Excerpts of State Department Report on Israeli Human Rights Abuses

March 03, 2014 IMEU
Excerpts of State Department Report on Israeli Human Rights Abuses

US STATE DEPARTMENT HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT: ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES (2013)
KEY FINDINGS Israel

  • Arab citizens faced institutional and societal discrimination.
  • Approximately 93 percent of land [in Israel] is in the public domain, including approximately 12.5 percent owned by the NGO Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.
  • Resources devoted to education in Arabic were inferior to those devoted to education in Hebrew in the public education system.
  • “Price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups) continued and expanded beyond the West Bank and East Jerusalem to new locations in Israel.
  • Human rights organizations alleged that interrogation methods permitted by law and actually used by security personnel included beatings and forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to criticize these and other alleged detention practices they termed abusive, including isolation, sleep deprivation, and psychological abuse, such as threats to interrogate family members or demolish family homes.

The Occupied Territories

  • Human rights problems related to Israeli authorities included reports of excessive use of force against civilians, including killings; abuse of Palestinian detainees, particularly during arrest and interrogation; austere and overcrowded detention facilities; improper use of security detention procedures; demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property; limitations on freedom of expression, assembly, and association; and severe restrictions on Palestinians’ internal and external freedom of movement.
  • Restrictions on movement affected virtually all aspects of [Palestinian] life, including access to places of worship, employment, agricultural lands, schools, and hospitals, as well as the conduct of journalistic, humanitarian, and NGO activities.
  • Israeli officials discriminated against Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem regarding access to employment and legal housing by denying Palestinians access to registration paperwork.
  • NGOs alleged that Israeli authorities attempted to reduce the number of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and limit their movement in areas under Israeli control.
  • In both the West Bank and Jerusalem, Israeli authorities placed often insurmountable obstacles in the way of Palestinian applicants for construction permits. OCHA estimated that house demolitions during the year displaced 1,103 individuals in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
  • Throughout the year there were reports Israeli security forces in Jerusalem and in the West Bank arbitrarily arrested and detained numerous Palestinian protesters and activists, particularly those participating in demonstrations against the separation barrier.
  • The Israeli military courts had a conviction rate of more than 99 percent for Palestinians.  
  • The deterioration of socioeconomic conditions during the year severely affected refugees in the Gaza Strip.
  • The Israeli army restricted students in the Gaza Strip from studying in the West Bank or Israel and limited West Bank Palestinians from university study in Jerusalem and Israel.

Occupied East Jerusalem

  • NGOs alleged that Jerusalem municipal and Israeli national policies aimed at decreasing the number of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.
  • Palestinian residents constituted approximately 35 percent of Jerusalem’s population but received only 10 to 15 percent of municipal spending.
  • Continued Israeli revocations of Jerusalem identity cards amounted to forced exile to the occupied territories or abroad.
  • Some Palestinians born in Jerusalem but who studied abroad reported losing their Jerusalem residency status.

EXTENDED EXCERPTS ISRAEL (See Section on the Occupied Territories Below) EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • The most significant human rights problems during the year were terrorist attacks against civilians; institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, including the Bedouin, in particular in access to equal education and employment opportunities; societal discrimination against women; and the treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, and irregular migrants.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

  • In 1999 the High Court of Justice ruled that, although torture and the application of physical or psychological pain were illegal, ISA [Israeli Security Agency] interrogators may be exempt from criminal prosecution if they used such methods in extraordinary cases determined to involve an imminent threat or “ticking time bomb” scenario. Human rights organizations alleged that interrogation methods permitted by law and actually used by security personnel included beatings and forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to criticize these and other alleged detention practices they termed abusive, including isolation, sleep deprivation, and psychological abuse, such as threats to interrogate family members or demolish family homes.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

  • The Law of Citizenship and Entry in Israel, renewed in April, prohibits Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, including those who are spouses of Israeli residents or citizens, from obtaining resident status in East Jerusalem or Israel on security grounds. The law provides for exceptions in special cases. NGOs argued that the government rarely granted exceptions and that the law prevented some families from living together unless the citizen or resident family member chose to relocate to the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Authorities required East Jerusalem residents who relocated to forfeit their Jerusalem identification cards.
  • NGOs accused the government of seizing private property owned by Palestinians in and around the city of Jerusalem without due process.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

  • Gaps existed in government education funding, according to a Haaretz report, although the government is working to address these gaps. The Ministry of Education spent approximately 27,000 NIS ($7,700) per student on average at government religious Jewish high schools, 24,800 NIS ($7,050) at government secular Jewish high schools, and 21,100 NIS ($5,990) at Arab high schools.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

