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Winter 2007

animation of separation wall

1. 683 killed in conflict 2006
2. The new refugees
3. The real facts
4. News from the Gazan border
5. No Palestinian fishing rod
6. Visa denial
7. Gaza's darkness
8. Can you really not see?
9. We kidnap too

683 people killed in the conflict in 2006
B'Tselem - Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

This past year, we witnessed a deterioration in the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories, particularly in the increase in civilians killed and the destruction of houses and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, there was an improvement regarding violations of the right to life of Israeli civilians.

According to B'Tselem's research, from January to December 27, 2006, Israeli security forces killed 660 Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and in Israel. This includes 141 minors. At least 322 of those killed did not take part in the hostilities at the time they were killed. Another 22 were targets of assassinations.

Palestinians killed 17 Israeli civilians in 2006, both in the West Bank and inside Israel. This includes 1 minor. In addition, Palestinians killed 6 members of the Israeli security forces.

Other news

Trigger happy

In December, B'Tselem documented four case in which soldiers opened fire at Palestinians: On 19 December, soldiers killed D'ah 'Abd al-Qadr, 14, and wounded her friend Saha Shalbi, 12, near the separation barrier by Tulkarm; On 14 December, a soldier killed Wahib a-Dik, 27, a father of four, who was working as plasterer in restoring the ancient a-Dik palace; On 3 December, a soldier killed 14-year-old Jamil al-Jabji in Nablus, when he and his friends threw stones at an army jeep; On 7 December, 17-year-old Saji a-Sheikh was shot when he and his friends tried to damage the separation barrier near Beit 'Anan.

In each case, B'Tselem's investigation found that the soldiers were not in danger, and that the use of lethal force was unjustified. B'Tselem wrote to the judge advocate general, demanding an investigation into whether soldiers were issued illegal orders, which gave soldiers the dangerous impression they are allowed to open fire at stone throwers.

Nationality law would harm East Jerusalem Palestinian children

On 18 December, the Knesset approved on first reading the proposed Nationality and Entry into Israel (Temporary Order) Law, which, if enacted, would remain in force for two years. The proposed law would severely harm children one of whose parents is a resident of Israel and the other a resident of the Occupied Territories. Under the law, children in this category who are over fourteen would, for example, not be allowed to live with their parents and as a result would live under the constant fear of being detained and harassed by security forces.

'Azzun 'Atma to be enclosed by separation barrier

Israel recently began construction of a section of the separation barrier that will surround 'Azzun 'Atma, a Palestinian village south of Qalqiliya. The village is already separated from the rest of the West Bank, and its 1,800 residents can leave only through a gate in the barrier that is not open twenty four hours a day. Turning the village into an enclave will also separate its residents from 2,000 dunams of farmland they own.

As in many other cases, Israel chose the route of the barrier to enable expansion of nearby settlements, in this instance Oranit and Elqana, and to build a new industrial area.

High Court rules on anti-compensation law, targeted killings

The High Court of Justice recently issued two fundamental rulings relating to the conflict in the Occupied Territories.

On 11 December, the High Court invalidated an amendment to the Civil Wrongs (Liability of the State) Law, referred to as the intifada law, which almost completely blocked Palestinians from suing for damages. The judgment was given in a petition filed by B'Tselem and eight other human rights organizations.

On 14 December, the High Court placed certain restrictions on Israel's policy of targeted killings, which the state has carried out officially since the beginning of the second intifada. However, the judgment is vague on a number of particulars, and there is concern that Israel will exploit the vagueness and claim that its targeted-killing policy received the High Court's sanction.

“It cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is prohibited according to customary international law, just as it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is permissible according to customary international law.”

