Archive | January 5th, 2020

The killing of Iran’s Qassim Soleimani: US misreads the tea leaves

Trump and Suleimani
By James M. Dorsey

The killing of Iranian military leader Qassim Soleimani proves the point: the United States has perfected the art of strengthening Iranian hardliners, fuelled by an apparently ingrained misreading of Iranian politics and strategy sustained over decades.

It also suggests that the Trump administration has walked into a trap in which spiralling tension between the United States and Iran is likely to be played out on Iranian rather than US terms.

Iran moved last year away from its initial strategic patience response to the US withdrawal from the 2015 international agreement that curbed the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme and its imposition of harsh economic sanctions to a strategy of gradual escalation.

Iran is counting on the assumption that taking the United States to the brink of yet another Middle Eastern war will ultimately persuade the Trump administration to return to the negotiating table. It’s a high-risk gamble that so far has produced results.

Last week’s killing of an American contractor on an Iraqi military base constituted Iran’s latest chess move.

It sparked a US military strike against an Iranian-backed militia, the subsequent killing of Soleimani and the leader of a militia, Abdul Mahdi al-Muhandis, and the targeting of a militia convoy.

This led to the siege of the US embassy in Iraq, which evoked images of the humiliating 1975 evacuation of the US mission in Saigon towards the end of the Vietnam war and the 444-day occupation of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.

It also has put at risk the future of US forces in Iraq, 17 years after US forces toppled Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s parliament is about to discuss moves to remove foreign forces from the country.

“A humiliating departure for the US from Iraq now seems inevitable,” said International Crisis Group Iran expert Ali Vaez.

Pro-Iranian militias are counting on the fact that they are Iraqis with close ties to the Iraqi security establishment, which they expect will exclude them from the moves that would primarily target the United States.

Iraq’s influential Shi’i leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has so far limited himself to calling for restraint in the wake of Soleimani’s killing. Yet, Al-Sistani could prove to be the player who definitively sways the pendulum.

How long before Ayatollah Sistani issues a fatwa [religious opinion] asking US troops to leave?” Vaez asked.

In a similarly humbling development, Iraq, long a primary venue for an ongoing US-Iranian proxy war, has become in the wake of Soleimani’s death a no-go zone for Americans with the Trump administration urging US citizens to leave immediately to avoid becoming targets.

In September an attack on two key Saudi oil facilities, widely believed to have been instigated by Iran, coupled with US President Trump’s hesitant response to the assault and the earlier downing of a US drone by Iran, persuaded Saudi Arabia to tone down its rhetoric and explore ways of reducing tension with Iran.

The spectre of a Saudi Iranian rapprochement was put on hold with the eruption in recent months of anti-government protests in Lebanon and Iraq that threatened to throw a monkey wrench into Iran’s strategy of exerting regional influence through proxies.

While it is likely to remain on hold amid the escalating tension, it has not been taken off the table.

Earlier, the United Arab Emirates reached out to Iran after the Islamic republic was sought to have instigated attacks on tankers off the Emirati coast.

The “sequence of events shows that, thus far, the Iranian strategy of calculated counter-escalation is working… By escalating on its own, Iran forced a number of key players to change their cost-benefit calculus,” said Eldar Mamedov, an advisor to the social democrats in the European parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

While that may be a positive development in and of itself, it also means that regional US allies, with the exception of Israel that wholeheartedly endorsed the killing of Soleimani, are likely to be more circumspect in their support of the US amid escalating tensions.

Already, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have called for restraint in the wake of Soleimani’s death.

Soleimani’s killing has widened the opening for a tit-for-tat war in which Iran has the advantage of being a master of asymmetric warfare and at playing in grey areas.

Amid massive speculation about how it will respond to the killing, Iran is likely to take its time and strike out of left field, potentially prompting an American response that again risks playing into Iranian hands.

“The Iranians will definitely respond, but not in a way that triggers an all-out war, which they know they would lose,” said Iran expert Dina Esfandiary.

In a further indication of US misreading of the tea leaves, the killing of Soleimani threatens to amount to a gift of God for Iranian hardliners who are now expected to win next month’s parliamentary election in Iran.

A hardline victory would spotlight the United States’ repeated shooting of an own goal by adopting policies that undermine its own long-standing aim of persuading Iran to moderate its policies and tone down its revolutionary rhetoric.

Rather than provide incentives, like with the 2015 nuclear accord, US policy has more often than not reinforced perceptions in Tehran that the United States’ real goal was regime change.

Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton reinforced those perceptions. In his response to Soleimani’s killing, he said in a tweet:  “Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.”

US policy prompted Iran to adopt a defence and security policy that compensated for the Islamic republic’s intrinsic weakness by emphasising the very things the United States has long wanted to see change. These include Iran’s successful use of proxies across the Middle East.

At the bottom line, the strengthening of Iranian hardliners not only undermines US policy goals but also risks putting the United States in difficult, if not impossible and at times humiliating positions, and sucking it into a conflict for which it is ill-equipped.

Commenting, political anthropologist Negar Razavi said: “The US foreign policy establishment has collectively created a culture of expert impunity when it comes to Iran, which has contributed in no small part to the unstable and dangerous policy conditions we see under Trump today.”

Posted in Middle East, IraqComments Off on The killing of Iran’s Qassim Soleimani: US misreads the tea leaves

How the Nazi regime controls Palestinian bodies, both living and dead

Mariam Barghouti

Israeli policies have transformed human bodies into bargaining chips, and mourning into a political act that is easily criminalised

Palestinian women pray at a cemetery in the Gaza Strip in June 2018 (AFP)1.5kShares

My uncle recently passed, and after his wife and children washed his body, gave him a final embrace, and put him in his final resting spot, they shared their grief with friends, family and acquaintances. 

Only then were they able to begin mourning his loss. This sacred process of mourning allows communities and loved ones to begin moving forward – to move on, and to provide a final act of giving to the deceased. Only then can they begin accepting condolences. 

At the funeral, I watched the pale, grieving faces and thought: “At least he died of natural causes. At least we got to bury him and shower him with love.”

Cemeteries of numbers

I say that with the recognition that most Palestinian families know of one martyr within their extended circles. Worse off are the families of Palestinian martyrs whose bodies are still being held by Israel.

Since 1967, hundreds of Palestinian bodies have been held by Israel: some in freezers, and others believed to be in the notorious “cemeteries of numbers”. Families of the martyrs have been trying to bring them back home.

Yet, the first demand of Palestinians is not for Israel to return our bodies; it is to stop killing us in the first place. Stop taking land, displacing families, incarcerating entire generations, and enabling a foreign population to take over what little remains of Palestinian cities, only to punish anyone who says “enough”.

Not only are Palestinians denied the ability to die in peace; they are also stripped of the right to acknowledge that their death was an act by an occupying power

Loss, in the frame of the Palestinian struggle, is a relentless reality in the Palestinian experience. It comes mired in political realities and psychosocial dominance. Loss becomes a fight against a powerful regime for the simple act of burial – to give prayers for peace and mercy over a body that was once so full of life, only to return to the phantoms they leave in the home – and that is no simple task. 

During a news conference in 2016, one mother spoke to me, uttering in laboured breath: “Please write something. We want to bury our children. We want to bury our children.” 

I listened to her pleas, and thought about how many families must endure loss first in the fact that their loved one is killed by Israel; then, in recognising the reality that there will not likely be any accountability; then, in the misconstrued reports and representations by mainstream media; and finally, in having to negotiate with the power that killed their loved one over the release of the corpse. 

Glorifying martyrdom

Although martyrdom is often singularly showcased as part of the Palestinian experience, it is an intricate and important narrative of most nations trying to glorify the death of their people in the name of ideology. Even Israel participates in martyrdom glorification, but more often that is coated in the prevalent jingoism and the remembrance of its soldiers. 

Our martyrs are valuable to us not just because of the struggle they represent, but also because they are people we have played with, fought, loved or disliked. Palestinian martyrdom takes on another dimension through how it is illustrated in the media, hindering our ability to bring a shred of dignity to those killed and those trying to move forward.

Not only are Palestinians denied the ability to die in peace; they are also stripped of the right to acknowledge that their death was caused by an unremitting occupying power.

Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian teenager killed in Gaza on 30 November (AFP)
Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian teenager killed in Gaza on 30 November (AFP)

When Palestinians are killed by Israeli forces, they are referred to in the passive form. The Palestinian “dies” rather than being “killed”. The Palestinian rarely has a name to showcase the travesty of this loss of life to the power of an army and a regime that is violently forcing itself into the Palestinian space. 

This helps Israel not only to systemically colonise, displace, and mass incarcerate Palestinians with impunity, but also to colonise the space between Palestinians themselves. Even in mourning, there looms a scent of oppression and degradation.

Israeli forces even sometimes raid funeral processions of martyrs. By doing so, Israel transforms human bodies into bargaining chips and mourning into a political act that is easily criminalised.

Collective punishment

It is no wonder that in 2018, the Knesset passed a law that judicially affirmedIsrael’s ability to withhold Palestinian bodies until preconditions are accepted for funeral arrangements.

Bodies are kept from bereaved families and utilised for political gain by various parties, despite this being a violation of international humanitarian law. It is a testament to Israel’s effort to control Palestinian bodies and further objectify them, in line with Israel’s common practice of collective punishment. 

Can anything be done to prevent the next massacre of Palestinians?Read More »

Gaza is enduring a slow death because of the punitive measures against the entire strip. A man in Rafah once told me: “We are being prepped to be sent to burial.”

But Gaza and the withholding of bodies are not the exception. From the increased surveillance of Palestinians through CCTV cameras stationed across towns and cities, to checkpoints, to incessant home demolitions, Israel is also socially engineering our emotions. 

We cannot mourn, move or breathe without considering what Israel’s powerful army may do to us. Israel’s army is among the top 20 most powerful in the world, with a defence budget exceeding $19bn.

The fact that Israel maintains its right to withhold Palestinian bodies “regardless of their political affiliations” shows that the efforts behind this are not simply tied to Israel’s constant explanations of “security” and “defence”. 

This is a statement that Israel is in control of not only the land, but the people – and that includes denying the right to mourn those taken from us. 

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on How the Nazi regime controls Palestinian bodies, both living and dead

White Helmets Under Black Banners

By Yuriy Zinin – New Eastern Outlook 

During the recent Third Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria, in Brussels, the USA decided to allocate $5 million to the White Helmets, a decision which has once more turned the spotlight onto that organization.

It first emerged in 2013, under a banner of political neutrality: a non-partisan NPO formed of volunteers who carried out humanitarian missions, and its members were promptly branded as heroes by the media. They were represented as people who rushed to rescue their fellow citizens in the face of savage bombing raids by government forces: saving lives, providing first aid etc.

According to the White Helmets, its volunteers have “saved” some 115 thousand people in the years since the organization was founded. This figure was taken at face value by Western officials and media, and has been endlessly repeated.

In addition to their humanitarian mission the “rescuers” prepared various materials from the front lines of the conflict in Syria. They posted photographs and videos of bombed hospitals, schools and mosques on their social media accounts as evidence of the “evil” of the Damascus regime. They focused on producing content that would touch viewers in the West on a raw nerve. So they emphasized, above all, the suffering of Syrian children: the victims of shooting, bombing and other horrors of war.

All these materials were directed at a mass audience, and their creators were highly praised and awarded a number of international prizes.  In 2015, for example, the White Helmets were awarded the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize – worth approximately € 50,000. The film The White Helmets won an Oscar in 2018 for the Best Short Subject Documentary.

Nevertheless, all this tub-thumping is unable to hide certain inconvenient facts. Particularly, the fact that, ever since the organization’s brigades first appeared on the scene they have operated exclusively in areas outside the control of the Syrian government and controlled by armed opposition groups, including DAESH and the Al-Nusra Front.

These groups punished the slightest insubordination in the areas they controlled. The White Helmets’ claims that they remained politically independent when active in these areas are therefore rather unconvincing. Their members accepted the new status quo and were loyal to the militants, which naturally played into the militants’ hands.

According to experts from a number of different countries, members of the White Helmets were drawn into the conflict In March 2017 on the side of the armed opposition groups, and provided them with various kinds of support. In March 2017, Abu Jaber, one of the leaders of the Al-Nusra Front expressed his sincere thanks to the White Helmets, calling them the “unseen warriors of the revolution”. It is not for nothing that a number of Arabic media have described the organization as “White Helmets under a black flag”.

That did not prevent their sponsors from the West and the Middle East from generously financing their activities. The organization’s director admits that it has received money from government and private donors in the USA, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and a number of other European countries as well as Turkey, Qatar and other Persian Gulf states.

The largest donor has been the United States Agency for International development (USAID), which paid the White Helmets at least $23 million between 2013 and 2016.

The special services also lent a helping hand. One of the movement’s founders and inspirers is James Le Mesurier, a former British intelligence officer and soldier who has fought in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Lebanon. He is the head of the Mayday Rescue Foundation which supported the White Helmets using funds it received from donors, including $4.5 million from NGOs in the Netherlands and the same amount from donors in Germany.

The activists did their best to earn the funding and donations they were given.The organizations posted false reports on its social network accounts. It actively took part in a public relations campaign accusing the Syrian authorities and their allies of using chemical weapons.

The USA and its allies cited the materials fabricated by the White Helmets. These materials were used in meetings of the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to prepare the ground for resolutions and other measures, including military intervention, against the Syrian government.

The White Helmets played a very underhand role as agents provocateurs, by fabricating chemical weapons attacks in the town of Khan Shaykhun, in Idlib Province on 7 April 2017, and in East Douma in April 2018. There was no proof of responsibility, but that did not prevent the USA from attacking the Syrian air base of Shayrat in response to the first of these incidents, after which the USA, the UK and France launched missile attacks against a number of targets in Syria which were allegedly connected with the manufacture of chemical weapons.

As the rebels have lost territory in Syria, the areas in which the White Helmets operate has been reduced. The situation has changed dramatically, and in 2018 the organization went through a “very difficult time”, as Raed Saleh, the head of the group has acknowledged.

In June 2018 the Israeli army helped with an urgent evacuation of several hundred so-called rescuers belonging to the White Helmets from Syria, along with their families. Many of the countries that supported the organization declared that they were ready to accept these refugees and provide them with support.

The story of the White Helmets is an example of a new kind of media project: one with a strong humanitarian element, which unfolds in front of the public’s eyes. This project was launched following the failure to topple the Syrian government, as had been done in Libya. When it became clear that Bashar Assad’s presidency was not about to collapse, then his opponents initiated a long-drawn-out siege. And one of their main weapons was the White Helmets, with foreign support.

The White Helmets now resemble a terminally ill patient who is confined to bed and scarcely breathing. Now that the terrorists have been defeated in most parts of Syria, the organization has exited the stage – the only region where its members are still partially active is Idlib Province, which is not yet under government control.

But will the latest grant of funds, which the US lobbied for in the Brussels conference on Syria, be able to help save this chronic invalid? It seems unlikely. On the contrary, it will merely go to prove, once again, who the White Helmets are supported by, and whose interests they really represent.

