Posts Tagged ‘Israeli–Palestinian conflict’

Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders stand together: Mohammed Khatib and Jonathan Pollak

January 20, 2020

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak at the Tel Aviv Magistrates' Court, arrested as part of an unprecedented private suit by Israeli right-wing group Ad Kan, Jan. 15, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak at the Tel Aviv Magistrates’ Court, arrested as part of an unprecedented private suit by Israeli right-wing group Ad Kan, Jan. 15, 2020. (Oren Ziv)

I was standing in the fields of the West Bank village of Bil’in 15 years ago when my phone rang from an Israeli number. On the line, someone was speaking in a mix of broken Arabic and Hebrew. At the time the Israeli military had just begun targeting Bil’in to build the apartheid wall, and while the bulldozers had started working in the nearby village of Budrus, activists were showing up at our village too. Among the first people to come to Bil’in was the person on the phone. I’ll admit, at first I found him odd, even a bit freakish: he looked like a punk teenager, wearing strange clothes and with a wild haircut dyed with different colors. Full of energy and spirit, he walked up to us and got right down to business. “We are a group of anarchists against the wall,” he said, “and we want to support you in your struggle.”

I looked at this strange visitor from Tel Aviv, my mind at once grappling with the contradictions and the respect I felt. Who is this boy thinking he can stop the wall? He is part of the occupation! Why is he really here? From that first encounter, however, it was clear that he was passionate and willing to work tirelessly. He communicated with the people around him so easily and quickly that it didn’t take long before he earned my trust. That’s how I came to know my friend Jonathan Pollak – who is now sitting in Israeli detention because of a right-wing organization’s lawsuit targeting his activism in Palestinian villages like mine.

Jonathan has played a prominent role not only in Bil’in but in many other villages across Palestine. Every young person who has participated in West Bank demonstrations against Israel’s colonization knows him as Jonathan, the human rights defender.

On Feb. 13, 2015, I was arrested on false charges at one of our weekly demonstrations in Bil’in. The Israeli military claimed that I was participating in an illegal protest, preventing Border Police officers from carrying out their work and attacking them. The truth is that one of the officers attacked me with pepper spray for no reason, which is illegal under Israeli law; he lied and claimed that I had pushed him. He arrested me as a political punishment to cover up his own unlawful act. I have been on trial for these charges since I was arrested four years ago. My lawyer and I provided the Israeli police and the military prosecutor with video evidence to prove that the arresting officer lied, but it was ignored up until now. On Sunday, after four years, I was finally acquitted and the charges against me were dropped.

Muhammad Khatib during a weekly demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in in 2015. (Oren Ziv)

Muhammad Khatib during a weekly demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in in 2015. (Oren Ziv)

…My acquittal on Sunday was issued by an Israeli military court. This a rare privilege: according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the rate of acquittals in the military court system is four out of every thousand. And though I was acquitted, I know that this system is inherently unjust and corrupt, built to keep us all as political prisoners. It is an oppressive regime designed solely for Palestinians: the judge is an Israeli military officer; the prosecutor is an Israeli soldier; even the translators and clerks are part of the Israeli army.

My friend Jonathan was arrested last week (and not for the first time) on charges similar to those I faced. Unlike me – and unlike Abdallah, Adeeb, and all Palestinians who are arrested for protesting – he will face judgement in an Israeli civil court, one which is supposed to protect the rights of citizens but in practice protects settlers, soldiers, and those who uphold apartheid and occupation. Because he supports our cause, I don’t expect him to find justice.

Due to of the nature of his arrest, and because he is not Palestinian, Jonathan could pay NIS 500 bail and walk out of jail. But he is a principled person. He has seen me and countless other Palestinian friends arrested on false charges, powerless to prove our innocence. So, he has decided to refuse bail and remain in detention instead. He won’t play by the rules of a system that is rigged against justice.