  • Arab citizens faced institutional and societal discrimination.
  • “Price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups) continued and expanded beyond the West Bank and East Jerusalem to new locations in Israel.
  • A 2012 petition to the High Court by NGOs seeking to overturn a 2011 law on community admissions committees, which NGOs claimed excluded Arabs unlawfully, was still pending at year’s end.
  • An anti-assimilation organization opened a hotline in August to enable members of the public to “inform” on Jewish women who were suspected of dating Arab men. The hotline made the names and telephone numbers of these Arab men available to the public and encouraged supporters to call them and encourage them to date Arab women instead.
  • The law exempts Arab citizens, except for the Druze, from mandatory military service, but a small percentage served voluntarily. Citizens who did not perform military service enjoyed fewer societal and economic benefits and sometimes were discriminated against in hiring practices. Citizens generally were ineligible to work in companies with defense contracts or in security-related fields if they had not served in the military.
  • Resources devoted to education in Arabic were inferior to those devoted to education in Hebrew in the public education system, leading some Arabs in ethnically mixed cities to study in Hebrew instead. Nazareth Illit Mayor Shimon Gapso rejected a request to establish an Arab school in the city, although 20 percent of residents were Arab, explaining that he and most of the city’s residents sought to maintain the city’s Jewish character.
  • Approximately 93 percent of land is in the public domain, including approximately 12.5 percent owned by the NGO Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews. According to a 2005 attorney general ruling, the government cannot discriminate against Arab citizens in marketing and allocating lands it manages, including those of the JNF. As an interim measure, the government agreed to compensate the JNF for any land it leased to an Arab by transferring an equal amount of land from the Israel Lands Administration to the JNF. Legal petitions against the JNF policy of leasing public land only to Jews continued at year’s end. The NGO Israel Land Fund continued its program to purchase Arab land throughout the country and market it to Jewish buyers, including in the diaspora. The organization claimed all the land belonged to Jews and described as a “danger” the purchase of Jewish-owned lands by non-Jews.
  • While Arab communities in the country generally faced economic difficulties, the Bedouin segment of the Arab population continued to be the most disadvantaged. More than half the estimated 200,000 Bedouin population lived in seven government-planned communities. Approximately 30,000 lived in the 11 recognized villages of the Nave Midbar and Al-Qasum Regional Councils, formerly the Abu Basma Regional Council, and approximately 60,000 Bedouins lived in 35 unrecognized tent or shack villages that did not have water and electricity or educational, health, and welfare services.
  • In the 35 unrecognized villages in the Negev claimed by various Bedouin tribes, the government viewed all buildings as illegal and subject to demolition.
  • During the year the NGO Dukium recorded 39 demolitions of homes and other structures in recognized Bedouin villages due to nonconformity with approved planning schemes, 69 demolitions in unrecognized villages, and 15 separate demolitions of the entire Al-Arakib village, which was rebuilt on government land 57 times since 1998 despite multiple eviction orders, a 2007 Supreme Court decision, and police enforcement since 2010. The Al-Arakib residents maintained that the government should recognize claims to the land. In cases of demolitions with no agreement from the residents to relocate, the government levied fines against residents to cover expenses incurred in the course of demolitions. Many Bedouin whose residences or structures were subjected to demolition orders elected to self-demolish to avoid being fined. The government and some residents of al-Arakib engaged in mediation concerning restitution to the government for the costs of the repeated demolitions of the Al-Arakib village at year’s end.
  • The law bars family reunification when a citizen’s spouse is a non-Jewish citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon. Citizens may apply for temporary visit permits for Palestinian male spouses 35 years old or older or Palestinian female spouses 25 years old or older, but they may not receive residency based on their marriage and have no path to citizenship. The government has yet to implement a policy in response to a 2010 Supreme Court recommendation that social services be provided to an estimated 5,000 Palestinian spouses of citizens granted “staying permits” to reside legally in Israel.

THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • Human rights problems related to Israeli authorities included reports of excessive use of force against civilians, including killings; abuse of Palestinian detainees, particularly during arrest and interrogation; austere and overcrowded detention facilities; improper use of security detention procedures; demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property; limitations on freedom of expression, assembly, and association; and severe restrictions on Palestinians’ internal and external freedom of movement. Violence by settlers against the Palestinian population continued to be a problem, as did inconsistent punishment of these acts by Israeli authorities. The IDF maintained restrictions on movement into and out of the Gaza Strip and largely limited the travel of Palestinians out of Gaza to humanitarian cases, in addition to some business travelers.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

  • The Israeli government killed Palestinian civilians as well as militants. During the year Israeli security forces killed at least nine Palestinians in Gaza and 27 in the West Bank. Deaths in the West Bank increased during the year, while deaths in Gaza declined. One of those killed in the Gaza Strip and four of those killed in the West Bank were minors.
  • There were also continued reports of Israeli forces killing Palestinians in restricted areas in the Gaza Strip. Israel warns Palestinians they are at risk of being shot if they come within 328 yards (300 meters) of the “buffer zone” separating Gaza from Israeli territory; however, Israel regularly enforced the buffer zone by firing toward Palestinians approaching at distances beyond 328 yards (300 meters).
  • On December 5, the IDF Military Advocate General Corps announced that it had closed the investigation into the 2011 death of Mustafa Tamimi, concluding that the tear gas canister that killed Tamimi had been fired according to IDF regulations. A soldier in an armored jeep fired a tear gas canister directly at Tamimi, from close range, while he was throwing stones at the IDF vehicle in the village of Nabi Saleh. The gas canister struck Tamimi in the head, and he died several hours later.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

  • Human rights organizations such as the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel [PCATI] reported that “physical interrogation methods” permitted by Israeli law and used by Israeli security personnel could amount to torture; these included beatings, forcing an individual to hold a stress position for long periods, and painful pressure from shackles or restraints applied to the forearms. Israeli officials stated that they did not use techniques that could amount to torture. Israeli and Palestinian NGOs continued to criticize these and other Israeli detention practices they termed abusive, including isolation, sleep deprivation, and psychological abuse, such as threats to interrogate spouses, siblings, or elderly parents or to demolish family homes.
  • Israeli authorities reportedly used similar tactics on Palestinian minors. Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine), Breaking the Silence, and other human rights NGOs claimed that Israeli security services continued to abuse, and in some cases torture, minors who they frequently arrested on suspicion of stone throwing to coerce confessions. Tactics included beatings, long-term handcuffing, threats, intimidation, and solitary confinement. In July the IDF detained a five-year-old child in Hebron suspected of stone throwing and blindfolded and handcuffed the child’s father, although the father was not involved in the alleged stone throwing. Following the incident an IDF commander said the soldiers “erred” in detaining a boy under the age of criminal responsibility and instructed his soldiers to review the protocol for detaining children.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

  • IDF detention centers for security detainees were less likely than Israeli civilian prisons to meet international standards.
  • Some Israeli government facilities, such as the Ofer detention center, provided living space as small as 15 square feet (1.4 square meters) per detainee. In August B’Tselem reported that since 2009, 64 Palestinian minors had reported “extreme violence,” including sexual assault, by authorities in the Israeli police station in the settlement of Gush Etzion. B’Tselem called for an end to violent interrogations and a thorough investigation of what it described as a “systemic” problem. NGOs stated that poor conditions appeared to be used as an interrogation or intimidation method. Prisoners also continued to claim inadequate medical care.
  • The PCATI reported in July that, despite more than 776 complaints it filed since 1999, no torture complaint resulted in a criminal investigation, prosecution, or conviction. This remained a pattern during the year. The PCATI reported that the government regularly dismissed complaints of abuse following a primary examination by an Israeli Security Agency (ISA) employee. NGOs reported that investigations into IDF and police abuse were slow and ineffective and rarely led to prosecution. ISA facilities were exempt from regular independent inspections.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

  • Israeli law provides safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention, but key safeguards do not apply to Palestinian security detainees. Palestinian security detainees are subject to the jurisdiction of Israeli military law, which permits eight days’ detention before appearing before a military court. There is no requirement that a detainee have access to a lawyer until after interrogation, a process that may last weeks. The maximum period for such a detention order, according to military law, is 90 days; however, detention can be renewed if deemed necessary. Denial of visits by family, outside medical professionals, or others outside the ISA, the IDF, or the prison service occurred. NGOs reported persons undergoing interrogations often were held incommunicado for several weeks.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