Rabbis for Human Rights, North America, awards prize to B'Tselem

"Do Charity and Justice," the first Raphael Lamkin Human Rights Prize was awarded on 11 December to B'Tselem at a ceremony in New York City. Jessica Montell, B'Tselem's executive director, accepted the award on behalf of the organization. Also honored with the prize were rabbis David Forman, Ben Hollander, and David Rosen, who founded Rabbis for Human Rights, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The new refugees

Amira Hass

Until Enaya Samara, who has been living in forced exile for the past eight months returns to her village near Ramallah, and until Someida Abbas, who was banished from his home 10 months ago accompanies his children to kindergarten again, it will not be possible to believe the defense
establishment's promise to change its policy. So long as American, Brazilian and German citizens whose name is not Cohen but Abdullah, are refused entry at the borders, we will know that the policy is still in effect - the policy of causing tens of thousands of Palestinian families to break up, or to leave their homes and emigrate. This is not a new policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since 1967, Israel has been carrying out demographic manipulations which should actually be called expulsion. Military edicts have caused some 100,000 people to lose their status as permanent residents in the occupied territories and to remain exiles in the countries to which they went to study or work. These manipulations have turned 240,000 people who were born in the West bank and Gaza and left the territories because of the 1967 war, and another 60,000 who were abroad when it broke out, to
become new refugees.

All of them left behind families in the territories, but Israel prevented the vast majority from reuniting again in their homeland. (During those years, Israel was actively promoting the right of Jews in the USSR to emigrate and reunite with their families in Israel). After 1994, Israel made it possible for several thousand Palestinian families to unite every year; in other words, it granted their children the status of permanent residency. But the quota it fixed was always less than the real needs, and since 2001,
Israel has even frozen the family unification process and barred Palestinians who are citizens of Arab countries (particularly Jordan and Egypt) from coming to visit.

Until 2006, Palestinians with Western citizenship (Europeans and Americans) were able to avoid this comprehensive policy. In the 1990s, they were considered a welcome population (investors, businessmen, academics working in international organizations such as the World Bank). Even if most
of them did not get permanent residency, Israel permitted them to live here and visit regularly. This was also the case with Western spouses of Palestinian residents. Until someone in the political echelons decided that this "positive discrimination" (as opposed to citizens of Jordan and Egypt) was intolerable. And from the start of 2006 their entry has been blocked.

It is not clear who the decision-maker is. The coordinator of government activities in the territories told Western diplomats it was the Interior Ministry that made the decision. Interior Ministry officials say it
was a joint decision with the Defense Ministry.

Be that as it may, whoever made the decision did not take into account that this was a blow to the strongest circles among the Palestinians - those who speak English, have access to the U.S. State
Department, to important journalists, and to the Israeli and international business worlds. They found a way to get together and protest, unlike the tens of thousands of women who have Jordanian citizenship and hide in fear in the West Bank because Israel does not recognize their right to live with their husbands and children.

The change of policy toward Palestinians with Western citizenship was brought to the attention of MK Ephraim Sneh even before he became deputy defense minister. Already then, Sneh was of the opinion that there was no point in changing the policy and that doing so would be harmful to Israel's interests. In a conversation with Haaretz, he sounded sincere in promising that this policy toward the Americans and Europeans had been cancelled and that his bureau was working on new regulations that would "make
things simpler rather than making them more complicated, and would alleviate rather than aggravate" the situation. (However, it was possible to understand from this that the regulations would not legalize the stay of thousands, particularly adults and children who remained even though their visas were no longer valid).

But the joy is premature: During the past two weeks, officials continued to prevent the entry even of those who are married and have children here and those who came on a visit. Are these merely "left-overs of the previous situation," as Sneh put it, or does it testify also to the fact that Sneh is not the sole decision-maker, as was evident with his position on removing the roadblocks?

On the Israeli scene, army commanders (some of them settlers) act together with politicians, jurists and academics who are terrified of the demographic balance. The Green Line does not exist for them. They
thought up the Citizenship Law, which crassly expanded the discrimination against Israeli Arabs and intervenes in their right to have a family life. Why do they not act the same across the Green Line where the military edict is in force? And if Sneh ceases being deputy defense minister, who can guarantee that a deputy from the Kadima party will not cancel the cancelation?

More than ever before, the Israeli system today denies the fact that it is repression and discrimination, an integral part of every occupation, that create the security threat. The most it is prepared to do
is make "improvements" and mete out "favors," but it will not recognize rights.

