Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet and artist who lives in Saudi Arabia, has been sentenced to death for ‘apostasy’. The Saudi Arabian authorities claim that his poetry has questioned religion and spread atheism.
Ashraf has committed no crime. He is a prisoner of conscience. Ask the Saudi Arabian authorities to free him now.
23-year-old Mohammad Faisal Abu Sakha has been held by the Israeli military without any contact with his family since late last year. He hasn’t been charged with a crime and the authorities refuse to give a reason for his detention.
Mohammad was taken on his way to work at the Palestinian Circus School, where he teaches children with learning difficulties. He is being denied the right to defend himself. Tell the Israeli authorities to end this injustice immediately.
Ramallah, January 20, 2016—Instability and violence continued to define much of life for Palestinian children in 2015. When tensions over the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem erupted into violence across the occupied West Bank in early October, Israeli forces responded predictably with excessive force, including the use of live ammunition against children. The rise in violence coincided with the 15 year anniversary of the onset of the second intifada, or uprising. During this five year period of conflict from September 2000 to February 2005, over 700 Palestinian children died at the hands of Israeli forces and setters. Since then, at least 1,277 Palestinian children have been killed.
Violations against Palestinian children were not limited to the last few months of 2015. Evidence collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, showed a rise in the use of physical violence against children held in Israeli military detention, and the increased use of live ammunition against Palestinian children. In Gaza, reconstruction following the deadly 50-day military assault over the summer of 2014 has been extremely limited, leaving children displaced during the conflict in unstable living conditions.
Palestinian children throughout the OPT continued to face disproportionate physical violence, restricted access to education, and psychological trauma at the hands of Israeli forces and settlers.
Lethal force: ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy
At least 28 Palestinian children were fatally shot by Israeli forces in 2015. In several cases, DCIP found that children did not pose a direct, mortal threat at the time they were killed.
The number of fatalities drastically increased in October, after tensions across East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank escalated into lethal attacks. In just 12 weeks, 25 Palestinian children were fatally shot by Israeli forces, all except six while carrying out alleged knife attacks. Israeli authorities have not opened investigations into any of these shootings and have refused family requests for autopsies, which could independently verify the circumstances of their deaths.
In response to escalating violence Israeli forces now appear to be implementing a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy, which in some incidents may amount to extrajudicial killings. International law requires that intentional lethal force be used only when absolutely unavoidable. This comes alongside the decision by Israeli authorities to relax open-fire rules, allowing Israeli forces to use live ammunition during protests in Jerusalem when there is a “threat to life.” Previously, live ammunition was permitted only when there is a direct, mortal threat to the life of a police officer or soldier.
Accountability for shootings by Israeli forces is extremely rare. Only one incident, the fatal shooting of Nadeem Nawara, 17, in May 2014, has resulted in both an investigation and indictment. The Israeli border policeman charged with Nadeem’s death is currently under house arrest as he awaits trial.
Military detention: increased violence and the return of administrative detention
Each year, hundreds of Palestinian children are arrested, detained, and prosecuted within the Israeli military system. Child detainees report physical and verbal abuse, are denied fair trial standards, and often suffer from long term psychological trauma.
Children in military detention in 2015 suffered increasing levels of physical violence at the hands of Israeli forces. DCIP collected affidavits from 110 West Bank children detained in 2015 that showed three-quarters of them endured some form of physical violence following arrest.
Amid heightened violence in the fall of 2015, the number of Palestinian children skyrocketed to the highest it has been since March 2009. At the end of November, 412 Palestinian children were in the Israeli prison system. In response to the rising number of child detainees, Israel Prison Services used a section at Givon prison in October and November to house the overflow of Palestinian minors. Conditions at the prison were inadequate and failed to meet minimum standards. Children were crowded into cells, the building lacked proper heating and shower facilities, and children complained of poor quality and inadequate amounts of food.
DCIP is particularly disturbed that Israeli authorities have placed six Palestinian teenagers under administrative detention. This is the first time the measure has been used against Palestinian minors in nearly four years. Administrative detention is the imprisonment of individuals by the state for prolonged periods without charge or trial. The measure should never be used as a substitute for criminal prosecution.
