Israel: End Administrative Detention Now!

Every year April 17 marks Palestinian Prisoners’ Day in the hope of bringing attention to the plight of the thousands of Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails. This year’s focus is on ending the use of administrative detention which is widely regarded as a punitive measure employed by Israel to detain and silence Palestinians. It stands as a huge barrier to any sustainable solution to the question of Palestine and betrays the brutal nature of the Israeli colonial occupation of Palestinian land.

Palestine Peace & Solidarity activist in front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul on April 16.
Palestine Peace & Solidarity activist in front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul on April 16.

Since Israel’s occupation of Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 an estimated 800,000 Palestinians have been detained under military order. This amounts to some 40 percent of the entire male population of the occupied territories being detained. There were some 4,600 Palestinians in Israeli prisons including 169 in administrative detention as of February this year. Most have been forcibly transferred from the occupied Palestinian territories to prisons located in Israel in violation of international law. It is estimated that 204 Palestinian prisoners have died while in Israeli custody since 1967 and human rights organizations have alleged that doctors have at times colluded in torture of those in custody.

The practice of administrative detention is routinely used by Israel to imprison Palestinians –who the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) refers to as “security prisoners” – without charge for up to six months at a time. As detention orders can and often are renewed, detainees can potentially be held indefinitely. The use of administrative detention has been widely condemned by human rights organizations around the world. Essentially, it is a process that denies judicial accountability by preventing access to detainees to proper legal recourse and therefore is an effective way to silence and punish Palestinians in the occupied territories determined to be a “threat” to “public security”.

Israel uses Military Order 1651, the Emergency Powers (Detention) Law and the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law to hold Palestinian administrative detainees in three prisons, two of which are located inside Israel.

Alleging to have been in a perpetual “state of emergency” since 1948, Israel uses administrative detention as a form of collective punishment to arrest and silence Palestinians exercising their basic civil and political rights to criticize the Israeli occupation. Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization Addameer points out that the simple act of holding a Palestinian flag or pouring a cup of coffee to a member of an organization deemed illegal by Israel is possible grounds for one’s arrest under the Israeli military occupation.

PPS activists in front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul on April 16.
PPS activists in front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul on April 16.

Detainees are routinely detained without knowledge of the reason for their arrest, which is rarely disclosed by military judges, and a number of their rights are violated once in detention such as having to endure poor prison conditions, inadequate medical care and denial of family visits.

Furthermore, Amnesty International reports that Israel’s use of administrative detention is likely more often than not accompanied by forms of torture or cruel and degrading practices for which Israel has exercised with “complete impunity” for more than a decade. The UN Committee Against Torture reported in 2001 and again in 2009 that the practice of administrative detention itself as used by Israel did not conform to the prohibition against torture which is absolute.

It has also long been well known that the ISA which oversees the prison system used to hold Palestinians routinely employs the practice of torture against detainees. Israeli human rights organization B’tselem lists the specific techniques used by the ISA in interrogations as including sleep deprivation, exposure to loud music and extreme temperatures, placing dirty sacks over interrogees’ heads, forcing interrogees into stress positions, violent shaking and food deprivation – usually used in combination.

Less well known is that Israel runs a secret prison facility known as ‘Camp 1391’ in an undisclosed location 100 kilometers from Jerusalem as revealed in 2002. Unlike Guantanamo Bay, which it is regularly compared to, the International Committee of the Red Cross has not been granted access to this facility to assess the treatment of its prisoners. While there is no way to confirm whether or not this facility remains in use, testimony from former prisoners indicates that torture and physical abuse were commonplace.

Looking at the case of administrative detainee Sameer Issawi throws a lot of this into relief. Having been arrested for the first time at age 17, he was arrested again during the second intifada and sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. After being released 10 years later in the 2011 prisoner swap negotiated between Israel and Hamas in which 1,027 Palestinians prisoners and detainees were exchanged for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, he found himself rearrested by the IDF on July 7 of 2012 for supposedly violating the terms of his release. He is one of the many prisoners released in the prisoner swap who have since been since rearrested under questionable circumstances.

With one brother already killed by the IDF in 1994 at the age of 16, Assawi’s remaining five siblings have served prison terms including one brother who is currently serving his nineteenth year. His family members including his elderly mother face constant harassment. To protest his arrest he has been on hunger strike since August of 2012 and is apparently very close to losing his life.