The real facts
May 2006

A joke of Dov Weisglas, Israeli prime minister's adviser: "It's like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die".

But here are the real facts:

On 4 May, the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza reported that four people in need of dialysis have died because of medical shortages. Only a few days supply of surgical drugs such as atropine, adrenaline, heparin and lidocaine remain. ('Funds Cut, Gaza Faces a Plague of Health Woes', New York Times, 8 May 2006; 'Patients die as doctors run out of drugs to treat them', Guardian Weekly, 10 May 2006.)

On 9 May, the Israeli company Dor - which provides all petrol and cooking gas to the West Bank and Gaza Strip - announced that it was suspending these fuel supplies. Israel prohibits Palestinians from importing fuel from any alternative source. Moreover, Israel, the US, Canada and other governments have cut all aid and barred the Palestinian Authority from receiving other funds to pay for fuel. ('Fuel supplies running dry; enough for 24 hours only says petroleum committee director', Maan News Agency 10 May 2006.)

The 160,000 Palestinians who work for the Palestinian Authority as teachers, doctors, police and civil servants have not received wages for two months. These wages support thousands of families, estimated at approximately 1/3 of the Palestinian population. This loss of income comes after nearly six years of Israeli attacks and siege. As a consequence, most of these individuals already face massive indebtedness and depleted personal savings. Even the World Bank warned this week that its earlier predictions of a 50% rise in poverty in the occupied territories this year already at 50% in some areas) - driven by a sharp fall in personal income and a 23% increase in unemployment - may have been "too rosy". ('Patients die as doctors run out of drugs to treat them', Guardian Weekly, 10 May 2006.)

Palestinian officials report that police forces have received no food for two days. Over the last month, police have received as little as a loaf of bread three times a week and a few vegetables on other days. No salaries have been paid for two months. Palestinian prison guards are asking relatives of inmates to prepare food and bring it to the prisons so that prisoners will not starve. ('PA crisis: Prisons running out of food', YNET News, 8 May 2006.)

Israeli policies in the Occupied territories have confined Palestinians to a patchwork of disconnected population islands divided by Israeli settlements, checkpoints and military bases. All aspects of Palestinian life are completely dependent upon Israeli 'permission'. Palestinian movement in-and-out of towns and villages is controlled by Israeli-issued permits and regulated by soldiers and checkpoints. With the "security fence" which Ehud Olmert says would be a "permanent border", the Palestinian "bantustans" are being narrowed to look more like ghettos.

Israel completely controls all imports and exports, and the flow of funds into the WB/GS. Massive confiscation of land in the West Bank has destroyed the Palestinian agricultural sector. In the Gaza Strip, Israel even controls where and how Palestinians can fish. The deliberate 'de-development' of Palestinian industry under Israeli occupation, coupled with closures excluding Palestinian labour, has forced people into dependence on the Palestinian Authority and relief funds.

News from the Gazan Border
Jimmy Johnson, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

While the vast destruction in Gaza seems to be on hold, the incremental destruction of Palestine continues apace. Just the last few days have seen a large number of demolitions in Israel and East Jerusalem. On 5 December an entire Bedouin village, Abu Twail, was demolished in the Negev, plus one house in A-Tur and a business in Ras Al Amud. Then on 6 December, the top floor of a house in Jerusalem's Old City was destroyed. Each of these 20 buildings was demolished for lack of a building license. Our colleagues at the Regional Coalition of the Unrecognized Villages have written a narrative about the plight of Abu Twail that is posted on ICAHD's homepage.

In A-Tur, the house of Radir Abu Ghalia and six of his family members was almost entirely demolished despite an order from the Local Court that would have stopped the demolition, had the municipal officials at the site waited a few minutes for it to arrive. They did not, despite hearing from the family that the order that would have saved their house was granted and en route. This is a common occurrence, demolitions against Israeli law, as though the law itself wasn't bad enough. In fact, the demolitions in A-Tur, Ras Al Amud and the Old City all were demolished against the law. In its quest for a Jewish demographic majority inside the municipality of Jerusalem (including the illegally annexed East Jerusalem), the authorities will do everything possible to demolish the living space of the Palestinians in the city. For the authorities, there's just about nothing more terrifying than the quickly growing Palestinian population. It will only be a matter of time - Palestinians are currently 44% of the 1-yr-olds in Jerusalem – until there is an Arab majority inside the city, and perhaps an Arab mayor in the capital of the Jewish state. Bald racism from the government deems this an unacceptable future so the city takes extreme measures through zoning and planning to force Palestinians to move away, even violating its own laws to do so.