Over the past few months, Israeli authorities pushed through a series of policies imposing harsher sentencing guidelines and fines for children in Jerusalem. These amendments include a 10-year prison sentence for throwing stones or other objects at moving vehicles with the possibility of endangering passengers or causing damage, and 20 years for throwing stones with the purpose of harming others. The amendments reduced judicial discretion, instituting mandatory minimum sentence of no less than one-fifth of the potential maximum sentence and restricting suspended sentences to special circumstances only. One of the latest bills proposes custodial sentences for children, as young as 12, convicted of “nationalistic-motivated” violent offences. The actual serving of the sentences would be deferred until the children reach the age of 14.
Israel’s establishment and expansion of Jewish-only settlements across the OPT since 1967 has created a dangerous environment for Palestinians. Approximately 515,000 Israelis now live illegally in the West Bank, and settler violence against neighboring Palestinian communities and children is common.
One of the most tragic incidents of settler violence took place last July, when a Palestinian toddler burned to death after Jewish settlers threw firebombs inside two homes in the northern West Bank village of Duma. The fire killed Ali Dawabsheh, 18 months, and left his parents, Saad and Riham, and brother, Ahmad, 4, in critical condition. Saad and Riham died later in the hospital from injuries sustained during the attack.
Statistics from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that more than224 settler attacks occurred in 2015. Impunity for settler attacks against Palestinians remained the norm. A May 2015 report from Israeli human rights group Yesh Din found that Israeli police closed over 85 percent of investigations and only 1.9 percent of complaints submitted by Palestinians against Israeli civilian attacks resulted in conviction.
Gaza one year later: justice remains elusive
The summer of 2015 marked the one year anniversary of Israel’s 50-day military assault on Gaza, which killed 547 Palestinian children and injured a further 3,000. DCIP’s investigation into all Palestinian child fatalities during Operation Protective Edge found overwhelming and repeated evidence that Israeli forces committed grave violations against children amounting to war crimes. Despite well-documented evidence, there has been no justice and accountability for grave violations against Palestinian children.
An independent United Nations commission presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that detailed international law violations committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups during the conflict, noting “impunity prevails across the board for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law allegedly committed by Israeli forces.” The UNHRC endorsed the report in July, almost unanimously passing a resolution that emphasized the dire need for accountability in order to end systemic impunity.
In June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shielded Israel from accountability for atrocities against children when he removed Israel’s armed forces from a draft list of groups that commit grave violations of children’s rights during armed conflict.
For people around the world, Airbnb (a website for people to rent and find lodging) has been a revolutionary new way to travel in an affordable way that provides a unique experience in whatever country you are visiting. But did you know that Airbnb is listing homes in illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank?
There are a whopping 13,000 Airbnb listings in the small country of Israel, but it turns out that many of the properties are actually located in settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.
Listing vacation rentals in illegal settlements promotes segregation, theft of Palestinian land, and violation of international law. Through earning fees from settlement vacation rentals, Airbnb is directly profiting from the continuing occupation and dispossession of Palestinians. Just recently, Human Rights Watch released an important new study calling on companies to stop doing business with the settlements, and Airbnb should listen!
Thursday, January 14th – the entire CODEPINK national team will gather to call on Re/Max to end their policy of selling houses in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank with a visit to their office and a banner hang over the freeway. Join us in action to protest these human rights violators, and send a BIG message to LA during rush hour traffic.
When: Thursday, January 14th from 4 – 5 pm Where: The Re/Max office is at 2999 Overland at National and the 10 Freeway.
In September 2014, on the eve of the Jewish new year, Israel’s leading financial daily named Omar Barghoutiamong the 100 people most likely to influence the country’s economy in the following year.
Calcalist, the business supplement of the mass circulation newspaper Yediot Ahronot, said that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which Barghouti helped found, was “already worrying the government.”
It cited government studies warning that Israel would lose billions of dollars a year in exports and GDP and thousands of jobs if current boycott trends continued.
“The credit and honor go to the entire BDS movement, of which I am a modest part, to each and every BDS activist in Palestine and around the world who has contributed to making BDS one the most effective forms of resisting Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid,” Barghouti told The Electronic Intifada this week.
