- B'Tselem is the independent Israeli Information Center
for Human Rights in the Occupied (Palestinian) Territories (OPT) based
in Jerusalem with a well-deserved reputation for accuracy and integrity.
It was founded in 1989 to "document and educate the Israeli public,
policymakers (and concerned people everywhere) about human rights violations
in the (OPT), combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli
public (and elsewhere), and create a human rights culture in Israel"
to convince government officials to respect human rights and comply with
- Its human rights work is wide-ranging, carefully researched,
and thoroughly cross-checked with relevant documents and other official
government sources. It also relies on additional information from Israeli,
Palestinian, and other human rights organizations. From them, B'Tselem
publishes scores of reports, some quite comprehensive in scope. One of
them was 107 pages in length and prepared in May, 2007. It's titled: "Ghost
Town - Israel's Separation Policy and Forced Eviction of Palestinians from
the Center of Hebron." It recently came out in print form and is available
- This article summarizes its findings. They're from a
joint effort between B'Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
(ACRI), Israel's leading human and civil rights organization and the only
one addressing all rights and liberties issues. ACRI was founded in 1972,
is independent and nonpartisan, and leads the struggle for these issues
in Israel and the OPT through litigation, legal advocacy, education, and
public outreach. ACRI believes civil and human rights are universal. They
must be "an integral part of democratic community building and....
a unifying force in Israeli public life" for everyone, especially
those most marginalized, disadvantaged and currently persecuted by state
- Hebron is a notable example. The study findings below
present a case history of what Palestinians under Israeli occupation have
endured for decades from a state-imposed policy of separation, forced displacement
and terror. They show how Israel is colonizing Palestine incrementally
through new and expanding settlements on illegally seized land. The human
toll is horrific - "protracted and severe harm to Palestinians (from)
some of the gravest human rights violations" against them that go
unaddressed in the mainstream and continue unabated.
- Hebron's City Center is a case study example. It was
once a thriving commercial and residential area. Today it's a "Ghost
Town" because Israel destroyed its fabric of life through a state-imposed
policy of land seizures, extended curfews, harsh restrictions on free movement
and unaddressed violence. Combined, they terrorize Palestinians and prohibit
them from driving or even walking on the area's main streets. That, in
turn, makes life impossible for them. The consequences have been devastating
with peoples' lives uprooted. The material below reviews the evidence B'Tselem
and ACRI revealed in their study. Consider the consequences.
- Since the territories were occupied in 1967, Israel expelled
tens of thousands of Palestinians throughout the OPT. In Hebron alone,
thousands of residents and merchants were removed or had no other option
than to leave the City Center because of Israel's "principle of separation"
- Hebron is important as the West Bank's second largest
city, the largest in the territory's South, and the only Palestinian city
with an Israeli settlement in its center. It's concentrated in and around
the Old City that once was the entire southern West Bank's commercial center.
- For many years, Israel severely oppressed Palestinians
in Hebron's center. It partitioned the city into northern and southern
parts and created a long strip of land for Jewish vehicles only. In addition,
in areas open to Palestinians, they're subjected to "repeated detention
and humiliating inspections" any time, for any reason, and it got
worse after the 1994 Baruch Goldstein massacre of Muslim worshipers in
the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Israel's military commander ordered many Palestinian-owned
shops closed that were the livelihood for thousands of people. In addition,
he condoned frequent settler violence as a way to remove Palestinians from
their own land. It worked.
- A combination of restrictions, prohibitions and deliberate
harassment devastated Hebron's residents. They lost their homes, land,
businesses and freedom. B'Tselem-ACRI document it in detail in the Old
City and Casbah areas where most Israeli settlements are located and where
Palestinians the face harshest conditions and restrictions on their movements.
As a result, they were removed or had to leave, and what was once "the
vibrant heart of Hebron (is now) a ghost town."
- A senior Israeli defense official explained the scheme
that's pretty common knowledge today. He called it "a permanent process
of dispossessing Arabs to increase Jewish territory." Distinguished
Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, calls it state-sponsored ethnic cleansing
that's been ongoing since Israel's 1948 creation. B'Tselem-ACRI document
the practice in Hebron's once viable City Center.