The policy does not describe the devastation wreaked upon the victims. The Abu Ghalia family is homeless, and the family of Fayez Al-Razen is cramped into a space far too small for the group. The Al-Razen family fits some 50 people into their two-story house on As Silsileh St. inside of Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. On 5 December, Fayez had just finished construction on a new third story when he received a demolition order. He hired a lawyer to take the case to court and the next day the municipality showed up to correct his desire for adequate shelter. His lawyer was able to get an order from the Local Court but by the time the lawyer reached to site the top floor was already ruined.

The UN Security Council, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, B'Tselem, Al-Haq, HaMoked, the US State Department and countless other bodies have found the demolition of houses (not to mention the other crimes of the Occupation), to be in flagrant contradiction of international law, and human rights. These recent demolitions and many others previously show a total disregard for Israeli, and even more importantly, international law, and should be in our minds today, on Human Rights Day. As Israel imposes these measures and other Apartheid conditions upon the Palestinians, the real question is what are we, all of us, doing about it?

No Palestinian fishing rod

Amira Hass

The world is applauding Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus for applying the folk wisdom that a poor man should be given not a fish but rather a fishing pole. That is, to fight poverty, it is necessary not to feed poor people but rather to let them earn a living. And at the same time, the world is being asked to keep giving the Palestinians fish, because it knows very well that Israel will block any shipment of fishing rods.

More than 1.3 million Palestinians, out of a population of 3.7 million (including the inhabitants of East Jerusalem), were defined as poor in 2005. More than half of them, 820,000, were defined as sunk in "deep poverty." The Palestinian National Commission for Poverty Alleviation has set two poverty lines, on the basis of average consumption expenses: The official poverty line relates to nine categories of goods and services, if the daily expenditure for them is less than $2.40 per capita. The "deep poverty line" relates to just three categories - food, clothing and housing (without medical care, education, or transportation expenses), the expenditure for which is less than $2.00 a day.

In the first half of 2006, the number of Palestinians in a state of "deep poverty" reached 1,069,200, as noted in a detailed United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) report that was published in November, headed "Prolonged Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Recent Socio-Economic Impacts on Refugees and Non-Refugees." Their number did decline by half toward the end of 2006 because of aid they received and the payment of part of the public sector salaries. One-third of the Palestinian public reported that it had received aid during the second half of 2006: 15.3 percent of the West Bank's inhabitants and 56.9 percent of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. Nearly 78 percent reported that the aid was in the form of food. This is a matter of sums that range between NIS 200 and NIS 489 per family.

On the backdrop of these shocking cumulative reports, last week the UN agencies in partnership with 14 non-governmental organizations embarked on a campaign to raise $453.6 million for emergency humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. This places the Palestinian territories in third place among 13 focal points for aid, all the others of which are in Africa: after Sudan and Congo, and before Somalia and Zimbabwe. Even if the sums are not covered in their entirety, the high ceiling reflects the assessment that the crisis will continue in the coming years. It shows that the international boycott of the Hamas government cannot really work, because the "African" poverty that has been created here is more threatening: from the perspective of health, politics, security and morality.

And above all, the high aid ceiling reflects the depths of the leniency toward Israel, or the absence of the political ability to cause Israel to do one of two things: Either to recognize its obligations as the occupying power under international covenants, and to care for the occupied population, or to desist immediately from its policy of intentional economic strangulation. For years, Israel has been using the weapon of economic strangulation as a means of political pressure. And the tempest this policy has reaped has thus far been that the Palestinians are growing closer to Iran.