Related

Award-Winning Journalist Vanessa Beeley Faces “Deplatforming” at Six Canadian Venues In “Full Spectrum Dominance”

The Strange Death of White Helmets Founder Leaves Many Questions to Be Answered In “Deception”

White Helmets involved in organ trafficking in Syria: Study In “War Crimes”

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, SyriaComments Off on White Helmets Under Black Banners

Palestine: Nazi regime and Palestinians Equal Rights

Israel/West Bank: Grant Palestinians Equal Rights

Summary

Loading Photo

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Israel/West Bank: Grant Palestinians Equal Rights

52 Years into Occupation, Rights Suspension Unlawful, Unjustifiable

The Israeli army has deprived generations of Palestinians in the West Bank of their basic civil rights, including the rights to free assembly, association and expression, regularly drawing on military orders issued in the first days of the occupation. Even if such restrictions could have been justified then to preserve public order and safety, the suspension of core rights more than half a century later with no end in sight violates Israel’s core responsibilities under the law of occupation.

The responsibilities of an occupying power toward the rights of the occupied population increase with the duration of the occupation. Israel remains principally in control of the West Bank, despite limited Palestinian Authority rule over certain areas, and yet has failed to provide the people living under its control with the rights they are due, including the right to equal treatment without regard to race, religion or national identity. It is long past time for Israel to fully respect the human rights of Palestinians, using as a benchmark the rights it grants Israeli citizens, an obligation that exists regardless of the political arrangement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory now or in the future.

On June 7, 1967, the Israeli army occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and issued a military proclamation that permitted the application of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, which British Mandate authorities enacted to quell growing unrest. The regulations empower authorities, among other things, to declare as an “unlawful association” groups that advocate for “bringing into hatred or contempt, or the exciting of disaffection against” authorities, and criminalize membership in or possession of material belonging to or affiliated, even indirectly, with these groups.

In August 1967, the Israeli army issued Military Order 101, which criminalizes participation in a gathering of more than ten people without a permit on an issue “that could be construed as political,” punishable by a sentence of up to ten years. It further prohibits publishing material “having a political significance” or displaying “flags or political symbols” without army approval. More than 52 years later, the Israeli army continues to prosecute and imprison Palestinians under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945 and Military Order 101 of 1967.

In 2010, the Israeli army promulgated Military Order 1651, which replaced 20 prior orders and imposes a 10-year sentence on anyone who “attempts, orally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area [the West Bank] in a manner which may harm public peace or public order” or “publishes words of praise, sympathy or support for a hostile organization, its actions or objectives,” which it defines as “incitement.” It further outlines vaguely worded “offenses against authorities” whose penalties include potential life imprisonment for an “act or omission which entails harm, damage, disturbance to the security of the Area or the security of the IDF” or entering an area in close “proximity” to property belonging to the army or state.

December 17, 2019

Israel/West Bank: Grant Palestinians Equal Rights

52 Years into Occupation, Rights Suspension Unlawful, Unjustifiable

The law of occupation grants occupiers wide authority to restrict rights, but also imposes key limitations, including the requirement to facilitate public life for the occupied population. The Israeli army has for over 50 years used broadly worded military orders to arrest Palestinian journalists, activists and others for their speech and activities – much of it non-violent – protesting, criticizing or opposing Israeli policies. These orders are written so broadly that they violate the obligation of states under international human rights law to clearly spell out conduct that could result in criminal sanction. In other instances, Israeli authorities abusively bring ostensibly legitimate charges, such as those related to offenses of trespass or incitement, against activists to shut down opposition to Israel’s rule. Israel’s indefinite suspension of Palestinian civil rights has crippled the ability of Palestinians to have a more normal public, political life.

The duration of the occupation has afforded Israeli authorities plenty of time and opportunity to develop less restrictive policies. However, Israel continues to rely on the same military orders today, denying fundamental civil rights to Palestinians living under its 0ccupation.

Israeli authorities, in fact, take it a step further, denying that its human rights obligations extend to its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. This position has been rejected, including by the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which ruled in a 2004 advisory opinion that the main treaty on civil and political rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), “is applicable in respect of acts done by a State in the exercise of its jurisdiction outside its own territory,” alongside the law of occupation.

This report evaluates the impact of these orders on ordinary life for Palestinians in the West Bank and their legality more than half a century into an occupation with no end in sight. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, “Israeli military and security forces will continue to rule the entire territory, up to the Jordan [River].”[1]

This report does not cover the full Occupied Palestinian Territory: it excludes East Jerusalem, where Israel applies its own domestic law after annexing it in 1967 in a unilateral move that does not alter its status as occupied under international law, and Gaza, where Israel in 2005 dismantled the military government that had existed there since 1967. Nor does it cover Israel’s denial of economic, social and cultural rights to Palestinians in the West Bank. It highlights eight illustrative cases in the West Bank where authorities used military orders, specifically Military Orders 101 and 1651 and the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, to prosecute Palestinians in military courts for their peaceful expression or involvement in non-violent groups or demonstrations.

The report draws on 29 interviews, primarily with former detainees and lawyers representing Palestinian men and women caught up in the Israeli military justice system, as well as a review of indictments and military court decisions. Human Rights Watch wrote to the Israeli army, police and security agency (Shin Bet in Hebrew) with detailed questions soliciting their perspectives and more information on the issues covered in the report and received substantive responses from the army and the police, which are reflected in the report and reprinted as appendices.

According to data it provided to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli army between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2019 prosecuted 4,590 Palestinians for entering a “closed military zone,” a designation it frequently attaches on the spot to protest sites, 1,704 for “membership and activity in an unlawful association,” and 358 for “incitement.”

Israeli occupying forces rely on military orders permitting them to shut down unlicensed protests or to create closed military zones to quash peaceful Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank and detain participants. For example, the Israeli army detained in 2016 human rights defender Farid al-Atrash, who works at the Independent Commission of Human Rights, a quasi-official body of the Palestinian Authority, during a peaceful demonstration in Hebron that called for re-opening a main downtown street that the army prohibits Palestinians from accessing. Prosecutors charged him under Military Order 101 for “demonstrating without a permit” and under Military Order 1651 for “attempt[ing] to influence public opinion in the Area in a manner that may harm public order or safety” through “inciting” chants and “waving Palestinian Authority flags” and holding a sign that read “Open Shuhada Street.” Prosecutors further accused him of entering “a closed military zone” and “assault[ing]” a soldier, but furnished no actual evidence to substantiate these claims outside his non-violent participation in the demonstration. Authorities released al-Atrash on bail four days after his arrest but continue to prosecute him for his participation in this event three-and-a-half years later.

Activist Abdallah Abu Rahma told Human Rights Watch that the Israeli army arrested him eight times since 2005 because of his involvement in protests against the route of Israel’s separation barrier in his village of Bil’in. In May 2016, the army detained him for 11 days after a bicycle race he organized to mark Nakba Day, which commemorates the displacement of Palestinians during the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. A military court handed him a four-month sentence under Military Order 1651 for entering “a closed military zone” and “disturbing a soldier.” The army also detained him for 23 days in late 2017 after he placed a rod in the separation wall as a symbolic act of protest during a demonstration. In September 2019, he pled guilty to charges of “sabotage of an IDF facility” under Military Order 1651 to avoid a potentially longer sentence.  

Since 1967, the Israeli Defense Ministry has banned more than 411 organizations, among them all major Palestinian political parties, including President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. Citing Military Order 1651, the army placed Khalida Jarrar, a 56-year-old member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, in administrative detention without trial or charge from July 2017 to February 2019 based on her political activism with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group that includes both a political party and an armed wing that has attacked Israeli soldiers and civilians. Authorities never claimed that she had any personal involvement in armed activities. Her PFLP affiliation also led to her spending April 2015 to June 2016 in an Israeli prison, after she agreed to plead guilty, to avoid a longer sentence, to charges of “membership in an unlawful association” under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945 and “incitement” under Military Order 1651 for a 2012 speech at a rally for Palestinian prisoners in which she allegedly called for kidnapping soldiers. The judge said the prosecution faced “difficulties proving guilt” on these charges. Jarrar said that Israeli authorities have also barred her from traveling outside of the West Bank without judicial order for more than 30 years, apart from a medical visit to Jordan in 2010. The Israeli army rearrested Jarrar on October 31, 2019; she remains in detention as of publication.

In March 2019, the Israeli army detained 36-year-old artist Hafez Omar and charged him with several offenses under Military Order 1651, including “membership and activism in unlawful association” under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945 for alleged involvement with a group the army calls al-Hirak al-Shababi or Youth Movement, which it claims operates under the “auspices of the Hezbollah organization,” the Lebanese Shi’ite Islamist group. His indictment sheet, which Human Rights Watch examined, consists almost entirely of peaceful activities, such as meetings with other activists and involvement in protests, including several against the Palestinian Authority. Some analysts have questioned whether the Youth Movement ever existed as an organization. The only charge of a non-peaceful nature was his alleged involvement in unspecified “clashes” four years earlier where the charge sheet says he “threw stones at [Israeli] security forces.”

The army has banned a wide range of other civil society groups. Between September 2015 and May 2016, Israeli security forces detained five Palestinians based on their employment with a charitable organization, Qatar Charity, that works in more than 50 countries and has partnered with, among others, the United Nations, Doctors without Borders, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The UN has said it shares “humanitarian” and “strictly non-political” principles with Qatar Charity, but Israel added Qatar Charity to its list of prohibited organizations in 2008 for allegedly providing financial support to Hamas, an allegation frequently leveled against charitable organizations that operate in Gaza. Despite the designation, Israel allowed Qatar Charity to deliver funding into Gaza in May 2019. Najwan Odeh, the charity’s head of administration, received an 18-month sentence for affiliation with an “unlawful association,” namely with Qatar Charity, under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, and a one-year prohibition on “commit[ing] the offense of which she was convicted,” effectively a ban on returning to her job, as part of a plea agreement with authorities.

Military law sets out no formal procedures to appeal the designation of an association as unlawful or a decision to close a business. While Palestinians can appeal such administrative decisions to the High Court of Justice, the Court has shown great deference over the years to the position of the state or army.

The Israeli army also regularly cites the broad definition of incitement in its military laws, defined to include “praise, sympathy or support for a hostile organization” and “attempts, orally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a manner which may harm public peace or public order,” to criminalize speech merely opposing its occupation. Israeli authorities have said that they in particular closely monitor online speech, especially on Palestinian social media accounts, and have used predictive algorithms to determine whom to target. They have disclosed very little information about their methods of social media monitoring, but have cited social media posts for incitement-based charges.

Military prosecutors, for example, in early 2018 claimed in an indictment against activist Nariman Tamimi that she “attempted to influence public opinion in the Area in a manner that may harm public order and safety” and “called for violence” over a livestream she posted to her Facebook account of a confrontation between her then-16-year-old daughter Ahed and Israeli soldiers in her front yard in December 2017. Her indictment notes a series of charges under Military Order 1651 based primarily on the livestream, including “incitement,” noting that the video was “viewed by thousands of users, shared by dozens of users, received dozens of responses and many dozens of likes.” Human Rights Watch reviewed the video and case file, and nowhere in the video or case file does Nariman call for violence. Nariman told Human Rights Watch that she pled guilty to incitement and two other charges—”aiding assault of a soldier” and “interference with a soldier”— to avoid a longer sentence if convicted by a military justice system that, as human rights organizations have shown, fail to give Palestinians fair trials. Based on the plea deal, Nariman served eight months in jail.

These restrictions have particularly limited Palestinian journalists, whom the Israeli army regularly accuses of incitement or affiliation with Hamas. In late July 2018, the Israeli army detained four journalists with Al Quds TV, a channel licensed in London that Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused of being “a propaganda wing of Hamas.” The authorities had banned the channel from operating in Israel earlier that month, though never announced a ban on its operations in the West Bank. Military courts approved journalist Alaa al-Rimawi’s detention while prosecutors investigated him on allegations of membership in an “unlawful association,” namely Al Quds TV, under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945. Interrogators fixated, al-Rimawi said, on his use of the term “martyrs” to refer to Palestinians killed by Israel, common parlance among Palestinians, including in a news clip they played for him where he used the term to refer to a person who had been killed after shooting a settler. A military court ordered his release on bail after three weeks in custody, on grounds that al-Rimawi may not have known about the ban on the channel since the army failed to properly publish notice of its decision to ban it. However, the court also conditioned his release on a two-month ban on his “publication of content on social or other communication network,” and a prohibition on leaving his home city Ramallah without court approval, which al-Rimawi said lasted a year. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA) reported that in 2017 and 2018 the Israeli army arrested 74 journalists and closed 19 media institutions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Arrests for peaceful exercise of basic rights reverberate within Palestinian society, often with the effect of deterring others from speaking out or engaging more generally in political activity. One journalist in Ramallah, who asked that her name be withheld for security reasons, told Human Rights Watch that she had “no idea” what constituted incitement, which has led her to “become very afraid and cautious about what I write on my social media pages.” She said that self-censorship is common among journalists and activists, who often advise one another on what to post and not to post.[2] Hamza Zbeidat, who works for a development NGO, said he used to post frequently on social media, but recently has “isolated myself and willingly chosen to stay away from taking part in any public political issue or giving my opinion about them” for fear of arrest.[3] A 25-year-old resident of Bethlehem, who also requested withholding his name, similarly said that he used to frequently participate in demonstrations and other political activities, but “recently decided to lessen my participation after weighing the risks” of arrest or other punitive measures by the Israeli army. He says that, when he does decide still to participate, he tries to “be very discreet about it” and stay “behind the scenes,” describing such “serious caution” as common among youth like him.[4]

The army carried out some of these arrests in what the Oslo Accords of 1995 define as “Area A” of the West Bank, even though the accords grant the Palestinian Authority (PA) full civil and security control in this area. The PA itself further restricts Palestinian rights in Area A through arbitrary arrests of critics and opponents of it, particularly on social media, among independent journalists, on university campuses, and at demonstrations.

Even if the law of occupation might have allowed the army to justify such broad measures in, say, July 1967, that law provides no legal basis to do so more than 50 years later. The law of occupation permits occupiers to restrict some rights, but also requires them to restore public life for the occupied population. That obligation increases in a prolonged occupation, where the occupier has more time and opportunity to develop more narrowly tailored responses to security threats that minimize restrictions on rights. In addition, the needs of the occupied population increase over time: suspending virtually all rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association for a short period interrupts temporarily normal public life, but long-term, indefinite suspension of rights has a much more debilitating impact. Social and intellectual stagnation results from the denial of free expression and debate, access to diverse information, and the opportunity to peacefully demand change.  

Despite Israel’s heightened obligation to facilitate normal civil life and respect for fundamental rights, given the duration of its occupation and the sophisticated bureaucracy it has developed to rule over Palestinians, it continues to rely on the same repressive measures used at the outset of the occupation.

The longer an occupation, the more military rule should resemble an ordinary governing system that respects the standards of international human rights law that apply at all times. International human rights law robustly protects civil rights, including free expression, assembly and association, and sets a “high threshold” for restrictions, which it notes should remain “an exception.” Human Rights Watch has documented cases in which there is no call to violence, as well as cases in which the army equates opposition to its occupation with incitement to violence without showing that the expressive activity was meant to cause violence or was understood by others in that way.

The Israeli army should repeal Military Orders 101 and 1651 and refrain from charging defendants under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945. After 52 years of occupation, Israel must ensure public order and safety in a way that respects, protects and fulfills the fundamental rights of Palestinians. The fact that Israel provides much more robust rights protections under its civil law, which it applies in occupied East Jerusalem and Israel, indicates that less restrictive measures are available.

States and international organizations should highlight the importance of respecting the civil rights of Palestinians in the West Bank, since these form an integral part of the legal framework applicable in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. They should consider including calls for Israel to grant Palestinians civil rights at least equal to what it grants its own citizens in their publications, reports and policy positions and to assess Israel’s conduct on this basis. Both international human rights law and international humanitarian law should be used to scrutinize Israeli policies and practices towards Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.

