By Stephen Lendman
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) is the country’s leading human and civil rights organization through litigation, legal advocacy, education and public outreach. Its new report is titled, "Unsafe Space: The Israeli Authorities’ Failure to Protect Human Rights amid Settlements in East Jerusalem," explaining how Judaization harms basic Palestinian freedoms. In fact, the Israeli military, police, and hostile settlers deny them, ACRI saying:
Palestinians "complain of physical and verbal abuse (by police), settlers and their security guards; the intimidation of their children; various forms of harassment (including videotaping them in their homes); the barricading and closing off of streets and public areas; and more."
They also cite regular abuse, including stone throwing, vandalism, racial slurs, violence and more, all of which authorities ignore, "practic(ing) selective law enforcement and fail(ing) to provide even the most minimal protection to Palestinian locals."
They’re also complicit in violating Palestinians rights, "employ(ing) physical and verbal violence and abuse against Palestinian residents." When they complain, they’re treated with disdain and indifference.
Other abuses include discriminatory planning, zoning, construction, development, use of scarce area resources and more. "The state of human rights in (occupied) East Jerusalem is decidedly poor, especially as it relates to home demolitions," displacements, neighborhood incursions, arrests, mistreatment in detention, "lack of infrastructure, the severe shortage of schools, and inferior health and social services."
Occupation and settlement encroachments have had a devastating effect, their rights and way of life disrupted and denied.
Violence and Police Consent
In a politically charged environment, discriminatory racism results in threats, obscenities, garbage thrown at their doorsteps, pushing and shoving, quarrels, even violence and live fire. Yet police give no protection, taking no action against harassing settlers committing abuses and crimes. Inevitably, violence begets more of it, Palestinians like Saleh Dhiab saying numerous times Jewish worshipers praying at the tomb of Shimon ha-Tzadik (near where he lives) injured him, police unresponsive when he complained. Even when a thrown rock struck his father in the head, badly wounding him, they did nothing.
"Even when investigations have been opened, they have been neither thorough nor exhaustive, and in most cases they have been closed for ‘lack of public interest (or) lack of evidence,’ " even a severe incident against Ahmad Qarae’en. On September 11, 2009, he was badly wounded by gunshots to his legs, leaving him crippled for life. Although security cameras recorded everything, and many witnesses were available, police closed the investigation for "lack of evidence."
Other cases involve vandalism, the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood one of many examples. In summer 2009, its children’s playground was damaged and recreational equipment parts stolen. Nabil al-Kurd complained to police about settlers. No charges were filed.
Other instances involved vehicles vandalized, including tires slashed, windows smashed, and other damage. Police systematically do nothing even when Jewish offenders are known.
Always a Suspect
Often, Palestinians lodging complaints themselves become suspects, criminal files opened against them. Sheikh Jarrah resident Jad Hamad said he avoids police, fearing he’ll be interrogated and arrested "for any number of reasons – we’re the ones who are always suspect."
Other instances involve police obstructing even the official registering of complaints. Palestinians are told, among other reasons, that investigators are busy. None are available. Come back tomorrow, or the complaint makes no sense. Residents say police use these tactics to let settlers lodge charges against them, making them vulnerable to interrogations and arrests.
Silwan resident Tamr Qarae’en recalled a March 31, 2009 confrontation between settlers and Palestinian children. When he tried extracting his nephew from the scuffle, "dozens of security guards" beat him and his family.
"The guards beat us all, even my father, mother and brother were beaten. At a certain point, the security guards stopped hitting us and disappeared from the area. At that precise moment, the police arrived….I was taken to the hospital by ambulance….The following day, my father, mother, brother and I" pressed charges."
Tamr was threatened, became a suspect, interrogated, and arrested for 24 hours, then released with a restraining order restricting him to his house for 30 days, his complaint never addressed. Others tell similar stories – being abused, harassed, attacked, shot or vandalized. Yet they and family members become suspects, are interrogated and at times arrested.
Residents’ testimonies bear witness to "biased handling of criminal investigations employing blatantly illegal tactics, such as intimidation of relatives with the threat of arrest, and disregard of available evidence," pointing to settler culpability. As a result, even after extreme incidents of violence causing injuries, residents often don’t complain to police, knowing the futility and possibility they’ll end up charged. They act solely to protect settlers, even when they commit crimes against residents.
Detention of Minors, Usually Late at Night
According to the Jerusalem Municipality, 43.5% of East Jerusalem residents are children, the Jerusalem Institute reporting the median yearend 2008 Arab population age was 19.3 years.
Because few playgrounds and public parks are available, many play on streets and alleyways in their neighborhoods. As a result, settler guards stay on alert, often accusing them of stone-throwing, while they claim harassment and false accusations. Tensions involving parents at times cause violent confrontations, and police treat children like adults.
According to law, parents must be present during interrogations to be conducted only during daytime by "specially trained child investigators." Police are expected to conduct them in the least harmful way, violence and other abuse prohibited.
Yet children’s testimonies say otherwise, including nighttime arrests, often seizing them from bed in the middle of the night, handcuffing, blindfolding, and taking them to police stations, their parents prohibited from coming to prevent them seeing "violent and frightening interrogations, conducted by regular police officers," untrained to handle children.
Abusive treatment includes slapping, punching, beatings and more. An unidentified 12 year old minor reported the following:
"They put me in a room that was about 5 square meters. I sat on my knees facing the wall. Every time I moved, a man in civilian clothes hit me with his hand on my neck. I was alone in the room. At around five in the morning, I asked to go to the bathroom, but the man refused and told me to remain facing the wall. When I refused, he hit me and pushed me forward; my nose slammed into the wall and began bleeding. I asked for a tissue, but was refused."
