Having a settler for neighbor in Hebron

The Jabari family lives in the Hebron neighborhood of Wadi Al Hussein, between the illegal Israeli settlements of Kiryat Arba and the Giva Ha’avot. Since 2001, the family has been fighting a legal battle to regain control of their land after settlers illegally built a “Synagogue Tent” on it. “Problems started very early but increased after the second intifada. Settlers tried to convince my father to sell the house. My father said no, they threatened him. They said this is Israeli land, not Palestinian. But this is my father’s land, for many generations”, Ayat, one of the Jabari daughters says.

On four occasions since 2008, Israeli courts have ordered the tent to be removed, but after each time the settlers have rebuilt it. The family’s case is still going through the court system.

“When we first came here they [the settlers] stabbed my little brother in the stomach, then hit another of my brothers on his eyes. Another time they pushed my father from the hill and he broke his shoulder. Every day, every night they throw stones at us”, Ayat says. She explains the settlers want the land so they can connect up the different settlements in the city center with those on the outskirts.

The story of the Jabari’s family, sadly, is representative of that of many vulnerable Palestinian families in Hebron living close to Israeli settlements, civilian communities established on Palestinian land occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War. Settlements are illegal in international law, as set in Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from deporting or transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

Hebron is the only Palestinian city in the West Bank, besides East Jerusalem, that has settlements in its city center. Between 500 and 800 settlers live in Hebron 2 (H2), the Israeli controlled center of Hebron, in a number of separate settlements and outposts. Kiryat Arba, the largest of the settlements on the outskirts of Hebron, has a population of approximately 8,000 settlers. It was established in 1968, and was the first Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Several hundred Israeli soldiers are posted in Hebron, allegedly to protect Israeli settlers living there against possible attacks by Palestinians.

Kiryat Arba buildings overlooking Palestinian houses in Wadi Al Hussein (Photo: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci)

Kiryat Arba buildings overlooking Palestinian houses in Wadi Al Hussein (Photo: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci)

Palestinians living close to settlers face serious challenges in accessing basic health, water and sanitation services as well as in accessing work, education and worship. Many streets are closed to Palestinian motorists and are accessible only by pedestrians, forcing residents to carry provisions such as food, water and cooking-gas canisters by hand and pushcart. Ambulances are often unable to reach households due to street closures, and some schools can be reached only on foot. Children and teachers are required to go through daily searches at checkpoints. Whilst these measures are justified by the Israeli authorities as necessary to protect the settlers residing in the city, they hinder not only the urban development of Hebron, but also the ability of Palestinian residents to live a normal life.

“Nobody can drive on Prayers’ Road (the main road going through Ayat’s neighbourhood and connecting Kiryat Arba with the old city of Hebron) or in any other part of Wadi Al Hussein”, explains Ayat. “From 2002 to 2005 people could not even walk here. This street is closed, we people cannot walk freely or drive. Every day children go to school walking up the hill, but this is dangerous in winter because of the snow and the rain. There is no pavement there. But walking on the main street is even more dangerous. Here we have four checkpoints and people need to go through them every day. We are surrounded by three settlements”.

In addition to access and movement restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities, Palestinians in H2 also face harassment at the hands of Israeli settlers, including property damage and confiscation, physical attacks, verbal abuse, and the intimidation of children on their way to school.

“Today people do not walk here because they are afraid of the settlers,” admits Ayat. “Sometimes when settlers see women with hijabs they try to take these away. People from other parts of Hebron are afraid to come here. Internationals are afraid too. We do not have any visitors, and friends coming here. Before the checkpoints they used to visit us. We live in a jail, I am sad for my family, the children cannot walk on the street, my family does not know what is outside. I imagine Palestine in a jail. Life here in H2 is different from that in the rest of Hebron but in reality we are all in jail. Put me in your suitcase when you leave?”.

Asphalted pathway leading to Kiryat Arba next to an unpaved pathway leading to Palestinian houses in Wadi Al Hussein (Photo: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci)

Asphalted pathway leading to Kiryat Arba next to an unpaved pathway leading to Palestinian houses in Wadi Al Hussein (Photo: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci)

In 2014 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, Richard Falk, stressed that settlements in H2 have led to severe restrictions and an atmosphere of tension that negatively affects all Palestinians. The lack of resources to carry out comprehensive investigations and the obligation for Palestinians to file complaints and testify at police stations inside Israeli settlements, also deter victims of violence from lodging complains against settlers. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the large majority of complaints about settler violence filed in recent years have been closed by the Israeli authorities without indictment. The United Nations calls on Israel to respect and implement the humanitarian needs and human rights of Palestinians in Hebron, including their right to freedom of movement and their right to be free from discrimination. It also calls on the authorities to ensure that those responsible for violence and intimidation are held accountable under Israeli law.