For more than two-thirds of the period since the establishment of the state of Israel, Israeli authorities have deprived the nearly 2.5 million Palestinians they rule over in the West Bank of their basic rights—rights enjoyed by the more than 400,000 Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements in the same territory. Israeli officials openly speak of their intent to permanently rule over Palestinians in the West Bank. Whatever the political arrangements, nothing can justify the continued enforcement of these restrictions and the entrenched two-tiered discriminatory system in the West Bank today.

Methodology

This report focuses on specific Israeli military orders that unlawfully restrict the rights of free assembly, association, expression and press for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. It does not cover the situation inside Israel, East Jerusalem, where Israel applies its own domestic law after unilaterally annexing it in 1967, the Golan Heights, to which Israel applied its domestic laws in 1981, or Gaza, where Israel in 2005 ended its direct military rule that had been in place since 1967. Nor does it cover Israel’s denial of economic, social and cultural rights to Palestinians in the West Bank.

The report focuses on restrictions and punishments imposed between 2015 and 2019, although on occasion it refers to older events. It primarily evaluates the arrests themselves and charges brought and does not explore in-depth legal proceedings against detainees, their treatment in custody, or the use of force against demonstrators, all of which Human Rights Watch has documented elsewhere. It also does not investigate rights violations by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or Hamas authorities in Gaza, which Human Rights Watch has covered elsewhere.[5]

This report is based primarily on a detailed review of dozens of Israeli military orders, indictments and court decisions. Human Rights Watch also conducted a total of 29 interviews — 11 with Palestinians detained pursuant to Israeli military orders, two with their family members, three with activists and journalists who say that the risk of prosecution or sanctions by the Israeli army has led them to curb their activism, one with a Palestinian political analyst, and 12 with Israeli and Palestinian lawyers representing Palestinians detained in the Israeli military justice system. The interviews took place at different locations in the occupied West Bank between August 2017 and October 2019.

We conducted most of the interviews individually, in Arabic or English. We conducted them with the full consent of those being interviewed and told each of the interviewees how Human Rights Watch would use the information provided.

Human Rights Watch was also able in some cases to review photographic and video evidence and, in one case, to attend a military court hearing.

Human Rights Watch wrote to the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli army body in charge of administering the occupied West Bank, the Israeli police and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) on August 1, 2019 and to the Israeli army’s spokesperson on August 29, soliciting the perspectives of each entity. Each confirmed receipt.

The Prime Minister’s Office responded on behalf of the Shin Bet, saying in a short letter dated August 8, 2019, that it “operates pursuant to its power and duties as established by law,” but declined to provide further information, noting that “disclosure might reveal work methods.”[6] On August 28, the police sent a letter, dated August 27, with some additional information, though declined to answer most of the questions posed, claiming that it had no legal obligation to provide information, given the format in which the request had been sent, without specifying the desired format.[7] On September 1, the COGAT Office of Public Inquiries said it could not accept our request for information, without including a form available only to organizations officially registered in Israel. On November 18, the Israeli army spokesperson substantively replied to Human Rights Watch’s letter. The letter noted that further information would be sent, but, as of publication, Human Rights Watch had not received any additional information.

Human Rights Watch also wrote to Facebook, soliciting information regarding requests by Israeli authorities to regulate content on its platform, and received substantive responses. All responses are reflected in the report and reprinted in full, alongside letters sent by Human Rights Watch, as appendices.

I. Background

The Israeli army occupied the West Bank on June 7, 1967. That day, the army issued a proclamation establishing that its West Bank area commander has “all legislative, executive and judicial powers” over the occupied territory and that the “laws which were in force up to 7 June 1967 shall remain in force as long as they are not contradicted by subsequent military orders.”[8] The army has issued hundreds of military orders for the West Bank in the subsequent 52 years.

These continue to govern many aspects of everyday life for Palestinians in the West Bank, including regulating freedom of movement and access to water, land, and natural resources.[9] They do not apply to East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967, and where it applies its own domestic law instead of military law, in a unilateral move that no other country has recognized and that does not change East Jerusalem’s status as occupied territory under international law.[10]

Since 1967, the Israeli army has used military orders, together with laws that existed in the West Bank prior to the beginning of the occupation, to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of West Bank Palestinians for various periods of time. As of October 31, 2019, according to Israeli Prison Services, Israeli authorities held 4,391 Palestinians from the West Bank in custody for “security” offenses, including 458 held in administrative detention based on secret evidence without charge or trial.[11] Israeli authorities try most Palestinians detained in the West Bank in military courts, where they face unfair trials and a conviction rate of almost 100 percent.[12]

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has also greatly restricted the rights of Palestinians to free assembly, association and expression in the parts of the West Bank where it has limited control. The PA routinely carries out arbitrary arrests of critics and opponents, particularly on social media. Among its targets are independent journalists, students on university campuses, and protesters at demonstrations.[13] Between January 2018 and March 2019, the Palestinian Authority said its security forces detained 1,609 people for insulting “higher authorities” and creating “sectarian strife,” charges that in effect criminalize peaceful dissent, and 752 for social media posts.[14] PA forces systematically torture detainees. Hamas authorities in Gaza regularly perpetrate similar abuses.[15]

 In Gaza, Israeli authorities in 2005 dismantled the military government that had existed since 1967 and ceased applying military orders when it withdrew its settler population. Israel does, though, continue to maintain effective control over Gaza and restrict the rights of its residents through other means, including sweeping restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal territory.[16]

II. Legal Standards: Civil Rights in Prolonged Occupation

As the occupying power, Israel has legal obligations towards Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.[17] The law of occupation can be found primarily in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949,[18] the Hague Regulations of 1907,[19] and customary international humanitarian law.[20]

International human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), applies to Israel’s conduct towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, alongside international humanitarian law governing occupation. While Israel maintains that its human rights obligations do not extend to the occupied territories, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the body charged with interpreting the ICCPR, has repeatedly found that states are bound to respect the human rights treaties they have ratified outside their state borders, and specifically that  “the provisions of the Covenant apply to the benefit of the population of the occupied territories.”[21] The International Court of Justice endorsed this view in its Advisory Opinion regarding Israel’s separation barrier, and stated that the ICCPR “is applicable in respect of acts done by a State in the exercise of its jurisdiction outside its own territory.”[22]

The State of Palestine has ratified numerous UN and regional human rights treaties since 2014.

The Fourth Geneva Convention requires the occupying power to provide sufficient clarity to any rule that could foreseeably restrict the activities of protected persons, especially if the violation carries criminal consequences.[23]

Article 43 of the Hague Regulations of 1907, recognized by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and the International Court of Justice as having the force of customary international law binding on all states,[24] outlines the powers and responsibilities of an occupying power:

The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.[25]

This provision authorizes an occupying power to take restrictive measures that are militarily necessary to ensure its own safety, but also requires the occupier to restore and ensure public life for the benefit of the occupied population. Measures that are militarily necessary are those likely to “accomplish a legitimate purpose and are not otherwise prohibited by international humanitarian law.”[26]

Scholars and courts alike have consistently interpreted “public order and safety” to extend beyond the mere guaranteeing of security to encompass facilitating normal civilian life, including education, economy, health care and other aspects of everyday life.[27] The original French (l’ordre et la vie publics) includes the words “public life,” reflecting that facilitating civil life constitutes an integral part of an occupying power’s duties. The Israeli Supreme Court adopted such an interpretation in the landmark 1983 Jamayat Askan case:

The [article 43 of the Hague] Regulation does not limit itself to a certain aspect of public order and safety. It spans all aspects of public order and safety. Therefore, this authority (…) also applies to a variety of “civilian” issues such as, the economy, society, education, welfare, hygiene, health, transportation and other such matters to which human life in a modern society is connected.[28]

In calling on occupiers to “ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety,”[29] Article 43 requires an occupier to use all practical means at its disposal to minimize the impact of its actions on the local population. The logical corollary of this article is that the means available to an occupier increase with the duration of an occupation. A foreign army occupying a village for a month or a year may be limited in the sophistication of the security measures it adopts, for lack of time, resources, and familiarity with the location and population under occupation. A foreign army, though, occupying a territory for decades, has more time and opportunity to refine its responses to threats to the security of its forces in ways that minimize restrictions on rights and freedoms. The longer the occupation, the greater the ability and therefore the obligation to arrive at security measures that minimize impact on the local population.[30]

Legal experts have interpreted Article 43 to limit occupiers from taking actions that disproportionately harm the occupied population as compared to the military benefit derived from those same actions.[31]

The needs of the local population also look different in shorter occupations, where combat-like situations may be more frequent, from a longer-term occupation, where interactions become more routinized and life somewhat normalized.[32] The Israeli Supreme Court specified in Jamayat Askanthat the content of what constitutes “public order and safety” should be assessed based on the needs of the society at the time of examination.[33] It further held that “military and security needs predominate in a short-term military occupation. Conversely, the needs of the local population gain weight in a long-term military occupation.”[34] The medium and long-term health of a society requires more robust protection of rights to allow for the normal development of a society.

Denial of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association blocks the protected population from accessing information, debating ideas and peacefully demanding change.[35] Suspending these rights for a week or month interrupts public life, but suspension for decades fundamentally distorts it.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a commentary on the Geneva Conventions has said that “duties incumbent on an Occupying Power are commensurate with the duration of the occupation,” noting that “[i]f the occupation lasts, more and more responsibilities fall on the Occupying Power.”[36] The Israeli government itself has argued in court that its duties become more robust as the needs of the Palestinian population grow over the course of the occupation. In a 2010 case in front of the High Court of Justice, the state justified continued Israeli quarrying activities in the West Bank by arguing that it contributed to economic growth and thereby helped the government to carry out the additional duties it owed the population in the context of a long-term occupation.[37]

Leading jurists who study the legal framework that applies in a situation of military occupation argue that both the laws of war and international human rights law apply at all times, and that context, in particular the duration of an occupation, determines which framework takes precedence in a particular situation.

The law of occupation, as an emergency framework by definition, is designed to regulate an exceptional, temporary situation in which a foreign military power displaces the lawful sovereign and rules by force. [38]

The longer the occupation, the more military rules should resemble an ordinary governing system and therefore the standards of international human rights laws that apply at all times should govern. Even when there are periods of intensive fighting during an occupation, the situation should revert when hostilities subside to a situation in which the regular rules of international human rights law govern. While the protection of core civil rights, including those of expression, association, and assembly, may at times present legitimate security concerns,[39] wide-ranging restrictions should not as a default continue indefinitely. As three Israeli legal scholars have argued, “the longer the occupation, the heavier weight is to be accorded to the human rights of the local population.”[40]

However, the protections provided to the occupied population under the laws of occupation, such as the prohibition against building settlements and extracting natural resources for the benefit for the occupier, remain in place so long as the occupation persists regardless of its duration. International human rights law applies at the same time, supplementing these protections in the context of a prolonged occupation that poses more risk to the long-term health of society.[41]

For example, the ICCPR would guide interpretation of the character of civil life that an occupier should provide to the occupied population under Article 43 of the Hague Resolutions in a prolonged occupation.

Israel ratified the ICCPR in 1991, although it issued a formal declaration seeking derogation from a provision on detention (Article 9) to the extent that it prohibits measures undertaken pursuant to the state of emergency it proclaimed in May 1948, which remains in effect today. The state of Palestine ratified the ICCPR in full in 2014.

Article 15 of the ICCPR highlights the need for precision in setting out criminal offenses, proscribing convicting someone based on an act that is not criminalized.[42]

Article 19 of the ICCPR states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression … to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds.” The article notes that authorities may restrict this right, but restrictions “shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.” The United Nations Human Rights Committee issued in 2011 an authoritative commentary noting that freedom of expression encompasses political discourse, human rights advocacy and journalism disseminated through various means, including electronic and internet-based modes of expression.[43] The right also encompasses the freedom to impart and receive information.[44]

The committee also specified that, under the requirement of legality, restrictions must “be formulated with sufficient precision to enable an individual to regulate his or her conduct accordingly” and to “provide sufficient guidance” as to “what sorts of expression are properly restricted and what sorts are not.” It also stated that, beyond the requirements of legality and necessity set out in the article itself, restrictions “must not be overbroad” and that “[w]hen a state party invokes a legitimate ground for restriction of freedom of expression, it must demonstrate in specific and individualized fashion the precise nature of the threat … in particular by establishing a direct and immediate connection between the expression and the threat.” It specifically discusses the concerns about terrorism, noting that “[s]uch offenses as ‘encouragement of terrorism’ and ‘extremist activity’ as well as offenses of ‘praising’, ‘glorifying’ or ‘justifying’ terrorism, should be clearly defined to ensure that they do not lead to unnecessary or disproportionate interference with freedom of expression.”[45]

Article 17 of the ICCPR provides that “[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence.”[46] The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has stated that these requirements mean government interference with privacy must be lawful, necessary and proportionate.[47] It has further noted that “the right to privacy comes into play when a Government is monitoring a public space … thereby observing individuals,” and that “[s]imilarly, when information that is publicly available about an individual on social media is collected and analysed, it also implicates the right to privacy. The public sharing of information does not render its substance unprotected.”[48] This means state monitoring of information that a person has made public on social media interferes with the right to privacy so that any such interference must be lawful, necessary and proportionate. When addressing state surveillance of communications and web browsing, the OHCHR has stated that “indiscriminate mass surveillance” does not meet the necessity and proportionality requirement and therefore violates rights, even when states argue that it is “necessary to protect national security.”[49] The OHCHR quotes the European Court of Human Rights’ observation that “a system of secret surveillance set up to protect national security may undermine or even destroy democracy under the cloak of defending it.”[50]  The OHCHR reached this conclusion because when monitoring takes place at a massive scale, “an individualized necessity and proportionality analysis” by the state is not possible.[51] Indiscriminate mass monitoring of speech by definition does not involve an individualized necessity and proportionality analysis, and therefore is very likely to violate international human rights law.

To be lawful for the purposes of the right to privacy, the monitoring, collection, storage, or searching of information must take place on the basis of clear, specific, publicly available laws that establish criteria for these activities as well as safeguards and effective remedies for abuse.[52] The measures would also need to be necessary and proportionate to achieving a legitimate aim.

Article 20 of the ICCPR proscribes “[a]ny advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”  The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, to which Israel has acceded, also bars incitement. In January 2013, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) adopted a set of guidelines, the Rabat Plan of Action, that set out a three-part test—legality, proportionality, and necessity—on how to balance free expression and incitement to hatred. It noted that “limitation of speech must remain an exception” and set a “high threshold” for any restriction on free expression that should evaluate the context, speaker, intent, content, and form, extent of the speech act and likelihood of harm, including how imminent the threat is. On imminence, the Rabat Plan specifies that, for speech to fall afoul of the law, there should be a “reasonable probability that the speech would succeed in inciting actual action against the target group, recognizing that such causation should be rather direct.”[53]

The ICCPR further safeguards the rights to “free assembly” (Article 21) and “freedom to association with others” (Article 22), limiting restrictions to cases where it is prescribed in law and necessary to “national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” States can restrict free assembly and association, as with expression and privacy, only when restrictions are (1) prescribed by law; (2) undertaken for a legitimate purpose; and (3) necessary and proportionate. The OHCHR has said that “no person should be held criminally, civilly or administratively liable for the mere act of organizing or participating in a peaceful protest.”[54]

Authorities, both occupiers and national governments, may take action to restrict acts when exercise of expression and assembly may be construed as threatening security or public order.[55] But this prerogative cannot justify the prosecution of journalists, human rights defenders, or others for disseminating publicly available information and opinions of legitimate interest absent a specific and imminent security threat.[56] States can always respond to such threats, but, in a prolonged occupation, absent a period of active hostilities, an occupier should do so subject to regular international human rights law and standards.

