Israeli experts in int'l law back petition for Israeli High Court review of its decision on case of Stone Quarries in the West Ban,

This is an interesting case that puts the ambiguities of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank under the microscope, if not under the spotlight.

The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din on Sunday submitted — in support of its own request on 10 January — an “expert opinion supporting its motion for an en banc review” of the Supreme Court’s own ruling at the end of December on Yesh Din’s petition against the operation of Israeli stone quarries which extract the natural resources of the occupied West Bank, which most of the world regards as Palestinian territory.

This case goes to the very heart of nature of the Israeli military occupation.

Yesh Din filed its original petition in March 2009 against the state of Israel and 11 Israeli stone quarries operating in the West Bank. The Israeli Supreme Court, or High Court, issued its judgement a month ago, on 26 December.

In the original petition, Yesh Din “demanded a cessation to all quarrying and mining activities by Israeli companies in the West Bank. The petition argued that Israeli quarrying activity in the West Bank is illegal and amounts to grave economic exploitation of an occupied territory for the benefit of Israel, the occupying power. It also argued that the transfer of most of the quarrying materials into Israel, a fact that was later confirmed in the State’s response, violates Israel’s duties under international law, which stipulates that Israel protect public property in the occupied territories, including natural resources”.

The expert opinion just submitted in support of Yesh Din’s move is signed by Israeli scholars of international law: Prof. Yuval Shany, Prof. Eyal Benvenisti, Prof. Barak Medina, Prof. Orna Ben-Naftali, Prof. Guy Harpaz, Dr. Amichai Cohen and Dr. Yael Ronen — who do not all have the same views on the Israeli occupation.

In a press release, Yesh Din, which has been represented in court by Michael Sfard, said this was “an unusual legal move”.

These Israeli international law experts have, according to Yesh Din, “filed an amicus curiae brief claiming that the High Court, in its ruling in the quarries’ petition, wrongly interpreted the laws of occupation and the provisions regarding the occupying power’s management of public property in the occupied territories, and that the Court’s ruling (HCJ 2164/09) stands in direct contradiction with the laws of occupation. The opinion was submitted on Sunday (January 29, 2012) to the High Court of Justice in support of human rights organization, Yesh Din’s, motion for an en banc review, an additional hearing in which all judges of the Court will hear the case, of the quarries’ petition”.

We have written earlier posts about the Supreme Court ruling on the Yesh Din petition, here, here and here.

Yesh Din reported that Dr. Guy Harpaz, one of the authors of the just-submitted amicus curiae brief, said that the Supreme Court’s 26 December judgment “is based on an erroneous interpretation of international law and directly contradicts the Supreme Court’s previous judgments … This erroneous interpretation has led a large number of scholars from different institutions and with differing views to take it upon themselves, without compensation, to address this issue in order to draw the Supreme Court’s attention to the numerous and significant errors of interpretation in the judgment in the hope that the court will reconsider its position and make the necessary corrections”.

According to Yesh Din:

    “The experts claim that the court gave an erroneous interpretation to the laws of belligerent occupation which contradicts the objective and spirit of the laws of occupation … At the core of this expert legal opinion is the claim that the appropriate interpretation of Articles 43 and 55 of the Hague Regulations differs from that which was presented in the judgment … Specifically, they claim that the judgment contradicts an earlier and deeply rooted rule in the Supreme Court’s case law (the Jam’iyat Iskan Rule), which has guided the Court concerning the laws of occupation for the last three decades. The experts draw the Court’s attention to the fact that it is precisely the prolongation of the occupation of the West Bank (upon which the court based its justification for the granting of broad powers to the occupier in the occupied territory) which requires strict adherence to the principle that decisions by the military commander be made either on the basis of security considerations or in order to benefit the occupied population. Therefore, the experts’ opinion is that inasmuch as the prolongation of the occupation requires the adaptation of the ‘traditional laws of occupation’ to a prolonged occupation, as the judgment says, that adjustment should be made in such a way that benefits the protected population rather than harms it. The prolongation of the occupation surely does not allow the citizens of the occupying state to profit at the expense of the occupied population”.

Yesh Din’s own argument against the 26 December judgement by the Supreme Court argues that “the new ruling by the HCJ actually permits the looting of natural resources in an occupied territory, which contradicts the accepted interpretation of the laws of occupation”.

Dennis Ross, whose role as adviser to President Barak Obama continues on an unpaid basis even after he left the State Department [see Barak Ravid’s story, here, in yesterday’s Haaretz about his discovery of a “Red Line” direct telephone link installed by the White House in Ross’ new office in Washington], has recently said that this Israeli Supreme Court judgment opens the way for Palestinian partners — or front men — in the Israeli stone quarries’ operations in the West Bank. See Ross’ Opinion Piece in the Washington Post, here, and our earlier post on this amazing proposal for taking advantage of any weakness in the Israeli Supreme Court’s judgement which is published here.

Yesh Din also said that the Supreme Court’s judgement could implicate Israel “in further violations of international law”.

Jeff Halper of ICAHD is angry, really angry – about 5th demolition of Palestinian home in Anata

Jeff Halper, the American-Israeli director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions [ICAHD] called it a “war crime” — the 5th demolition of Beit Arabiya in Anata on Monday night.