- Israeli Settlements in Hebron
- They began on Passover Eve, 1968 when a group of Israeli
civilians rented a Hebron hotel room for two days and wouldn't leave. Cabinet
ministers supported them, and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) gave them
weapons and trained them in their use. Six months later, the Hebron and
Gush Etzion Ministerial Committee officially approved establishing a Jewish
neighborhood in the city, and it was all downhill from there.
- In March 1970, the Knesset established the Qiryat settlement
that in a few years had hundreds of Jewish-only housing units. The big
settlement push came 10 years later in 1980 when the government built a
yeshiva (Orthodox school) structure in the City Center by adding a floor
to the Beit Hadassah settlement for the purpose. More activity came in
1984 when Jewish families established a settlement in the Palestinian Tel
Rumeida neighborhood. From then on, others grew to where a few hundred
Jews now live in a number of Old City locations, mainly in or around what
used to be the city's commercial area.
- After Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinians and
wounded over a hundred others in 1994, Israel adopted an official separation
policy in the area. First, it was around the Tomb of the Patriarchs and
later elsewhere in the City Center. In the 1995 interim agreement both
sides signed, the parties agreed to leave the city under IDF control. Then
in 1997, the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron was signed.
It divided the city in two:
- -- H-1 is comprised of 18 square kilometers and controlled
by the Palestinian Authority (PA); it's where most city residents (about
115,000) live; and
- -- H-2 has 4.3 square kilometers with around 35,000 Palestinians
who are controlled by the IDF with the PA only having civil powers over
them. H-2 includes the Old City, the commercial center and all Israeli
- The division notwithstanding, Article 9 of the Hebron
redeployment agreement commits both sides "to the unity of the city"
and the smooth movement of its residents. It never worked well, but after
the second intifada erupted in September, 2000 everything changed for the
worst. Henceforth, the IDF expanded limited separation to the entire area
containing Israeli settlements. This entailed unprecedented restrictions
on Palestinian movement that included a continuous curfew and closure of
main streets to residents.
- It also led to a sharp rise in violence on both sides,
but mostly against Palestinians, the majority of whom are innocent victims.
At the same time, the distinction between H-1 and H-2 blurred, and the
commitment to free movement and unity of the city was abandoned. In April,
2002 during Operation Defensive Shield, the IDF invaded and took positions
in H-1. The PA relinquished control, and it led to the loss of Hebron's
City Center commercial, cultural and social areas with the city becoming
a ghost town.
- Palestinian Abandonment of the City Center
- Hebron's City Center once thrived as a commercial hub
serving city residents and merchants as well as the entire southern West
Bank. Now it's gone, most shops have closed, and Palestinian businesses
have moved elsewhere or no longer exist.
- In preparing their report, B'Tselem-ACRI surveyed over
1000 structures in areas in or next to where settlements are situated as
well as others adjacent to roads for exclusive settler and Israeli security
forces use. Most structures are in H-2, and the survey covered the following:
- -- structures in the Casbah;
- -- the area near the Tomb of the Patriarchs;
- -- the Tel Rumeida neighborhood;
- --around the Avraham Avinu, Beit Romano and Tel Rumeida
- -- along (the main) a-Shuhada Street;
- -- on the lower part of the Abu Sneineh neighborhood
near a-Sahia compound;
- -- along settler-only roads in and out of the City Center
and Qiryat Arba settlement;
- -- around the Givat Haavot settlement; and -- between
and adjacent to Qiryat Arba and Givat Haharsina in the North.
- Two small H-1 areas are also included: the southeast
Baba-Zawiya neighborhood and the Qarnatini Road, adjacent to the Avraham
Avinu settlement. Data was collected door-to-door to document all residential
dwellings to determine if they were occupied or abandoned. The same procedure
was followed for all business establishments, and the results were shocking,
but no surprise.
- At least 1014 Palestinian housing units (41.9% of the
total in the area) were vacated by their occupants. Another 659 apartments
(65% of the total) were as well during the second intifada. In addition,
1829 Palestinian businesses (76.6% of them all) were lost. Of the total,
1141 (62.4% of the total) closed after the year 2000, 440 or more by military
order. B'Tselem-ACRI believe Palestinian apartment abandonments were even
higher than reported because neighborhoods near settlements collapsed and
housing and living costs declined dramatically there. Poor families took
advantage. Unable to afford more costly housing, they left distant parts
of Hebron for Old City neighborhoods where they occupied vacated houses.