International humanitarian law forbids an occupier from transferring protected persons outside the occupied territory, a provision that Israel violates routinely when it detains Palestinians from the West Bank and holds them inside Israel.

International human rights law provides a range of additional protections, including with regards to children. The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires authorities to arrest or detain a child only as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, and to take precautions to ensure that children are not compelled to confess guilt.[57] Israel denies Palestinian children arrested and detained in the West Bank legal protections granted to Israeli children, including settlers.

Human rights law, in particular Article 26 of the ICCPR, further prohibits discrimination on grounds of race, religion or national or social origin, and mandates equal protection under the law. The restrictive military orders apply to Palestinian residents of the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem, but to none of the over 400,000 Israeli settlers living in the same territory, who live under Israeli civil law, which safeguards the rights to free expression and assembly.  

The Israeli Supreme Court has referred to freedom of expression as the “heart and soul” of democracy.[58] The Israeli Supreme Court has held, in an opinion written by then Chief Justice Aharon Barak, that freedom of expression holds “a place of honor in the palace of the fundamental rights of man.”[59] Israeli law imposes restrictions on free expression, but, according to Barak , “the balancing formula seeks to curtail this basic value as little as possible,” and in particular “only if the injury to state security and public order is severe, serious and grave, and only if there is proximate certainty the realization of free expression will bring about this injury.”[60] Barak has also written that, “[f]reedom of expression is not only the freedom to express things quietly and pleasantly. It is also the freedom to raise an outcry that grates on the ears.”[61]

While elements of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations remain in Israeli law today, many in Israel have criticized them. In 1951, the Knesset determined that the Defense (Emergency) Regulations “oppose the basic principles of democracy” and directed a committee to draft a bill for their repeal.[62] In a 1953 case, Kol Ha’am, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the government’s attempts to censor publication of two newspapers on the grounds that it could “jeopardize the public safety,” ruling that only “a near certainty” that publication would “seriously jeopardize” vital security interests could justify such recourse.[63]

With regards to demonstrations, Israeli law requires a permit only if it involves more than 50 people, takes place outdoors, and involves “political speeches and statements.”[64] Police, in turn, can deny a permit only if they can prove “near certainty” of harm to public security, public order, or the rights of others.[65] Justice Barak wrote in a 2006 Supreme Court case, “a demonstration of a political or social character is a manifestation of the autonomy of individual will, freedom of choice and freedom of negation that are included in the framework of human dignity as a constitutional right.”[66] A decision a year later affirmed that the right of free expression and peaceful protest “intended to protect not only those who hold accepted and popular opinions, but also… opinions that are liable to incur anger or outrage.”[67] In 2017, the Supreme Court went a step further, holding that “the demand for a permit to hold protests is nothing but a [British] Mandatory remnant [and] it seems the time has come to examine its removal from Israeli law.”[68]

III. Israeli Military Orders Violating Palestinian Civil Rights

On June 7, 1967, the Israeli army took control of the West Bank and, under a proclamation issued that day declaring that existing laws remained in force unless amended by subsequent military orders, began to enforce the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, which British Mandatory authorities had enacted to maintain order and suppress dissent. While the British formally revoked the Defense (Emergency) Regulations several days before the mandate ended, and Jordan issued its own Defense Law shortly before it took control of the West Bank, the Israeli army considers the laws to never have been properly revoked, an interpretation that the Israeli Supreme Court later upheld, and in subsequent months issued two military orders (160, 224) to affirm the applicability of the regulations.[69] The Israeli army also used the regulations as a central feature of its military rule over Palestinians living in Israel between 1948 and 1966; elements of it remain in Israeli law today.[70]

The regulations authorize home demolitions, censorship, suppression of protests, closures, curfews, administrative detention, and deportations.[71] They also empower authorities to outlaw “any body of persons” that, among other things, “advocates, incites or encourages” overthrow of or even “bringing into hatred or contempt of, or the exciting of disaffecting against,” local authorities, declaring that such groups constitute  an “unlawful association.[72] Authorities may detain and prosecute individuals for mere membership or attendance at meetings, having in their “possession, custody or control any book, account, periodical, handbill, poster, newspaper or other document, or any funds, insignia or property,” or “by writing, words, signs, or other acts or representation, directly or indirectly, whether by inference, suggestion, implication or otherwise, acts on behalf of, or as a representative of an unlawful association.”[73] The regulations also allow the army to prohibit publishing anything that in its view “would be, or be likely to be or become, prejudicial to the defence of Palestine or to the public safety or to public order,” without further defining what this means.[74]

In August 1967, the Israel army promulgated Military Order No. 101: “Order Regarding Prohibition of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda Actions,” which imposed sweeping prohibitions on peaceful expression. The order, subsequently amended on several occasions, criminalized many forms of peaceful assembly, including any assembly, rally, or procession of ten or more people gathered on any issue “that could be construed as political” without a military permit, with violators facing a possible ten years in prison, a significant fine or both.[75] According to the order, persons may not “hold, wave, display or affix flags or political symbols, except in accordance with a permit of the military commander” or “print or publicize in the region any publication of notice, poster, photo, pamphlet or other document containing material having a political significance” unless authorized in advance by an Israeli military commander.[76]

Military Order 101 further stipulates that anyone who “publishes praise, sympathy or support for a hostile organization, its actions or objectives,” or anyone who commits “an act that reveals identification with a hostile organization,” including by “singing a hymn or sounding a slogan, or any similar act that clearly reveals identification or sympathy” is subject to criminal sanction.[77] The order also authorizes a military commander to “order any owner of a café, club or other place in which the public gathers” to close the area “for the period of time he specifies,” and authorizes soldiers to “exercise the extent of force required […] to prevent the violation of this order.”[78] The order permits the commander to delegate his powers to any member of the security force.[79]

In May 2010, the Israeli army promulgated Military Order 1651, also known as the “Criminal Code,” to replace 20 key orders issued between 1967 and 2005. It also references and builds on others, including Military Order 101 and Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945.[80] The order criminalizes “incitement and support for a hostile organization,” such as through “attempts, orally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a manner which may harm public peace or public order,” an offense that carries a ten-year prison sentence.[81]  

The order further outlines a series of “offenses against authorities of the Area.”[82] Beyond such crimes as “assault of a public servant,” which carries a ten-year sentence, and “threaten[ing] a soldier,” which carries a seven-year sentence, the order includes the vaguely worded offenses of “disturbing a soldier” in “fulfilling his task” or “insult[ing] a soldier” or “offending his honor.” [83] The order also authorizes punishment of those who “behave in an insulting manner toward one of the IDF authorities in the Area or toward one of its symbols.”[84] It further empowers the Israeli army to declare a “closed [military] zone” and arrest anyone present in the area.[85] According to the order, an “act or omission which entail harm, damage, disturbance or danger to the security of the Area or the security of the IDF,” or being “in the proximity of” property belonging to the Israeli army or the state of Israel, could result in life imprisonment.[86] The order does not define what constitutes an assault, threat, interference, disturbance, insult, or offense. 

The Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945 and Military Orders 101 and 1651 do not offer sufficient clarity to allow Palestinians to know what actions may result in criminal consequences and how to conform their behavior to abide by the law, violating a basic principle under both the law of occupation and international human rights law. The overly broad wording of the orders creates vague and broadly defined criminal offenses and severely limits rights as the baseline, not only when necessary. Concepts such as “incitement” and “insult[ing] a soldier” are so vaguely defined that individuals cannot reasonably predict whether an action or inaction amounts to a crime.

These orders import some of the language from Article 43 of the Hague Regulations and international human rights law such as “public order” and “safety,” but with none of the limits on curbing rights that the legal frameworks provide. The orders are not narrowly tailored, but confer excessive discretion to authorities, creating today clear violations of human rights.

Instead of interpreting the broad language narrowly, the Israeli army exploits the ambiguity, arbitrarily and discriminatorily using criminal law to justify detaining journalists, activists, and other Palestinians for exercising their basic rights.

Even if restrictions on such speech or privacy could be justified under the law of occupation in July 1967, they have lost validity over the half-century that the Israeli army has developed and routinized a sophisticated system to govern the occupied territory. The army should have found a way to ensure national security and public order without effectively stripping Palestinians of their basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, and privacy.

IV. Right of Peaceful Assembly

More than 50 years since its occupation began, Israel continues to rely on these restrictive military orders to quash demonstrations and arrest organizers, human rights defenders, journalists, and peaceful protesters, including children.[87]Military Order 101 prohibits any gathering of more than ten people in a place “in which a speech is made on a political subject, or which may be construed as political, or to discuss such a subject” without a permit from a military commander.[88] Karin Hibler, an Israeli lawyer who represents Palestinian detainees in the military court system, told Human Rights Watch that she has not heard of a single instance in which Palestinians requested a permit for a demonstration in the West Bank, or of the Israeli army issuing one.[89]

More frequently, the Israeli army will suddenly declare the location of a protest a “closed military zone” and will prosecute Palestinians who do not immediately leave under Military Order 1651, for their involvement in the demonstration. The Israeli army told Human Rights Watch that the military commander has authority to declare an area a “closed military zone” where a “concrete security need, or a concrete need to maintain public order necessitate closing the area.” It notes, though, that the commander must “balance the need for security or for maintaining public order against the harm caused to Area residents by the restrictions on freedom of movement, including the effect on the residents’ daily lives and occupation.”[90]

The Israeli army said that, between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2019, it prosecuted 4,590 Palestinians for “failure to obey an order regarding a closed military zone.” During this time period, military courts convicted 4,519 people of this offense, including some who were indicted prior to July 1, 2014.[91]

The following two cases illustrate how the Israeli army uses the Defense (Emergency) Regulations and Military Orders 101 and 1651 to restrict the right of Palestinians to peaceful assembly. Both involve Palestinians detained for their involvement in political protests, facing a combination of charges that on their face criminalize peaceful assembly (e.g., “demonstrating without a permit”), those so broadly worded that they open the door to abuse (e.g., “attempt[ing] to influence public opinion in the Area in a manner that may harm public order or safety”) and those that relate to cognizable offenses (e.g., “sabotage of an IDF Facility”) but are regularly used by the Israeli army to punish opposition to its rule.

201912MENA_Palestine_photos
Farid al-Atrash, a human rights defender detained for four days in 2016 and continuing to face charges in military court more than three years later over his involvement in a protest in Hebron. © 2017 AFP

Farid al-Atrash, Bethlehem

On February 26, 2016, Farid al-Atrash, 42, the head of the southern West Bank division of the Independent Commission of Human Rights, a commission charged with monitoring human rights compliance by Palestinian authorities, participated in a protest in Hebron. More than 100 protestors demanded that Israeli authorities reopen al-Shuhada Street, a central artery that the Israeli military has prohibited Palestinians from using for the past 19 years, ostensibly to protect the approximately 700 Israeli settlers who reside in the vicinity.[92] Israel restricts Palestinian movement in Hebron in part through more than 100 physical obstacles, 21 of them permanently staffed checkpoints.[93] These have transformed the once-bustling al-Shuhada street into a ghostly thoroughfare of shuttered windows and anti-Palestinian graffiti.[94]

Al-Atrash told Human Rights Watch that five or six Israeli soldiers arrested him around noon while he participated in the protest and held a sign that read “Open Shuhada Street.”[95] A video reviewed by Human Rights Watch shows Israeli soldiers arresting al-Atrash without him physically resisting.[96] Al-Atrash also said that Israeli soldiers used sound bombs and teargas, visible and audible in the video, to disperse protestors. Soldiers handcuffed al-Atrash’s hands, shackled his feet, and blindfolded him, he said.

The soldiers moved him to a detention facility in the adjacent Kiryat Arba settlement, where they interrogated him for about an hour about his participation in the protest and presence in a “closed military zone,” before transferring him later that day to a detention center in the nearby Gush Etzion settlement bloc, where they held him for five days.

Military prosecutors charged al-Atrash, as well as Palestinian activist Issa Amro, on five counts stemming from their participation in the protest, according to the indictment reviewed by Human Rights Watch. The charges include “demonstrating without permit” under Military Order 101, and, under Military Order 1651, entering “a closed military zone,” “incitement” for “attempt[ing] to influence public opinion in the Area in a manner that may harm public order or safety” through his “inciting” chants and “waving Palestinian Authority flags” and an “Open Shuhada Street” sign, “assault of a soldier” based on “push[ing]” soldiers trying to prevent “protestors from advancing,” and “interference with a soldier” for “attempt[ing] to avoid, and even forcibly resist[ing] arrest.”

The Ofer military court released al-Atrash, as well as Amro, on bail on March 1, 2016, but their prosecutions continue, more than three-and-a-half years later. Al-Atrash’s prosecution violates his right to free assembly, both by directly charging him for participating in a demonstration and indirectly by bringing charges of entering “a closed military zone” and “assault of a soldier,” apparently to justify detaining him for protesting, as well as with “incitement” based on the overly broad definition of that offense in the military order.  

201912MENA_Palestine_photos
Palestinian activist Abdullah Abu Rahme arrives at Ofer military court near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank for a hearing in a case against him on February 23, 2015. © 2015 AFP

Abdallah Abu Rahma, Bil’in

On November 20, 2017, about 10 armed Israeli soldiers raided the house of Abdallah Abu Rahma, 48, in Bil’in, a village west of Ramallah at around 1:30 a.m., and arrested him, with 15 to 20 other soldiers positioned around the house during the arrest, several weeks after he participated in a protest in the village, Abu Rahma told Human Rights Watch.[97] Abu Rahma, a father of four, for years organized weekly protests against Israeli rights abuses in Bil’in and the village of Khan al-Ahmar in his capacity as coordinator for the Popular Committees Against the Wall and Settlements.[98]

Abu Rahma said that soldiers blindfolded him and handcuffed his hands behind his back, threatening to “make things more difficult” for him if “he continued resisting in Bil’in.”[99] They moved him at around 2:30 a.m. to a military base and then to the police station at Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone, in a settlement southeast of Ramallah, for interrogation, periodically cursing and striking him along the way, he said. Around 1 p.m., an Israeli interrogator started questioning him about his activities with the Popular Committees and his participation in demonstrations. They also asked him about a video on Facebook appearing to show him approach and place a rod in the frame of a metal gate in the separation wall near Bil’in on November 3, 2017. Abu Rahma said he did this to signify his opposition to “Israel’s policy of not allowing us to reach our lands behind the wall,” but the interrogator accused him of “attacking and ruining military property by trying to open the gate inside the wall.”[100] The video footage, reviewed by Human Rights Watch but subsequently removed, showed no serious effort to force open the gate or damage the wall, but rather a symbolic act of defiance against the wall. Abu Rahma said he initially answered the officer’s questions, but, when the officer started screaming at him, he decided to refuse to answer any questions without his lawyer present for the remainder of the three-hour interrogation.[101]

Later that night, Israeli soldiers transferred Abu Rahma to Ofer military prison southwest of Ramallah. On November 22, 2017, he appeared before a military court in Ofer, which charged him with “sabotage of an IDF facility,” and “offense against public order” under Military Order 1651 for “an act or omission which entails harm, damage, disturbance or danger to the security of the Area or the security of the IDF or to the operation, use or security of” installations or equipment belonging to the state or army during the November 3 protest.[102] The judge ordered him released on 5,000 NIS (US$1,400) bail on condition of his “abstention from offenses of interference with public order,”[103] – a condition that the order did not further define – and attendance at subsequent court hearings in his case. The military prosecutor twice appealed his release on bail, but the court upheld it and released him on bail on December 13, 2017. On September 3, 2019, the Ofer military court approved a deal in which Abu Rahma pled guilty, to avoid a potentially longer sentence, to the charge of “sabotage of an IDF Facility” over the incident at the wall and received a 23-day prison sentence, applied to time served, a three-month suspended sentence and a 7,000 NIS (US$1,990) fine.[104]

More than a year prior to this protest, in May 2016, Abu Rahma co-organized a cycling event from Ramallah to Bil’in to mark Nakba Day, the commemoration of the displacement of Palestinians during the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948.[105] Abu Rahma said that, as they approached Bil’in, soldiers began to fire tear gas at the group from 50-100 meters away. A soldier told Abu Rahma that “this is a closed military zone,” and Abu Rahma said they would leave, if they stopped firing and gave them the opportunity to do so. Abu Rahma said the firing stopped and they moved, but, 500 meters later, another group of border police officers fired at them. When he again approached soldiers to tell them to stop and respect their rights, he said they struck him repeatedly and arrested him,[106] which video footage reviewed by Human Rights Watch appears to corroborate.[107]

Military prosecutors charged him with entering a “closed military zone” and “disturbing a soldier” under Military Order 1651, [108] and released him on bail 11 days later. In November 2018, the court convicted him on these charges, handing him a four-month jail sentence, ordering him to pay a fine of 2,000 NIS (US$560), and placing him on probation for three years.[109] Abu Rahma appealed the decision in December 2018 and a military court in April 2019 ruled that he had to either serve a five-month sentence or pay a 25,000 NIS (US$7,100) fine in addition to a four-month suspended sentence valid for five years.[110] Abu Rahma paid the fine and the court closed the case.[111]

Military prosecutors in both cases brought overly vague criminal charges — “sabotage of an IDF facility,” entering a “closed military zone” and “disturbing a soldier,” — apparently to justify detaining him for his activism against restrictive Israeli policies.