The demolition order was issued by the Israeli military on Thursday. The bulldozers arrived on Monday night.

Jeff Halper + ICAHD have rebuilt this house four times already, after each previous demolition — and he is vowing to do so again.

He’s full of anger + adrenalin, and wrote this for +972 Magazine:

    “In the dark of night this past Monday, January 23, the IDF carried out its own Price Tag assault on ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

    At 11:30 p.m. on that cold, rainy night, I got a panicky phone call from Salim Shawamreh, a Palestinian man from the West Bank town of Anata whose home has been demolished by the Israeli authorities four times and rebuilt as an act of resistance each time by ICAHD. ‘Army bulldozers are approaching my home’, he cried. ‘Now they’re beginning to demolish it!’

    As has become routine, I alerted our activists, plus journalists and foreign diplomats, and we rushed out to Anata. We knew we could not save the homes, but we could resist; stand in solidarity with the families, soaked, with their belongings, in the rain; document what was happening and broadcast this latest war crime to the world. It was another of those thousands of attacks on Palestinians that occur daily but never reach the newspapers – probably because there are so many and they are so routine by now that they are not, in fact, ‘news’.

    By the time we reached Salim’s house – which we rebuilt in 2003 and have called Beit Arabiya ever since, the ‘house of Arabiya’, home to Salim’s wife and mother of their seven children – it was gone. Salim himself was afraid to go down the hill to see it because of the soldiers, but I ran down. Even in the dark and rain I could see the ruins of the home, and the family’s belongings that had been thrown out. But I couldn’t tarry. The bulldozers had moved up the hill and were in the process of demolishing a Jahalin Bedouin enclave there – part of the Jahalin tribe that was being removed and relocated on top of the Jerusalem garbage dump near Abu Dis…”

But, that wasn’t the end of it. Jeff continued:

    “In the end, Beit Arabiya, six Jahalin homes and most of their animal pens were demolished before the army left. The bulldozer, protected by dozens of troops, belonged to a commercial contractor who was paid well for the demolitions by the Civil Administration, Israel’s military government in the West Bank that uses the word ‘civil’ to downplay its military connections, and to make it appear that demolitions of ‘illegal’ Palestinian homes are simply part of ‘proper administration’.

    After staying with the families and promising to rebuild, we finally left to send out press releases; put out information on our website and social media; and begin mobilizing activists abroad and, through them, governments and UN bodies.

    Only when we returned early in the morning did we learn that yet another house had been demolished: that of the Abu Omar family, a family of 17 people who lived in a home that had been demolished last year, which ICAHD had rebuilt in our 2011 summer rebuilding camp. We had thought the bulldozer and soldiers had left for the Border Police base on the hill opposite Beit Arabiya and the Jahalin, but in fact they had only gone around Anata. At 3:30 a.m. they pounced on the Abu Omar family, forced them out of their home, removed their belongings and demolished it. The family was so dazed by the sudden violence, terror, confusion and need to protect the terrified children that they hadn’t even thought of phoning us…”

Information posted hours later on the ICAHD website, here, gave more details on the demolition of this second ICAHD-rebuilt house, and tells us that:

    “This morning, Israeli authorities demolished the home of the Abu Omar family, rebuilt by ICAHD in July 2011. The Abu Omar family home, built in 1990 on privately owned land, was demolished by the Israeli military in 2005. Ahmed Abu Omar (46) had applied for a building permit, but was refused on the grounds that his land was zoned as an ‘agricultural area’. This is a story we hear often, and it reflects Israel’s long-time, unlawful policy of curtailing all construction by Palestinians since 1967. They were offered neither alternative housing nor compensation for the demolition, violating international law. The construction of the Abu Omar family home, long waited since the 2005 demolition by Israel, was completed on July 24th 2011, exactly six months ago … ICAHD staff visited with the family shortly after the demolition of their home took place to find them somber, traumatized, and grief stricken. ICAHD has vowed to support the family in rebuilding their home, once more”.

That makes two previously-demolished, ICAHD-rebuilt, homes destroyed in the same military operation in Anata on the night of 23-24 January.

Anata is in Area C of the West Bank.

Area C — the largest of three zones determined by agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization — constitutes over 60 percent of West Bank land, and some 124 Israeli Jewish settlements have been built there, which impose severe restrictions on the lives of the diminishing number of Palestinians living there/

Fewer than 6% of the Palestinian population of the West Bank live in Area C, some 62% of the land.

The lack of permission and possibility for Palestinian activity in Area C has recently become a subject of renewed concern by the European Union, whose heads of mission in Jerusalem have just written, in an internal report to their Brussels headquarters, that “The Palestinian presence in the largest part of the occupied West Bank – has been ‘continuously undermined’ by Israel in ways that are ‘closing the window’ on a two-state solution”, as Donald Macintyre reported in The Independent last week, which can be read here.

Macintyre’s report in The Independent continued: “With the number of Jewish settlers now at more than double the shrinking Palestinian population in the largely rural area, the report warns bluntly that, ‘if current trends are not stopped and reversed, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders seem more remote than ever’.”

