Palestinian Centre for Human Rights 2009 Annual Report - by Stephen Lendman
Each year, PCHR publishes its annual report on Occupied Palestine, this year's a detailed 250 page review of the past year, including the first days of Israel's war on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, "the major issue in the record of human rights and international humanitarian law violations in the Occupied Palestinian Terrority (OPT) in 2009," the bloodiest since the 1948 Nakba that stole a nation from its people.
Today, 1.5 million Gazans struggle to rebuild their lives, "in spite of sustaining permanent disabilities, losing loved ones or becoming homeless" after war under siege - collective punishment in violation of international law, and fundamental human rights, including free movement of persons and goods, proper shelter, adequate health care and education, and the right to rebuild homes and other structures destroyed by the war's onslaught.
Israel's settlement expansion, Separation Wall, and control matrix exacerbates West Bank conditions, "turning Palestinian communities into (isolated) Bantustans." In addition, efforts continue to consolidate and illegally annex East Jerusalem by dispossessing its residents, en route to making the entire city exclusively Jewish, unheard of in the modern era, especially by a so-called civilized state, in fact, barbarian and brutish while touting its democratic credentials and victimhood, more evidence of a scoundrel caught red-handed.
PCHR stresses the horrific human rights violations and deterioration throughout the year, intensified since Hamas' January 2006 election, including:
"willful killings and violations of the right to life;
-- collective punishment policies represented by a tightened closure and severe restrictions on the right to freedom of movement;
-- detention and torture of Palestinians (official Israeli policy);
-- continued settlement activities and attacks by Israeli settlers; and
-- continued construction of the Annexation Wall inside the West Bank territory," on 12% of stolen Palestinian land.
Nonetheless, the international community doesn't enforce their international law obligation to stop human rights violations and hold those responsible accountable. As such, they're complicit, guilty through silence and failure to act.
Worse still, the West and colluding Arab states participate in Gaza's isolation by financially boycotting, and bogusly criminalizing, its legitimate government, democratically elected, in support of Mahmoud Abbas' coup d'etat regime, Fatah in the West Bank, soundly defeated in the January 2006 election.
Innocent victims are punished, reeling under 43 years of occupation, an unprecedented international betrayal.
Occupation Force Crimes
Numerous ones occur daily, explained in weekly PCHR updates, like its June 17 - 23 one covering:
-- peaceful Gaza and West Bank protestors attacked, injuring three civilians (including a child) in Bal'ein village, west of Ramallah;
-- dozens more harmed by tear gas inhalation;
-- three journalists assaulted in Beit Jala;
-- 10 civilians, including three human rights workers, a journalist and five medical volunteers arrested;
-- four Gazan farmers and workers, including two children, shot and wounded in their fields;
-- 43 civilians, including five children, arrested in 16 West Bank incursions and three others in Gaza;
-- the suffocating Gaza siege continues unabated;
-- the West Bank and East Jerusalem remain locked down by a control matrix of about 630 checkpoints and 60 - 80 "flying" ones, including in and around Jerusalem, severely restricting access to and throughout the city; and
-- ruthless ethnic cleansing continues, stealing land and bulldozing homes for settlement expansions and other Jews only projects.
When completed, the Separation Wall (half finished) will stretch 724 kilometers (on 12% of stolen Palestinian land), encircling the West Bank, further isolating the population. Civilians protesting against it nonviolently are systematically assaulted, tear gassed, fired on, injured and arrested.
In addition, two-thirds of the main roads are closed or controlled by security forces. Further, one-third of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is inaccessible to anyone without a (very hard to get) permit, that if obtained takes months and must be renewed - measures to make life in Occupied Palestine oppressive, punishing, and impossible, including random searches on streets and in private homes, some followed by arrests and imprisonment.