Previously, in August 2010, an Israeli military court had convicted Abu Rahma for organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations, inciting protesters to damage the separation barrier, throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, and participating in violent protests. All of the charges stemmed from his participation in peaceful demonstrations against the separation barrier, which Human Rights Watch documented at the time.[112] When he appealed, the appellate court upheld the conviction and increased his prison sentence to 16 months, which he served. 

Abu Rahma told Human Rights Watch that the repeated arrests — eight since 2005, largely for involvement in protests — have taken a psychological toll on him and his four children and that he stopped participating in activities in Bil’in. He believes he has “a right” and “duty” to “defend and protest violations” and continues to participate in protests in other locations.

V. Right to Freedom of Association

Israeli authorities also rely on broad provisions of military law to ban associations as “hostile organizations,” and to detain Palestinians for mere membership in or identification with such groups or entities affiliated with them. The Defense Regulations of 1945 define “unlawful associations” as “any body of persons” which “advocates, incites or encourages” the “overthrow by force or violence,” “hatred or contempt of, or the exciting of disaffection,” “the destruction of or injury to property” and “acts of terrorism” against the local authorities.[113] Military Order 1651 classifies as a “hostile organization” any “person or any group of persons whose aim it is to harm public security, IDF forces or the public order in Israel or in a held area.”[114]

Military Order 1651 authorizes the army to close a “business” or any other “place which the public or part of it frequents” for periods if it has reason to believe that it is “necessary for the maintenance of sound government, public order and for the security of the Area and the IDF.”[115] The order imposes charges on any person who violates the order, including employees.

Neither the Defense Regulations of 1945 nor Military Order 1651 set out a formal procedure to challenge the designation of an association as unlawful or a decision to close a business. Some notices to shut down organizations offer the entity the opportunity to file an objection with the military commander, but that process is not governed by law. Palestinians can appeal administrative decisions to the High Court of Justice, but the Court has shown great deference over the years to the position of the state or army.[116]

From the beginning of the occupation in June 1967 through July 2019, the Israeli Defense Ministry had classified 411 organizations as “hostile,” “unlawful” or “terrorist” associations.[117] Members of designated organizations can be criminally charged for their membership in or affiliation with the group. Among the organizations so classified are all major Palestinian political parties, including the ruling Fatah party, as well as the Palestine Liberation Organization, a designation that remains in place today despite Israel having signed the Oslo Accords with it in 1993. Israeli authorities have also applied this designation to dozens of charitable organizations and media outlets and used it as a basis to raid their offices, issue closure orders, and carry out arrests.

The Israeli army prosecuted 1,704 people for “membership and activity in an unlawful association” between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2019, according to data it provided Human Rights Watch. Military courts convicted 1,823 people of this offense during this five-year period, including some who were indicted prior to July 1, 2014.[118]

The following three cases illustrate how the Israeli army curtails the right of Palestinians to free association. All three involve Palestinians detained for “membership and activism in an unlawful association” under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations for association with individuals or groups engaged in political or humanitarian activity that Israel deems a security threat. The cases include an artist detained over his links to youth opposed to Palestinian Authority and Israeli army rule (Hafez Omar), a Palestinian parliamentarian over her political activism for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (Khalida Jarrar), and an administrator for an established charity that operates in Gaza over allegations of links to the Hamas authorities there (Najwan Odeh).

Hafez Omar, Ramallah

In the early morning hours of March 13, 2019, Israeli soldiers arrested Hafez Omar, a 36-year-old artist and activist, from his home in Ramallah. His brother Mohammad told Human Rights Watch that Hafez designed posters on Palestinian rights issues, especially as they relate to prisoners, which he posted on Facebook.[119]

Around 2:45 a.m. that day, Mohammad said about 10 soldiers came to his home to inquire about the whereabouts of Hafez, who they said was “wanted” and a “terrorist.” When he declined to tell them, they forced him to accompany them to Hafez’s house, down the street, the location of which they seemed to know. Mohammad said that the soldiers spoke to his brother in private there and then took him into custody.[120]

The Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, which represents Hafez Omar in court, said that authorities held him incommunicado for his first seven days of detention[121] and denied him access to a lawyer for 20 days.[122] It said that Israeli authorities have largely held Omar in a detention center in Ashkelon inside Israel, although it moved him to other locations and renewed his detention several times. Omar told Addameer that his interrogations focused “on his artworks and publications on social media, especially those in support of the rights of Palestinian prisoners.”[123]

Military prosecutors charged Omar with “membership and activism in an unlawful association” under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945 and three offenses under Military Order 1651, according to an April 23 indictment reviewed by Human Rights Watch.[124] The indictment claims that Omar for eight years had been a part of al-Hirak al-Shababi, or Youth Movement, which Israel had banned in 2016 as a “terrorist organization” that “acted under the instructions and funding of [the Lebanese party and military group] Hezbollah and Iran,” according to a statement from then-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.[125]

The indictment, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, includes no details on al-Hirak al-Shababi, and no evidence of any connection between Omar and Hezbollah or Iran. Instead, the indictment highlights Omar’s involvement in several protests in the last eight years, including 2012 and 2013 protests calling for “No to negotiations with Israel. Yes to national unity [between Fatah and Hamas]”; a 2015 march that involved clashes with Israeli forces; a 2016 demonstration over the killing of a Palestinian activist by Israeli security forces; May 2018 protests against the Palestinian Authority’s “sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip”; hunger strikes and a protest tent set-up in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners; and meetings with other alleged Youth Movement members, including at cafes in Ramallah.

The indictment claims Omar joined the Youth Movement on March 15, 2011. On that date, according to press reports, tens of thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, largely youth activists inspired by political upheavals in Egypt and other Arab countries, and without any discernible central organization, took to the streets “demanding an end to political division and the Israeli occupation.”[126] None of the events referenced in the indictment appear to involve violence apart from allegations that he “threw stones at security forces” during several unspecified incidents “over the course of 2015, or around the time.” Mohammad, Hafez’s brother, said that Hafez has no affiliation with any group.[127] Some analysts have questioned whether the Youth Movement mentioned in the indictment ever existed as an organization.[128]

Prosecutors also charged Omar under Military Order 1651 for “provision of shelter” in 2003-2004, more than 15 years ago, to a man accused of involvement in the killing of Israeli civilians, and “throwing objects toward a person or property,” referring to an incident in which Omar allegedly threw stones at the Israeli army during 2015 protests. The charge sheet also includes “contact with an enemy,” in reference to Omar allegedly being in contact on Facebook with a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine activist in Lebanon, who asked Omar to “transfer to him” ashes from the grave of a friend killed in clashes with Israeli forces. The indictment notes that Omar “came into contact” with the activist “knowing he acts for the enemy.”

Charging Omar for his membership in an “illegal organization,” independent of any cognizably criminal acts, violates his right to free association. Raising unsubstantiated allegations of stone throwing from more than three years ago and digging up a 15-year-old event appear aimed to further punish Omar for his opposition to Israeli military rule in the West Bank.

Omar remains in detention, as of publication. Mohammad said he only managed to visit Omar for the first time on October 7 and that no other family member, as of November 17, had been able to do so.[129]

201912MENA_Palestine_photos
Following her release in February 2019 from 20 months in administrative detention without trial or charge, parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar speaks to journalists from the Catholic Church in the West Bank city of Ramallah. © 2019 Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Khalida Jarrar, Ramallah

Israeli authorities held Khalida Jarrar, a 56-year-old Palestinian parliamentarian, between July 2017 and February 2019 in administrative detention without trial or charge, referencing Military Order 1651 and noting that she is a political activist who “is a threat to security of the area,” without further detail.[130] This order came a year after she had spent 14 months in prison after she pled guilty to charges related to her political activism with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a political group that includes a leftist political party and an armed wing that has attacked Israeli soldiers and civilians. Israel has outlawed the group, including the political party, though it continues to conduct political activities, including standing in Palestinian elections. Israeli authorities have not charged Jarrar with involvement in or any links to any armed attack. In 2006, Jarrar won a seat in the Palestinian Legislative Council on a PFLP list.[131] Her PFLP activism includes attending demonstrations, visiting released prisoners, as well as speeches and interviews calling for the release of prisoners.[132]

Jarrar said that Israeli authorities have since 1988 banned her from travel, with the exception of a three-week trip to Amman for medical reasons in 2010.[133]

In August 2014, the Israeli army handed Jarrar a military “supervision order” instructing her to move to Jericho for a period of six months on the grounds that she constituted a “security threat,” based on “intelligence information.”[134] Jarrar refused to relocate, remaining in Ramallah where she lived, and held a sit-in protest at the Palestinian Legislative Council headquarters.

On April 2, 2015, Israeli soldiers raided her home in Ramallah before dawn and arrested her. She told Human Rights Watch that the officer who arrested her told her, “You refused to follow the deportation order to Jericho, so I’m coming to arrest you today.”[135]

Thirteen days after placing her in administrative detention in HaSharon prison in central Israel, the military prosecution simultaneously brought 12 charges against her,[136] none of which involve any direct call to or involvement in violence.[137] In December, prosecutors amended the indictment to focus on only two charges: “membership in an unlawful association” under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945 and “incitement” under Military Order 1651.[138]

Military prosecutors based the incitement charge on a 2012 speech at a PLFP rally. The indictment accuses Jarrar of speaking “against the ‘Israeli occupation’ and preaching for the PFLP to ‘raise its head’ by kidnapping Israeli soldiers for the purpose of negotiation and release of Palestinian prisoners,” while standing in front of a banner that called for kidnapping soldiers.[139] The sentencing decision, however, notes that the prosecution faced “difficulties proving guilt” on the charges against her.[140]

Early in the proceedings, the judge ordered Jarrar’s release on bail, finding that she did not pose a “security threat” and that the charges related to years-old activities. An appellate military court, though, reversed the decision[141] after military prosecutors appealed the release order and warned that they intended to seek an administrative detention order against Jarrar—that is, an order for her detention without trial or criminal charge—in the event the court released her.[142]

Jarrar told Human Rights Watch that the court proceedings lasted eight months, involving more than 30 sessions. Each session would involve her being away from her cell for 20 hours, much of the time “in the bosta [military transport vehicle], with my arms and legs shackled,” with sessions sometimes cancelled after the lengthy trip, she said.

Jarrar ultimately pled guilty to two charges, “membership in an unlawful association” and “incitement,” as part of a plea deal in return for a 15-month sentence and a 10,000 NIS (US$2,800) fine.[143] Her lawyers said she agreed because of her exhaustion from the protracted proceedings, her lack of faith in the military courts, and the risk of a seven-year sentence if she went to trial.[144] Jarrar maintains her innocence of the incitement charge.[145] The Israeli army released her in June 2016 after she had spent more than 14 months in custody.

Detaining Jarrar solely over her political activism with the PFLP, without charging or convicting her for any act of violence, violates her freedom of association. Reliance on the overly vague definition of incitement in the military order makes Jarrar’s prosecution on this charge arbitrary.

Just over a year later, in July 2017, 50 Israeli soldiers rearrested Jarrar at her Ramallah home. This time, they placed her in administration detention without trial or charge. Jarrar said that interrogators again focused on her political activism.

The Israeli army subsequently renewed her administration detention four times, referencing Military Order 1651. It kept the evidence against her secret, following its custom in administrative detention cases, alleging only that Jarrar is a “PFLP activist who is a threat to the security of the area.”[146] Jarrar said that she and her legal team boycotted most hearings on her case. She said the military prosecution in several hearings said her electronic devices were being reviewed.

The army released her on February 28, 2019, after a total of 20 months between HaSharon and Damon prisons, but rearrested her on October 31, 2019. She was still in detention as of publication.

Najwan Odeh, Ramallah

On September 7, 2015 at around 2:30 a.m., more than 50 Israeli soldiers raided the home of Najwan Odeh, 36, in al-Bireh, a town adjacent to Ramallah.[147] Odeh told Human Rights Watch that soldiers searched the house room by room, leaving the house in disarray, and, after she confirmed that she worked with Qatar Charity, they arrested her. Israeli forces arrested two other Qatar Charity employees the same day and two more in May 2016.[148]

Qatar Charity is a Doha-based nongovernmental organization that supports projects ranging from health and water to education and culture in more than 50 countries worldwide.[149] It has partnerships with Doctors Without Borders, the World Food Program, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), among others.[150] Speaking about several organizations including Qatar Charity in January 2017, the spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, said “the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has over the years built strong partnerships with these organizations based on shared humanitarian principles, which are strictly non-political.”[151]

The Israeli army added Qatar Charity to its list of “unlawful associations” in May 2008.[152] In July 2008, the Israeli Defense Ministry declared Qatar Charity and 35 other charities “banned associations in Israel,” without specifying whether the prohibition applied to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, on the basis of allegedly providing support to Hamas.[153] In 2011, Israel’s Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority identified Qatar Charity as one of 163 organizations whose funds they claimed had links to terrorism and prohibited local organizations from receiving money from them.[154]

Odeh, though, told Human Rights Watch that Qatar Charity’s money did not go to Hamas or the Hamas-led government in Gaza, but rather to administrative costs related to Qatar Charity’s office there and to private companies to carry out development projects.[155]

Despite the government ban, Qatar Charity continues to operate in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as it has since 1996. Israel not only did not shut down Qatar Charity’s operations in the West Bank, as it has with other entities it banned, but allowed funding for it into the Gaza Strip as recently as May 2019 for development projects it maintains.[156]

For more than 13 hours after her September 7 arrest, Odeh, who worked for Qatar Charity as the head of administration overseeing human resources, procurement and public relations, said that Israeli forces kept her in a military van handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded.[157] She said she vomited several times and that female soldiers strip-searched her twice.