“Why nobody does anything to help here?”, asks Ayat. “We are human beings, this is why I stay. What else can I do? I hope to do something, to give life back to this area but it is not easy… it is so quiet here, can you hear?”. I nod, as I hear the silence in the neighborhood from her house.

 

This article was originally published on Mondoweiss.

 

When you are under administrative detention

This article was originally published on Mondoweiss and the EAPPI UK & Ireland website.

Palestinians in Hebron demand Israel return bodies of family members killed by the IDF

On the evening of January 1st Israeli authorities returned the bodies of 14 Palestinians from Hebron city who were killed while suspected of carrying out attacks on Israelis during the wave of tension which had started in October 2015. These 14 bodies were buried the following day, but others are yet to be returned to their families. “They have no right to keep our children, we want them back now”, the father of one of the young men killed tells me.

Since October 2015, Israel’s security cabinet policy established that the bodies of Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces who were considered to be carrying out attacks on Israeli civilians and military personnel would not be returned to their families. Put forward by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to minimize the risk of politicized mass funerals and incitement to murder, as well as to deter attacks against Israelis, this policy has been described by the Palestinian public and by human rights organizations such as Addameer and The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre as collective punishment for innocent family and community members.

These family and community members who are already suffering the loss of their loved ones, cannot have a funeral,  mourn in dignity or process and accept the idea of loss. Some of these families retain the hope that they are alive. “I have a video of my son bleeding on the ground. He is moving. I do not know if he is dead”, a bereft man admits.

According to media information, the Israeli government is demanding that concerned families agree to the bodies of their relatives be returned after nightfall and buried immediately,only in the presence of a few family members, allegedly to minimize the risk of public and media attention during funerals.

Palestinians protesting against new policy approved by Israel’s security cabinet (Photo: EAPPI)

Palestinians protesting against new policy approved by Israel’s security cabinet (Photo: EAPPI)

Most of the these families have so far refused these conditions and called on Israel to allow them to carry out the burial of their loved ones on their own terms. Families say that the terms imposed by Israel are contrary to Islamic burial customs, which require bodies to be buried during daylight hours. Moreover, these terms deny families the time needed to request and carry out an autopsy, whilst also preventing extended family and community members from paying their last respects to the deceased. “We want to bury our children according to our religion and culture. We want all our families and friends to attend the funerals. We want them to be returned during the day and to be checked by Palestinian doctors. Not accepting the bodies at these conditions is our way of resisting occupation,” a local Palestinian explains.

Withholding the bodies of those killed, not allowing the deceased to be buried according to the requirements of the religion to which they belonged and not notifying families of the fate of their relatives or the location of their grave violate Rules 115, 116 and 117 of customary international humanitarian law, as well as Article 17 of the First Geneva Convention, Article 20 of the Second Geneva Convention, Article 120 of the Third Geneva Convention, Article 130 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and Article 32 of Additional Protocol 1. Collective punishment and any form of reprisal against somebody for an offense he or she has not personally committed also breaches Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Human rights organisations such as Addameer and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre call on the Israeli authorities to enable the immediate and unconditional return of the bodies which are still withheld within Israel, in line with its obligations under international law, and state that failure to act in such a way constitutes collective punishment.

The unconditional, although delayed, handing over of 14 bodies on January 1st gave their families the opportunity to mourn in dignity. Many others continue to wait. It is time for their punishment to end.

This article was originally published on Mondoweiss.

Global #migration and #refugee governance outlook 2016

Thank you to Stefan Rother for this precious advocacy diary!

The GFMD, Migration, Development and Human Rights

GFMD Bangladesh“2016 has well become THE migrant year”, stated Peter Sutherland, UN Secretary Generals’ Special Representative for International Migration, in a recent webinar. Obviously, migration has been brought to the top of the international agenda for some time now, but this year will see a number of high-level events addressing the issue. This post will provide an overview – without neglecting the agency of migrants and their organizations themselves and their upcoming events.

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