- B'Tselem-ACRI documented areas hit, and one was the a-Shuhada
Street area, the heart of the City Center that was closed in part to Palestinian
traffic and commerce after the 1994 massacre. After it happened, 304 shops
and warehouses closed, 218 or more by military edict, and not a single
shop is now open for business. In addition, the IDF seized a bus station
for use as an army base, and non-commercial activities were affected as
well. Important services moved or ceased to function including the Ministry
of Supply, Information, the Waqf, the Farmers and Women's Association,
and other formerly functioning area operations. Medical centers also closed,
and Palestinians paid dearly with more to follow.
- Restrictions on Palestinian Movement and Business Closings
- After the 1994 massacre, Israel imposed a curfew on Hebron
residents, restricted their movements, but conditions became far worse
after September, 2000. At first, the curfew applied to all of H-2 and on
certain neighborhoods in its center with Palestinians unable to leave their
homes for three months except for a few hours a week to buy food and other
basics. At times, H-1 was also affected but never Hebron settlers.
- In the intifada's first three years, H-2 residents were
under curfew restrictions for over 377 days, including a 182 day non-stop
period with spotty breaks to restock essentials. In addition, on more than
500 days, H-2 was under curfews that lasted from a few hours to entire
days. Along with other restrictions covered below, they made life unbearable,
and that was the whole idea behind them. Israelis claimed that harsh measures
were to let Jewish settlers conduct their daily lives securely. In fact,
they were collective punishment by being randomly imposed or for reasons
unrelated to security.
- The affects were devastating - job loss, poor nutrition,
rising poverty, growing family tensions from prolonged confinement, severe
harm to education, welfare and health systems, and a mass exodus away from
areas near settlements resulting in lost homes and businesses.
- One hardship was crucial for City Center residents needing
medical treatment. They couldn't get it because it wasn't accessible under
curfew. As a result, medical clinics and centers closed and residents couldn't
travel to where they were open. Most affected were the sick, pregnant women,
the elderly and anyone needing emergency care. They were stuck and at times
- Even under dire need, anyone outside their homes during
curfew for any reason risked being shot as the IDF had a policy to fire
on them with impunity. The Association for Civil Rights petitioned the
High Court of Justice to end curfews in January, 2003 claiming the practice
was illegal and caused severe harm when in place for long periods. The
court rejected the plea on July 9, 2003 but agreed the measure is drastic
and that military commanders should consider that before imposing them.
That happened in 2004 when the IDF ended the practice for long periods,
but by then the damage was done. Many Palestinians were gone so they were
unnecessary. In 2004 and 2005, H-2 and H-1 were under curfew restrictions
for only a few days at a time, and by 2006 they no longer were used on
a regular basis.
- In 1994 and after September, 2000, a large network of
101 staffed checkpoints and physical barriers enforced movement restrictions
in H-2. They prevent H-1 located Palestinians from entering H-2 by car
and restrict them by foot. Even to reach their homes, residents on the
other side of a checkpoint have to register with the IDF. Still, movement
can entail long delays, and at times they're kept out anyway.
- Emergency and rescue services are also hampered as ambulances
can't enter H-2 unless arrangements are made in advance with Israeli authorities.
When needs arise, there isn't enough time so persons, if able, must go
by foot to where vehicles are allowed. Hebron Municipality vehicles also
are prohibited from the City Center without prior approval so quick repairs
of electricity, telephone, water and sewage problems are impossible, and
families at times are without essential services for days as a consequence.
The same problem affects schools as well, and three of them on a-Shuhada
Street lost a large percent of students because movement restrictions,
checkpoints and other harassments deter them.
- For most of the intifada, restrictions were made verbally,
not by official orders, and often were unrelated to security. It wasn't
until late 2005 that the military commander issued formal orders for "protective
spaces" following a petition to the High Court of Justice. But it
hardly matters as the IDF maintains strict restrictions in the City Center,
even if not covered by official orders, and admits the practice exceeds
its authority. Residents whose rights are infringed are helpless to object
or gain relief.