That night, she arrived at the Kishon detention center in northern Israel, where they strip-searched her again. During the more than two weeks she spent there, Israeli officers from the intelligence services and police repeatedly questioned her about Qatar Charity: its funding, staff members, how they transferred funds to Gaza, the banks they used, and their partner organizations. She said one male interrogator asked her, “You are beautiful, why are you not married yet?”

Eighteen days later, authorities transferred her to HaSharon prison, in Israel. Military prosecutors accused her of “membership and activism in” and “holding office in” an “unlawful association” under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945 for her involvement in Qatar Charity and with “transfer of enemy funds” under Military Order 973 for receiving and transferring money without a permit. Although Israeli military law requires a permit for funding to enter the Occupied Palestinian Territory, this provision is enforced unevenly, including when Israel permitted funding for Qatar Charity to enter Gaza in May 2019. The indictment, reviewed by Human Rights Watch, lists funds coming to and from the charity without allegation of any link between the funding flow and violence, terrorism or Hamas, or any activity undertaken by Odeh outside of her work with Qatar Charity. Two and-a-half months later, authorities moved her to Damon prison in Haifa.

Odeh said she attended about 40 hearings between the Petah Tikva court and Ofer and Salem military courts. At the advice of her lawyer following an agreement with authorities, Odeh pled guilty to membership in an “unlawful association” in return for an 18-month prison sentence—essentially time already served—and a one-year probation conditioned on her not “commit[ing] the offense of which she was convicted,” effectively a ban on returning to her job, and a 100,000 NIS ($28,000) fine. The Ofer military court accepted her plea on February 8, 2017, finding the punishment “reasonable and balanced,” and released her the next day.[158]

By detaining Odeh for her work with an established charity without proving any link to violent or criminal activity, Israel violated Odeh’s right to freedom of association. Odeh said that she is “still looking for answers” about why the Israeli army arrested her and just wants her “life to go back to normal.”

VI. Right to Freedom of Expression

Israeli authorities have arrested scores of activists and ordinary Palestinians for exercising their right to peaceful expression. Military Order 1651 prohibits “attempts, orally or in another manner, to influence public opinion in the Area in a manner which may harm public peace or public order,” classifying such speech as “incitement” that carries a 10-year prison sentence.[159]

In a letter to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli army said that it prosecuted 358 people for “incitement” between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2019 and that military courts convicted 351 of them (98%).[160]

In recent years, Israeli authorities have increasingly focused on what they deem “incitement” on social media platforms, which they say contributed to a wave of stabbings and other violent acts that began in October 2015 and that were carried out by individuals unaffiliated to any known armed group. In July 2018, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told the Associated Press that Israeli authorities had foiled over 200 Palestinian attacks through social media monitoring.[161] He further noted that his ministry had assembled a team to comb through an “ocean of data” on social media and develop predictive algorithms to determine whom to target. The Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer reported 650 arrests for social media posts in 2017 and 2018, on par with numbers reported in the Israeli press.[162]

Israeli authorities, though, have not disclosed how they program their systems to make determinations of who poses a future threat, or how they use these determinations to detain Palestinians. It is also unclear whether or how Israel restricts monitoring to ensure it is strictly necessary and proportionate to achieving a legitimate aim, as required under international human rights law.

The three cases below illustrate how the Israeli army has prosecuted Palestinians for social media activity and other expression. All three involve efforts to characterize as “incitement” or support for terrorism, both of which can connotate cognizable offenses, speech that opposes, and may incite opposition to, Israeli policies, but does not do so in a way that poses any imminent threat of violence, as international law requires. These cases involve Facebook posts and a livestream of an encounter with Israeli soldiers. Two cases involve Palestinian journalists accused of incitement and support for terrorism over their reporting. The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) documented 41 arrests of journalists and two media institutions shuttered by Israeli forces in 2018,[163] and 33 arrests of journalists and 17 media institutions closed in 2017.[164]

In addition to those charged based on specific posts, a military prosecutor interviewed by Haaretz said that social media posts resulted in the administrative detention of scores of Palestinians without trial or charge,[165] which four lawyers who have represented Palestinians in military court system and a legal researcher who has worked on administrative detention affirmed to Human Rights Watch.[166]

As part of its efforts to regulate speech online, Israeli authorities also encouraged Facebook and other social media providers to delete content on their platform. The Israeli police said in a letter to Human Rights Watch that it directly notifies social media companies about posts “only in exceptional circumstances and with respect to serious criminal offenses, but not in cases in which posts do not amount to offenses.” The police noted that it “does not instruct companies to remove posts, but brings posts to their attention and consideration.”[167]

Israel’s Justice Minister said, meanwhile, that the Israeli State Attorney’s Office submitted 12,351 requests to various social media companies in 2017 to “remove content, restrict access and filter search results in respect of forbidden contents.” She noted that 99% of content related to “terrorist activity and support of terrorism” or “incitement to terrorism, racism and violence and also the threat to commit terrorism,” and that social media companies “fully complied” with 85% of its requests and “partially complied” with 3.5%.[168] According to the Ministry of Justice, of the total 12,531 requests, about 11,754 were submitted to Facebook, 517 to YouTube and the remainder to Google, Twitter and others.[169] The State Attorney’s Office reported making 14,283 requests related to social media content in 2018.[170]

In a letter to Human Rights Watch, Facebook explained that it first assesses whether content reported by governments complies with its own Community Standards, which apply globally. When it determines that the content complies with these Standards, it reviews whether the request for removal is legally valid. If the request is “overly broad,” “inconsistent with international norms,” or not valid under local law, it will “request clarification or take no action.”

When it comes to enforcement of Community Standards, Facebook does not provide a geographic breakdown of content it has removed under these Standards, or the proportion of removals that it knows to be linked to a government request. These Standards dictate that Facebook “remove content that glorifies violence or celebrates the suffering or humiliation of others,”[171] as well as “content that expresses support or praise for groups, leaders or individuals involved in [terrorist activity].”[172] It further notes that it does not allow “terrorist organizations and terrorists” to “maintain a presence” on its platform. Facebook also said in its letter that it abides by the US Foreign Terrorist Organization list,[173] which includes political movements that also have armed wings like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Hamas.[174]

In its public reporting on content restrictions in Israel based on local law, Facebook said it restricted access in Israel to 4,451 pieces of content, mostly related to “Holocaust denial,” in response to requests from the Israeli government based on Israeli law for the five-year period between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2019.[175]

201912MENA_Palestine_photos
Nariman Tamimi, right, with her husband Bassem and her daughter Ahed, at an Israeli checkpoint near the village of Nabi Saleh in the central West Bank, on July 29, 2018 following her and Ahed’s release from seven months in prison after they pled guilty to charges following a confrontation between Ahed and a soldier that Nariman livestreamed on Facebook in July 2018.  © 2018 Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Nariman Tamimi, Nabi Saleh

On December 19, 2017, Israeli border police arrested Nariman Tamimi, 43, at the Binyamin police station, in a settlement near Ramallah, where she had gone after Israeli forces arrested her then-16-year-old daughter Ahed during a night raid at their home in Nabi Saleh village, northwest of Ramallah.

Four days earlier, on December 15, an Israeli soldier had fired a rubber-coated bullet that hit the face of, and severely wounded, Nariman’s 15-year-old relative, Muhammad Tamimi, in Nabi Saleh during a protest in the village against US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.[176] Later that day, a confrontation broke out between Israeli soldiers stationed in Nariman’s front yard and Ahed and Nariman’s 21-year-old relative Nour, which Nariman livestreamed on Facebook. The video, showing Ahed pushing and slapping the soldiers, went viral and attracted media attention.

Nariman, formerly a field researcher with the Palestinian rights group Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling and a member of the coordinating committee from the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Nabi Saleh, told Human Rights Watch that she had hoped at the police station to attend the interrogation that she anticipated Ahed would face. Instead, officers took her to a separate room and interrogated her about the video she had livestreamed. She said that because they refused to allow her to speak to her lawyer, she opted not to answer any questions. She said that officers told her that her live filming constituted incitement, since it amounted to “telling people to come and resist the Israeli army in that exact moment,” and that she, too, was under arrest. Interrogators also pressed her regarding her Facebook profile picture, a picture of her brother whom Israeli forces had killed in 2012, telling her that they considered posting pictures of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces as “incitement.”[177] 

After interrogating her for more than three and-a-half hours, officers took Nariman to a room with Ahed, but forbade them to speak with each other, she said. Later that night, soldiers transferred them to HaSharon Prison, inside Israel, where they arrived around midnight, and separated them in the prison.[178]

On December 20, the Israeli army also arrested Nour Tamimi. Following the arrests, Israel’s then-Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that the Tamimis “should finish their lives in prison,”[179] and then-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called for “severe” punishment “to serve as a deterrent” for others.[180]

Officers interrogated Nariman three other times, each time returning to her “incitement.” She said they also asked her about her Facebook posts, some dating as far back as seven years, of Palestinians who carried out attacks against Israelis or were killed by Israeli forces. She recalled one instance where they asked about a 2017 post in which she shared a screenshot of a post by a girl killed by Israeli forces as she tried to carry out a stabbing attack.[181] The girl had written, “Rise up and martyr yourself, oh God, rise up and carry out operations,” to which Nariman posted the comment, “These are the words of the martyr Fatima [Hajaj]. She couldn’t betray those in the resistance, so she responded in her own way.”[182]

On January 1, 2018, Ofer military court charged Nariman with “aggravated assault of a soldier,” “interference with a soldier,” and multiple counts of “incitement” under Military Order 1651, based on the December 15 events, according to the original indictment reviewed by Human Rights Watch. The first two counts allege that Nariman “shout[ed at] and push[ed] the two soldiers.” Nariman denies this accusation, stating that she filmed the entire encounter on her phone. To substantiate one of the incitement counts, the original indictment highlights her livestreaming the event on her Facebook page, claiming Nariman “attempted to influence public opinion in the Area in a manner that may harm public order and safety and made a direct call to commit terrorist attacks.” The video footage, reviewed by Human Rights Watch, involves no such call or use of violence by Nariman.[183] The indictment also does not quote anything that Nariman herself said during the livestream, but notes that it was “viewed by thousands of users, shared by dozens of users, received dozens of responses and many dozens of likes.”[184]

The indictment also includes a charge of “offenses against public order” for Nariman’s actions during an army raid near her house on December 8, stating that in her livestream event, she called on Ahed during an encounter with soldiers at their house to “not let them in,” “kick them out,” and “call the boys and tell them they came up through here,” and remarked after the soldiers left that “the boys saw them” and “the stones are coming at them.” The livestream, reviewed by Human Rights Watch, does show Nariman making these statements. The indictment also alleges that, on the same day, Nariman spat on a soldier, which the video appears to also show. It also charges her with “incitement” over three Facebook posts from between May 7 and June 17, 2017, including the post about Fatima Hajaj, a picture of a man holding stones with her comment calling him a martyr and saying “Rejoice, for you have sacrificed your soul for them,” and a post about an attack that killed a soldier and three Palestinian assailants, proclaiming “[t]he three died as lions.”

Prosecutors also charged Ahed with 12 accounts of “threatening a soldier,” “aggravated assault of a soldier,” “interference with a soldier,” “offences against public order,” “throwing objects at a person or property,” and “incitement.” The court refused to release her on bail.[185] The prosecutors charged Nour Tamimi with “aggravated assault of a soldier” and “interference with a soldier.” The court ordered her released on 5,000 NIS (US $1,450) bail on January 5, 2018.

On March 21, 2018, Nariman agreed to plead guilty to a subset of charges under a revised indictment, one that included incitement based solely on the December 15 Facebook livestream, “aiding in the assault of a soldier” over the December 15 events and “interference with a soldier” based on the December 8 livestream. The court sentenced her to nine months in prison, including the four months she had already served, and to pay a 5,000 NIS (US $1,450) fine.

Ahed, meanwhile, agreed to a guilty plea, whereby she would serve eight months in prison, including the four months she had already served, and to pay the same fine. Nariman told Human Rights Watch that she agreed to this plea deal because she faced multiple years in prison “when all I did was take a video.”[186]

The court agreed for Nariman to pay another 1,000 NIS (US$280) in lieu of serving an extra month’s sentence so she and Ahed could be released on the same day. On July 29, 2018, Israeli forces released both.

Some of Nariman’s Facebook posts comment favorably on Palestinians who have violently attacked Israelis. However, this commentary does not constitute incitement to imminent violence. In any event, in the revised indictment, military prosecutors dropped the incitement charges based on Facebook posts and retained only those stemming from the livestream. The context and form of the livestream make clear that it does not come close to constituting incitement to violence and, in any event, the charges did not specify which words in particular amounted to incitement.

Alaa al-Rimawi, Ramallah

In the early morning of July 30, 2018, Israeli soldiers arrested from his home Alaa al-Rimawi, the 40-year-old director in the West Bank of al-Quds TV Channel, which is considered pro-Hamas. The same night, Israeli forces arrested three other Al Quds TV journalists, Muhammad Alwan and Qutaiba Hamdan from their homes in Ramallah, and photographer Housni Injas in his village Kharbatha al-Misbah, west of Ramallah.[187] They also arrested two other journalists: Mohammad Anwar Mouna, who works with a different outlet considered sympathetic to Hamas, and also manages a local radio station, and Lama Khater, a freelancer.[188]

Earlier that month, on July 8, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had announced a ban on Al Quds Channel, which is licensed in London and headquartered in Beirut, with offices in Turkey, Jordan and France, from operating in Israel, although he never announced a ban on its operations in the West Bank. He declared that “the al-Quds station is a propaganda wing of Hamas, representing a central platform for distributing the terrorist organization’s messages,” according to a Defense Ministry statement.[189] 

The channel works with local production companies, sometimes relying on them for content, facilities, studios and camera crews. Less than a year earlier, in October 2017, the Israeli army had raided the offices of one such company, PalMedia, and issued a closure order, claiming it engaged in “incitement to terror,” which the army said “leads directly to terror attacks.”[190] On July 8, 2018, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA) reported that Israeli authorities summoned several members of another production company inside Israel for questioning and instructed them to end collaboration with Al Quds.[191] The lawyer for the production company told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the ban announced by the Defense Ministry applied only inside Israel and would not stop them from broadcasting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.[192] Al-Rimawi’s lawyer, Nasser al-Nubani, told Human Rights Watch that the army never publicly announced or posted notice on its website of a ban on the channel operating in the West Bank.[193]

On July 30, 2018 ,more than 20 soldiers raided al-Rimawi’s home at around 3:00 am, while another 30 to 40 soldiers surrounded the building, he told Human Rights Watch. The soldiers searched his home, confiscating his work car, cameras, laptops, and press card. The soldiers caused a commotion that frightened his five children, he said. The soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed him and took him into custody.

