settlement):

This is what fellow EAs Linda Bailey (Wales) and Jan McIntyre (Canada) looked out upon as they stood in front of the school….

How do we make sense of this?

We don’t.

Instead we advocate for the ending of the occupation and a just peace based on international law.

In the mean time, life goes on…

… several baby goats were born a few metres from the  school while we were there

And across the road, in the nearby illegal Israeli settlement, life also goes on – one with houses, swimming pools and electricity…

And finally….

AL HADIDIYA:
June 2011, and again in November 2011

In June 2011, 40 people including 15 children were made homeless in Al Hadidiya.  See Fact Sheet 2011 02 on the EAPPI website:

Last week we heard that the Israeli authorities handed over demolition orders that target 17 structures and will affect 72 people, including women and children, in Al HadidiyaThese demolitions were due on 18 November 2011.  However we contacted our respective national representative offices, and so far the demolitions have not yet taken place.  We hope….

(See also my post on Pending demolitions in the Jordan Valley for details on Al Hadidiya)

More on demolitions:

Sometimes the Israeli Defense Force demolishes Palestinian structures without orders to do so as in September 2011 when they destroyed six water wells in An Nassariya.  (See my post All we have in our hands are plants.)

Are the demolitions of Palestinian structures perhaps on the decrease?

I wish I could say yes. However house demolitions in 2011 were 80% more than in 2010.

This trend continues in 2012. 120 Palestinian structures were demolished in the first two months of the year, including 36 homes.  Remember that it is winter and very, very cold. On average over 25% more people were displaced per month in 2012 than in 2011 (125% more than the average per month in 2009).

By March 2012, whole towns were under threat of being demolished by Israel (Al ‘Aqaba in the Jordan Valley and Susiya in South Hebron Hills).

More photos by EAPPI on recent demolitions.  

United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied territories of Palestine: Statistics and more information

Al ‘Aqaba in the Jordan Valley

Susiya in South Hebron Hills



IDF soldiers beat children in Hebron

22/10/11
Israeli soldiers beat seven children at a checkpoint near the Cordoba School in Hebron last week.

Ecumenical Accompaniers from EAPPI were called to the scene and were informed that Israeli Soldiers refused to allow teachers to pass through the gate next to the container at Checkpoint 56.

A new military commander in the area had decided that teachers must pass through the metal detector at the checkpoint, contrary to previous agreements. The teachers refused, and stood in protest. When the children realized why their teachers were not in class, they went back to the checkpoint and joined them in solidarity. Soldiers began hitting children with their rifle butts and kicking them in the legs to disperse the crowd, hospitalizing six girls and one boy, aged between nine and 13.

Soldiers also kicked Ms. Ebtisam Al-Junaidi, Principle of the Cordoba School, in the legs but she was not hospitalized.

Click here to view a short video of the incident.

NOTE: Teachers have been coming to the checkpoint everyday since this incident happened to protest the new military measure.

THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION:

The right to education is protected under Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social And Cultural Rights (1966), the Convention on the Elimination Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (1979), and the Convention On The Rights of The Child (1989). Teachers and students should be guaranteed free access to educational institutions, regardless of their ethnic and religious background.