According to the EU report, Macintyre wrote, the numbers of Palestinians living in Area C has been cut by approximately half since the Israeli occupation following its conquest in the June 1967 war — from perhaps 320,000 at the time to only 150,000 nowadays. Meanwhile, the number of Israeli settlers has grown to replacement level, and stands at 310,000 people.

Macintyre added that the latest Heads of Mission end-of-year internal report “is the EU’s starkest critique yet of how a combination of house and farm building demolitions; a prohibitive planning regime; relentless settlement expansion; the military’s separation barrier; obstacles to free movement; and denial of access to vital natural resources, including land and water, is eroding Palestinian tenure of the large tract of the West Bank on which hopes of a contiguous Palestinian state depend”.

The Heads of Mission report recommended that the EU should “support Palestinian presence in, and development of the area”, according to The Independent.

Amira Hass wrote in Haaretz, here, that: “A newly approved internal report of European Heads of Mission, titled ‘Area C and Palestinian State Building’, cautioned that the chances for a two-state solution on 1967 borders will be lost if Israel does not change its policies in Area C. ‘What’s special about this report is that we are all partners in it and agree on the wording of it’, a European diplomat told Haaretz. ‘The European governments hold a variety of stances regarding the situation – with Holland representing one very pro-Israel side, and Ireland on the other side. But everyone agreed on this document’, the diplomat said, adding: ‘Israel always says it has both enemies and friends in Europe and we say: the friends think this way too about the situation in Area C’.”

Hass added that, in its final version, “the report stated that Israeli policy in Area C ‘results in forced transfer of the native population’.”

Meanwhile, in his article for +972 Magazine, Jeff wrote in anger that this was a “Price Tag” attack on Palestinians, as well as on ICAHD, on the night of 23-24 January:

    “The IDF attack on three sites that for years have been identified with ICAHD’s resistance activities was clearly an official, government-sponsored, violent Price Tag assault on Palestinians in order to ‘send a message’ to ICAHD. Out of the tens of thousands of demolition orders outstanding in the Occupied Territory, they chose these three. In fact, the ‘message’ had already been delivered. Already at the second demolition of Beit Arabiya in 1999, Micha Yakhin, the Civil Administration official responsible for overseeing the demolitions in that part of the West Bank, told me: ‘We will demolish every home you rebuild’.

    ICAHD has rebuilt 185 demolished Palestinian homes in the past 15 years, all as acts of political resistance – not humanitarian gestures – all funded by donations. We will rebuild the homes demolished Monday night as well. The coming together of Palestinian families and community members, Israeli activists and international peace-makers to rebuild homes is one of the most significant forms of resistance, solidarity and mobilization. But Israel demolished 200 homes last year alone in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, of more than 26,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territory since 1967. Resistance cannot keep pace with the massive Price Tag assault that is the Israeli Occupation”.

Jeff’s account is published here.

An Israeli “Civil Administration” staff member commented that “You should know that these houses were built without permits”.

While the Israeli “Civil Administration” may have civilian Israeli and Palestinian staff, it is run by the Israeli military.

ICAHD reported on its website on [Tuesday] 24 January that they had already invited the UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Adequate housing to visit Beit Arabiya during her upcoming visit later this month:

    “As its name suggests, Beit Arabiya is a home belonging to Arabiya Shawamreh, her husband Salim and their seven children, a Palestinian family whose home has been demolished four times by the Israeli authorities and rebuilt each time by ICAHD’s Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists, before being demolished again last night. At around 11p.m. Monday, a bulldozer accompanied by a contingent of heavily armed Israeli soldiers appeared on the Anata hills, to promptly demolish Beit Arabiya, along with residential and agricultural structures in the nearby Arab al-Jahalin Bedouin compound. 3 family homes were demolished along with numerous animal pans, and 20 people including young children were displaced, left exposed to the harsh desert environment. While standing in solidarity with Palestinians, ICAHD staff and activists were repeatedly threatened by Israeli soldieries. ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain was beaten and sustained minor injuries.

    Beit Arabiya was issued a demolition order by Israeli authorities back in 1994, following their failure to grant a building permit … Arabiya and Salim [Shawamreh] … dedicated their home as a center for peace in the memories of Rachel Corrie and Nuha Sweidan, two women (an American and a Palestinian) who died resisting home demolitions in Gaza.

    In the past decade ICAHD has hosted numerous visitors at Beit Arabiya, and based its annual rebuilding camp at the house, rebuilding 185 demolished Palestinian homes.

    Only earlier this month, ICAHD extended an invitation to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to visit Beit Arabiya during her country visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory scheduled for later in the month. ‘It is our hope, that while we cannot extend the same hospitality to the Special Raporteur, Prof. Raquel Rolnik will visit the ruins of Beit Arabiya, and report on the utter cruelty, and illegality of Israeli policies and practices, and that members of the international community will follow in her footsteps’, said ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain”…

This is posted on the ICAHD website, here.

What is the Occupation? Report of uninformed testing, involving pumping of unidentified gas into car, without consent, at Israeli checkpoint in Bethlehem

This report is presented as part of our series on: What is the Occupation?