While the hunger strike has consistently proven to be a useful strategy for detainees to bring international attention to their case and in pressuring the Israeli authorities into making a deal for their release, it can also lead to further deprivation and punishment at the hands of the prison authorities who sometimes place them in solitary confinement, deny family visitation rights and slap fines on them.

But it is a powerful act of defiance for those with few options left like Assawi. It was recently reported that his whole village has joined a hunger strike in solidarity with him. Last year’s Prisoners’ Day was marked by some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners launching a hunger strike in Israeli jails.

This Prisoners’ Day it is time for the international community to call for an end to the practice of administrative detention by Israel and to demand the release all of those like Sameer Assawi who are not formally charged and given a fair trial. Putting an end to this reprehensible practice will constitute a small but important step towards achieving justice for those living under Israeli military occupation.

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Palestine: the view from Korea (April 8)

* For those interested in getting involved with Palestine Peace & Solidarity in Korea, we meet weekly on Mondays at our office in Hapjeong at 7:30pm. Please email Tom @ palestinekorea@gmail.com for more information. We welcome you to join us! *

Another week of Israeli military violence

In its weekly report on the human rights violations in the occupied territories (March 28 – April 3), the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is reporting that Israeli forces killed 2 Palestinian teenagers – cousins named Naji Balbisi (17) and Amer Nassar (16) – and wounded a third civilian in Anabta village, east of Tulkarem. Another two youths were wounded during an incursion into Hebron, one of 65 incursions carried out by the IDF over this period. The same report notes that in addition to firing at Gazan fisherman in order to confine them to the 3km nautical limit line it is imposing, Israel also carried out two air strikes on Gaza.

Palestine’s Children

April 5 was Palestinian Children’s Day. Rather than to celebrate young people and the joys of youth as it is elsewhere, Children’s Day in Palestine is used to highlight the conditions children exist in under Israeli military occupation. This year it falls shortly after a recent incident in which a number of youths were harassed and arrested by the IDF during their walk to school and at a time when some 236 youths remain in Israeli prisons according to Defence for Children International Palestine. Over at Electronic Intifada Adri Nieuwhof recently had this to report: “In February, the number of Palestinian children between 12 and 15 years who were detained by Israel rose from 31 to 39. Almost 60 percent of the 236 Palestinian child detainees of all ages have been unlawfully transferred to prisons inside Israel. Children were arrested and detained during the recent protests in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.”

UNICEF released its report last month on youths in Israeli military detention, writing that “in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”

Occcupation and resistance

In his latest piece on Palestine, Noam Chomsky writes about the “humiliation, degradation and terror” used by Israel to keep Gaza as the world’s largest open air prison following his first ever visit last year. He finishes his article with an ominous warning: “Unless the powerful are capable of learning to respect the dignity of the victims, impassable barriers will remain, and the world will be doomed to violence, cruelty and bitter suffering.”

Amira Hass has written an important article for Haaretz about the reality of resistance for Palestinains under the harsh Israeli occupation. She describes the act of stone throwing as an important part of the dialogueReuters photo of a protestor throwing stones during a clash with the IDF in Hebron on Feb 25, 2013 between the occupier and the occupied in which the latter responds by declaring their right to resist and their will to defy their oppressor. She suggests that classes on resistance should in fact be a staple of the curriculum in Palestinian schools. The Middle East Monitor is reporting that in response to her article, representatives of Jewish settlers wrote to the Jerusalem police demanding an investigation into whether she is inciting violence. Given the war mongering rISRAEL-PALESTINIANS-CONFLICT-ARABS-LAND-DEMOhetoric aimed at the Palestinian population that one can find in any typical Israeli newspaper, one can only hope that the police will laugh this one off. But it does raise interesting questions about the basic right to resist a brutal military occupation and how far nonviolent struggle can really go under such conditions. Check out this article over at Waging Nonviolence for an interesting look at evolving nonviolent Palestinian struggle.

Upcoming actions

Coming up on April 17 this month is Palestinian Prisoner’s Day. PPS will be taking action to raise awareness of the plight of Palestinians illegally imprisoned inside Israel and those facing torture and other human rights violations in administrative detention. Two days before, on April 15, South Korean peace groups will converge in Yeouido to demand that both North and South Korea – which of course includes the U.S. – lay down their weapons and choose dialogue over war. You can find out more about the event here.

