Saturday, June 14, 2014

Richard Falk on the "network of Israeli prisons"

“We should not forget that there is a callous and manifest unlawfulness about this network of Israeli prisons, all but one of the 19 being located in Israel, in direct violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention governing belligerent occupation: “Protected persons accused of offenses shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve therein.”  Underlying such a provision of law is a humane impulse: compelling an individual to be imprisoned in the occupying country imposes a geographic separation from family and homeland, which in the Israeli case is accentuated by a permit system that as a practical matter makes family visits from occupied Palestine a virtual impossibility. With respect to prisoners from Gaza, there are virtually no prison visits allowed even if sentences are for several decades or lifetime. As is widely known, the people of Gaza have been subject to a punitive blockade maintained ever since mid-2007 that involves a massive imposition of collective punishment on the civilian population, a crime of war so specified in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hillary Clinton and Israeli settlements

If pressing Israel to freeze settlement construction in 2009 was a “tactical mistake” -  according to Hillary Clinton - then the Israeli settlement policy itself is a “tactical war crime”.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Demolitions, and (silent) displacement of Palestinians

Recent demolitions and displacement

Over the past two years, 126 Palestinians have had their homes demolished and some have been forcibly transferred out of these dislocated communities as a result of demolitions: these include 51 people from the Al Khalayla Bedouin community, 63 from the Tel Al Addasa Bedouin community and 12 from Khirbet Khamis.6 Outstanding demolition orders against residential and livelihood structures continue to threaten other dislocated communities with displacement and/or the erosion of livelihood sources, including Khirbet Khamis, An Nabi Samwil village and its nearby Bedouin community, Al Khalayla and Ras Shihadeh Bedouins.

Silent displacement: the case of An Nabi Samwil

In other cases, difficult living conditions, the denial of residency permits by the Israeli authorities and the inability to build as a result of planning and building restrictions have forced families to move out to the remainder of the West Bank. For example, according to An Nabi Samwil village council, 24 households comprising 125 people, including newly-wed couples, have moved out of the village in the past seven years as a result of movement and access restrictions and the inability to build new homes.

An Nabi Samwil village is located entirely in Area C and has been designated by the Israeli authorities as a national park area. Residents live with the continuous threat of demolition orders; in the past three years, the Israeli Civil Administration demolished 11 livelihood structures in An Nabi Samwil, affecting around 25 people. The Israeli authorities have also prevented village residents from expanding their 16-meter-square school and issued demolition orders on the fence surrounding the school, the newly erected school caravan and the school’s sanitation unit.

Israeli settler violence has also been on the rise in the village, including damaging and stealing car wash equipment and flooding newly planted agricultural land with sewage. At the same time, the few Palestinians who attempted to seek work in nearby Ramot settlement were arrested on the grounds that they are not allowed to enter East Jerusalem.

Residency denied: the case of Dahiyat Al Barid residents

Several families living in the area of Dahiyat Al Barid, located within the Israeli-declared Jerusalem municipal boundary, were forced to leave their homes and move to Kufr ‘Aqab after being denied residency permits by the Israeli authorities. These families were issued two-month temporary permits when the Barrier was completed in the area in 2009 and were instructed to apply to the Israeli Ministry of Interior for family reunification, if eligible, or to leave Jerusalem altogether. As a result, three families comprising 18 people, including three fathers with West Bank IDs, were forced to move to the West Bank side of the Barrier after several years of access restrictions that severely affected their family lives and jobs.”

OCHA Report

Thursday, June 5, 2014

International Court of Justice on occupied East Jerusalem


“73. In the 1967 armed conflict, Israeli forces occupied all the territories which had constituted Palestine under British Mandate (including those known as the West Bank, lying to the east of the Green Line).
74. On 22 November 1967, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 242 (1967), which emphasized the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war and called for the “Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict”, and “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency”.
75. From 1967 onwards, Israel took a number of measures in these territories aimed at changing the status of the City of Jerusalem. The Security Council, after recalling on a number of occasions “the principle that acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible”, condemned those measures and, by resolution 298 (1971) of 25 September 1971, confirmed in the clearest possible terms that:
“all legislative and administrative actions taken by Israel to change the status of the City of Jerusalem, including expropriation of land and properties, transfer of populations and legislation aimed at the incorporation of the occupied section, are totally invalid and cannot change that status”.