At the beginning of January, according to an eyewitness — who was an involuntary participant — Israeli soldiers pulled over selected cars exiting the main Israeli military checkpoint at the northern entrance of Bethlehem, known as Bethlehem 300 [or, sometimes, as the Rachel’s Tomb checkpoint, and occasionally as the Gilo Checkpoint though this could be confused with the Tunnel Checkpoint on the eastern side of Bethlehem].

This main Bethlehem Checkpoint is the one used by all the tourist buses passing into Bethlehem for a quick visit to Christian holy sites, including the important Church of the Nativity, where it is believed that Jesus was born.

This main Bethlehem Checkpoint is run by the Israeli Border Police, and not directly by the Israel Army [IDF]. Even though the Border Police are hierarchically part of the Israeli Army, they act with great and sometime stubborn independence.

Though the other cars selected for this special procedure are described by the eyewitness as being “all Palestinian”, the rest of the description [according to the written account, see below, and to the photos accompanying it] tells us that, almost by definition — because the cars selected were either entering or exiting Bethlehem into “Israel” [in quotation marks, as this checkpoint is still at a point identifiably within the West Bank, as defined by the 1949 UN-negotiated Armistice Lines], these cars thus had to all have yellow Israeli license plates …

And the drivers + any passengers had to have permission, in one form or another, to enter Israel and the Israeli-controlled West Bank [this would mainly mean, either by being Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, or Palestinian/Arab citizens of Israel, or by being foreign passport holders with valid entry visas for Israel + implicitly including the West Bank].

Jewish residents of Israel are not allowed to enter Area A — major Palestinian cities including Bethlehem — without prior “coordination” with the Israeli military and without signing a release saying that the military will not be responsible for any violence that may befall them, on pain of a 5000 NIS shekel fine, approximately $1350.00 dollars. This is one of the many stated purposes for the Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank.

Nevertheless, cars were selected on an apparently random basis, without any information being given as to how or why, and then subjected to an un-informed procedure — possibly a test or experiment — which apparently involved the pumping of some sort of [still-unidentified] chemical in gas form into the passenger cabin of their cars while they waited outside. An Israeli officer timed the procedure with a stopwatch, and after ten minutes told those waiting to get into their cars and drive off — again without giving any information.

It is a disturbing and alarming story, and it is impossible to imagine that Jewish Israeli drivers would have allowed any such thing to happen to them.

It is so creepy, in fact, that it is impossible to imagine drivers in any other place in the world allowing uniformed and armed authorities to pump an unidentified gas into their car for some 10 minutes, without any explanation other than it was “for security”.

Elsewhere in the world, this would have been met with protest, if not outright refusal. And there would be calls for an investigation. In most places, people would probably simply refuse to be treated like this..

But, these participants did not refuse — it is not clear what might have happened if they had asked questions, or if they had objected, or if they had insisted on leaving without participating.

But, they did not refuse this unexplained injection of an unidentified gas into their car as a new, additional and quite unusual condition for entry either into Bethlehem or into “Israel” and/or “Jerusalem” [“Jerusalem” is also in quotation marks here because of the Israeli lack of clarity about what, exactly, they consider to be their current delineation of “Jerusalem”].

It is almost certain they people whose cars were selected did not refuse because they were told it was “for security”.

Israeli security demands cannot be refused without consequences that can be quite severe. And, Palestinians are now quite used to being required to obey, well aware of the possible consequences of their refusal.

At the very least, a refusal would have meant a big inconvenience, possibly a very long delay lasting many hours…

It is probably worth noting that this chemical gas spraying inside cars reportedly entering/leaving Bethlehem did occur during the middle of the Palestinian Christmas celebrations — which stretch from 25 December, which is an official national holiday in the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority control, to the Greek Orthodox Christmas on 6 January.

This story, which has been brought to the attention of the Right to Enter Campaign [formed to defend the interests of foreign passport holders wishing to enter and live in Palestine] is published on a blog whose author now wishes to be anonymous. The blog post is dated 2 January.

Here is an excerpt from the blog post, as published:

    “As I approach the checkpoint, I roll down my window and flash my passport.

    In Hebrew, I am told to go straight and up the hill – not the usual left to exit the checkpoint. It is amazing what can all be communicated with a single point of a finger and a grunt. It seems that the mere presence of an M16 can help in understanding foreign languages.

    As I drive to the designated area, there are soldiers pointing myself and 5 other cars (all Palestinian) towards selected parking spots. Every spot has an apparatus next to it, which looks like a giant IV that you would find in a hospital. I am told to get out of my vehicle with all my windows shut, except the driver window, which should be 5 cm. open.

    I get out of my vehicle and stand next to the Palestinians who have also had to abandon their cars. Soldiers wander around the cars, one with a stopwatch. It is obviously a drill of some kind. With complete disregard for our schedules or impending meetings, the soldiers are taking the opportunity to practice and test Practice on a population without any kind of consent, but that does not seem to matter. Consent is never asked or required from a people under occupation. They are the occupied and at the whims of their occupiers.