- It's because settlers have power, and a senior army officer
admitted "military commanders are a tool in (their) hands." After
the intifida began, Hebron settlement heads gave IDF their demands that
included closing streets to Palestinian pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
The military complied "to Judaize" the center of Hebron and make
it "free of Arabs."
- Restrictions imposed also prevent residents from returning
to homes they left, and High Court petitions for redress were denied because
Israel contends security requires separation. It means Palestinian free
movement is impaired and peoples' lives destroyed to satisfy outrageous
- Palestinian commerce in the City Center was also affected.
The Casbah area once thrived as one of the West Bank's most important business
districts. Now, most shops are closed - in some cases by IDF directive
but overall because free movement was banned, customers can't access the
area, and business owners lost their livelihoods as a result. They simply
closed up and left and in some cases were prevented from taking their merchandise
with them. They lost everything.
- The entire Old City was affected with a total of 1829
(76.6% of the total surveyed) Palestinian businesses shuttered. Since September,
2000 (the onset of the second intifada), 1141 closed (62.4% of the above
total), 440 by IDF edict. Shop owners trying to recoup and reopen their
shops couldn't because free movement restrictions were too harsh and unprecendented.
- Things then got even worse and remain so. The IDF protects
Israeli settlers who freely attack Palestinians with impunity. Offenses
include physical assaults and beatings (at times with clubs), stone throwing,
and hurling of refuse, sand, water, chlorine, and empty bottles. Settlers
also loot Palestinian shops and commit acts of vandalism against them and
other owner property. Killings also occur as well as attempts to run over
people with vehicles, fruit trees chopped down, water wells poisoned, home
break-ins, and hot liquids poured on Palestinian faces. IDF forces are
positioned everywhere in the area. They witness settler acts and do nothing
to stop them.
- Soldiers also commit violence and use excessive force
as do police. In addition, they engage in arbitrary house searches at all
hours of the day and night, house seizures, harassment, and random detentions
and humiliating searches and treatment overall. These actions violate international
and Israeli administrative and constitutional law. They persist nonetheless.
More on this below.
- B'Tselem-ACRI's study reviewed major events since the
1994 Tomb of the Patriarchs massacre:
- -- after it happened in 1994, the main City Center a-Shuhada
Street was closed to Palestinian vehicles from Gross Square to the Beit
Hadassah settlement; Palestinian shops were forbidden to open;
- -- after the 1997 Hebron Protocol, a-Shuhada Street reopened
to Palestinian vehicles but shops remain closed;
- -- in 1998, a-Shuhada Street again was closed to Palestinian
- -- after September, 2000, a continuous three month curfew
was imposed on Palestinian residents; a-Shuhada Street was closed and roads
to settlement points were as well to Palestinian vehicles;
- -- in 2001, a-Shuhada Street was again closed to Palestinian
pedestrians with rare exceptions; other Old City areas were also closed
to Palestinian movement; settlers destroyed an improvised market, and the
army prohibited it from reopening; over 100 a-Shuhada Street shops closed;
nine Israeli families squatted in the closed wholesale market with no IDF
effort to remove them;
- -- in 2002, under Operation Defensive Shield and Operation
Determined Path, a near-continuous 240 day curfew was imposed and other
City Center areas were closed to Palestinian vehicles and pedestrian traffic;
checkpoints and physical obstructions were established to harass and prevent
- -- in 2003, Shalala compound shop operating prohibitions
were cancelled except for ones near the Beit Hadassah settlement;
- -- in 2004, part of a-Sahla Street was reopened to Palestinian
- -- in 2006, nine squatter Israeli families left the closed
wholesale market; a few months later they returned; no IDF attempt was
made to remove them; and
- -- in 2007, the western section on the Shalala H-2 compound
was opened to Palestinian vehicles.
- These harsh measures took their toll on residents with
unemployment and poverty rising sharply. In 2002, the International Committee
of the Red Cross reacted with a food distribution program for 2000 households
that increased to 2500 families in 2004. In 2005, the Palestinian National
Economic Ministry reported average Palestinian household monthly income
in H-2 at only $150.