Later, following the adoption by Israel on 30 July 1980 of the Basic Law making Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital of Israel, the Security Council, by resolution 478 (1980) of 20 August 1980, stated that the enactment of that Law constituted a violation of international law and that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem . . . are null and void”. It further decided “not to recognize the ‘basic law’ and such other actions by Israel that, as a result of this law, seek to alter the character and status of Jerusalem”.

76. Subsequently, a peace treaty was signed on 26 October 1994 between Israel and Jordan. That treaty fixed the boundary between the two States “with reference to the boundary definition under the Mandate as is shown in Annex I (a) . . . without prejudice to the status of any territories that came under Israeli military government control in 1967” (Article 3, paragraphs 1 and 2). Annex I provided the corresponding maps and added that, with regard to the “territory that came under Israeli military government control in 1967”, the line indicated “is the administrative boundary” with Jordan.
77. Lastly, a number of agreements have been signed since 1993 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization imposing various obligations on each party. Those agreements inter alia required Israel to transfer to Palestinian authorities certain powers and responsibilities exercised in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by its military authorities and civil administration. Such transfers have taken place, but, as a result of subsequent events, they remained partial and limited.
78. The Court would observe that, under customary international law as reflected (see paragraph 89 below) in Article 42 of the Regulations Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land annexed to the Fourth Hague Convention of 18 October 1907 (hereinafter “the Hague Regulations of 1907”), territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army, and the occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.
The territories situated between the Green Line (see paragraph 72 above) and the former eastern boundary of Palestine under the Mandate were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the armed conflict between Israel and Jordan. Under customary international law, these were therefore occupied territories in which Israel had the status of occupying Power. Subsequent events in these territories, as described in paragraphs 75 to 77 above, have done nothing to alter this situation. All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and Israel has continued to have the status of occupying Power.

87. The Court first recalls that, pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 4, of the United Nations Charter:

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
On 24 October 1970, the General Assembly adopted resolution 2625 (XXV), entitled “Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States” (hereinafter “resolution 2625 (XXV)”), in which it emphasized that “No territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal.” As the Court stated in its Judgment in the case concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America), the principles as to the use of force incorporated in the Charter reflect customary international law (see I.C.J. Reports 1986, pp. 98-101, paras. 187-190); the same is true of its corollary entailing the illegality of territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force.

96. The Court would moreover note that the States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention approved that interpretation at their Conference on 15 July 1999. They issued a statement in which they “reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”. Subsequently, on 5 December 2001, the High Contracting Parties, referring in particular to Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, once again reaffirmed the “applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”. They further reminded the Contracting Parties participating in the Conference, the parties to the conflict, and the State of Israel as occupying Power, of their respective obligations.
97. Moreover, the Court would observe that the ICRC, whose special position with respect to execution of the Fourth Geneva Convention must be “recognized and respected at all times” by the parties pursuant to Article 142 of the Convention, has also expressed its opinion on the interpretation to be given to the Convention. In a declaration of 5 December 2001, it recalled that “the ICRC has always affirmed the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the territories occupied since 1967 by the State of Israel, including East Jerusalem”.
98. The Court notes that the General Assembly has, in many of its resolutions, taken a position to the same effect. Thus on 10 December 2001 and 9 December 2003, in resolutions 56/60 and 58/97, it reaffirmed “that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967”.
99. The Security Council, for its part, had already on 14 June 1967 taken the view in resolution 237 (1967) that “all the obligations of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War . . . should be complied with by the parties involved in the conflict”.
Subsequently, on 15 September 1969, the Security Council, in resolution 271 (1969), called upon “Israel scrupulously to observe the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and international law governing military occupation”. 
Ten years later, the Security Council examined “the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967”. In resolution 446 (1979) of 22 March 1979, the Security Council considered that those settlements had “no legal validity” and affirmed “once more that the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, is applicable to the Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem”. It called “once more upon Israel, as the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously” by that Convention.
On 20 December 1990, the Security Council, in resolution 681 (1990), urged “the Government of Israel to accept the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention . . . to all the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 and to abide scrupulously by the provisions of the Convention”. It further called upon “the high contracting parties to the said Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure respect by Israel, the occupying Power, for its obligations under the Convention in accordance with article 1 thereof”.
Lastly, in resolutions 799 (1992) of 18 December 1992 and 904 (1994) of 18 March 1994, the Security Council reaffirmed its position concerning the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the occupied territories.
100. The Court would note finally that the Supreme Court of Israel, in a judgment dated 30 May 2004, also found that:
“The military operations of the [Israeli Defence Forces] in Rafah, to the extent they affect civilians, are governed by Hague Convention IV Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land 1907 . . . and the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War 1949.”
101. In view of the foregoing, the Court considers that the Fourth Geneva Convention is applicable in any occupied territory in the event of an armed conflict arising between two or more High Contracting Parties. Israel and Jordan were parties to that Convention when the 1967 armed conflict broke out. The Court accordingly finds that that Convention is applicable in the Palestinian territories which before the conflict lay to the east of the Green Line and which, during that conflict, were occupied by Israel, there being no need for any enquiry into the precise prior status of those territories.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The 47th Anniversary of An-Naksa

