Natan Blanc is FREE

Natan Blanc released by JVPBy Nehal Amer, Social Media Specialist for the Middle East Coordination Group

Natan Blanc, 19-year-old Israeli conscientious objector, was freed from detention on Tuesday and officially discharged from the Israeli army yesterday.

Our last blog on Natan Blanc’s case asked, “What Will it Take for the Israeli Military to Stop Imprisoning Natan Blanc?“ We believed it would take Amnesty International members and other activists making their concerns known and taking action – and because you didNatan Blanc is now FREE after being forced to serve 10 consecutive prison sentences for his refusal to serve in the Israeli military based on his conscientiously held beliefs.

Natan Blanc’s father received a call on May 30th from his son telling him that he had been informed that he would be released at the end of his current prison term. The decision follows a ruling by the Unsuitability (or Compatibility) Committee which – according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – is designed to deal with people with behavioral problems who are deemed unsuitable for army service. It is not a committee which explores whether someone is a genuine conscientious objector or not.

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Natan Blanc, Back in Israeli Prison

Natan Blanc (Photo Credit: Hagar Shezaf for Amnesty International).

Natan Blanc (Photo Credit: Hagar Shezaf for Amnesty International).

By Nehal Amer, Social Media Specialist, Middle East Coordination Group

They did it again. Israeli authorities have put 19 year-old Natan Blanc in prison for the ninth time for courageously putting into practice his conscientiously held beliefs and refusing to serve in the Israeli military.

We have followed Natan’s on-going struggle through Urgent Actions and a blog posted on April 8, 2013.

Amnesty International considers those imprisoned for total or selective objection to military service for reasons of conscience to be prisoners of conscience who should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Natan has served some 130 days in jail already since refusing the military call-up for the first time last November. Every few weeks he is released, then tried and imprisoned again after repeating his refusal to serve in the army.

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A West Bank Village Protests Against Israel’s Military Occupation

Lamri Chirouf inspects an Israeli tear gas canister in Budrus cemetery (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

Lamri Chirouf inspects an Israeli tear gas canister in Budrus cemetery (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

By Lamri Chirouf, Amnesty International’s Delegate in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Last month, we drove northwest from Ramallah to visit the small village of Budrus, which gained international attention a decade ago when residents started protesting against the fence/wall erected by Israel.

Regular protests there against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank continue, and clashes between village youths and members of the Israeli army have become a weekly, if not daily, occurrence. The main reason behind the protests is still the wall, described by the Israeli government as a security fence and by Budrus residents, and Palestinians throughout the West Bank, as an ‘apartheid wall’ and a way for the Israeli government to annex more Palestinian lands.  The majority of the wall is located inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In Budrus, it consists of rolls of barbed wire, multiple fences and sensors, and a road on the other side patrolled by Israeli military jeeps, all of which work to separate villagers from their farming lands.

There are no Israeli settlements or towns nearby, but Israeli troops regularly enter the village. The encounters between them and Budrus residents can be fatal.

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The Courage of Youth – Israeli Conscientious Objectors

 

Natan Blanc (Photo Credit: Hagar Shezaf for Amnesty International)

Natan Blanc (Photo Credit: Hagar Shezaf for Amnesty International).

Written by Nehal Amer, Social Media Specialist, Middle East Coordination Group

Each year, a handful of courageous Israeli teenagers are imprisoned for refusing to serve in the military on grounds of conscience. Natan Blanc, 19, from Haifa has been imprisoned eight times in four months for his refusal to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Amnesty International considers those imprisoned for total or selective objection to military service for reasons of conscience to be prisoners of conscience. Blanc spoke to Amnesty International about his motivation for objecting to military service in February 2013. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

One Palestinian Village Obama Should Visit

Former prisoner of conscience Bassem Tamimi holds plastic and rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli forces.

Former prisoner of conscience Bassem Tamimi holds plastic and rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli forces.

Yesterday morning, US President Barack Obama arrived in Israel to much fanfare.  He has said that he has come to listen.  One place he should start is the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

I visited Nabi Saleh last week as part of an Amnesty International research mission to the West Bank.  The village sits atop a hill, facing the illegal Israeli settlement Halamish.  The settlers of Halamish, like so many other Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), are backed by the lethal force of the Israeli army.

For protesting against the settlement, the residents of Nabi Saleh have paid a heavy price.  I spoke with village resident Bassem Tamimi, a man who Amnesty International previously declared a prisoner of conscience when he was imprisoned by Israel for involvement in peaceful protests.  During Bassem’s most recent jail term, his brother-in-law Rushdi Tamimi, 31, was shot by Israeli soldiers at another protest in November 2012 and died days later in a hospital.  In December 2011, another member of the village, Mustafa Tamimi, died after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister fired at close range from an Israeli military jeep.

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Israel/Gaza: International Monitors and Arms Embargo Needed NOW

A doctor checks vital signs of haneen Tafish by light of his mobile phone in Al Shifa hospital, Gaza City, November 15, 2012. Haneen Tafish eventually died from her injuries. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Amnesty International is calling for the  prompt deployment of international monitors and an arms embargo on both Israel and armed Palestinian groups, including Hamas de facto administration in Gaza, to offer more civilian protections immediately and monitor and document violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Since the assassination by Israel of Hamas leader Ahmad al-Ja’abari on November 14 in Gaza City, there has been an escalation of violence between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza that has left scores dead and injured.  The conflict shows no signs of abating and looks to be repeating the same mistakes made during operation ‘Cast Lead’ four years ago.

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Record Number of Palestinians Displaced by Unlawful Demolitions

israel palestianian home demolitions

There has been a sharp rise in demolitions of Palestinian homes in 2011 © Amnesty International

Amnesty International, one member of a 20 member strong coalition of major international humanitarian and human rights organizations that work in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), issued a joint press release yesterday announcing that there has been a record number of unlawful demolitions by the Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, over the past year, displacing a record number of Palestinian families from their homes and calling on the Middle East Quartet to change their failing approach.

The Middle East Quartet, made up of representatives from the United States, Russia, the United Nations and European Union, is currently meeting in Jerusalem in an attempt to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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Israel's Actions in East Jerusalem May Constitute a War Crime

On Tuesday, Israel did not even try to hide the fact that their plans to accelerate the construction of 2,000 housing units in East Jerusalem – an area considered as ‘occupied’ by the international community thus making the construction illegal – was in response to and part of a series of punishments to be meted out against the Palestinian Authority for their successful pursuit for full membership to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and pursuit for full recognition for the State of Palestine by the United Nations body itself.

What is significant as well, but I’m afraid being over-looked, is that the announcement also came just two days after the well-respected organization, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), submitted a major and precedent-setting report to three of the UN’s Special Rapporteurs claiming that Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem violate international law and may constitute a war crime and asking for an investigation into these practices.

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Doubts Cast in Gilad Shalit/Palestinian Prisoner Swap

Today, we woke up to find the exchange of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and 477 Palestinian prisoners.

As news services around the world covering the exchange highlight Gilad Shalit’s ordeal of being held for five years in virtual incommunicado detention and the story of the Palestinian prisoners being released – some having been held for decades – one thing is glaringly obvious – this whole episode highlights the need for the humane treatment of all detainees – whether Palestinian or Israeli.

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