    From the IV apparatus next to our parked cars, soldiers put a hose into our driver side window. It reminds of movies where the someone tries to commit suicide by filling their car with exhaust. Some of the people ask the soldiers what they are doing. Their response is, that it is for security and that it is fine. There is no comment as to what or why they are spraying some sort of chemical into our vehicles.

    After 10 minutes the soldier with the stopwatch stops his clock. The hoses are removed from our cars and we are allowed to continue onwards to Jerusalem. We are permitted to go on with our day. We are permitted to go on living.

    Yet the smell from the gas still lingering in my car is assaulting. Even though it is cold outside, I drive with my windows down. Unfortunately nothing will stop my impending headache. For the next four days, whenever I drive my car I have a headache”. This report is posted here.

Though the person who wrote this blog post was asked for more clarification, she has not replied.

So, it is not known if this chemical spraying continued at any other time, either before or after this reported incident. Apparently there were not follow-up contacts by the person who described this incident, with any of the other participants present. This person did not, apparently, undergo any subsequent medical checks, nor did she have any chemical testing done on the interior of her car. Nor did she report it, or make a formal complaint, to any Palestinian or Israeli authorities — despite the Israeli Border Police responsibility at this checkpoint.

An Israeli journalist who tried to follow up by contact was informed by the IDF that the questions should be put to the Israeli Border Police. The journalist said she interpreted this to mean that the IDF considers this Bethlehem 300 Checkpoint to be in “Jerusalem” [in quotation marks here because exactly how the borders of “Jerusalem” are delineated by Israeli authorities varies from time to time, and also from official to official…]

Yet, showing the inconsistency and even illogic of the varying Israeli definitions, the Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu, who was convicted of publishing state secrets and released — with restrictive conditions on his contacts and movement — after serving 18 years in jail [12 years in solitary], was then rearrested on Christmas Eve in 2004 before trying to enter Bethlehem for Christian services. He recently served a number of months in jail after being accused of attempting to “enter another country” in violation of the restrictions on his movement — even though Vanunu he was stopped by the Israeli Border Police and arrested, which prevented him from committing this alleged violation…

It is also true that, if the UN’s 1947 partition plan, contained in UN General Assembly resolution 181, had been accepted and implemented — but it has not been implemented, and has in fact now been abandoned to the archives — the Bethlehem 300 Checkpoint, and Bethlehem itself, would have become part of an internationally-administered “Jerusalem”…

This reported procedure, as described, is reminiscent of a number of horrible things. The person who experienced this suggests one or two in the original blog post. There are also others.

It could possibly be a new way to measure from the air composition inside the car whether or not explosives were recently [or, ever] transported in that vehicle.

Apparently, according to an update received by Right To Enter on Thursday, a sample of the air inside the car is part of the “IV-like” device described, and the driver + passengers are required to wait a few minutes beyond the 10-minute gas pumping timte as that sample is taken off to a nearby building [for testing]…

UPDATE: The Right to Enter Campaign published an alert Wednesday on this report it received on Monday, and noted that “Upon some preliminary research, which is still ongoing, it seems the hose may have been a vacuum to suck the air out of the car’s interior”.

It could conceivably be benign — but there is absolutely no way of knowing, without an official and responsible explanation, which should responsibly be given ASAP.

In the absence of any information or explanation, it is normal to have concerns, suspicions, and fears. These need to be addressed — by all parties concerned — in very short order.

UPDATE: Haaretz’s Ramallah-based correspondent Amira Hass reported today that:

    “Israel Police have begun implementing a new method of searching Palestinian vehicles through use of nausea-inducing chemicals at a Bethlehem checkpoint, international aid workers have reported. Since December, Israeli police officers have introduced what they call a sophisticated method of tracking explosive materials … Cars traveling to Jerusalem are often asked by Border Police soldiers to park their car in a side lot with eight parking spaces near the checkpoint. Once parked, the passengers are asked to roll up all windows, apart from that of the driver – and exit the vehicle. Two tubes are then connected to the vehicle – one is connected to an air pump, the other, which passes through a tiny filter, is attached to the vehicle. A policeman with a stopwatch flicks the air pump switch. According to Palestinians, police officers who carried out the search refused to describe the procedure. An official in the Israel Police told Haaretz that it is an approved procedure, and another police source said there is no use of any chemicals, but would not expand on the new search method. A foreign resident who works at an international organization and must pass through the checkpoint several times a week told Haaretz that the tube is left connected for approximately 10 minutes. Afterward, the filter is removed and taken to a nearby building. The worker says she was under the impression that some kind of chemical was disseminated into the vehicle, as she and another passenger began feeling nauseous and suffered from headaches several days afterwards. The worker has informed her country’s embassy. However, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, whose car also underwent the same procedure, told Haaretz that he did not feel a thing, and that the police officers added that it was ‘only oxygen’ being pumped into the vehicle. Israel Police officially responded to the inquiry by saying that ‘as the force entrusted to protect the country’s citizens and their quality of life, it must conduct arbitrary, rudimentary checks through use of sophisticated technological means, all the while alleviating the experience of those being checked’.”

There is a short [12 second] video of this new procedure on the web page. Amira Hass’ article is posted on the Haaretz website here.