- The figure is likely lower today, but in Gaza under siege,
it's much lower. Unemployment is around 80%, World Bank data show 80% of
Gazan households live on less than $75 a month, it's far too little to
survive, and prior to the present crisis, 85% of the Territory's population
relied mainly on humanitarian aid to survive. It may be everyone now with
fuel and electricity cut, strict border closures enforced, conditions becoming
desperate, Israel relenting for a day, and the International Red Cross
warning of a crisis threatening 1.5 million people.
- Refraining from Protecting Palestinians and their Property
from Violent Settlers
- Since the first settlements were established in Hebron's
City Center, Palestinians have been victimized by countless violent acts
that range from vandalism to killings. Police and the army afford no protection
and instead are part of the scheme to make residents' life so intolerable
they'll voluntarily leave the area. Many have and others follow.
- Oppression continues for those who remain, however, and
Israeli Attorney General, Menachem Mazuz, acknowledges the problem but
does nothing to address it. He recently said "Enforcement of the law
(to protect Palestinians) in the Territories is not only unsatisfactory,
it is poor." Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted a reported Tel
Rumeida assault was "not the first time" this happened, and official
Israeli entities like the Karp and Shamgar Commissions sharply criticized
Israeli authorities for failing to enforce the law and protect the rights
of OPT residents, especially in Hebron.
- Israeli authorities have known of the problem for years,
yet it persists and is quietly condoned. Ian Christianson, head of the
international observer force in Hebron (TIPH), was quoted saying "settlers
go out almost every night and harm whoever lives near them, break windows
and cause damage...." Many attacks are carried out by minors and for
a reason. Under Israeli law that applies in the OPT, persons under age
12 aren't held criminally liable. Settlers know this and exploit the loophole
by using their children to throw stones, break walls and commit other violent
acts they can get away with. Violence is commonplace throughout the Territories
in spite of IDF presence, and when children commit it they're immune from
the law affecting adults that exists but isn't enforced.
- High Israeli officials like former Defense Minister Amir
Peretz shamelessly claimed that soldiers can't protect residents because
they don't have enforcement powers. In fact, they're obligated to enforce
the law on everyone, including violent settlers, under section 78 of the
Order Regarding Defense Regulations. It empowers the army to arrest, without
warrant authority, anyone (Palestinian or Jew) who violates the Order that
covers the following acts: assault, throwing objects and intentionally
- The Procedure for Enforcing Law and Order on Israeli
Offenders in the West Bank states: security forces must "take every
action necessary to prevent harm to life, person, or property (and) to
detain and arrest suspects who might flee from the scene." Section
6(3) of the Procedure states that the IDF must enforce the law until police
arrive and take over.
- Unfortunately, the Hebron Police Department has an appalling
record. Instead of enforcing the law, it acts with "abominable helplessness"
to show its contempt for residents while supporting settlers. It doesn't
investigate violent incidents against Palestinians and ignores them when
their officers are on the scene. A Yesh Din human rights organization study
showed that 90% of police investigations were closed without charges being
filed. This lets settlers break the law and get away with it. The IDF and
police support them by refusing to uphold the law for everyone.
- Harm to Palestinians by Soldiers and Police Officers
- Soldiers and police also break the law routinely and
often. Throughout occupied Palestine and in Hebron City Center, every night
is Kristallnacht, and so are days. It makes life for residents intolerable
because any time for any reason they're subject to daily house searches
and seizures, random detainments and humiliating treatment and harassment
along with security force-committed violence that ranges from slapping
and kicking to bloody beatings and killings. They serve no purpose except
to harass and punish, break the law, and persist at all hours of the day
- Beatings severe enough to kill are commonplace in Hebron,
and over the years human rights organizations documented them. Many incidents
take place near settler points where security is intense and settler demands
are paramount. They include:
- -- smashing a victim's head with a blunt instrument or
against a wall;
- -- hitting victims with rifle butts and clubs;
- -- kicking them in the head and other parts of the body;
- -- flinging them to the ground;
- -- twisting arms and legs forcefully enough to cause
- -- stone-throwing and more that at times includes willful
damage to property.
- Consider the hypocrisy. Israeli authorities condemn these
actions, but the military and police commit them in the same of "security."
