Violating Palestinian Rights
by Stephen Lendman
June 25, 2011
Besides its Knesset, security forces and intelligence services, Israel's High Court and Civil Administration ravage Palestinian civil society repressively. Two examples illustrate the problem.
On June 22, a B'Tselem press release headlined, "Sharp increase in West Bank home demolitions," saying:
Through late June, Israel's Civil Administration, its Judea/Samaria (West Bank) governing body, illegally "demolished more Palestinians homes....than in all of last year." Most often, soldiers and Border Police accompany them, forcefully evicting longtime residents.
Over the most recent seven day period, 33 residential buildings were demolished in Jordan Valley Fasayil, al-Hadidiyeh, and Yarza communities, as well as southern Hebron Hills Khirbet Bir al-'Id. As a result, 238 Palestinians, including 129 minors, lost homes.
Since January 2011, 103 Israeli controlled Area C (62% of the West Bank) structures were demolished, affecting 706 Palestinians, including 341 minors. This represents a sharp increase over 2010 and 2009 when 86 and 28 were bulldozed respectively.
At the same time, Civil Administration officials made few plans to help Palestinian communities. Instead, they prevent new construction and development beyond what now exists, "making it impossible for Palestinians to build legally in these areas."
Israel contrives ways to enforce policies. For example, some homes are demolished in areas the IDF declares "firing zones," including half of Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea land, even places located along main traffic arteries or next to or comprising settlements. As a result, even though Palestinian dwellings date back generations, they're prohibited from living there henceforth.
Discriminatory planning and building laws affect communities like Khirbet Bir al-Id, adjacent to the 1998-built Mizpe Ya'ir outpost. Though illegal, Israel approved connecting it to water, electricity, other public services, and basic infrastructure, funding it, including an access road. Moreover, it did nothing to prohibit its establishment, compared to Civil Administration harshness, demolishing Palestinian structures on their own land without permit permission.
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) helps rebuild homes. It also resists "land expropriation, settlement expansions, by-pass road construction, policies of 'closure' and 'separation,' " destruction of agricultural land and crops, and the occupation's repressive effects overall, beyond its original mission to oppose and resist Palestinian house demolitions.
From June 1967 - July 28, 2010, ICAHD said Israel destroyed nearly 25,000 Palestinian structures, based on Interior Ministry, Civil Administration, OCHA, other UN sources, and Palestinian Center for Human Rights data, as well as Israeli and other Palestinian human rights groups, Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), its own field work, and other sources.
It classifies demolition types as:
-- punishment for actions associated with the structures (about 8.5%);
-- administrative for lacking building permits (about 26%);
-- land-clearing/military demolitions for any reason, including achieving IDF goals or accompanying extrajudicial assassinations (about 65.5%); and
-- other undefined reasons.
Israel, in fact, annexes Palestinian land one home demolition at a time. From July 10 - 25, 2011, ICAHD will again rebuild a bulldozed home, belonging to the Abu Omar family. Built in 1990 on privately owned land, Israel demolished it in 2005.
Ahmed Abu Omar applied for permit permission, but agricultural zoning restrictions denied him, a familiar story heard often to prevent Palestinians from living on their own land. With his wife and seven children, he built anyway, but was told in 2003 he did it illegally followed by a March 2005 demolition order. A month later, Israel bulldozed it despite his lawful presence, offering no compensation for destroying his property.
Since then, the Omars got by in a small house provided by neighbors and an ICAHD-built small, temporary shelter. Omar describes the experience as "dying every day." ICAHD decided to help him. The family response was gratitude and eagerness to regain what they lost. "Their courage to defy the Israeli Occupation's atrocious practice of demolition, forced eviction, and land expropriation is an inspiration to" everyone to resist.
ICAHD stresses that the "right to adequate, permanent, and safe housing, when fulfilled, provides the foundation for the realization of other rights," including to work, education, healthcare and other social benefits, as well as self-determination and political, civil and human rights. "When Palestinians are denied their right to housing, other economic, social, cultural, and political rights" are compromised.
As an occupying power, Israel is legally bound to provide them, and is prohibited from collectively punishing. It nonetheless persists because world leaders don't stop it. Palestinians, of course, lose out in isolation, ignored by powers that can help.
Israel's High Court of Justice (HCJ) Orders Cast Lead Victims Case Reheard
On June 23, a Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) press release headlined, "Israel (HCJ) vacates verdict in Case Lead Case: Appoints New Panel of Judges and Orders Case on behalf of 1,046 victims be Re-heard."