Parting note

Finally, and on a side note, I recently watched an excellent Al Jazeera documentary on the pillage of Palestinian books that occurred during the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes at gunpoint by Israeli forces. While many of you will know the history well, it is very interesting to consider the loss of culture represented by these books which now sit inside Israel and can be read by any Israeli while their original Palestinian owners cannot access them. I highly suggest you take the time to watch this to understand the cultural and intellectual impact of Palestinian displacement.

Palestine: the view from Korea (April 1, 2013)

* For those interested in getting involved with Palestine Peace & Solidarity in Korea, we meet weekly on Mondays at our office in Hapjeong at 7:30pm. Please email Tom @ palestinekorea@gmail.com for more information. We welcome you to join us! *

Cultural Resistance

Freedom Bus activist arrested in South Hebron Hills - from ActiveStills.org
Freedom Bus activist arrested in South Hebron Hills – from ActiveStills.org

Palestinian artists, activists and community leaders recently joined with international activists to carry out a 9-day “Freedom Bus Tour” of “cultural resistance” in Area C in the occupied West Bank which remains completely under the control of the Israeli military. The tour, which was coordinated by the Freedom Theater operating in Jenin Refugee Camp, was extended to 13 days to conclude on Land Day.  One international participant from the U.S. was arrested by the IDF when the tour party entered the South Hebron Hills on March 29.

Land Day (March 30)

Palestinians from Sakhnin in the Galilee commemorate Land Day - from ActiveStills.org
Palestinians from Sakhnin in the Galilee commemorate Land Day – from ActiveStills.org

The 30th of March is Land Day which marks the day in 1976 when 6 Palestinians living in Israel were shot and killed and hundreds arrested and injured by Israeli forces during a protest against the illegal appropriation of Palestinian land in the northern Galilee to build Jewish-only settlements. Al Jazeera is reporting that a dozen people were injured in the demonstrations which were met with tear gas and rubber bullets by the IDF. Last year one protestor was killed after being shot in the head by the IDF but this year no deaths have been reported.

Palestine Peace & Solidarity in Korea is still finalizing plans for its Land Day action which will take place this week and focus on the calling on Hyundai to ensure that its construction equipment is no longer used for the illegal destruction of Palestinian homes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Casualties of Apartheid and Occupation

In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the week of 21- 27 March 2013, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that Israeli forces continued to employ excessive force against peaceful protests in the occupied West Bank. Over the reported period, the IDF carried out a total of 37 incursions into Palestinian communities, injured 4 protestors and abducted 26 civilians (including 6 children) in the occupied West Bank.

Five members of Hamas including an acting member of parliament were arrested in their homes in Hebron by the IDF at dawn on March 27, most likely for their suspected connection to an Islamic militant group. The IDF has carried out 50 such arrests in the last few months. Palestinians living under the authority of the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority continue to face restrictions on freedom of expression. Journalist Mamdouh Hamamreh from Bethlehem was sentenced on March 29 to one year’s imprisonment for “harming his Excellency the President” after comparing Palestinian Authority President Abbas to a French spy in a Syrian television show. He is the second Palestinian journalist to be imprisoned on such charges this year.

The incriminating photo that was displayed on Facebook comparing PA President Abbas to a TV character.
The incriminating photo that was displayed on Facebook comparing PA President Abbas to a TV character.

The Rafah tunnels providing a lifeline to many Gazans continue to prove hazardous for workers under the ongoing Israeli military siege of the Gaza Strip. One tunnel worker was killed and another two sustained injuries when the tunnel they were working in collapsed on March 28.

A tunnel between Rafah, Gaza and Egypt. These provide a lifeline for many Gazans living under the Israeli blockade.
A tunnel between Rafah, Gaza and Egypt. These provide a lifeline for many Gazans living under the Israeli blockade.

Palestine: the view from Korea (March 25, 2013)

* For those interested in getting involved with Palestine Peace & Solidarity in Korea, we meet weekly on Mondays at our office in Hapjeong at 7:30pm. Please email Tom @ palestinekorea@gmail.com for more information. We welcome you to join us! *

World Water Day was held on March 22 and marked in South Korea by a joint symposium between Israel and South Korea on water management. You might like to view our previous post about the water crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories that is the result of illegal Israeli policies and I also recommend you head over to Al Haq to view their special coverage.

Land Day is fast approaching. The 30th of March is Land Day which marks the day in 1976 when 6 Palestinians living in Israel were shot and killed by Israeli forces during a protest against the illegal appropriation of Palestinian land in the north of the country to build Jewish-only settlements. Some 100 more Palestinians were injured and hundreds were arrested. Last year Land Day was marked around the world by the Global March to Jerusalem in which tens of thousands of Palestinians and others from neighboring countries joined in action, linking to an international day of action as part of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Palestine Peace and Solidarity in Korea (PPS) is planning a solidarity action which will be notified to members once plans are finalized.

