Common Statement by hbs and partners on the political situation in East Jerusalem/Westbank

The following implementing organizations of the EU project “Advancing the Rights of Vulnerable Palestinian Women and Children in East Jerusalem”, which are the Heinrich Böll Foundation Palestine & Jordan (hbs), War Child Holland (WCH), the Arab Center for Agricultural Development (ACAD), and ArtLab (ART-LAB) view with extreme concern the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel as well as recent developments and legislations approved by the Government of Israel. According to OCHA, as of November 16, 85 Palestinians have been killed and 9,171 injured by Israeli forces and armed settlers since October 1. During the same period, 11 Israelis have been killed and 133 injured. [1] The number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank and Israel is the highest recorded for such a period of time since 2005. The use of live fire by Israeli forces raises concern about the excessive use of force against a civilian population. Under international law, lethal force can and should only be used in exceptional cases, and when used, should be investigated and its perpetrator held accountable. [2] The above organizations equally condemn the use of violence against Israeli civilians by Palestinians.

Arrest and detention

According to recent reports, Israeli forces arrested 1,195 Palestinians in the month of October, including 177 children. [3]

Reports from human rights organisations and evidence shared in the media indicate that the arrests and detentions were in most cases done in contravention of international law and raise concern of excessive use of force on the part of Israeli forces. In the case of arrest and detention of children, reports and individual testimonies relate an array of violations of children’s rights, as enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child, of which Israel is a signatory. In East Jerusalem, in the majority of cases of arrest and detention of Palestinian minors:

-the child was not issued an arrest warrant

-the child’s parents were not alerted and informed of where their child was detained

- the child was interrogated without the presence of a lawyer and not informed of their rights

- the child was interrogated outside of the established hours of interrogation

-in some cases, the child was arrested despite being under the age of responsibility (12 years old) [4]

New legislations

The above organizations are extremely concerned by recent legislation passed by the Government of Israel, allowing more lax rules of engagement against the Palestinian population as well as approving harsher punitive measures against Palestinians accused of stone-throwing and conducting attacks against Israeli Jewish citizens, notably:

-the use of live fire against stone-throwers, [5] while ignoring the distinction between adult and children stone-throwers [6]

-a minimum four-year prison sentence for Palestinians accused of rock-throwing, including imprisonment and fines for children aged 14-18 [7] [8] [9] [10]

-cancellation of welfare benefits for minors in prison [11] [12] [13]

-fining parents of convicted children aged 12-14 [14] [15] [16]

-the reinstatement and legal revisions of punitive home demolitions of Palestinians accused of “terrorism” [17]

-the closure and movement restrictions imposed on neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, directly affecting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. [18]

Collective punishment

The above organisations deplore the punitive measures adopted by the Government of Israel (including home demolitions and the closure of East Jerusalem neighborhoods), which constitute collective punishment, a practice illegal under international law. [19] Moreover, the above organisations note that all the laws aforementioned are only applied against the Palestinian population; Israeli Jews accused of stone-throwing or of terrorism receive lighter sentences and are not subjected to any form of collective punishment. [20]

Extrajudicial killings and incitement

The above organisations are extremely concerned over the trend to use live firearms to kill Palestinians allegedly conducting attacks against Israelis, rather than attempting to subdue attackers to allow an investigation and a fair trial. Of particular concern are calls and incitement by Israeli politicians and police commanders to “shoot to kill” when dealing with Palestinian attackers. [21] [22] [23] Such actions only lead to renewed violence while encouraging Israeli civilians to take the law into their own hands without fear of retribution. [24]

Settler violence and impunity

The above organizations condemn the escalation of attacks of Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, notably physical assault against civilians, as well as vandalizing Palestinian houses and property. Of particular concern is the involvement of Israeli forces in such attacks, whereby Israeli soldiers either stood by or aided settlers, while targeting Palestinian civilians with tear gas and rubber bullets. [25]

Root causes of the current situation ignored

Finally, the above organizations are mindful that this escalation of violence and current events are for the largest part the by-product of decades of oppressive policies and practices stemming from Israel’s prolonged occupation. Rather than addressing this root cause, recent Israeli policies and practices exacerbate the current situation, increase the oppression of Palestinians and heighten the sense of hopelessness of the overall Palestinian population.