Earlier on April 28, Israel's High Court dismissed a Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) petition filed on behalf of over 1,000 Cast Lead victims. It asked the High Court to order Israel's State Attorney "to refrain from raising a claim under the (two-year) statute of limitations in future civil suits" for just compensation.
An earlier article discussed the case, accessed through the following link:
Pertinent information from it is repeated below.
At issue, is the universally recognized right to compensation for violations of international law, what neither Israeli governments nor its High Court respect. Its April 28 dismissal of legitimate redress is a blight on its reputation as an equitable tribunal. It's also a serious setback for Israel's victims.
"Significantly, the Court's decision to dismiss the petition was procedurally flawed." It denied PCHR its lawful right to reply by May 3. It showed Court complicity with rogue officials and soldiers, shielding them from justice, as well as denying legitimate compensation to their victims.
Moreover, the UN Cast Lead Fact-Finding Mission concluded that such actions amount to "persecution, a crime against humanity."
International law, in fact, recognizes the right of all victims to redress, including compensation, when violations have been committed against them. Yet Gazans are now prevented from "accessing justice, in violation of their fundamental rights." They now face three major obstacles:
(1) Statute of limitations: Under Israeli law, civil damage claimants have two years to act from the date of the incident, or lose out entirely. However, Gaza's closure and other restrictions prevented them from submitting filings within the required time. In fact, before August 2002, the period allowed was seven years.
(2) Monetary barrier: Israeli courts require claimants to pay court insurance fees before filing. While courts may, in fact, wave them, they're always applied to Palestinians, putting them under an unfair burden. Moreover, exact amounts aren't fixed. They're determined on a case-by-case basis. For lost or damaged property, they're usually a percent of its value. In cases of injury or death, no formal guideline exists.
PCHR said that in recent wrongful death cases it filed, claimants had to pay insurance costs of $5,600, an insurmountable amount for most Palestinians. "Simply put," said PCHR, "claimants from Gaza - crippled by the economic devastation wrought by the occupation and the illegal closure - cannot afford this fee and their cases are being dismissed and closed," denying them justice.
(3) Physical barriers: Under Israeli law, valid testimonies require victims or witnesses be in court to undergo cross-examination. Under siege, however, since June 2007, Gazans were denied permission to appear. As a result, their claims were dismissed.
Moreover, PCHR lawyers are prohibited from entering Israel to represent clients and must hire Israeli ones at extra cost. However, plaintiffs also are denied entry to meet with attorneys, and they, in turn, get no permission to enter Gaza. In fact, the entire process is rigged to insure injustice, another indictment of cruel and discriminatory intolerance.
PCHR said the policies and practices it challenged "perpetuate a climate of pervasive impunity." As a result, they effectively made Gaza an "accountability free zone," what, in fact, applies throughout Occupied Palestine, reinforced by rogue justices misinterpreting international law by violating it.
On June 15, Israel's High Court in part agreed, ordering new judges rehear the case, whether or not justice this time will be rendered. It's rare Palestinians get it in any Israeli military or civilian court.
PCHR's petition was litigated by Michael Sfard and Carmel Pomerantz, challenging the two-year statute of limitations and numerous other judicial barriers, including blockading Gaza under siege. It's on behalf of 1,046 Cast Lead victims, representing most cases prepared after the war.
"They cover virtually the entire spectrum of international humanitarian law violations," including "the most infamous cases," affecting the Samouni, Abu Halima, and Al-Daia families. The Al-Samounis lost 23 of their 48 members, Masouda Al-Samouni saying:
"I have no hope, no future. I lost everything in the offensive. I was in the corner with my children just watching. I was screaming and crying. I saw everything, the blood and the brains. There was smoke everywhere. I saw my brother-in-law falling down, and my mother-in-law. I realized that my three brothers-in-law and my mother-in-law were dead....I was injured in the chest and couldn't move....I was bleeding and five months pregnant."
Soldiers entered Ateya Al-Samouni's home forcibly, shooting him in cold blood. Mona Al-Samouni saw her parents shot to death. Others witnessed similar trauma. Survivors suffer from depression and nightmares. They're also impoverished.
The Halima family's experience was similar, losing eight members, including six children. Seven others were injured, including four children.
Israel killed the entire Al-Daia family, destroying its residence, then blaming the tragedy on an operational error when, in fact, it deliberately targets non-military sites, including homes, schools, hospitals, universities, mosques, historic sites, and many others unrelated to military necessity.
As a result, most Cast Lead casualties were civilians. It was no accident. It's now up to Israel's High Court to provide redress, though no amount will restore lost lives or remove permanent scars.