Israeli soldiers transferred al-Rimawi to the Ofer Interrogation Center near Ramallah and, after leaving him for about six hours without questioning him, an officer who introduced himself as being from the Shabak, the Israeli Security Agency (or Shin Bet), told al-Rimawi that they had arrested him for his work with “a channel that incites.” The officer brought hundreds of photos, some aerial, of al-Rimawi working in the field and said that he worked with a “banned” outlet.[194]

Al-Rimawi said that Israeli officers interrogated him over seven sessions, some lasting up to six hours. In addition to questions about Al Quds’ legal status, officers probed possible links to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Iran. They also asked him about his Facebook posts, in particular fixating on his use of the word “martyrs” when referring to Palestinians killed by Israel and of the word “raids” when referring to incidents where the Israeli army entered the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. The interrogator then showed him an Al Quds TV news segment on Ahmed Jarrar, who was accused of shooting an Israeli settler and was himself killed by Israeli forces in February 2018. [195] Interrogators accused the channel of “glorifying” and “praising” Jarrar. Al-Rimawi said he objected, pointing out that the report included the Israeli official point of view that Jarrar was a “terrorist.” His last two interrogation sessions focused on the Fatah-Hamas split and the political situation in the West Bank and Gaza, al-Rimawi said.

Al-Rimawi, who declared a hunger strike upon his arrest and maintained it for nine days, said he appeared on August 2 along with his colleagues before the Ofer military court, which extended their detention for a week.[196] Court documents reviewed by Human Rights Watch indicate that prosecutors were investigating a possible charge of involvement in an “unlawful association” under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945.[197] On August 9, the court ordered al-Rimawi and his colleagues released, but the prosecution appealed and an appellate military court permitted a seven-day extension of al-Rimawi’s detention while upholding the release of his colleagues.[198]

On August 15, a judge ordered al-Rimawi’s release on bail on grounds that “it was doubtful whether the al-Quds channel, managed by the Respondent, could be connected, as alleged, to the Hamas organization” and that al-Rimawi “did not know, on the relevant date, that the channel had been declared an unlawful association.”[199] The military prosecution appealed the decision, according to al-Rimawi and court documents reviewed by Human Rights Watch.

On August 20, an appellate military court ordered al-Rimawi’s release on 10,000 NIS(US$2,800) bail, saying that “the declaration of the channel as an unlawful association was not properly published,” while encouraging further “examination” into the unlawful association charge. The judge further conditioned his release on a two-month ban on “publication of content on social or any other communication network, including broadcasting, publishing, editing and creating content aforesaid,” a prohibition on leaving Ramallah without the court’s approval, and attendance at court hearings, according to court documents reviewed by Human Rights Watch. Al-Rimawi said the prohibition on leaving Ramallah lasted one year. An officer further warned al-Rimawi not to speak about his arrest or to give any media interviews or statements about it,” al-Rimawi said. The Israeli army released al-Rimawi that night.[200] 

On December 31, 2018, Israeli soldiers raided al-Rimawi’s home again, confiscated his laptop, three phones and 7,000 NIS (US$1,960) in cash, he told Human Rights Watch.[201] In mid-January 2019, prosecutors closed the case against al-Rimawi without bringing formal charges. The Israeli army returned some of al-Rimawi’s equipment badly damaged, he said. He said they have yet to return his 10,000 NIS (US$2,800) bail.[202]

Al-Rimawi’s arrest and the confiscation of his equipment on the grounds of his affiliation with a pro-Hamas media outlet, without providing evidence that his speech constituted incitement to imminent violence, violates his right to freedom of association and expression, even if, in the end, a military court exonerated him.

Manbar al-Huriyya Radio, Hebron

On August 30, 2017, the Israeli army raided Manbar al-Huriyya Radio, affiliated with the Fatah political party, in Hebron and issued a six-month closure order. Citing Military Order 1651 and the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, the order, reviewed by Human Rights Watch, claims that the station “carried out operations and contributed to the incitement of terror attacks that affect security.” A notice attached to the order and dated August 21 states that businesses must refrain from “extend[ing] a hand in support of terrorism,” but neither the order nor the notice includes any details about the materials or acts that constitutes incitement.[203]

The radio station’s chairman, Ayman al-Qawasme, told Human Rights Watch that authorities never provided station staff with further details. He said that Israeli forces had raided the station four prior times, often causing damage and confiscating equipment or money.[204] The army’s closure of the station on multiple occasions on the basis of sweeping allegations — without any judicial process or producing evidence to substantiate the claims violates the rights of the staff to freedom of expression and association.

During the August 30 raid, al-Qawasme said, soldiers damaged furniture and other items, and confiscated equipment, including transmitters, cameras, computers and telephones. Al-Qawasme estimated the monetary damage at between US$400,000 and $500,000. As they left, soldiers sealed the door of the station to prevent staff from entering.[205]

The next day, al-Qawasme appeared in a video, reviewed by Human Rights Watch, in which he rejected the charges and “challenge[d] the Israeli occupation to come and prove where this terrorism, where this incitement is.”[206] He further criticized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and then-Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah for failing to protect Palestinians in areas they control and calling for their resignation. Several days later, the PA Preventive Security agency in Hebron arrested him, holding him for four days and charging him with causing “sectarian strife.”[207]

On February 14, 2018, the station resumed operations after the closure order expired. However, as of October 2019, the Israeli army had not returned the confiscated equipment.[208]

Recommendations

To the State of Israel

  • Grant Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank full protection of the rights guaranteed to all people under international human rights law, using as a benchmark the rights it grants Israeli citizens, as well as the protections they are owed under international humanitarian law.
  • Accept the applicability of international human rights treaties and law to the Occupied Palestinian Territory in subsequent reviews before United Nations treaty bodies.
  • Deposit a note with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights clarifying that it considers that the Convention applies to its actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

To states & international organizations

  • Demand that Israel grant Palestinians full protection of all their human rights, using as a benchmark the rights it grants Israeli citizens, and use international human rights law and standards, in addition to the protections afforded by international humanitarian law, as a primary basis to evaluate Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
  • Highlight the impact of restrictive Israeli military orders on Palestinians in the West Bank through a civil rights framework.
  • Consider including calls for Israel to grant Palestinians civil rights at least equal to those it grants its own citizens in publications, reports and policy positions and to assess Israel’s conduct on this basis.

To the Israeli army

  • Cease arresting and detaining people for their nonviolent exercise of their rights to free assembly, association and expression.
  • Repeal Military Orders 101 and 1651 and refrain from imposing any new criminal regulations unless the offenses are defined in a clear, narrow, and specific manner and are consistent with international human rights law.
  • Monitor, aggregate, store, or search online speech only when a clear, specific, publicly available legal basis for such activities exists, and ensure that individuals have sufficient information about these activities to seek redress for abuses. Restrict such activities to what is strictly necessary and proportionate for achieving a legitimate aim.    
  • Provide information about any criteria used to analyze individuals’ social media posts and other online activities.

To Israeli military prosecutors

  • Stop charging persons under the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945; if there are grounds to suspect them of committing a recognizable offense, charge them under regulations that are clear, narrow and specific and consistent with international human rights law.

To the Israeli Knesset

  • Enact legislation compelling law enforcement and intelligence bodies to disclose information about their use of social media monitoring, including the types of information collected by these methods, how such information is analyzed to make determinations about an individual’s likelihood of committing violence, and the safeguards in place (if any) to prevent or mitigate inaccurate determinations (for example, information about how the authorities corroborate these determinations).  
  • Enact legislation restricting the ability of law enforcement and intelligence bodies to gather, store, and data-mine social media accounts without a warrant or in an insecure or discriminatory manner.

To social media companies and internet service providers

  • Scrutinize and disclose the susceptibility of platforms and users’ online speech to indiscriminate or otherwise potentially rights-violating monitoring or aggregation by governments, and create rights protections accordingly.
  • Review government requests to restrict user content, including from Israeli and Palestinian authorities, for compliance with domestic law and international human rights law, and take steps to prevent or mitigate the impact of these requests on the exercise of freedom of expression and the right to privacy. 
  • Allow individuals who face risk of reprisal for their peaceful expression on social media to use pseudonyms on your platforms.

Acknowledgements

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, was the lead researcher and author of this report. Zena Al Tahhan, research assistant for the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Anan AbuShanab, former research assistant for the West Bank, Emilie Max, consultant for Human Rights Watch, and Khulood Badawi, Israel and East Jerusalem consultant at Human Rights Watch, contributed research and writing.

Sari Bashi, former Israel and Palestine Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch, and Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, led the development of the legal analysis underpinning the report. Eric Goldstein, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, served as the report’s primary editor and Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor at Human Rights Watch, provided legal review.

Tom Porteous, Deputy Program Director at Human Rights Watch, Bill Van Esveld, Associate Director in Human Rights Watch’s Children’s Rights Division, Amos Toh, senior researcher on artificial intelligence and human rights at Human Rights Watch, and Sarah St. Vincent, former researcher and advocate on national security, surveillance, and domestic law enforcement for the US program at Human Rights Watch, also edited the report.

Remy Arthur, photo and publications associate at Human Rights Watch, helped prepare the report for publication. Maya Johnston assisted with translating military courts documents into English, and Maya Johnston and Shirly Eran translated the report into Hebrew. Abeer al-Masri, research assistant for the Gaza Strip, reviewed the Arabic translation of the report.

Amanda Bailly developed the script for the accompanying multimedia piece and Raed Khoury of Top Shot Production conducted the filming. Omar al-Fotihi and Sakae Ishikawa, multimedia producers at Human Rights Watch, oversaw multimedia production.

We would also like to thank Sahar Francis, Gaby Lasky, Amnon Brownfield Stein, Jonathan Pollak, Michael Sfard and Karin Hibler for their legal insights and time.

Most importantly, we wish to thank the men and women who were detained and courageously shared their stories with us.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Middle East, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human Rights, West BankComments Off on Palestine: Nazi regime and Palestinians Equal Rights

US announces more support for ‘heroic’ White Helmets in Syria

RT

The Trump administration is doubling down on backing the White Helmets, the self-proclaimed civil defense group with often controversial activity in militant-held areas of Syria, pledging a $5 million donation at a conference.

The contribution was announced by ambassador James Jeffrey, US special envoy to the anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) coalition, at the third Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, held in Brussels.

The $5 million will fund both the “vital, life-saving operations” by the White Helmets and the work of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), a UN body created in late 2016 to investigate – but not prosecute – alleged atrocities in Syria after 2011.

As justification for the support, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino claimed the “heroic first responders” of the White Helmets have saved “more than 114,000” lives since the Syrian conflict began, including victims of “vicious chemical weapons attacks” the US is blaming on the Syrian government. Palladino’s statement, however, acknowledged that the group operates solely “in areas outside of the control of the regime.”

Though the Trump administration announced it would stop funding the White Helmets back in May 2018, it reversed course just a month later, sending $6.8 million to the group.

The Syrian government has repeatedly accused the White Helmets of being part of various Islamist rebel groups, while Russia has accused the group of staging alleged chemical attacks in order to provide pretexts for US military intervention in Syria.

Evidence of White Helmet involvement with anti-government militants and other abuses, such as organ harvesting and endangering children, was presented to the UN in December.

See also:

White Helmets stealing children for ‘chemical attack’ theater in Idlib

Related

Trump approves $4.5 million in aid to ‘White Helmets’ in SyriaIn “Deception”

Media ignores explosives revelations about chemical weapons in SyriaIn “Mainstream Media, Warmongering”

Israel’s Terrorists: The White Helmets Receive an AwardIn “Deception”

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on US announces more support for ‘heroic’ White Helmets in Syria

15 Palestinian detainees from Nazi occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

FB_IMG_1578206382451

Nazi Occupied Palestine:The Nazi occupation police launched a massive arrest campaign today, Sunday, among young men in the village of Issawiya, northeast of Nazi illegally occupied Jerusalem, in addition to the arrest of others from the occupied West Bank by the occupation army forces.

The young man, Anwar Obeid Al- Quds News , reported that the occupation police and intelligence stormed the village at dawn, and raided and searched dozens of houses and destroyed them.

He added that the occupation forces withdrew after the arrest of the youths: Ghassan Alyan, Wasim Obaid, Firas Tariq Mustafa, Maree Derbas, Haitham Mustafa, Dawoud Alyan, Akram Atiya, Wissam Abu Al-Homs, Omran Mustafa, Muhammad Jamal Awad.

He referred to the handing of 51-year-old Abdul Hussein Alyan to summoning him for interrogation.

In the Nazi occupied West Bank, the occupation army arrested four Palestinians from the Hebron Governorate, who are: Miqdad Al-Qawasmi, Noureddine Annan Al-Qadi, the freed prisoner Khaled Ghanimat and Noureddine Haddoush.

From Qalqilya, the young occupation army arrested Husam Mahmoud Al-Hajj Hassan (19 years), after they raided and searched his house.

Weather: Cold and rainy weather

Islam is the fastest-growing religion in England

A Palestinian child was killed by shooting in Ramle

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on 15 Palestinian detainees from Nazi occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank

The head of the B H R Forum: Trump’s hinting of targeting cultural goals in Iran reminds us of ISIS crimes

The head of the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights, Baqir Darwish

The head of the Bahrain Human Rights Forum, Baqer Darwish, considered that Trump’s hinting violation of Article 16 of the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions on Armed Conflict by targeting “cultural targets” in Iran and committing a war crime, reminds us of what ISIS did after the fall of Mosul, where it looted and destroyed at least 28 historical and cultural buildings.

Posted in USA, BahrainComments Off on The head of the B H R Forum: Trump’s hinting of targeting cultural goals in Iran reminds us of ISIS crimes

Syria: OPCW-DOUMA – Release Part 4

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Today WikiLeaks releases more internal documents from the OPCW regarding the investigation into the alleged chemical attack in Douma in April 2018.

One of the documents is an e-mail exchange dated 27 and 28 February between members of the fact finding mission (FFM) deployed to Douma and the senior officials of the OPCW. It includes an e-mail from Sebastien Braha, Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, where he instructs that an engineering report from Ian Henderson should be removed from the secure registry of the organisation:

“Please get this document out of DRA [Documents Registry Archive]… And please remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever in DRA”.

The main finding of Henderson, who inspected the sites in Douma and two cylinders that were found on the site of the alleged attack, was that they were more likely manually placed there than dropped from a plane or helicopter from considerable heights. His findings were omitted from the official final OPCW report on the Douma incident.

Another document released today is minutes from a meeting on 6 June 2018 where four staff members of the OPCW had discussions with “three Toxicologists/Clinical pharmacologists, one bioanalytical and toxicological chemist” (all specialists in chemical weapons, according to the minutes).

The purpose of this meeting was two-fold. The first objective was

“To solicit expert advice on the value of exhuming suspected victims of the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018”. According to the minutes, the OPCW team was advised by the experts that there would be little use in conducting exhumations. The second point was “To elicit expert opinions from the forensic toxicologists regarding the observed and reported symptoms of the alleged victims.”

More specifically,

“…whether the symptoms observed in victims were consistent with exposure to chlorine or other reactive chlorine gas.”

According to the minutes leaked today: “With respect to the consistency of the observed and reported symptoms of the alleged victims with possible exposure to chlorine gas or similar, the experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure”.

The OPCW team members wrote that the key “take-away message” from the meeting was

“that the symptoms observed were inconsistent with exposure to chlorine and no other obvious candidate chemical causing the symptoms could be identified”.

The third document is a copy of OPCW e-mail exchanges from 20 to 28 August 2018 discussing the meeting with the toxicologists.

The fourth document is an e-mail exchange from the end of July 2018 where it is stated that the eight OPCW inspectors deployed to Douma during the fact finding mission (except one, a paramedic) should be excluded from discussions on the project.

Leaked Documents

correctly_redacted_emails_re_toxicology_minutesactual_toxicology_meeting_redactedexclusion_of_douma_ffm_team_july_2018removal_of_engineering_report_februar_2018

OPCW-DOUMA – Release Part 3

14 December, 2019

Today WikiLeaks releases more documents showing internal disagreement within the OPCW about how facts were misrepresented in a redacted version of a report on an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria in April 2018.

