Ahead of President Obama’s Visit: Recent Human Rights Developments in the West Bank and East Jerusalem

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The effects of the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem have wide-ranging consequences for the civilian Palestinian population. The following is a brief overview by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) of major human rights concerns raised by recent events in these areas:

 

 

 

East Jerusalem

 

National and municipal policies in East Jerusalem have led to a dangerous cycle of poverty, protest, suppression, police violence and maltreatment of children.

 

  • Police violence and ‘siege’ in Silwan and Issawiya:

 

Over the past three months, the Jerusalem Police conducted unusually large-scale operations in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Silwan and Issawiya. All entrances to these neighborhoods were blocked by barricade checkpoints. A large police force comprising Border Police, Riot Police, and undercover units entered these residential areas and used riot control measures such as tear gas, rubber bullets and shock grenades, injuring many people. In some of the houses where arrests have been carried out, doors were knocked off their hinges while residents were sleeping inside, search warrants were not presented despite homeowners’ requests, and property damage was recorded. Children arrested report being badly beaten, handcuffed and shackled, and interrogated without the presence of their parents.

 

Read ACRI’s letter to Jerusalem Police Chief RE: illegal police conduct in Issawiya

 

  • Suppression of protests in Beit Safafa

 

Residents of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem have been protesting over recent months’ plans to extend the Begin Highway (Road 4) through their village in order to allow easier access from Jerusalem to the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. The highway, three lanes in each direction, will cut through village homes and create a huge disturbance to daily life and the social fabric of Beit Safafa. The municipality and police have imposed unreasonable requirements for licenses on protest organizers that go beyond the scope of the law. Residents in Beit Hanina and Shuafat in northern Jerusalem are also threatened by plans to extend Road 21 through their residential areas.

 

Read ACRI’s letters to Jerusalem Municipality and police RE: illegal demands made to Beit Safafa residents

 

  • Lack of services and sewage in neighborhoods cut off by Barrier

 

Last month, residents of Ras Khamis and Ras Shehade, two Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem cut off by the Separation Barrier, began replacing – at their own expense – sewage lines damaged as a result of the renewed construction of the barrier. Since the Jerusalem municipality and government ministries have neglected the neighborhoods located beyond the Separation Barrier, where basic services such as garbage collection, police assistance and education are severely lacking, local residents organized, purchased pipes and laid them along the roads adjoining the barrier. Daily passage through checkpoints into the rest of the city is also becoming more difficult for some 90,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites separated from Jerusalem by the Barrier. 79% of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem live beneath the poverty line.

 

ACRI Report: Neglect and Suppression in East Jerusalem – the policies behind widespread poverty and unemployment

 

West Bank

 

While seemingly disconnected policies and practices in the West Bank facilitate the de facto transfer of Palestinians from their lands in the part of the West Bank designated as “Area C,” the military is failing to fulfill its obligation to protect Palestinian residents from settler violence, and Palestinian protest is prohibited as a matter of course.

 

  • Transfer of Palestinians from their homes

 

1,000 people in 8 villages in Masafer Yatta in the South Hebron Hills are being threatened with forcible eviction from their homes because the army has designated the land as a firing zone (“Firing Zone 918“). 18% of the land in Area C has been declared as firing zones.

 

Israeli TV Report: Thousands of Palestinians Living in Caves

 

Substantially all of the structures in the village of Khirbat Zanuta, also in the South Hebron Hills, have been issued with demolition orders because they were allegedly built without permits. The Civil Administration does not recognize the right of Palestinians to plan and develop their communities in Area C. Only 10% of the180 villages in Area C have approved zoning plans. Structures in the other 90% of the area are under constant threat of demolition. From 2000-2012, 8,950 demolition orders have been issued.

 

The Civil Administration has refused repeated ACRI requests to connect the village of Al-Aqaba in the northern Jordan Valley to the local water system. 70% of residents of Area C are not connected to a water system, and rely on homemade rainwater cisterns and expensive water tanks for their needs. Despite this hardship, the military routinely destroys water cisterns and seizes water tanks in Area C.

 

  • Failure to adequately prevent and prosecute settler violence

 

In Kafr Qusra, two Palestinians were injured, apparently by gunshots from settlers in front of soldiers, and Palestinian cars were lit on fire, but an appropriate police investigation has not been initiated. Settler violence against Palestinians is an almost daily occurrence that goes virtually unpunished and not enough is done to prevent it. ACRI’s request from the security forces auditor for an internal investigation has gone unanswered for over one year.

 

 

  • Suppression of freedom of protest

 

ACRI has twice recently approached the army in an effort to stop the practice of spraying a foul-smelling liquid known as “skunk” at homes and businesses. Skunk is a means for dispersing demonstrations, but the army has continually used it as collective punishment in several Palestinian villages and in Hebron, where it sprayed houses and residents. Security forces regard every Palestinian protest as a disturbance of the peace that must be dispersed. Soldiers are inadequately trained on how to distinguish between legitimate protests that have the potential to become violent and actual combat with armed adversaries. As a result, many Palestinian protestors have been killed or injured by unauthorized use of military force to dispersing demonstrations, including rubber coated metal bullets, and gas canisters fired directly at people’s bodies.

 

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Categories: East Jerusalem, Arab Citizens of Israel, Arab Minority Rights, Area C Villages, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Freedom of Movement, Health and Environment, Land Distribution and Planning Rights, Police and Security Guards, Provision of Services, Publications and Campaigns, The Occupied Territories

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