As a result, many violent acts aren't investigated, and when they are they're
usually whitewashed. Since the second intifada began, the Military Police
Investigations Unit undertook 427 investigations through early 2007 against
soldiers in the West Bank. Of these, only 35 led to indictments, and since
most incidents involved more than one soldier, over 92% of the time those
involved were cleared of any offense.
- As for police-committed violence, 82% of cases submitted
to the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) resulted in no
indictment indicating further whitewashing. Military and civilian authorities
pay little attention to Israeli offenses. As a result, security forces
get the message that these acts are allowed so it's no surprise they continue,
and they involve more than violence.
- A systematic pattern of abuse and harassment is part
of daily life in the Territories, and in Hebron's City Center it's intense.
Unjustifyably seizing Palestinian houses occur, and at the time of the
study, security forces held at least 35 residential dwellings. Typically,
here's what happens. Soldiers or police take over a private home for a
security outpost. Its inhabitants are affected, their lives are disrupted,
they're excluded from occupied rooms, and can only use spaces allotted
to them - in their own home.
- They're also harassed, routinely searched, threatened
and even beaten; soldiers or police cause damage (sometimes deliberately);
they play loud music; scatter refuse and even urinate where they want.
In some cases, the abuse goes on for years making normal life impossible.
Early last year, this writer saw a chilling documentary on this practice.
It showed soldiers abusing families and how traumatized they were from
- The pattern of harassment also includes searching homes
and shops, random detentions, and demanding identity cards from passersby
on any pretext. Even when lawful, privacy and dignity are severely interfered
with, and it can happen any time for any reason. In Hebron, it's routine,
especially for Palestinians living near settlement points. In those areas,
nearly every home has been searched more than once by either the IDF or
police at any hour. It's done in one of three ways:
- -- pinpoint searches because of a concrete suspicion;
- -- extensive searches for mapping purposes; and
- -- routine searches in areas artibrarily chosen to "manifest
a presence" or just to harass.
- In Hebron's City Center, delays and harassment are common
daily practices because Israeli settlements are there. Security forces
are everywhere, their patrols are frequent, and dozens of annoying checkpoints
and permanent positions have been set up for control. For Palestinians
in the area or who have to go there, it's nightmarish. They must pass through
checkpoints and army positions, and have to show identity cards whenever
they do. Even so, delays are frequent and can last for hours at times.
Everyone is affected - the sick and elderly, anyone on the street including
where they live, shoppers, children going to school and back home, or anyone
else for any reason.
- In the US, the Bill of Rights Third and Fourth Amendments
ban these practices. The Third Amendment states: "No soldier shall,
in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the
owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and specifically
says: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,
papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not
be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported
by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched,
and the persons or things to be seized."
- Despite these protections, the post-9/11 environment
scrapped the law and desecrated the Constitution. It came through congressional
legislation and presidential executive and other decrees that seriously
eroded Fourth and other Bill of Rights freedoms. They're effectively gutted,
so no one in America is secure and may suffer the same abuses Palestinians
now do. It's affected many thousands of people in ways unimaginable but
now happen routinely and repressively.
- Israel's Policy in Hebron from the Legal Perspective
- Israel bases its Hebron City Center policy on the "principle
of separation" that seriously violates the rights of all Palestinians
affected "in every aspect of their lives." It contradicts international
humanitarian law, international human rights law, and also Israeli administrative
and constitutional law as they apply to an occupying power. In short, the
policy is unjustified and outrageous, but it persists nonetheless.
- International humanitarian law covers two main points
for an occupier:
- -- to ensure its legitimate security concerns; and
- -- to guarantee the essential needs of the occupied civilian
population as covered under Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
It states these people "shall at all times be humanely treated, and
shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof...."
This fundamental obligation relates to peoples' right to life, liberty,
personal safety, freedom of movement and other sacrosanct human rights.
- They're also codified in international human rights law
and Israeli administrative and constitutional law that's binding on an
occupier. These laws require Israel to prohibit their security forces from
infringing on Palestinian rights as occupied people. They also provide
for the right to be heard, the duty to act reasonably, and to abide by
the principle of proportionality that requires upholding this fundamental
rule: administrative body decisions are only lawful if the means used to
enforce them are proportionate.