Amongst these is a memorandum written in protest by one of the scientists sent on a fact finding mission (FFM) to investigate the attack. It is dated 14 March 2019 and is addressed to Fernando Arias, Director General of the organisation. This was exactly two weeks after the organisation published its final report on the Douma investigation.

WikiLeaks is also releasing the original preliminary report for the first time along with the redacted version (that was released by the OPCW) for comparison. Additionally, we are publishing a detailed comparison of the original interim report with the redacted interim report and the final report along with relevant comments from a member of the original fact finding mission. These documents should help clarify the series of changes that the report went through, which skewed the facts and introduced bias according to statements made by the members of the FFM.

The aforementioned memo states that around 20 inspectors have expressed concerns over the final FFM report, which they feel “did not reflect the views of the team members that deployed to Douma”. Only one member of the fact finding team that went to Douma, a paramedic, is said to have contributed to the final version of the report. Apart from that one person, an entirely new team was gathered to assemble the final report, referred to as the “FFM core team”.

This new team was staffed with people who “had only operated in country X”, according to the memorandum. It is not clear what country that refers to, except that it is presumably not Syria. It is possible, though only speculation, that country X refers to Turkey, as OPCW has sent teams into refugee camps there to interview survivors from Douma.

The author of the memorandum states that he was the one originally tasked with analysis and assessment of the two cylinders found on the scene of the alleged chemical attack. This was a task he undertook “in the understanding [he] was clearly the most qualified team member, having been to the location in Douma and because of [his] expertise in metallurgy, chemical engineering (including pressure vessel design), artillery and Defence R&D”. He continues: “In subsequent weeks I found that I was being excluded from the work, for reasons not made clear”.

The author explains that he had frequently asked to be updated on the progress of the final report and to be allowed to review the draft, but was turned down on both counts. “The response was utmost secrecy”.

Once the final report was released on the 1st of March 2019, it became clear that the conclusions of the report had changed significantly in the hands of the new “core” team that assembled it into its final form: “At the conclusion of the in-country activities in the Syrian Arab Republic, the consensus within the FFM team was that there were indications of serious inconsistencies in findings. After the exclusion of all team members other than a small cadre of members who had deployed (and deployed again in October 2018) to Country X, the conclusion seems to have turned completely in the opposite direction. The FFM team members find this confusing, and are concerned to know how this occurred.”

Towards the end of the memo he writes:

“In conclusion, I must stress that I hold no opinion, interest or strong views on the technical part of the matter, nor any interest in the political outcomes. My interest is in sound technical rigour; the science, engineering and facts will speak for themselves.”

WikiLeaks is releasing supporting documents that back up these claims in great technical detail, including the original interim report and appraisal of the changes each iteration went through.

Leaked Documents

FirstdraftInterimReportDG-memo1May-20-2019-email_raising_concernsRedactedInterimReportOmission_of_ppb_levels_in_Interim_R_on_6-JulySee more

Internal OPCW E-Mail

23 November, 2019

OPCW management accused of doctoring Syrian chemical weapons report

Wikileaks today publishes an e-mail, sent by a member of an OPCW fact-finding mission to Syria to his superiors, in which he expresses his gravest concern over intentional bias introduced to a redacted version of the report he co-authored.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons sent a team of experts to investigate allegations that a chemical attack took place in the Syrian city of Douma on the 7th of April 2018. The author of the e-mail was a member of that team and claims the redacted preliminary version of the report, misrepresents the facts he and his colleagues discovered on the ground. The e-mail is dated 22nd of June. It is addressed to Robert Fairweather, Chief of Cabinet, and forwarded to his deputy Aamir Shouket and members of the fact-finding mission to Douma.

He says this misrepresentation was achieved by selective omission, introducing a bias which undermines the credibility of the report. Further it is claimed that crucial facts, that have remained in the redacted version:

“…have morphed into something quite different to what was originally drafted.”

This is said to have been done at the behest of the Office of the Director General (a post that was held by Turkish diplomat Ahmet Üzümcü at the time, he has since been replaced by Spaniard Fernando Arias).

The attack in question was widely attributed to the Syrian Army, based on reports by rebel forces that were present in Douma at the time, and this assertion was backed up by the United States, British and French governments. These three countries carried out air strikes against Syrian government targets in response, on the 14th of April 2018. This was before the fact-finding team had gained access to the site in Douma, the mission there was delayed for nearly two weeks by entrenched rebel fighters and subsequent clashes between the rebels and government forces that moved into the area.

Upon arrival the team found much of the physical evidence, including the bodies of the deceased, was no longer available. It was alleged that 49 had died and up to 650 had been seriously affected by a weaponized chemical gas released in a specific area of rebel-held Douma on that day in April. Rebels claimed the gas came from cylinders dropped from aircraft, clearly implicating Syrian government forces who had complete air superiority.

The redacted report seemed to support these conclusions but the author of the released e-mail outlines some specific aspects of it which he considers: “particularly worrisome.”

Firstly, there is a statement in the redacted report. It states that there is sufficient evidence to determine the presence of “chlorine, or another reactive chlorine-containing chemical.”

The e-mail points out that this was:

“likely one or more chemicals that contain a reactive chlorine atom. Such chemicals could include… the major ingredient of household chlorine-based bleach. Purposely singling out chlorine gas as one of the possibilities is disingenuous.”

The redacted report also removed context from a claim in the original draft, which concerned the likelihood of the gas having emanated from cylinders found at the scene in Douma. The original text is said to have purposely emphasised that there was insufficient evidence to affirm this being the case. This is “a major deviation from the original report” according to the author.

He also cites problems with paragraph in the redacted version, which states:

”based on the high levels of various chlorinated organic derivatives detected in environmental samples”.

This is said to overstate the case. According to the e-mail:

“They were, in most cases, present only in parts per billion range, as low as 1-2 ppb, which is essentially trace quantities.”

One piece of evidence, which was shown on news networks across the world, was a video said to show victims being treated in a hospital in the aftermath of the attack in Douma. The symptoms shown were, however, not consistent with what witnesses reported seeing that day. A detailed discussion of this was apparently omitted from the redacted version of the OPCW report.

The e-mail states:

“Omitting this section of the report (including the Epidemiology which has been removed in its entirety) has a serious negative impact on the report as this section is inextricably linked to the chemical agent identified… In this case, the confidence in the identity of chlorine or any other choking agent is drawn into question precisely because of the inconsistency with the reported and observed symptoms. The inconsistency was not only noted by the fact-finding mission team, but strongly supported by three toxicologists with expertise in exposure to chemical warfare agents.”

Yet another point of contention is the placement and condition of the cylinders reported to have contained the chemical agent. It has been alleged that their condition may not be consistent with having been dropped from the air, compared to damaged in the immediate surrounding area. This was discussed in an unreleased engineering report from OPCW that was leaked and Wikileaks published in October 2019 and indicates it is unlikely the cylinders were air-dropped (see previous release: OPCW Whistleblower Panel on the Douma attack of April 2018)

Sections discussing this are largely absent from the redacted report. “This information was important in assessing the likelihood of the ‘presence’ of toxic chemicals versus the ‘use’ of toxic chemicals,” states the e-mail.

The author ends his letter with an appeal to the management to allow him to attach his differing observations to the document.

The annual conference of the states parties of the OPCW that is composed of representatives of all member states of the convention starts Monday November 25th in The Hague.

Media partnership and coordination: La Repubblica (Italy), Stundin (Iceland), Der Spiegel (Germany), Mail on Sunday (U.K.)

Leaked Documents

Internal OPCW E-Mail

OPCW Whistleblower Panel on the Douma attack of April 2018

23 October, 2019

Today WikiLeaks publishes a statement made by a panel that listened to testimony and reviewed evidence from a whistleblower from the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) last week. To accompany this statement, Wikileaks is also publishing a previously leaked engineering assessment of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria on April 7th last year. This assessment was omitted in the final report by the OPCW, which does not support its findings.

WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson took part in the panel to review the testimony and documents from the OPCW whistleblower. He says: “The panel was presented with evidence that casts doubt on the integrity of the OPCW. Although the whistleblower was not ready to step forward and/or present documents to the public, WikiLeaks believes it is now of utmost interest for the public to see everything that was collected by the Fact Finding Mission on Douma and all scientific reports written in relation to the investigation.

We call out to people within the OPCW to leak these documents securely to us via wikileaks.org/#submit” One of the panel members was Dr José Bustani, the first Director-General of the OPCW, who concluded that: “The convincing evidence of irregular behaviour in the OPCW investigation of the alleged Douma chemical attack confirms doubts and suspicions I already had. I could make no sense of what I was reading in the international press. Even official reports of investigations seemed incoherent at best. The picture is certainly clearer now, although very disturbing”

In support of the OPCW’s original objectives, the panel called upon the organisation to re-establish its credibility and legitimacy by allowing ‘all inspectors who took part in the Douma investigation to come forward and report their differing observations in an appropriate forum of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention’

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Syria: OPCW-DOUMA – Release Part 4

US President Trump sends scathing threat to Iran about retaliation for Soleimani

By: News Desk 

U.S. President Donald Trump responded to the Iranian leadership’s threats to retaliate following the assassination of the Quds Force commander Major-General Qassem Soleimani.

Using his official Twitter account, Trump threatened to hit Iran “VERY FAST AND VERY HARD” if they attempt to avenge Soleimani’s death.

“Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently….”

Trump then accused Soleimani of killing hundreds of Iranian protesters and carrying out the atack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

“….hundreds of Iranian protesters. He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years. Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have…..”

The U.S. President then vowed to target 52 Iranian sites that are important to the country, including its culture.

“….targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”

These latest threats come just a few days after he ordered the assassination of Soleimani in Baghdad.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on US President Trump sends scathing threat to Iran about retaliation for Soleimani

This American Died for Our Lies in Afghanistan

Foreign Service officer Anne Smedinghoff was sent to the country to show how we were “winning.” She never came home.

By Peter Van Buren

Global Research,

It’s common this time of year to write summary articles trying to make sense of the last 12 months; you’ll soon see them popping up everywhere. But all of them will omit one of the most important stories of the year. For the first time in some two decades, America hasn’t started a new war.

A total of 6,857 American service members have died in war since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. George W. Bush began that war, then invaded Iraq in 2003. Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, then immediately expanded the war in Afghanistan. He went on to restart America’s war in Iraq after it was over the first time, launch a new war that turned Libya into a failed state and triggered refugee flows still disrupting European politics, engage the U.S. in Yemen, and abet a humanitarian crisis in Syria. So three full years without a new war is news indeed.

This year also brought mainstream confirmation of the truth behind the Afghan war. The Washington Post, long an advocate for all the wars everywhere, took a tiny step of penance in publishing the Afghanistan Papers, which show that the American public has been lied to every step of the way over the past 18 years about progress in Afghanistan and the possibility of some sort of success. Government officials from the president(s) to the grunt(s) issued positive statements they knew to be false while hiding evidence that the war was unwinnable. The so-called Afghanistan Papers are actually thousands of pages of notes created by the Special Inspector for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog federal agency created to oversee the spending of close to $1 trillion in reconstruction money.

The SIGAR documents (all quotes are from the Post‘s Afghanistan Papers reporting) are blunt.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan—we didn’t know what we were doing,” said Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking. …If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction, 2,400 lives lost. Who will say this was in vain?”

There are plenty of similar sentiments going back a decade, with hints of the same almost to the first months of the conflict. Dead men tell no tales, they say, but the record of lies is as stark, final, and unambiguous as the death toll itself.

But Afghanistan was always supposed to be more than a “kinetic” war. The real battles were for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, with money as the weapon. One of the core lies told to the public, and on the ground in Afghanistan, was that a large portion of the reconstruction money would be spent on education. “We were building schools next to empty schools, and it just didn’t make sense,” a Special Forces officer explained. “The local Afghans said they wanted their kids out herding goats.” Sure, people have to eat, but America would create an Afghan democracy from the primeval mud, with cluster bombs as its Adam, and schools for boys and girls as its Eve.The Afghanistan Papers Confirm America’s Longest War Is a Lie

And it is on that bruised prayer of a lie that Anne Smedinghoff, the only State Department Foreign Service Officer to lose a life in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, died one April morning in 2013 long after the Afghanistan Papers show her bosses in Washington knew the war was unwinnable.

This is what all those lies translated to on the ground. Anne was a diplomat, just 25 years old, assigned by the State Department to create good press in Afghanistan so the people at home could see we were winning. It was a hard fight, her work was supposed to show, but the sacrifices were worth it because we were accomplishing thisThis, in the very specific case that destroyed Anne, was handing out unneeded books in front of an unused school building to Afghans who lacked clean water 12 years into America’s longest war so she and (important) more senior people could be photographed doing so. Inside the Beltway, this was called a “happy snap,” photos of Americans doing good with (albeit always in the background) smiling Afghans lapping it up. Yet through a series of grossly preventable micro-errors in security nested like Russian dolls inside the macro-error of what Anne or any American was doing in rural Zabul, Anne’s body was riddled by jagged fragments of steel from an IED.

The school where Anne was killed was “built” by the U.S. in October 2009, only to enjoy a $135,000 “renovation” a few months later that included “foundation work, installation of new windows and doors, interior and exterior paint, electricity and a garden.” The original contractor did miserable work but got away with it in the we’ll-check-later Potemkin world of the Afghanistan Papers. The Army noted as the school opened that “the many smiles on the faces of both men and women showed all were filled with joy and excitement during this special occasion.” That the Afghans in the area likely needed sewage processing to lower infant mortality levels was irrelevant.

The limited official reporting on what happened to Anne bungled most of the details. State clung (as they later did with Benghazi) to the weak tea that the “cause” of Anne’s death was the actions of the bad guys—anything we did up to our very presence on the ground was treated as a kind of minor detail. The desire not to look too deep was underscored by then-secretary of state John Kerry, who said that Anne “tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future,” and enjoined the media into blending Anne’s death into what the entire world now knows was the fake narrative Anne herself died trying to create.

Kerry is an easy target because of his Vietnam-era protests, including his famous statement to Congress in 1971 about that war: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” To the State Department, what mattered in the life and then death of Anne Smedinghoff was never such a question, but simply damage control for what the Afghanistan Papers show was an already-failed story.

Anne was only one of thousands of Americans and literally-only-God-knows how many Afghans who died for our lies in Afghanistan. That’s why the biggest story of 2019 is the one no one is talking about—that for the first time in decades, we seem to be slowing this all down. In 2019, only 34 American service members died in war. In 2009 it was 459; in 2003 it was 526.

Someone will inevitably dismiss my writing here as playing politics with a young woman’s death. But if you read just one more sentence, read this: Anne’s presence in Afghanistan was about politics, and her death delivering books for a photo-op was a political act in support of lies. That thrusts her into the role of symbolism, whether anyone likes it or not, and our job is to determine what it is that she symbolizes and try to learn from it.

On the same day that Anne died, an airstrike inadvertently killed 10 Afghan children.

There are nights it takes a fair amount of tequila to abort thoughts about why no one gets impeached for wasting human lives. I am ashamed to admit that I usually just drink from the bottle. But tonight I’ll use a glass, so I can raise it to Anne. I know she wasn’t the last to die for the Afghan mistake, and that there will be “papers” for places like Libya and Syria, too. But there’s always hope at the bottom of a glass, isn’t there?

Posted in USA, AfghanistanComments Off on This American Died for Our Lies in Afghanistan

Shoah’s pages

www.shoah.org.uk

KEEP SHOAH UP AND RUNNING