What this story does illustrate, rather well, is the indisputable and casual ease with which Palestinians and others are subjected to measures under Israeli’s military occupation which disrupt or change or otherwise affect their lives, almost always adversely, without the minimum courtesy or respect. The subjects were not allowed to give informed consent, and no information has been delivered to the public with transparent fairness. And, justified fears are not addressed — instead, they are utterly disregarded, or dismissed.

This is one of the main characteristics of the Israeli military occupation, which has now lasted nearly 45 years…

"The Law in These Parts" – about Israel's military justice system – today at Sundance Film Festival

This extraordinarily powerful film, showing Israeli military court judges at work in the northern West Bank of Nablus during the first Palestinian intifada [circa 1988 + 1989] — and today, now in their retirement years, perhaps on Israel’s comfortable coastal plain, reflecting on what they did and how they did it — is being screened today in the Sundance Film Festival, Sundance, Colorado.

The film shed light on the dynamics of “a system of long-term jurisdiction by an occupying army that is unique in the entire world”, as one of the film’s websites says here.

The website adds that the film attempts to show how Israeli military court judges faced “complex judicial and moral dilemmas in order to develop and uphold a system of long-term military ‘rule by law’ of an occupied population, all under the supervision of Israel’s Supreme Court, and, according to Israel, in complete accordance with international law”…

At more than one point in the part of the film that I saw, Israeli former judges in the military court system were asked if they were aware that the confessions made by Palestinians, upon which they were convicted and sentenced, were extracted after torture. The reactions of the former military court judges are truly difficult to watch…

Our earlier post on this new film, which we published in July 2011, can be read here. Now, as the film is being screened at Sundance and elssewhere, the shorter version has been removed from Youtube, and listed as private, with permission needed to access. [A longer, 23-minute first cut was removed from the Vimeo site the day our post was published last July, as we noted in our blot post that day…]

The Law in These Parts was screened last week by the Educational Bookshop and the French Cultural Center on Salah ad-Din Street in East Jerusalem.

The showings at the Sundance Film Festival — or in Haifa, West Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv — are listed on the film’s website here.

Do Hamas members + supporters have human, civil rights in the West Bank?

The answer is obvious, but the question is not rhetorical.

There has been a great deal [well, ok, an unusual amount] of mobilization at official levels concerning the Israeli military’s detention of Aziz Dweik [see our earlier post here] at Jaba’a Checkpoint last Thursday.

UPDATE: On Tuesday 24 January, Aziz Dweik was sentenced at Ofer Military Court to six months’ Administrative Detention. That means neither substantial accusations nor evidence is made known to the accused or to his/her lawyer [nothing beyond “being a threat to security of the area”]. The Israeli Security services just ask to speak to the Israeli military judge in a private session, and that is that. Since there are no charges and no evidence, no defense is possible, in such circumstances….

UPDATE: Also on Thursday 24 January, Israeli troops entered Ramallah — Area A, and the de facto capital of the West-bank based Palestinian Authority — to arrest yet one more Palestinian MP affiliated with Hamas, AbdulJabber Fuqara. Israeli reports citing Palestinian sources say that his wife reports that Israeli troops also confiscated papers at Fuqara’s home Thursday morning [no doubt, quite early, in the dark, before dawn, when the rest of the area is sleeping, these operations are almost always carried out] …

Administrative Detention is one of the major violations of human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. Nearly 300 Palestinians [some 26 or 27 of them, currently about 10 percent of the total, are Palestinian members of the non-functioning Legislative Council who were elected on a Hamas-affiliated political party list].

As the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [PCHR, based in Gaza, but no affiliate of Hamas] has reported, Dweik’s car was stopped at 20h30 at night, after work,  as he was on his way home from Ramallah to Hebron. That means that Dweik had driven on the road that passes around Qalandia Checkpoint, and going out through Jaba’a checkpoint on the lane that is normally not checked by soldiers. 

The lane in the direction Dweik was travelling heads out towards the roads [shared with thousands of settlers and the relatively few internationals who work in Ramallah and elsewhere in the northern West Bank] which lead to the Maale Adumim traffic circle, then through congested and garbage-strewn Abu Dis and Eizariyya [Bethany] before passing the infamous Wadi Nar [hellfire] road going south to Bethlehem and then to Hebron.

Jaba’a Checkpoint is on the feeder road that is next to Jaba’a village, facing Road 60 which brings settlers and Palestinians from the northern West Bank.  It is just across from the traffic circle outside the Jewish settlement of Adam.  Passing through this traffic circle is the only way for Palestinian ID holders in Palestinian cars to get from the north to the south of the West Bank.  [There is also heavy settler traffic on the roads between Adam traffic circle and the Hizmeh Checkpoint at the entry to Jerusalem via the settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which the Palestinian cars — which are not allowed to enter Jerusalem either through Qalandia Checkpoint or through Hizmeh Checkpoint, must circumvent to take a more circuitous route to Maale Adumim traffic circle before continuing south. … so the term “Apartheid Road” system is not completely accurate, and is usually determined by the Checkpoint regime rather than by any other type of enforcement.]