Image from the ActiveStills collective which is comprised of Israeli and international documentary photo-graphers with a strong conviction that photography is a vehicle for social change.
Image from the ActiveStills collective which is comprised of Israeli and international documentary photo-graphers with a strong conviction that photography is a vehicle for social change.

Obama’s Visit

US President Obama visited Israel and the occupied West Bank last week in which he met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas. Shortly after Obama’s arrival a number of children on their way to school were arrested by the IDF in Hebron. The International Middle East Media Center reports that between March 16 – 22 at least 52 military actions were conducted inside the occupied West Bank in which 67 Palestinians were arrested including the 41 children.

In giving a speech to Israeli youth Obama was heckled by a member of the audience who was escorted out of the hall. While many Palestinians expected little from Obama’s visit, his trip to the occupied West Bank met with the response of a small protest of 200 people in Ramallah. During his trip Obama went back on his initial position of demanding a settlement freeze which severely limits any chance of a viable solution. At the same time, the UN Human Rights Council passed a number of resolutions on Israeli settlements expressing concern over settlements and settle violence. It is worth remembering that the U.S. has given Israel some $234 billion in aid to Israel since 1948 and could certainly use this leverage to demand an end to the illegal settlement expansions. One can only hope that Obama will pick up the report from the final Russell Tribunal on Palestine just released and consider its findings of Israeli and US responsibility for war crimes seriously.

Part of this U.S. support has been for specific military projects such as the development of  the Iron Dome missile defense system (to the tune of $1.1 billion), the effectiveness of which has been under scrutiny following the November 2012 Gaza attacks, which the South Korean government has shown an interest in since late 2011.

In response to two rocket attacks from Gaza into Southern Israel during Obama’s visit on March 22, Israel has re-imposed a 3-mile nautical limit for fisherman off the west coast of Gaza, effectively tightening the already crippling siege. Egypt has been trying to close down a number of the tunnels by filling them with sewage despite the fact that they allow for the transportation of nearly one third of all of goods that reach Gaza and provide the only lifeline to many during under the siege.

World Marks Water Day as Palestinian Water Crisis Continues

A joint Korea-Israel symposium was held at the Korea Press Center in Seoul on March 18 in advance of World Water Day which falls on March 22 and this year is called the International Year of Water Cooperation. The event was attended by a number of officials and professionals from both countries. Central to the discussion was how Israel has forged a reputation in water management despite limited water supplies. Both countries plan to conduct joint research in the future on water management. The truth behind how Israel has achieved this lies in Israel’s policy of restricting Palestinian access to its own water resources and using its heralded “advanced technology” to funnel them off to maintain illegal settlements and for Israelis in violation of international law.

Throughout its occupation Israel has held control over a large percentage of Palestinian water resources, allocating large amounts to Israel while controlling and restricting access for Palestinians and sometimes cutting off water sources for Jewish-only use in colonial settlements. For a visual overview of how this basic resource necessary for human survival is controlled, see Al Haq’s interactive map here.

The water resources in the West Bank are almost completely controlled by Israel and siphoned off to major Israeli cities. Water structures built up in the West Bank that are not authorized by Israel are destroyed including many built with funding from international humanitarian agencies (for example, 55 such structures were destroyed in 2011).

Many Palestinians have to purchase drinking water while others survive with access to the bare minimum required for survival by the World Health Organization in a short-term crisis while living directly on top of massive water reserves; those living in the occupied Palestinian territories can access only 10 percent of the water resources while the remaining 90 percent goes to Israelis.

Additionally, colonial settlers in illegal settlements in occupied Palestine use a disproportionately large amount of water including water that is illegally stolen by Israel from the Jordon Valley. Under Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) Israel may not discriminate between different residents within an occupied territory.

Access to clean drinking water is also limited in Gaza where it tends to be highly saline near the coastline. In fact, under the ongoing Israeli military siege on the area between 90-95 percent of the water in Gaza is not fit for human consumption.

What follows are some infographics from Visualizing Palestine that brilliantly depict the crime of the water crisis in both Gaza and the West Bank which are the result of illegal Israeli policies. They have been translated into Korean by PPS activist Yaping and can be viewed on our Korean website.

Water Crisis in Gaza

Water Crisis in West Bank