……Despite the many barriers that Israel has tried to place between us, we are part of the same struggle. Jonathan has stood alongside me and all Palestinians since he was a punk-looking teenager with weird clothes and crazy hair. Today, as a human rights defender and as a person of principle, I am proud to stand up and support Jonathan Pollak.

Dutch government critical of pro-Israel lobby “NGO Monitor”

January 17, 2020

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok

The Israeli government’s attacks on human rights defenders are aided by organisations such as NGO Monitor, which in particular lobby European authorities to cease funding such human rights groups. The Dutch minister added that “the government is familiar with the accusations by NGO Monitor against a broad group of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations, as well as with criticism of the conduct of NGO Monitor itself”, citing a September 2018 report by the Policy Working Group. “This research shows that many of NGO Monitor’s accusations are based on selective citations, half-facts and insinuations, but not necessarily on hard evidence”, Minister Blok added. “These accusations have contributed to a climate in which human rights organisations have come under increasing pressure”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/01/following-threats-to-ngo-offices-in-israel-human-rights-defenders-demand-investigation/]

In response to a separate question, the Dutch foreign minister noted that, “to the best of the government’s knowledge, NGO Monitor…focuses exclusively on organisations and donors who are critical of Israeli policy in the territories occupied by Israel”.

 

Dutch government criticises pro-Israel lobby group NGO Monitor’s ‘half-facts and insinuations’

Revoking of Kamila Shamsie’s Dortmund book award is fiercely contested

September 25, 2019

Kamila Shamsie.
Kamila Shamsie. Photograph: Teri Pengilley/The Guardian

The judges had initially chosen Shamsie for writing that “builds bridges between societies”, but changed their minds on learning she backed the BDS movement, saying that her “political positioning to actively participate in the cultural boycott … contrasts with the claim of the Nelly Sachs prize to proclaim and exemplify reconciliation among peoples and cultures”.

Shamsie’s supporters reply asks: “What is the meaning of a literary award that undermines the right to advocate for human rights, the principles of freedom of conscience and expression and the freedom to criticise? … Without these, art and culture become meaningless luxuries.”

The revoking of Shamsie’s award follows a motion passed in May by the German parliament that labelled the BDS movement antisemitic. But the letter writers point to a decision earlier this month in the administrative court of Cologne ruling that Bonn city council’s decision to exclude the German-Palestinian Women’s Association from a cultural festival because of its support for BDS was unjustified. The writers highlight the statement last year from more than 40 progressive Jewish organisations arguing that conflating anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies and system of occupation and apartheid “undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism”.

The letter also criticises the German city of Dortmund, which runs the award, for refusing to make public Shamsie’s written response to the decision.

Shamsie, winner of the UK’s Women’s prize for fiction, had called it a “matter of outrage that the BDS movement (modelled on the South African boycott) that campaigns against the government of Israel for its acts of discrimination and brutality against Palestinians should be held up as something shameful and unjust”. Asked to comment, a spokeswoman for the city of Dortmund said that the jury had decided not to give any further statements. “The council has legitimated the jury of Nelly Sachs prize to choose an awardee,” she said. “The jury is autonomous in its decision and gave reasons in the press release. There has been no council meeting after the jury’s decision, so the withdrawal has not been a topic for the council yet.”

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/23/hundreds-of-authors-protest-after-kamila-shamsies-book-award-is-revoked

https://www.timesofisrael.com/writers-defend-uk-author-stripped-of-prize-for-her-support-of-israel-boycott/

http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=qfv8dda113530808358aqfv8dd

https://www.dawn.com/news/1507849

Omar Barghouti denied entry to United States

April 13, 2019

Omar Barghouti in 2014. “I am hurt, but I am not deterred,” he said.CreditRob Stothard/Getty Images
In a further sign of the increasing US policy of denying visa to those it disagrees with newspapers (here the NYT) on 11 April 2019, report that the United States has barred entry to Omar Barghouti, one of the co-founders of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (B.D.S). This U.S. entry ban against me, which is ideologically and politically motivated, is part of Israel’s escalating repression against Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights defenders in the B.D.S. movement,” Mr. Barghouti said in a statement. He called for an end to what he called “U.S. complicity in Israel’s crimes against our people.” [See also recently: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/21/many-ngo-participants-denied-visa-to-attend-commission-on-the-status-of-women-in-new-york/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/16/us-ngos-react-furiously-to-visa-restrictions-imposed-on-icc-investigators-by-trump-administration/]