Dweik was reportedly blindfolded and handcuffed, and eventually taken to Ofer prison — which is not even a one-star hotel — where he is apparently still being interrogated. The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported Sunday night, here, that:

    “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Sunday for the release of Abdel Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who was detained by the IDF last Thursday. ‘I’m not convinced that Dweik had committed any crime’, Abbas told a Russian TV station”.

So, the question is, why did Abbas have to say this to a Russian TV station [through its local correspondent in Jerusalem?], and not on Palestinian TV? Would that have been called incitement?

No one of the usual sources has raised a cry against the wave of Hamas detentions that has been going on through the past year.

If someone is a political opponent, or even if someone is labelled as being linked to a “terrorist” organization, does that mean they have no human or civil rights? Of course it does not. But, in the West Bank under occupation, it is only too easy to deprive people of the few rights that might be available to them…

The PA itself has detained Hamas members [both sides are supposed to have released “political” prisoners as part of the reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, but this has not happened after two deadlines have passed, and in general the PA has said it has no “political” prisoners, only those who have committed security offenses or common crimes…]

The PA has also fired Hamas-affiliated governmental employees, including dozens of school teachers — yet Hamas members dominate many of the local municipal councils, and there is a Hamas mayor a “moderate” one] in the large northern West Bank city of Nablus.

There has been some talk about Dweik’s arrest really being motivated by Israel’s aim to block his plan to convene an imminent meeting of the dormant Palestine Legislative Council [PLC]. But Israeli arrests of Hamas members of the PLC have been going on for several years … and it is not clear why Israel would be more concerned about this now, unless it is a way to foil Hamas-Fatah reconcilation efforts.

The reconvening of the PLC s also understood to be a matter of concern to Abbas advisers, who known that the minute the PLC is convened, it may do something like decide to repeal several years of executive decisions that Abbas has been able to issue in the lack of a viable PLC. So, it became a vicious circle: so many Hamas members were in jail it was impossible to convene the necessary quorum, and even if it were to become possible, no one really wanted to deal with the unforseeable consequences.

The Khaled Abu Toameh article in the JPost also reported that Abbas said, about Dweik’s detention:

    “ ‘Frankly, this is an arbitrary detention and it’s completely illegal’, Abbas said, noting that Dweik, a top Hamas political figure in the West Bank, had been arrested a number of times in the past. The PA, meanwhile, presented Israel with a letter demanding the release of Dweik and 23 Palestinian legislators, most of whom belong to Hamas. A Palestinian official told AFP that chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat delivered the letter to Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho during their fourth meeting in Amman over the weekend. The PA also demanded the release of some 130 Palestinians who were jailed before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. In addition, the PA is demanding the release of top Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms for his role in terror attacks against Israelis; and Ahmed Sa’dat, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – the group behind the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001. Among the Hamas legislators who are held in Israeli prison are Mahmoud Ramahi; Ahmed Haj; Ayman Daraghmeh; Nayef Rajoub; Fadel Hamdan; Mohammed Tal; Omar Abdel Razek; Mohammed Abu Teir; Mohammed Natsheh; Mohammed Abu Gehisha; Hassan Yousef; Azzam Salhab; Hatem Kafisha; Azzam Salhab; Nizar Ramadan; and Samir Qady”.

This list, if exhaustive, neatly leaves out Hussam Khader, a Fatah activist from Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus who was once part of the group known as “young Fatah” [which included Marwan Barghouthi as well as Qaddoura Fares, a long-time prisoner held by Israel in an earlier period who has since actively supported the Geneva Initiative of civil society working to advance a peace treaty and who now heads the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoner’s Society].

Khader has confronted and challenged the Fatah leadership for years, famously including Mahmoud Abbas during the Sixth Fatah General Conference held in Bethlehem in August 2009 — and has been considered inconvenient despite [or perhaps because of] his popular appeal.

Khader was re-arrested in a 2am raid on his home on June 2, and has been held in Israel’s Megiddo Prison, north of the West Bank, since an Israeli military judge confirmed a 6-month sentence of Administrative Detention in June, which was renewed in December at the request of the Israeli Security Services [then cut in half, to 3 months, upon the appeal of his Palestinian-Prisoner-Society lawyer Jawad Bulous, who has offices in the Galilee and in East Jerusalem]. Both in June, and again in December, the Israeli military judge did express some scepticism about the lack of concrete charges — publicly, as is usual in cases where Administrative Detention is applied to Palestinians under military law — the charges are only listed as “being a threat to safety and security in the region”. But, both times, the Israeli military judge did give in to the demands of Israeli Security Services.

It is believed, however, that Hussam Khader was questioned about his contacts with Hamas — particularly during visits to Lebanon and to Syria in 2010, during which time he believed he acted with the blessing of Mahmoud Abbas, as part of efforts to bring about Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

So, why has Mahmoud Abbas not mentioned Hussam Khader’s detention?

No water

Yesterday, Thursday 19 January, I had no water. None.

No hot water, no cold water.

I discovered this only when I turned the tap on just after noon. There was still no water when I went to sleep after 3 am.

I called the landlord by 1pm Thursday, and he said he would come to check.