- The following practices are not:
- -- sweeping restrictions on Palestinian movements in
Hebron's City Center;
- -- prohibiting Palestinian shops from opening in large
sections of the area;
- -- arbitrary searches and seizures of private dwellings
as well as quartering security forces in them; and
- -- any infringements on Palestinians' right of property;
to earn a living by any work they choose; to an adequate standard of living;
to adequate housing, medical care, education and other essential services;
to privacy; and to a normal secure family life.
- Israeli authorities consciously and willfully fail to
enforce the law on their security forces and settlers. As a result, Palestinian
rights are ignored and they're subjected to continued harassment and indignities
in violation of international and Israeli law. It makes conditions for
them intolerable, and cumulatively they're illegal and amount to "cruel,
inhuman and degrading treatment."
- They exist because of and at the behest of settlers'
presence in the city whose rights and demands are paramount even when they
violate the law. All Israeli settlements in the OPT are illegal, and consider
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It states: "The Occupying
Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population
in the territory it occupies." This applies as well to organizing
or encouraging the transfer of its own population to the occupied territory
that displaces legal residents forced to move.
- International law also renounces colonialism. By encouraging
and financing Hebron City Center and other OPT settlements, Israel violates
international law as well as UN Resolutions 465 and 476 that addressed
Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine and the Syrian Golan Heights.
Since the Security Council passed both resolutions in 1980, Israel flagrantly
violated them and continues to build new settlements in the OPT wherever
it wishes, the actions are illegal, and they displace legal residents throughout
- It's no surprise and nothing new because two nations
stand out above all others as serial UN resolution and international law
abusers for the past 50 years - Israel and the US. In the case of Israel,
its record is appalling for flagrantly and willfully ignoring over five
dozen UN resolutions condemning or censuring it for its actions against
the Palestinians or other Arab people, deploring it for committing them,
or demanding, calling on or urging the Jewish state to end them. Israel
refuses and has never been held to account because of its powerful ally
in Washington. All US administrations for the past half century allowed
Israel to be lawless and get away with it.
- Israel's High Court of Justice is equally culpable by
ignoring international law and for its one-sided support of injustice despite
occasionally ruling otherwise. International and Israeli law are clear.
Yet the Court supports illegal settlements, the separation wall (seizing
over 10% of West Bank land) declared illegal by the International Court
of Justice at The Hague, targeted assassinations, the right of settlers
to destroy Palestinian property, and Israel's right to protect settlements
regardless of the cost to Palestinians.
- Many Israeli actions can't be justified on any basis,
yet they persist with High Court support. Israel and the Court are obligated
under international law to treat all persons equally, yet they fail to
do so. Consider Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965 that Israel signed in 1966
and ratified in 1979. It defines "racial discrimination" as:
"any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race,
color, descent, or national or ethnic origin (that) nullif(ies) or impair(s)
the recognition, enjoyment or exercise (equally) of human rights and fundamental
freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field
of public life."
- According to the Convention, Israel governs by a de facto
state policy of willful separation and discrimination. International law
prohibits it and calls it "racist." In Hebron's City Center,
it's especially egregious under Article 3 of the Convention that condemns
racial segregation. Yet, it's Israel's official policy throughout the OPT
and in Israel for its Arab citizens.
- International law also bans collective punishment as
Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: "No protected person
may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed.
Collective penalties and likewise all measure of intimidation or of terrorism
are prohibited (as well as) Reprisals against protected persons and their
property...." Israeli sweeping measures against Palestinians after
September, 2000 constitute willful collective punishment and are thus illegal.
- So is forced transfer of an occupied people, by direct
or indirect means, yet Israel's declared policy and its actions displaced
many thousands of OPT residents and thousands alone from Hebron City Center
that left the area a "ghost town." This also violates the Fourth
Geneva Convention under Article 49 that states: "Individual or mass
forcible transfers, as well as deportation of protected persons from occupied
territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other
country, occupied or not, are prohibited (for any reason)." This prohibition
applies as well to transfers within an occupied territory such as driving
Hebron City Center residents out of the area in deference to its settlers.
- Articles 146 and 147 go further by classifying any unlawful
protected person transfers a grave Convention breach and a war crime for
which responsible persons bear full responsibility.