Numbers of Dead and Wounded in 2009
Forty-three years of occupation have taken an unprecedented toll. In 2009 alone, it included:
-- 1,092 killed, including 831 civilians, the others resistance fighters;
-- civilian victims included 305 children and 101 women, targeted the same as men; civilians attacked like freedom fighters;
-- 1,066 were killed in Gaza, 97% of the total;
-- the war's toll killed 1,419 Palestinians and wounded another 5,200, many severely from loss of limbs, brain damage, or other extreme injuries;
-- from September 2000 (the start of the second Intifada) through December 2009, 6,520 Palestinians were killed, including 4,955 civilians, tens of thousands more wounded;
-- after the January 18, 2010 ceasefire, the IDF killed 47 Palestinians, including 26 civilians, seven of them children; 12 civilians were killed by Israeli snipers in Gaza buffer zones, gunned down in cold blood; five others died when tunnels were bombed;
-- in the West Bank, Israeli forces killed 18 Palestinians, including 15 civilians, six of them children; Israeli settlers killed three more, including two children;
-- all of them posed no threat, including participants in nonviolent protests against the Separation Wall, land confiscations or home demolitions; nonetheless, Israeli forces murdered them in cold blood, claiming self-defense, the usual bogus pretext.
PCHR investigations confirmed that Israel "used excessive and disproportionate force against Palestinian civilians, who are recognized as protected persons under international humanitarian law" - what Israel doesn't acknowldege or the principles of distinction and proportionality.
Evidence clearly shows that Israeli forces repeatedly used (and continue to use) excessive and disproportionate force against nonviolent Palestinian civilians, in violation of international law.
They posed no threat, yet were killed when their homes, other buildings, factories, or vehicles were bombed. Some were extrajudicially executed, others when their communities were invaded - in all cases, crimes of war and against humanity.
Throughout 2009, Israel tightened closure on the West Bank, and imprisoned Gazans under siege, denying them enough food, medicines, fuel, electricity, and other common essentials - exacerbating a worsening humanitarian crisis, suffocating 1.5 million people, and paralyzing the economy.
"The members of the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to (Fourth Geneva) have shamefully failed to take the action necessary to ensure" this stops and to hold Israel accountable. Instead, they've been complicit in the worst of its crimes, and share equal guilt, especially America, Israel's paymaster/partner.
Israeli forces also prevent Palestinian civilians from entering Israel or going abroad for medical care, other emergencies, education, or their right of free movement - denied throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians are imprisoned on their own land in their own country by a hostile occupier, there illegally.
Throughout 2009, the humanitarian crisis worsened, the result of:
-- 40% unemployment, over 55% in Gaza where poverty exceeds 80%, affecting 1.2 million people;
-- since September 2000, incomes have steadily decreased, down 45% at yearend 2009; and
-- national output dropped sharply in all sectors, especially in Gaza.
Other Imposed Harshness
In December 2009, at least 9,381 Palestinians were imprisoned, including 310 children and 34 women, mostly inside Israel - a clear international law violation under Fourth Geneva's Article 76 stating:
"Protected persons accused of offences (sic) shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein."
They must also be afforded proper food, hygiene, medical, and other essentials, including spiritual assistance. In addition, minors must be given special care, and women must be confined in separate quarters under female supervision. Israel, however, has male guards in women's prisons and treats children the same as adults, besides violating other international laws regarding the treatment of prisoners.
Israeli forces disregard them as well commit regular assaults, other incursions, and arrests during house raids, especially in West Bank villages and refugee camps. Also at checkpoints, roadblocks and during nonviolent demonstrations.
Throughout 2009, security forces arrested about 5,000 Palestinians, including 1,000 in Gaza, mostly civilian men, women and children, all treated horrifically, included elected officials, imprisoned for belonging to the wrong parties and wanting Palestine to be free.
At yearend 2009, 26 PLC members were incarcerated, most from the Change and Reform bloc, affiliated with Hamas. Another was speaker Dr. 'Aziz al-Dweik, now released. However, civil activists are detained for defending human rights, they like others treated harshly, most of them tortured like other Palestinian prisoners. Others are kept in solitary confinement for prolonged periods.
Testimonies confirm prison horror stories, including physical and mental torture, exposure to extreme heat or cold, starvation, sleep deprivation, beatings, pressure to collaborate in exchange for release, (in some cases, threatened harm to family members if refuse), and/or forced confessions in Hebrew, not Arabic, for crimes they didn't commit.
During Cast Lead, Israel "wantonly and extensively destroyed Palestinian civilian property, including homes, agricultural lands, as well as health, educational, religious and economic facilities," all in violation of international law. As a result, about 450,000 Gazans evacuated their homes for safer locations, "causing many to recall scenes of the forced mass migration" during 1948, what those who endured it can't forget, nor their children who know the toll on their parents, why the event is called the Nakba, the catastrophe, affecting the entire population.