"The man asked me to prostrate myself on the floor and ask his forgiveness, but I refused and told him that I do not bow to anyone but Allah. All the while, I felt intense pain in my feet and legs. I felt intense fear and I started shaking….every once in a while he put pressure my shoulders causing me pain."
Residents say child arrests are frequent, and abuses like the above common, often beginning with middle of the night arrests, parents prohibited from accompanying children to police stations or seeing them there. At other times, they’re arrested at school or at play, even those under age 12, some as young as 8 or 9.
Under Israeli law, criminal responsibility begins at age 12, yet 8, 9 and ten year olds are arrested and criminally charged for suspicion of offenses like stone-throwing. "In a society that (should seek) to protect (their rights), this is a patently unacceptable way for the police to carry out their duties."
Security Guards: Quick on the Trigger
Israel’s Ministry of Construction and Housing has responsibility for providing them, contracting work to private companies. "Civilian Intelligence" is the largest, employing hundreds of armed guards for settlers.
They get round-the-clock comprehensive, broad protection, backed up by surveillance cameras in Palestinian neighborhoods. They’re also given bodyguards, and in some cases, transport in heavily armored cars.
As a result, "broad security has created bastions of guarded Jewish fortresses in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods." For them, however, it’s constant hostile alienation, discrimination, abuse, and violence.
Guards are abusive, even toward young boys and girls, employing verbal threats, intimidation and physical violence, residents saying they’re "quick on the trigger," having ultimate say on neighborhood life. Further, unlike police, ostensibly governed by strict guidelines, private guards operate freely, unrestricted by directives or clear definitions of proper procedures. Their rules of engagement mean anything goes, but it’s true also for police, the IDF and settlers.
The Public Committee to Examine the Security and Guarding of Compounds in East Jerusalem studied the problem, recommending returning security responsibility to police. Adopted briefly in January 2007, three months later it was scrapped, reverting back to private control.
ACRI asked the Ministers of Internal Security and Construction and Housing about this, but got no reply even though letting private guards use force, including live fire, with no oversight, "opens the door to grave violations of the human rights of residents."
Children especially fear them, often reluctant to play in streets. Some parents also won’t let them because of frequent abusive and violent encounters, police dismissive in not following up on complaints.
Big Brother and the Intrusion of Privacy
Besides 24 hour guards, security cameras protect Jewish homes – at all entrances, courtyards, fences and property borders, documenting everything going on round the clock. Palestinians say they intrude on their privacy, many pointing directly at their residences. They’re constantly watched liked criminals, their basic rights denied.
Yet as former Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak once wrote:
"It is the right of the individual to manage his lifestyle in the way he sees fit within the confines of his own home, without external intrusions. A man’s home is his castle, and within his own walls he is entitled to be left alone, to develop the autonomy of his own individual will….The right to privacy, therefore, is intended to ensure that a person will not become a prisoner in his own home, that he will not be forced to expose himself within his domicile to intrusions he does not desire….Accordingly, the law prohibits the photographing of a person within his own private domain without his permission, an act that is considered both a felony and cause for civil damages."
Yet settlers do it with impunity, Israeli authorities disdainful of the law and their own Supreme Court. Palestinian women feel most abused, the result of constant surveillance, violating the Muslim/Arab social code – traditional, with strict rules regarding appearance and proper dress, relaxed, of course, inside homes. To be spied on is deeply offensive, creating added pain to their daily lives.
Besides intrusive neighborhood cameras, hundreds of others are positioned throughout the Old City, also violating privacy rights. It doesn’t end the moment a resident leaves home.
Failure to Prevent Incitement and Harassment
Another phenomenon is the frequent celebration of Jewish holidays and festivals, at times accompanied by verbal and other forms of abuse (some lasting until the middle of the night) against residents, including songs, chants, and dancing, degrading Muslims and inciting violence.
Another irritant is noise from the Wadi Hilwek Silwan neighborhood archeological excavations, also lasting well into the night, disrupting sleep and normal life.
Seizure of Neighborhood Lands and Lots
Numerous examples include Palestinian dispossessions, their land transferred to Jews, more for national parks, closed military zones, and tourist sites, the goal being to Judaize all East Jerusalem, removing its Arab presence.
Freedom of Movement Violations
Though ingrained for all residents as a fundamental legal right, East Jerusalemites face roadblocks, barricades and other obstructions, at times during Jewish events or holidays. Residents report their own streets are blocked, Palestinians denied rights given solely to Jews, always allowed free passage.
Personal testimonies bear witness to what Palestinians endure daily, surrounded by hostile settlers, abused and discriminated against by authorities, treated like trespassers and criminals on their own land, in their own neighborhoods and homes because of their faith, their fundamental freedoms denied.
The above report offers more proof of Israeli lawlessnes, its disdain for basic rights, mocking democratic freedoms, contemptuous of everyone not Jewish, Muslims especially vilified, victimized, and denied any measure of humanity, common decency or justice. As a result, ACRI concluded:
It’s "evident that (Israeli) authorities, including the police, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Housing Ministry and others, have thoroughly failed in their role to provide protection and service to all the city’s residents, without discrimination. The results of this failure are catastrophic in all that pertains to the (respect for and) preservation of human rights, and it undermines the basis for the existence of a well-ordered society and government."
Perhaps most disturbing is how world leaders react, their callousness and complicity, strongly supporting the worst Israeli crimes, dismissive of the most basic Palestinian rights despite inviolable international laws protecting them. How long will world public opinion tolerate such actions, appalling and outrageous by any standard, what no one should let persist, what no one should get away with committing.
– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.