Israel is continuing to steal hundreds of thousands of shekels in customs and tax monies that do not belong to it, which it is not transferring to the Palestinian treasury. This is the proximate cause of the deepening of the crisis. The continuing, permanent and historic cause are the limitations on movement Israel imposes, contrary to the repeated promises (particularly to the World Bank and the American State Department) to "ease up": The closing of the Gaza Strip crossing points and the positioning of hundreds of roadblocks and barriers in the West Bank are the factors that make any economic activity a gamble, to the point of bankruptcy and giving up a priori. It is much easier for the Western countries to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to subsidize food that Israel is not allowing the Palestinians to produce and purchase themselves than it is to cause Israel to stop behaving as though it stands above international law.

Visa denial
Israeli Committee for Right of Residency

In March 2006, the Israeli government initiated a policy of visa denial to individuals of Palestinian descent having foreign passports, many of whom Israel has arbitrarily denied residency rights to in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Many of these persons have lived in the OPT for years without succeeding to obtain residency rights even though they made Palestine their primary residence and place of employment/ business, married local Palestinians, and had children who were born in Palestine.

These people have managed to stay in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by means of tourist visas issued by the Israeli government. Such visas are valid for three months. Their holders are obliged to go abroad to renew them. Those who cannot afford to travel abroad become illegal sojourners and live in perpetual fear of being deported, which confines them to their homes. Those who go abroad have no assurance that they will be allowed to return, and in recent years the number of people denied reentry has increased significantly. Indeed, at this time, most persons of Palestinian origin attempting to transit via Israel in order to return to their families and occupations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have been denied entry. Additionally, just recently 105 passports that had been submitted for visa extension were returned by the Israeli authorities with no extension beyond the end of 2006, and all stamped "last visa," meaning that there would be no further visa extensions and that the holders of these passports would be forced to leave. And only today, December 5, 2006, we learn from the Palestinian campaign for entry rights, of an escalation in Israeli policy. The Ministry of Interior now refuses to process visa extensions at all. As a result of this 'entry-denied' policy, families are torn apart, schooling for the children is disrupted, and economic disasters follow.

Among the entry-denied individuals are professionals from foreign countries who are not necessarily Palestinian. This group includes physicians, teachers, professors, students, social workers, and professionals in a variety of fields filling critically important positions in hospitals, schools, universities, and social institutions. Those being forced to leave by being denied entry or re-entry leave a vacuum in institutions unable to find replacements. This is devastating for all concerned, and has life-threatening implications particularly in the field of medical care. On the one hand, the ability of hospitals in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to treat Palestinians is constantly diminishing while on the other hand Israel's General Security Services ('Shabak') often denies access to Israeli hospitals for treatment.

A group of concerned Israeli citizens has organized to protest this injustice which stands in gross contradiction to Israel's self-declared image as a democratic state supportive of human rights and aspiring to a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinian people. We, the members of the Israel Committee for the Right of Residency, have been calling upon the Israeli public to join us in demanding that our government desist from denying residency rights in the Occupied Territories to Palestinians or persons of Palestinian descent with foreign passports, as well as to foreign professionals contributing to the welfare of the Palestinian population. We have been meeting with staffs of foreign embassies in Israel and have called upon them to use their good offices to intercede with the Israeli authorities to change the imposed restrictions. However, embassies do not make policy. They carry out the policies of their governments.

We therefore call upon you, people of conscience living abroad, to organize campaigns to inform your officials in your countries about Israel's policy of 'entry-denied.' We ask you to write letters requesting them to demand that Israel change its policy. We also ask Israelis and citizens of other countries to write letters of protest to the Israeli Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, and for those of you who are academics or are in the medical profession to additionally write to the Minister of Education and Minister of Health. A statement of your professional concern in your protests should give your letters additional weight (see below). This is not intended to be a restriction. Everyone may write to all 4 Ministers, as well as to anyone else whom you think might influence policy.

An appeal to Academics

As an academic and a member of ICRR, I am particularly concerned about the damage this policy is inflicting on the education system of Palestinians in the OPT. I am therefore writing to ask you to also write letters to the Israeli Minister of Education, Prof. Yuli Tamir, in order to protest the effects this policy has on quenching academic life and education for Palestinians in Palestine.