Cast Lead's toll was horrific by any standard, PCHR documenting:
-- 2,116 totally destroyed homes, containing 2,881 housing units for 3,253 families and 18,750 individuals;
-- another 3,277 houses with 4,925 housing units for 5,483 families and 32,703 individuals rendered uninhabitable, their damage so extensive;
-- 16,000 others were partly damaged;
-- in total, 51,453 civilians lost their homes, victimized by illegal bombings or shellings; and
-- in the West Bank, Israel demolished 134 houses, including 83 in East Jerusalem; another 23 Palestinian civilians were forced to destroy their own homes and pay the cost.
Today under the extremist Netanyahu government, conditions are worse than ever. Besides daily repression, settlement construction continues, the Municipality of Jerusalem and Israeli ministries taking bids for 3,400 housing units on occupied Palestinian land, ordering homes demolished and thousands of donums of land confiscated for them.
Complicit with Israeli security forces, the judiciary legitimizes occupation policies, Israel's High Court, for example, rejecting Palestinian petitions against the expropriation of their land for settlement construction and the Separation Wall. Rarely ever does the court order its route changed. Even then, it seldom happens.
Illegal construction imposed new hardships, including farmers denied access to their land beyond the Wall without hard to obtain permits to reach it. Yet to get them, they must be registered owners, nearly impossible due to land registry complications because earlier ownership was under deceased persons' names. In addition, registries haven't been updated, and some heirs don't live in the West Bank.
Other hardships include:
-- new movement restrictions for Palestinians living near the Wall's route, not just affecting farmers; and
-- access to medical care, education, and relatives is impacted, plus restricted hours to move through gates at the Wall, "operated under a strict security system," often closing for no apparent reason, and even when open, onerous to pass through.
A Nation and Occupation Repressively Persecuting Non-Jews
For Palestinians, Israel's legal system is nightmarish, the chance for impartial investigations impossible, in violation of international standards. They require those responsible for crimes be punished, victims afforded redress, and justice to be blind to race, religion or ethnicity.
Under military occupation and for Israeli Arabs, the system is fundamentally flawed and unfair, under laws affording justice solely to Jews. As a result, PCHR and other human rights organizations pursue universal jurisdiction (UJ) remedies, a legal principle empowering courts in other countries to indict, prosecute and convict persons guilty of international crimes, no matter where they occurred.
Nonetheless, winning judgments against Israeli officials is daunting, not accomplished so far, politics and national alliances superseding the rule of law - what no longer can be tolerated at the expense of victims' rights.
The UN Fact Finding Mission conducted extensive investigations into Israel's Gaza war, as well as West Bank and East Jerusalem attacks, confirming gross international law violations - crimes of war and against humanity.
Yet over Q 4 2009, "persistent efforts were made to undermine" reports from the UN Human Rights Council, General Assembly and Security Council, again, Palestinians denied their rights.
As a result, on October 16, 2009, at the urging of the Palestinian leadership, the UN Human Rights Council (at its 12th Special Session) issued a Resolution condemning illegal Israeli acts, especially annexing East Jerusalem lands. It also endorsed the Goldstone Commission's conclusions and recommendations - a first step toward justice, so far not achieved.
Israel's harshness continues. A subservient Mahmound Abbas issues presidential decrees without presenting them to the PLC or involving the legitimate Hamas government.
Though released from detention in June 2009, PLC Speaker, Dr. 'Aziz al-Dwaik, is prevented from even entering his Ramallah office by presidential decree, an illegitimate act by a coup d'etat president.
The split between West Bank and Gaza is untenable, the result of Israel targeting Hamas, bogusly calling it a terrorist organization, Abbas its servile tool obeying orders and being rewarded with White House visits and photo-ops, the benefits for betraying his people, including remaining president long after his term expired and not calling new elections.
Life in Occupied Palestine remains grim, Israeli imposed viciousness creating enormous hardships for millions of victimized Palestinians, ongoing for 62 years, 43 under occupation brutishness - illegal, unjustifiable, and unconscionable by a so-called civilized state, in fact, run by hooligans, war criminals, respecting might alone over right, what grassroots activism no longer can tolerate nor should anyone of conscience anywhere.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.