Chronology of events:

An-Naksa, the Debacle, also known as June 1967 War or the Six Day War. On the morning of Monday, June 5, 1967, Israeli military aircraft raided the Egyptian airfields, destroying the bulk of the Egyptian Air Force.

Ground attacks started immediately thereafter on the Jordanian and Syrian fronts, bound to Egypt with military common defense pacts. The Israeli Air Force ravaged the Sinai Peninsula with almost no fight - Egyptian units deprived of air cover. By Friday June 9, the Israeli Army stood on the East Bank of Suez Canal, captured the Golan Heights and the rest of the Palestinian territories (Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza Strip). 

Since the start of the occupation, Israeli policies and practices under various governments - in a striking challenge to international law and UN Security Council resolutions - have been characterized by:

- confiscation of land;
- construction of settlements;
- crushing Palestinian resistance movements - politically and militarily;
- violation of human rights;
- unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem - hardly three weeks after the start of the war -  making it the “eternal, indivisible Capital” of Israel.

Based on the shock of defeat, fear of the unknown, Palestinian society has passed through several phases of resistance under this occupation:

- non-cooperation between 1967 and 1970, which led to the crippling of the society, as schools, universities and courts were closed, in addition to continuous general strikes among professionals and business network;
- “Sumoud” - steadfastness - between 1970 and 1982, marking the rise of a national front from PLO factions;
- isolation - following the exodus of Palestinian fighters out of Jordan in 1970, and out of Lebanon  in 1982;
- Intifada I (1987-1990) and II (2000-2003) - popular uprisings - with the aim of ending the Israeli occupation and building a new society based on freedom and independence on national soil;
- negotiations under the banner “Land for Peace” and Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338  - leading to the Oslo I and II  Accords in 1993 and 1995, respectively.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians reached a total deadlock many years ago, despite changes of governments.

Successive Israeli Governments have systematically threatened and imposed sanctions against Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, and have continued their settlement activities everywhere, expropriation of lands, house demolitions, deportations and other violations of human rights, perhaps the most blatant being the construction of an 8m high concrete Separation Wall built on Palestinian lands despite a negative Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague rendered on 9 July 2004 - let alone attacks on Christian and Islamic religious sites by fanatic settlers.

Before resuming negotiations with the Palestinians, Israelis put forth yet another impediment: namely that Palestinians should first recognize the “Jewish character” of the State of Israel - while Palestinians from their side, accepting the challenges, claim the cessation of all settlement activities and the release of prisoners.

US successive administrations seem unwilling to exert any form of pressure on Israel - which is indeed the only way to get out of the political deadlock. 

Some live witnesses from a close and reliable source:

Between 1948 and 1967, there were a number of Arab Consulates General posted in Jerusalem, considering the international character of the City (Embassies were located in Amman): Egyptian, Saudi Arabian, Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi. Also, there was a Representative Office of the Arab League.