Thanks, Rachel Giora and all other members of ICRR who are academics.

Israeli Committee for Right of Residency
Tel: 972-9-958-4804

Gaza's Darkness
Gideon Levy, Sept 2006

Gaza has been reoccupied. The world must know this and Israelis must know it, too. It is in its worst condition, ever. Since the abduction of Gilad Shalit, and more so since the outbreak of the Lebanon war, the Israel Defence Forces has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately.

Nobody thinks about setting up a commission of inquiry; the issue isn't even on the agenda. Nobody asks why it is being done and who decided to do it. But under the cover of the darkness of the Lebanon war, the IDF returned to its old practices in Gaza as if there had been no disengagement. So it must be said forthrightly, the disengagement is dead. Aside from the settlements that remain piles of rubble, nothing is left of the disengagement and its promises. How contemptible all the sublime and non-sensical talk about 'the end of the occupation' and 'partitioning the land’ now appears. Gaza is occupied, and with greater brutality than before. The fact that it is more convenient for the occupier to control it from outside has nothing to do with the intolerable living conditions of the occupied.

In large parts of Gaza nowadays, there is no electricity. Israel bombed the only power station in Gaza, and more than half the electricity supply will be cut off for at least another year. There's hardly any water. Since there is no electricity, supplying homes with water is nearly impossible. Gaza is filthier and smellier than ever: Because of the embargo Israel and the world have imposed on the elected authority, no salaries are being paid and the street cleaners have been on strike for the past few weeks. Piles of garbage and obnoxious clouds of stink strangle the coastal strip, turning it into Calcutta.

More than ever, Gaza is also like a prison. The Erez crossing is empty, the Karni crossing has been open only a few days over the last two months, and the same is true for the Rafah crossing. Some 15,000 people waited for two months to enter Egypt, some are still waiting, including many ailing and wounded people. Another 5,000 waited on the other side to return to their homes. Some died during the wait. One must see the scenes at Rafah to understand how profound a human tragedy is taking place. A crossing that was not supposed to have an Israeli presence continues to be Israel’s means to pressure 1.5 million inhabitants. This is disgraceful and shocking collective punishment. The U.S. and Europe, whose police are at the Rafah crossing, also bear responsibility for the situation.

Gaza is also poorer and hungrier than ever before. There is nearly no merchandise moving in and out, fishing is banned, the tens of thousands of PA workers receive no salaries, and the possibility of working in Israel is out of the question.

And we still haven’t mentioned the death, destruction and horror. In the last two months, Israel killed 224 Palestinians, 62 of them children and 25 of them women. It bombed and assassinated, destroyed and shelled, and no one stopped it. No Qassam cell or smuggling tunnel justifies such wide-scale killing. A day doesn’t go by without deaths, most of them innocent civilians.

Where are the days when there was still a debate inside Israel about the assassinations? Today, Israel drops innumerable missiles, shells and bombs on houses and kills entire families on its way to another assassination. Hospitals are collapsing with more than 900 people undergoing treatment. At Shifa Hospital, the only such facility in Gaza that might be worthy of being called a hospital, I saw heartrending scenes last week. Children who lost limbs, on respirators, paralyzed, crippled for the rest of their lives.

Families have been killed in their sleep, while riding on donkeys or working in fields. Frightened children, traumatized by what they have seen, huddle in their homes with a horror in their eyes that is difficult to describe in words. A journalist from Spain who spent time in Gaza recently, a veteran of war and disaster zones around the world, said he had never been exposed to scenes as horrific as the ones he saw and documented over the last two months.

It is difficult to determine who decided on all this. It is doubtful the ministers are aware of the reality in Gaza. They are responsible for it, starting with the bad decision on the embargo, through the bombing of Gaza’s bridges and power station and the mass assassinations. Israel is responsible now once again for all that happens in Gaza.

