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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As you may have heard, Palestinian authorities have embarked on a major diplomatic effort to secure wider recognition of a Palestinian state and an upgraded status at the United Nations. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently submitted an application for full UN membership to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Palestine currently has the status of an observer entity at the UN General Assembly, where it is represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). An application for full membership is currently being considered by the UN Security Council Committee on Admission of New Members. The UN Committee will issue its analysis of the historic Palestinian bid for statehood around mid-October.
Amnesty International recently signed on to a joint open letter to members of the MiddleEast Quartet — an important mediating body in the peace process that includes the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — with almost two dozen other human rights and humanitarian organizations in regards to the Palmer commission’s report on the 2010 flotilla incident and the continued closure of Gaza.
The media has gone crazy these past couple of days announcing that the UN-appointed panel of inquiry into the flotilla raid last summer, known as the Palmer Commission, found that the Israeli imposed blockade on Gaza is legal and that Israel used excessive force during the raid.
From the Jerusalem Post to the BBC, headlines scream that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip is legal. This is not only completely false, it distracts from the main point of the inquiry which was to determine if excessive use of force was used by Israeli forces during the raid on the flotilla in international waters and how to avoid a similar incident like this from happening again.
The contents of the Palmer Report were made public Thursday by the New York Times. The report itself, which was completed last February, was being delayed at the UN while Turkey and Israel negotiated over language and played behind-the-scenes politics.
Although this video was produced one year after operation ‘Cast Lead’ ended, former AI researcher, Francesca Burke, speaks about the difficulties in getting in materials to rebuild and recover from the devastation of the military conflict as well as the blockade which still holds true and relevant today.
Even if all the humanitarian needs of the population were relieved, the Israeli-imposed Gaza blockade would still violate the Gazans’ basic human rights.