Some of the Arab Consuls had chosen to flee away to their respective Capitals before the outbreak of the war. Early in the morning of Tuesday, June 6, some Arab Consuls - Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi and the Representative of the Arab League - sought refuge at the adjoining Belgian Consulate General in Sheikh Jarrah. In the afternoon of the same day, the Israeli Army had already seized the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, after invading UNRWA buildings. Israeli heavy-armed paratroopers – in violation of international law - rushed into the compound of the Belgian Consulate General despite the fact that the gate was closed and the Belgian national flag raised over the building.  They knocked savagely on the main door, claiming to search the building for Jordanian snipers posted on the roof.  There were none. When they came to know about Arab Consuls hidden inside the Consulate, they arrested all the four Arab diplomats, notwithstanding their sheltering inside a foreign Consulate. These diplomats were dragged out of the premises to detention, inside Israel, which lasted until the end of the year, when a swap of prisoners took place with each of the Arab countries !

On Wednesday, June 7, the Israeli Army hoisted the Israeli flag over the tower of the Ophthalmic Hospital belonging to the London-based Order of St. John of Jerusalem - a private British property in Sheikh Jarrah. Thanks to the intervention of the British Government, through the good offices of the British Consul General in Jerusalem, the Israeli flag was removed from atop the building right on the following day.

Simultaneously, the Israeli Army seized the prestigious, 4-storey Ambassador Hotel, again in Sheikh Jarrah, and made it its General Headquarters for nearly four years. The basement of the Hotel served as a detention area for the captured Palestinians living in the area.

On the same day, the entire Old City of Jerusalem fell under occupation; Israel confiscated the keys to Bab Al-Magharbeh (Western Gate of Al-Aqsa Mosque) compound, never to return them to the Islamic Waqfs (Trusteeship). The Israeli flag was hoisted over the Western Wall …

On Sunday, June 11, the inhabitants of the Old City’s Mughrabi Quarter adjacent to the Wailing Wall were given three hours to evacuate their homes, before the entire quarter was demolished to create a plaza !

On Wednesday, June 14, the Wailing Wall was opened to the Israeli public while the inhabitants of the Old City were put under curfew.

On June 28, the Knesset voted on the unilateral annexation of the Eastern part of Jerusalem, declaring it the “unified, indivisible, eternal Capital” of the State of Israel. On the same day, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem were allowed for the first time to walk inside Israeli-held Jerusalem (West Jerusalem), and contemplate with pain and bitterness their homes and properties - inhabited by Jewish immigrants - for the first time since the day they were evicted therefrom back in 1948 …

On June 29, Israel dismissed the elected Mayor and council members of the Arab Jerusalem Municipality. Mayor Rawhi Al-Khatib was offered to join the Israeli-held municipal council of the City - which he flatly rejected.

In an attempt to ensure Israeli control of the roads in the entire City, Israel allowed nine “Egged” bus routes to operate parallel to the Arab public transport system. Meanwhile, Palestinian vehicles were forced to replace their old plate numbers by Israeli registration ones.

On July 18, the West Bank Muslim Court of Appeals was required to transfer its seat to Ramallah or Nablus, while the Jerusalem Court was ordered to place itself under the Israeli Muslim Court of Appeals in West Jerusalem.

On July 21, Anwar Al-Khatib, Governor of Jerusalem, former MP Daoud Husseini, lawyers Abdul Muhsen Abu Maizer and Ibrahim Bakr were banished by Israel from certain areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories because of their refusal to accept the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.

On August 11, a one-day curfew was imposed on the inhabitants of East Jerusalem. Census was taken, and a week later, Palestinians were forced to acquire Israeli blue ID cards.
                                                            *                      *

Under the prevailing circumstances, there is no more sense talking about a two-State solution. This idea is dead. The Israeli practices - like building and expanding settlements, confiscating lands, Judaisation of Jerusalem, disrupting geographical continuity  between the different localities of the West Bank, position of Israeli leaders and political parties - have buried it completely. Israeli leaders confirm their outspoken rejection in principle and in practice of any withdrawal to pre-June 1967 lines.

We often hear about proposals, mediations and initiatives from different sides - but they all lack credibility.  They are all deemed to fail as none of them  claims, puts pressure, or  does anything to put an end to the excessive Israeli practices on the ground, with a view  to pave the way before a two-State solution. The Palestinian leadership conversely offered everything it could in order to reach a peaceful settlement.  It accepted to renounce nearly 78% of historical Palestine lands, opted for negotiations, modified the PLO Charter, accepted security coordination. All these concessions were met by more and more settlements and by hooliganism and vandalism by settlers who make fun attacking peaceful Palestinian civilians and farmers, cutting olive trees, assaulting shrines - under the protection of Israeli soldiers …