The events in Gaza expose the great fraud of Kadima: It came to power on the coattails of the virtual success of the disengagement, which is now going up in flames, and it promised convergence, a promise that the prime minister has already rescinded. Those who think Kadima is a centrist party should now know it is nothing other than another rightist occupation party. The same is true of Labor. Defense Minister Amir Peretz is responsible for what is happening in Gaza no less than the prime minister, and Peretz’s hands are as blood-soaked as Olmert's. He can never present himself as a 'man of peace' again. The ground invasions every week, each time somewhere else, the kill and destroy operations from the sea, air and land are all dubbed with names to whitewash the reality, like 'Summer Rains' or 'Locked Kindergarten.' No security excuse can explain the cycle of madness, and no civic argument can excuse the outrageous silence of us all. Gilad Shalit will not be released and the Qassams will not cease. On the contrary, there is a horror taking place in Gaza, and while it might prevent a few terror attacks in the short run, it is bound to give birth to much more murderous terror. Israel will then say with its self-righteousness: 'But we returned Gaza to them.'

Can you really not see?
Amira Hass, Haaretz, Sept 2006

Let us leave aside those Israelis whose ideology supports the dispossession of the Palestinian people because "God chose us." Leave aside the judges who whitewash every military policy of killing and destruction. Leave aside the military commanders who knowingly jail an entire nation in pens surrounded by walls, fortified observation towers, machine guns, barbed wire and blinding projectors. Leave aside the ministers. All of these are not counted among the collaborators. These are the architects, the planners, the designers, the executioners.

But there are others. Historians and mathematicians, senior editors, media stars, psychologists and family doctors, lawyers who do not support Gush Emunim and Kadima, teachers and educators, lovers of hiking trails and sing-alongs, high-tech wizards. Where are you? And what about you, researchers of Nazism, the Holocaust and Soviet gulags? Could you all be in favor of systematic discriminating laws? Laws stating that the Arabs of the Galilee will not even be compensated for the damages of the war by the same sums their Jewish neighbors are entitled to (Aryeh Dayan, Haaretz, August 21).

Could it be that you are all in favor of a racist Citizenship Law that forbids an Israeli Arab from living with his family in his own home? That you side with further expropriation of lands and the demolishing of additional orchards, for another settler neighborhood and another exclusively Jewish road? That you all back the shelling and missile fire killing the old and the young in the Gaza Strip?

Could it be that you all agree that a third of the West Bank (the Jordan Valley) should be off limits to Palestinians? That you all side with an Israeli policy that prevents tens of thousands of Palestinians who have obtained foreign citizenship from returning to their families in the occupied territories?

Could your mind really be so washed with the security excuse, used to forbid Gaza students from studying occupational therapy at Bethlehem and medicine at Abu Dis, and preventing sick people from Rafah from receiving medical treatment in Ramallah? Will also you find it easy to hide behind the explanation "we had no idea": we had no idea that the discrimination practiced in the distribution of water - which is solely controlled by Israel - leaves thousands of Palestinian households without water during the hot summer months; we had no idea that when the IDF blocks the entrance to villages, it also blocks their access to springs or water tanks.

But it cannot be that you don't see the iron gates along route 344 in the West Bank, blocking access to it from the Palestinian villages it passes by. It cannot be that you support preventing the access of thousands of farmers to their land and plantations, that you support the quarantine on Gaza which prevents the entry of medicine for hospitals, the disruption of electricity and water supply to 1.4 million human beings, closing their only outlet to the world for months.

Could it be that you do not know what is happening 15 minutes from your faculties and offices? Is it plausible that you support the system in which Hebrew soldiers, at checkpoints in the heart of the West Bank, are letting tens of thousands of people wait everyday for hours upon hours under the blazing sun, while selecting: residents of Nablus and Tul Karm are not allowed through, 35-year-olds and under - yallah, back to Jenin, residents of the Salem village are not even allowed to be here, a sick woman who skipped the line must learn a lesson and will be purposefully detained for hours. Machsom Watch's site is available for all; in it are countless such testimonies and worse, a day by day routine. But it cannot be that those who are appalled over every swastika painted on a Jewish grave in France and over every anti-Semitic headline in a Spanish local newspaper will not know how to reach this information, and will not be appalled and outraged.