By Friday morning, there was a trickle of water in the taps. At 11:30, the landlord called to tell me that everything was fine, the tanks way up on the roof [reachable only by a gymnast, and dangerous on rainy days because the smooth stone facade is slippery] were full. He didn’t know what I was complaining about.

The same thing happened last Thursday — but it lasted for over two days, and the water only came back on Sunday.

Then, the landlord said that the water company in Ramallah had apparently rationed the water coming to our area in the days prior to my having no water. The landlord had no explanation as to why I, who live alone, was the only one in the building [where families have multiple children] who did not have water. Instead, his explanation was that “one other family in the building was suffering too”. He would not say who that was.

This Thursday-Friday, I was apparently the only one without water.

My friends think the landlord is trying to get me to move out, so he can increase the rent…

And, oh, have I mentioned that the gas system for heating [an Israeli system, called “Yumkers”], which I am the only one who paid to have it installed in my apartment, has not worked since the first year — it was discoverd this past year that there is a crack in the gas well that the landlord installed in the building just before I moved in, casting doubt on his earlier theory that I was overusing the gas, in the gluttonous ways of foreigners… Since then, I have migrated to mobile electrical heaters, and the most effective and safest are the oil filled radiators that are warmed by electricity and then operate on a thermostat. This year, the electricity is more expensive than last year: in November this year, I paid 1300 NIS, new Israeli shekels, for electricity, about $350 dollars, for the month — prepaid, of course, because Palestinians are believed to be poor payers of monthly bills. In December I paid 1600 NIS for electricity, about $421 dollars. And, in January, I have already paid 2000 NIS, or about $540, and I really hope I can make it through the month on that. A factory uses about the same. With that, I will have paid 4500 so far this winter for three months — whereas last year that got me through four months. That is a big increase. And this place is not warm. In the summer, when I do not use air conditioning, and don’t even have it available, I pay less than 100 NIS per month for electricity… There is something very wrong here.]

The IDF today [only a small part of its activity]

Today, we were advised that the IDF has in recent months broken up a major Islamic Jihad operation in the northern West Bank. Haaretz reported here that:

    “In a joint operation between the IDF and the Shin Bet, 10 Islamic Jihad militants were arrested near Jenin in recent months. According to the investigation, the military headquarters of the cell was communicating with the Islamic Jihad in Syria, who transferred the cell large sums of money to purchase weapons and to fund other operations”.


So, we read a bit further down in this Haaretz article, and we learn that:

    “According to the Shin Bet, the terror cell was planning attacks on IDF soldiers, shooting attacks in the settlements, and abducting Israelis. During the investigation, Israeli security forces seized a kilogram of potassium which could be used to make bombs, a Kalashnikov gun and a magazine, some 150 bullets, and NIS 2,050 [about $540 at the current rate of exchange] that the Shin Bet said was intended for terror operations

Many of the comments on the Haaretz website were scathing…

Continue reading The IDF today [only a small part of its activity]

Meager results from Israeli military investigations of its own conduct in Gaza 3 years ago

The Israeli human rights information organization B’Tselem has reported that it received an update from the Israeli Military’s Attorney-General on the status of complaints [including some from B’Tselem] made into specific aspects of the Israeli military conduct of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza — 3 years ago [27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009].

But, B’Tselem noted, the results of the Israeli military’s investigations into its own actions in that unprecedented operation in Gaza were “meager”.

Continue reading Meager results from Israeli military investigations of its own conduct in Gaza 3 years ago

Guantanamo Detention Camp anniversary

China Matters this week marked, here, the tenth anniversary of the U.S. Government’s founding of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp for illegal enemy combattants…

China Hand [Peter Lee] wrote in his blog post that “January 2012 marks the 10th melancholy anniversary of the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay … Meanwhile, Guantanamo remains open and an embarrassing symbol, both of US reliance on extrajudicial detention and harsh interrogation (which will continue on US military bases and in black offshore prison no matter what happens to the flagship enterprise in Guantanamo) and American political gridlock”.

The post, published on 16 January, gives a brief but interesting account of how U.S. Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich managed to ignite “the firestorm of criticism that prevented the public release of 17 Uighur captives from Guantanamo to Germany and the United States in early 2009″…

After reading that account, it would be interesting to compare it to this account of the release of one Uighur, “From Guantánamo to Palau: Exchanging One Prison for Another“, reported by Seema Saifee [a lawyer representing four Uighur detainees, including the one whose situation is described in this article], and published on 19 January on Spiegel Online here [found via a Tweet by the Miami Herald’s Guantanamo correspondent, Carol Rosenberg, @carolrosenberg]

Taybeh checkpoint last week at 4:00 am

This is another of our posts in our Do not say you didn’t know series … [Most of our posts are actually in the series…]:

Filmed by a member of the World Council of Churches current team of Ecumenical Accompaniers in Israel and Palestine [EAPPI], here is Taybeh checkpoint last week at 4:00 am… Palestinians start lining up at 3:30 am.

It is, unusually, a “privately-run” Israeli checkpoint for Palestinians — that is, it is run by a security company subcontracted by the Israeli Defense Ministry.

Read more about it on the EAPPI blog, here.

The video is also posted on Youtube here or here.

So, please, do not say you didn’t know…