Mr. Barghouti was supposed to speak at a series of events in the United States organized by the Arab American Institute in Washington, including at panels at Harvard University and an event with New York University. He was also planning to attend his daughter’s wedding in Texas.

Mr. Barghouti, a permanent resident of Israel, was stopped at Israel’s international airport when he tried to board a flight to Washington via Frankfurt, and airline staff told him only that the American Consulate in Tel Aviv had been directed to stop him from traveling. He said he was told it was an immigration matter but was given no further explanation.

Critics say American laws against supporters of the boycott are unconstitutional and limit free speech. But this year, the Senate passed a bill to safeguard the right of states to adopt anti-B.D.S. laws.

 

UN Rapporteurs intervene again for Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro

April 11, 2019

Israel must fully honour and implement the rights and obligations contained in the UN’s Declaration on human rights defenders, and in particular end the use of criminal, legal and security tools to obstruct the legitimate work of human rights defenders, say two UN rapporteurs: Michael Lynk, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory and Michel Forst, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders .

Their comments come on 11 April 2019 after the latest hearing on 7 April in the case of Issa Amro, a human rights defender and founder of Youth Against Settlements, a Hebron-based group which seeks to end settlement expansion through non-violent civil resistance. “Israel must provide for the protection of human rights defenders in the context of their work and ensure that, if charged with any offence, their right to a fair trial is respected,” said the Rapporteurs “The case of Issa Amro is emblematic of the sophisticated array of obstacles faced by Palestinian human rights defenders who engage in non-violent activities.

Cracking down on individuals whose work is essential to denouncing violations and creating safe and peaceful societies, sends a troubling message that the Israeli authorities make little effort to abide by international human rights standards, including the right to a fair trial.

We are very concerned that in January 2019 Israel did not renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), an international observer force that was instrumental in efforts to avoid violence – a decision which led to a group of human rights defenders, including Issa Amro, deciding to accompany children to school.”

The UN experts also expressed deep concern about the repressive working environment faced by Palestinian human rights organisations in recent years.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/14/five-un-experts-urge-israel-to-stop-harassment-of-human-rights-activist-issa-amro/ and https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/issa-amro

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1904/S00078/israel-must-ensure-protection-for-issa-amro.htm

Film on Human Rights Defender Lea Tsemel wins Thessaloniki International Festival

March 13, 2019

 reports on 11 March, 2019 that a documentary about an Israeli human rights lawyer has won the top prize in its category at the Thessaloniki International Festival. “The Advocate,” a 108-minute film directed and produced by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, focuses on Lea Tsemel, who has defended Palestinians of every stripe, from protesters to known extremists, for more than 50 years. The Canadian-Israeli-Swiss production was given the “Golden Alexander Award” Sunday night.

A special jury award was given to Afghan director Hassan Fazili for the autobiographical “Midnight Traveler” which was actually filmed by his whole family. He, his wife and two daughters were forced to flee the country when the Taliban put a bounty on Fazili’s head. They first went to Tajikistan and, threatened with deportation, journeyed all the way to Europe.