- Current Israeli Action to Stop A Medical Clinic's Construction
- Not part of B'Tselem-ACRI's study is an ongoing effort
to stop Israel from demolishing a Beqa'a Valley medical clinic under construction
that's a 30 minute walk from Hebron's City Center. It's operated by Palestinian
Relief and CARE International to provide 600 - 700 mostly women and children
in the area with routine care, prenatal checkups and vaccinations one day
- In late December 2007, Israel's Civil Administration
issued a stop work order on the clinic, residents complied, and had until
January 10 to appeal. The facility is vitally needed, stop work orders
usually precede demolition, and they were also issued for over 25 rebuilt
homes. Unless they're cancelled or stopped, demolition will proceed as
another act of collective punishment against Palestinians helpless to stop
- Bush in Palestine
- Also, apart from B'Tselem-ACRI's report, George Bush's
Israel and Palestine visit deserves mention to highlight the plight of
Hebron's people and all Palestinians. It was Bush's first official visit
as President as part of his seven state, nine day Middle East tour that
had nothing to do with peace, a two-state solution, or ending an illegal
occupation and everything to do with betraying the Palestinians and confronting
Iran. On January 9 and 10, Bush visited Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem
in the West Bank, skipped Gaza and Hebron, and concentrated on theatrics,
photo-ops and reiterated promises one more time to be broken afterwards.
- Palestinians know it, and Haaretz featured their view
on January 10 in an article headlined "Palestinians in Ramallah brace
for visit by 'that criminal' Bush." The anger is so great that Palestinian
security forces dug up concrete looking for bombs around and beneath a
building Bush visited for a meeting. In addition, Israel deployed 10,000
police and security staff for protection, booked the entire King David
hotel in Jerusalem for his stay, cancelled tourist bookings to do it, blocked
roads around the hotel causing huge traffic jams, and totally isolated
the President from people he supposedly came to help. It's no mystery why.
- The visit was a follow-up to the Annapolis tragedy and
travesty that was a historic first. It was the first time in memory the
legitimate government of one side was excluded from peace talks, and that
act doomed them. That meeting and this trip represent more pretense than
peace because Palestinian sincerity isn't matched by Israel or Washington.
The Bush administration firmly supports Israel's illegal settlements, and
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert knows it. Ahead of Bush's arrival, he said
"I don't recall another president who systematically and consistently
showed the same level of commitment to Israel as George W. Bush,"
and therein lies the problem.
- What can Palestinians hope from this meeting? A critical
online cartoon (Al-Quds newspaper refused to publish) captures their view.
It shows Bush arriving by helicopter, and the copy reads: "what denied
entry!! what wall? what checkpoints? what settlements? MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
The people of Hebron understand. So do all Palestinians, including the
many dozens killed by IDF incursions post-Annapolis as Israeli-instigated
violence rages in the Territories....in the name of "peace" Israel
and Washington won't allow.
- B'Tselem-ACRI also understand the problem. Their report
calls Israel's "constant and grave harm to Palestinians (in Hebron's
City Center) one of the most extreme manifestations of human rights violations"
it commits. By protecting settlers through a "principle of separation"
policy, its actions are racist and illegal as are severe movement restrictions,
oppressive curfews, security force and settler violent assaults, arbitrary
searches and seizures, quartering troops in homes, mass population transfers,
and unwarranted detentions and delays to collectively punish and harass.
- In Hebron City Center, expulsion alone is unique in magnitude
since the West Bank was occupied in 1967. Israeli policy there shows a
profound disregard for Palestinian rights and a flagrant violation of international
and Israeli laws. In deference to its settlers, Palestinians suffer, it's
intolerable, and at times it takes lives.
- B'Tselem and ACRI insist this must end, and Palestinian
rights must be protected and respected. All Israeli settlements are illegal
in the Territories. International law demands they be evacuated and regarding
the situation in Hebron City Center alone, B'Tselem and ACRI state "Israel
has the legal and moral obligation to evacuate the Israelis who settled
(there), and return them to Israel." Until this happens, Israel is
also obligated to ensure Palestinian safety so they can live normally with
their civil and human rights respected and protected.
- Specfically B'Tselem and ACRI urge Israel to take the