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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What Will It Take For the Israeli Military to Stop Imprisoning Natan Blanc?

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

5/30/2013 UPDATE: Success! What does it take for the Israeli military to stop imprisoning Natan Blanc? It takes Amnesty International and other activists making their concerns known and taking action.

Natan Blanc’s father received a call 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 apparently follows a decision 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. In practice, it seems to work as a mechanism for the IDF to rid itself of the problem of conscientious objectors who have been repeatedly imprisoned by declaring their ‘unsuitability’ based on poor mental health or discipline problems.

Natan is expected to be set free June 6th.  Thank you for taking action.  No further action is required at this time.

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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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To My Valentine: Death Will Not Part Us

Ghassan al-Shihabi and his twin daughters © Private

Ghassan al-Shihabi and his twin daughters © Private

By Cilina Nasser, Amnesty International’s Syria researcher

When Siham Abou Sitte fell in love with Ghassan al-Shihabi, she was drawn by his determination to keep the memory of old Palestine alive, his passion for reading and writing and his commitment to his work.

They were both Palestinian refugees living in Syria’s Yarmouk neighbourhood in Damascus.

When he proposed, Ghassan promised to cherish Siham’s two children from a previous marriage, Carmen (then 12) and Yamen (then 15), and treat them as his own.

Six years after they got married, Siham says Ghassan never disappointed her.

Siham recalls the day her mother passed away, Carmen was upset by her grandmother’s death and ran to Ghassan who held her in his arms even though her own father was sitting there.

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Challenging Israel’s Occupation, Palestinians Create ‘Gate of the Sun’ Village

By Amnesty International Campaigner Saleh Hijazi

Israeli border policemen guard the Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun) ‘outpost’ after evicting Palestinian protesters from the site on January 13, 2013 © Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Israeli border policemen guard the Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun) ‘outpost’ after evicting Palestinian protesters from the site on January 13, 2013 © Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

In the small hours of Sunday, more than 500 Israeli police surrounded around 130 Palestinian activists at a protest camp on the hills opposite the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.

The camp, which the activists called the village of Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun), was set up on privately-owned Palestinian land two days before to protest against the Israeli occupation and continued expansion of illegal settlements, which goes hand in hand with forced evictions in the West Bank.

Heavily armed police moved into the village to remove the peaceful activists on orders from the Israeli government, despite a High Court ruling on Friday not to remove the camp.

Eventually the video stream I was watching was cut off, but it was still possible to follow Twitter, where activists reported on the arrests and eviction moment by moment.

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What a NY Times Column Gets Wrong About Israeli Settlements

Ma'ale Adumim settlement

Construction continued on the Ma'ale Adumim settlement in 2010 despite an official Israeli "freeze".

An opinion piece written last week by Dani Dayan, a leader of an association of Israeli settlers, has sparked controversy over whether – as Dayan claims – Israeli settlers have a moral right to live in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  What has been missing so far from the discussion is the human rights perspective on the issue that Amnesty International considers most important.

Dayan insists in his column that Israel’s Settlers Are Here to Stay” and argues that instead of trying to find a two-state solution, American diplomats should accept the status quo and “maintain the current reality on the ground.”

His argument, however, leaves out one significant fact — the establishment of settlements in the OPT violates international humanitarian law and also constitutes a serious violation of the prohibition on discrimination. The presence of settlements has led to mass violations of human rights of the local Palestinian population including, but not limited to, policies involving access to water, restrictions on movement, land confiscation and home demolitions. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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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