As Jews we all enjoy the privilege Israel gives us, what makes us all collaborators. The question is what does every one of us do in an active and direct daily manner to minimize cooperation with a dispossessing, suppressing regime that never has its fill. Signing a petition and tutting will not do. Israel is a democracy for its Jews. We are not in danger of our lives, we will not be jailed in concentration camps, our livelihood will not be damaged and recreation in the countryside or abroad will not be denied to us. Therefore, the burden of collaboration and direct responsibility is immeasurably heavy.

We kidnap too
Arik Diamant, ynetnews.com, Jul 2006

Hundreds of Palestinian 'suspects' have been kidnapped from their homes and will never stand trial.

It's the wee hours of the morning, still dark outside. A guerrilla force comes out of nowhere to kidnap a soldier. After hours of careful movement, the force reaches its target, and the ambush is on! In seconds, the soldier finds himself looking down the barrel of a rifle.

A smash in the face with the butt of the gun and the soldier falls to the ground, bleeding. The kidnappers pick him up, quickly tie his hands and blindfold him, and disappear into the night.

This might be the end of the kidnapping, but the nightmare has just begun. The soldier's mother collapses, his father prays. His commanding officers promise to do everything they can to get him back, his comrades swear revenge. An entire nation is up-in-arms, writhing in pain and worry.

Nobody knows how the soldier is: Is he hurt? Do his captors give him even a minimum of human decency, or are they torturing him to death by trampling his honor? The worst sort of suffering is not knowing. Will he come home? And if so, when? And in what condition? Can anyone remain apathetic in the light of such drama?

Israeli terror

This description, you'll be surprised to know, has nothing to do with the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. It is the story of an arrest I carried out as an IDF soldier, in the Nablus casbah, about 10 years ago. The "soldier" was a 17-year-old boy, and we kidnapped him because he knew "someone" who had done "something."

We brought him tied up, with a burlap sac over his head, to a Shin Bet interrogation center known as "Scream Hill" (at the time we thought it was funny). There, the prisoner was beaten, violently shaken and sleep deprived for weeks or months. Who knows.

No one wrote about it in the paper. European diplomats were not called to help him. After all, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the kidnapping of this Palestinian kid. Over the 40 years of occupation we have kidnapped thousands of people, exactly like Gilad Shalit was captured: Threatened by a gun, beaten mercilessly, with no judge or jury, or witnesses, and without providing the family with any information about the captive.

When the Palestinians do this, we call it "terror." When we do it, we work overtime to whitewash the atrocity.


Some people will say: The IDF doesn't "just" kidnap. These people are "suspects." There is no more perverse lie than this. In all the years I served, I reached one simple conclusion: What makes a "suspect"? Who, exactly suspects him, and of what? Who has the right to sentence a 17-year-old to kidnapping, torture and possible death? A 26-year-old Shin Bet interrogator? A 46-year-old one? Do these people have any higher education, apart from the ability to interrogate? What are his considerations? If all these "suspects" are so guilty, why not bring them to trial?

Anyone who believes that despite the lack of transparency, the IDF and Shin Bet do their best to minimize violations of human rights is naïve, if not brainwashed. One need only read the testimonies of soldiers who have carried out administrative detentions to be convinced of the depth of the immorality of our actions in the territories.

To this very day, there are hundreds of prisoners rotting in Shin Bet prisons and dungeons, people who have never been – and never will be – tried. And Israelis are silently resolved to this phenomenon.

Israeli responsibility

The day Gilad Shalit was kidnapped I rode in a taxi. The driver told me we must go into Gaza, start shooting people one-by-one, until someone breaks and returns the hostage. It isn't clear that
such an operation would bring Gilad back alive.

Instead of getting dragged into terrorist responses, as Palestinian society has done, we should release some of the soldiers and civilians we have kidnapped. This is appropriate, right, and could bring about an air of reconciliation in the territories.

Hell, if this is what will bring Gilad home safe-and-sound, we have a responsibility to him to do it.

Arik Diamant is an IDF reservist and the head of the "Courage to Refuse" organization.