See also in 2020: https://www.kpcw.org/post/losing-lawyer-israel-who-defends-palestinians-charged-violence#stream/0

https://www.thenationalherald.com/234482/winning-documentary-in-thessaloniki-portrays-israeli-human-rights-lawyer/

World Check’s ‘terrorist’ labeling exposed as biased  

January 22, 2019

In a case before a British high court World-Check, a subsidiary of Reuters, was forced to pay compensation and offer an apology to a pro-Palestine organisation which it had listed as a terrorist group on its global online database. The case may have broad ramifications for hundreds of others, both individuals and organisations, that may have been placed on World-Check’s list without their knowledge [In fact there have been several cases including that of a British mosque which also won an apology and compensation after being designated “terrorists” by the risk screening agency].

The Middle East Monitor of 21 January 2019 gives details on the case of Majed Al-Zeer, the chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), which have both been classified as “terrorists”.

Majed Al-Zeer, the chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC)

Majed Al-Zeer (C) the chairman of the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC)

A two-year legal battle concluded with World-Check offering a public apology in open court and a legal settlement of $13,000 plus legal costs. World-Check supplies private information on potential clients for corporations, businesses and even governmental agencies, such as police and immigration. With more than 4,500 clients including 49 of the world’s 50 largest banks and 200 law enforcement and regulatory agencies, World-Check has become essential in satisfying statutory requirements towards due diligence obligations. However their failure to carry out satisfactory checks and independent verification has raised concerns over the misuse and falsification of data that can have severe consequences for victims.

Declaring his victory over World Check service today at a London press conference as “a precedent for those who are on the forefront of human rights and justice” Al-Zeer said he had been a “victim of an organised campaign waged by Israel and its spin machine of propaganda and false information.”

[The PRC has been granted consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Over the past 30 years the centre has advocated for Palestinian refugees at international forums like the UN and EU. In addition to producing reports on the situation of Palestinian refugees; hosting conferences to defend their human rights, the UK organisation has been leading parliamentary delegations to refugee camps across the Middle East. Following Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2009 during operation “Cast Lead” in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed and thousands more were wounded, the centre organised the largest European parliamentary delegation to the besieged enclave.]

Al-Zeer’s lawyers described the victory as “shedding light into the secretive and unknown world of regulatory agencies” and the potential for their abuse. During their press conference, both expressed the urgent need to develop mechanisms for independent verification of entries that may have a “crippling effect” on people’s lives. “Such a company has a moral and ethical duty (at least from the perspective of the Media) to provide its clients with verified and real information,” said Al-Zeer, “yet, it has chosen to ignore that and stuff its database with merely politically motivated information.”….

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190121-pro-palestine-group-wins-uk-high-court-battle-over-terrorist-label/

Human rights lawyer Felicia Langer died on 21 June 2018

June 24, 2018

Felicia Langer (born 9 December 1930 ) died on 21 June 2018. She was a German-Israeli attorney and human rights defender known for her defence of Palestinian political prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She authored several books alleging human rights violations on the part of Israeli authorities. She lived in Germany from 1990 and acquired German citizenship in 2008.In her writings, lectures and interviews she criticized the Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, which she considered equivalent to an annexation. Langer furthermore considered the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank as undermining the possibility of a two-state solution and demands the complete and unconditional retreat of Israel from the territories conquered in 1967 and a right to return for any descendant of the Palestinian refugees. In 1990, Langer received the Right Livelihood Award ” for the exemplary courage of her struggle for the basic rights of the Palestinian people.” In 1991, she was awarded the Bruno Kreisky Award. In July 2009, President of Germany awarded her the Federal Cross of Merit. The bestowal triggered a public controversy because of her attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For more on human rights awards see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/

 on 23 June wrote in an Op ED in EurAsia Review Felicia Langer is highly respected and revered by the Palestinians like no other Israeli-German citizen. Only Yasser Arafat is more adored. Both the Palestinian Authority and the city of Tübingen, where she lived in exile, should set up a memorial place for this great German-Israeli woman…Felicia Langer is one of the few outstanding Israeli-German personalities who have sacrificed themselves to the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian people to the last breath, and whose memory should remember by all three peoples. Their tireless commitment to Palestinian justice and human rights should always be considered an inspiration and a societal obligation to their political actions.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felicia_Langer

https://www.eurasiareview.com/23062018-german-israeli-human-rights-lawyer-felicia-langer-passes-away-oped/