The authors of a United Nations report revealed in June that BDS was a key factor behind the nearly 50 percent plunge in foreign direct investment in Israel in 2014.
The World Bank cited consumer boycotts as a key factor behind a 24 percent drop in Palestinian imports from Israel in the first quarter of 2015.
The international credit ratings agency Moody’s warned in October that “the Israeli economy could suffer should BDS gain greater traction.” Moody’s reports are used by corporations to assess the risk of doing business in a country.
A major European investor confirmed that BDS was already deterring companies from entering the Israeli market.
“During general meetings of the leading companies, even if they did examine investing in Israeli companies, it will be off the agenda immediately because of the impact of BDS,” Edouard Cukierman, founder of Catalyst Funds and chair of Cukierman & Co Investment House, told Israeli media.
Running for the exit
In 2015, activists celebrated a major victory as the French multinational Veolia sold off all its investments in Israel.
This followed a seven-year global campaign which cost Veolia billions of dollars in lost municipal and government contracts. By the end, Veolia reportedly could not find any international buyers for its Israeli businesses.
Perhaps alarmed by Veolia’s fate, the French multinational telecom company Orange announced in June that it intended to end its relationship with its Israeli affiliate.
Despite the Israeli government’s outraged reaction, Orange amended its contract with Israel’s Partner Communications so it could get out of the country as soon as 2017, instead of 2025.
The campaign to end Orange’s complicity with Israeli human rights abuses – it operates extensively in Israel’s West Bank settlements – started in France several years ago and gathered pace in May when activists in Egypt called for a boycott of its subsidiary Mobinil.
In November, the European Union finally took the step of requiring labels clearly marking goods that come from Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian and Syrian land in violation of international law.
This was a minimalist step taken only after years of dithering and delay, and has to be seen in the context of massive ongoing EU complicity with Israel’s war crimes and its deepening apartheid.
But at the time, Mahmoud Nawajaa, general coordinator for the BNC, said the move was a “sign that European governments are reacting to public opinion, civil society campaigning and Israeli intransigence and are becoming more willing to take some basic action against Israeli violations of international law.”
Israel’s furious reaction – many politicians compared EU officials to Nazis – belies its real fear: that this is only the first step of more action to come.
A sure sign of the mainstreaming of Palestinian rights came in September with Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory in the election for leader of the UK’s main opposition Labour Party.
There is no direct evidence that the sharp decline, which began during the 2014 attack on Gaza, is due to boycotts.
But the fact that the BDS movement – especially the cultural boycott – has been so strong in Europe undoubtedly makes it harder for Israel to market itself as a carefree destination for sunseekers.
This was the year when “Lauryn Hill and Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth said they won’t perform in Israel, and more than 1,000 artists across Ireland, the UK, the US and Belgium have said they support the cultural boycott of Israel,” the BNC notes, highlighting that the campaign is gaining ground everywhere.
“Israeli universities play a key role in planning and whitewashing Israel’s crimes but now academics across the world are taking effective action,” the BNC states.
But the BNC even sees this backlash as a sign of success, as an increasingly desperate Israel resorts to “exporting its mentality of repression and getting its allies in the west to run McCarthyite attacks on free speech.”
“Israel knows it is losing the argument and is throwing everything it has at sabotaging our movement, dedicating money, government staff and apparently even its security services to undermining BDS,” the BNC says.
There’s no doubt Israel’s efforts to obstruct and sabotage campaigns for justice will continue and, flush with new cash, intensify.
With dozens of student bodies on US campuses having voted to back divestment in recent years, we can expect campaigns to shift toward pressuring administrations to implement those demands. They will face determined opposition, but that will only help keep Palestine front and center.
But that might only serve to educate more people that BDS exists and is an option for them too.
The passing year, which also marked the 10th anniversary of the Palestinian civil society call for BDS, shows clearly that this diverse and decentralized movement founded and led by Palestinians is a growing match for Israel.
Amid so much difficult news from Palestine and the region, that’s a bright ray of hope for 2016.
–Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 30 Dec., 2015