Israel bars human rights lawyers from the USA

May 4, 2018

Two U.S. human rights lawyers were detained Sunday 29 April 2018 for 14 hours at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport before being deported back to the United States. Columbia University’s professor of law, gender and sexuality studies Katherine Franke and Center for Constitutional Rights’ executive director Vincent Warren were repeatedly questioned about their associations with groups critical of Israel. They were part of a delegation of American human rights defenders heading to Israel and Palestine to learn about the human rights situation and meet with local activists. They arrived back in New York City early Monday. Hear the interview with Vincent Warren and Katherine Franke via:

Israel at 2018 UPR session denies restricting human rights defenders

January 29, 2018

On Wednesday, 24 January 2018 mwcnews reported on Israel‘s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in Geneva.  A large part of the session was devoted to the usual and heated tit-for-tat with UN member states criticizing Israel for failing to abide by human rights laws and UN resolutions (“Israel is the only state in the world that can be called an apartheid state,” the South African delegate stated), while Aviva Raz Shechter, Israeli ambassador to the UN in Geneva, laid out bluntly how Israel was going to receive the recommendations of fellow members. “The continuous discrimination against Israel in the HRC and the unparalleled number of one-sided biased and political resolutions adopted regularly by the automatic majority of its members testifies not only to the unfair treatment of Israel but also to the deficiencies of the council itself and its agenda,” she said.

Shechter listed what she claimed were some areas of improvement in human rights in Israel compared with the last review, which was in 2013. These, she said, included new initiatives and measures taken by Israel to uphold the rights of people with disabilities, minorities, the LGBT community and women. However, Shechter’s minimal references to the situation of Palestinians in the occupied territories left many delegates unimpressed. Emi Palmor, the director-general of the Israeli ministry of justice, stayed on the defensive before highlighting what she called the improvements in the judiciary, from the introduction of some prisoners’ rights and safeguards for juvenile detainees to taking over investigations of complaints against the Israel Security Agency, better known as Shin Bet. “A large part will not listen to what I am saying … this council has not acquired its reputation for equality or impartiality,” she said.

Palmor contended that Israel had made progress with regards to the detention of minors by establishing a dedicated juvenile court, improving its system by which families are notified, as well as authorising courts to appoint attorneys for the minors “if they wished so”. Still, delegates from Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Madagascar and other UN member states called upon Israel to allow civil society and independent human rights organisations on its territory to work freely. Some called on Israel to allow human rights bodies to conduct fact-finding missions to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. They expressed concern over the perceived targeting of human-rights defenders and independent nongovernmental organisations in the context of Israel’s NGO Transparency Law and Anti-Boycott Law. The recommendations and concerns were rejected by Palmor, who claimed that Israel places no legal restrictions on human rights associations.

[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/26/israel-denies-work-permit-to-human-rights-watch-and-continues-harassment-of-hrds/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/04/27/human-rights-watch-granted-israeli-work-permit-in-the-end/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/05/michael-sfardjan-israels-human-rights-activists-arent-traitors/]

Some delegates called upon Israel to ratify the optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and to uphold the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which prohibits individual or mass forcible transfers and deportations of protected persons from occupied territory. Germany was one of the countries with concerns in this regard.…..

Shechter, the Israeli ambassador, said it was deplorable that UN representatives would use the UPR session as what she called a platform to politicise the human rights discourse. “It is a cynical and hypocritical attitude meant to distort the reality,” she said, adding however that Israel would continue to cooperate with the HRC and take “seriously” the recommendations made at Tuesday’s session.

http://mwcnews.net/news/middle-east/70152-israel-gets-flak-over-human-rights-record.html