  • NGOs reported impunity among Israeli security forces remained a problem, in part because mechanisms for investigating allegations were not effective. Reports of abuse go to the Attorney General’s Office; the PCATI in June reported authorities systematically disregarded abuse allegations.
  • According to Israeli and Palestinian NGO and press reports, the IDF and INP did not respond sufficiently to violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers in the West Bank against Palestinians. Levels of settler violence increased during the year compared with 2012, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). OCHA counted 399 incidents of settler violence (compared with 368 incidents in 2012) that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage. Israeli forces injured approximately 200 Palestinians during settler-related incidents. OCHA reported that 90 percent of Palestinian complaints of settler violence in recent years were closed without indictment.
  • The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) stated Israeli security and justice officials operating in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem displayed bias against Arab residents in investigating incidents involving Arab and Israeli actors. Palestinian residents in the West Bank in several cases sought to press charges against Israeli settlers or their security guards, but many complaints went uninvestigated despite the availability of evidence.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

  • Israeli authorities operated under military and civilian legal codes in the occupied territories. Israeli military law applied to Palestinians in the West Bank, while Israeli settlers were under the jurisdiction of Israeli civil law. Under Israeli military law, detainees can be held for up to 90 days without access to a lawyer and authorities frequently transferred them from the West Bank to Israel for detention or interrogation. The Israeli military courts had a conviction rate of more than 99 percent for Palestinians.
  • NGOs claimed that despite changes to the law in 2011 that categorized Palestinians between the ages of 16 and 18 as minors, Israeli authorities frequently failed to inform parents where they took minors when arrested. Additionally, this amendment does not apply to detention periods and other provisions of military orders… The IDF also entered Palestinian homes at night either to arrest or take pictures of children. DCI-Palestine reported authorities abused minors to coerce confessions (see section 1.c.) and, according to human rights organizations, this treatment could amount to torture in some cases… NGOs reported a significant increase in child detentions in the Jerusalem area, particularly detentions that were never registered in the Israeli prison system. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported in February that “mistreatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic, and institutionalized.”… During an enhanced “enforcement operation” in the Jerusalem suburb of Issawiya in late 2012 and early during the year, residents estimated that Israeli authorities detained 40 minors. Eyewitness accounts stated that the INP handcuffed and shackled children’s arms and legs, used violence against handcuffed and blindfolded children, and interrogated children without their parents being present.
  • Israeli authorities continued to “administratively detain” (hold suspected criminals indefinitely without presenting charges or going to trial) some persons on security grounds. Many NGOs called for the immediate end to administrative detention. During the year the ISA continued its practice of incommunicado detention, including isolation from monitors, legal counsel, and family throughout the duration of interrogation. NGOs reported isolation was used to punish detainees or silence politically prominent Palestinian detainees.

Arbitrary Arrest

  • Throughout the year there were reports Israeli security forces in Jerusalem and in the West Bank arbitrarily arrested and detained numerous Palestinian protesters and activists, particularly those participating in demonstrations against the separation barrier, although no statistics were available regarding the total number of complaints of arbitrary arrest.
  • There were reports that detention by Israeli authorities exceeded the length of time individuals would be sentenced for some convictions. On June 28, Israeli authorities took Nariman Tamimi into custody and held her for four days for participating in a nonviolent protest in a “closed military zone,” near the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. As of October Tamimi remained under house arrest every Friday, pending a decision in her case. B’Tselem claimed the numerous and lengthy legal proceedings against Tamimi were “unprecedented, given the minor nature of the offense” especially since the prosecution acknowledged that the protest was nonviolent in nature.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Trial Procedures

  • Israeli authorities tried Israelis living in settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem under Israeli civil law in the nearest Israeli district court. Israeli civil law applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. West Bank Palestinians held by Israeli authorities were subjected to trial in Israeli military courts. Military court trials of Palestinians and others in the occupied territories provide some, but not all, of the procedural rights granted in criminal courts. The same evidentiary rules used in Israeli criminal cases apply; for example, convictions cannot be based solely on confessions. In military trials, however, prosecutors often present secret evidence that is not available to the defendant or counsel… Defendants can appeal through the Military Court of Appeals and petition the High Court of Justice. Israeli military courts rarely acquitted Palestinians charged with security offenses, although they occasionally reduced sentences on appeal. NGOs reported that military courts’ records indicated that more than 99 percent of cases heard resulted in a guilty verdict.
  • Signed confessions by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew, a language most could not read, continued to be used as evidence against them in Israeli military courts. NGOs reported these confessions often were coerced during interrogations.
  • On September 10, the military Advocate General closed the investigation of the 2009 killing of Bil’in resident Bassem Abu Rahmeh, citing a lack of evidence. Several NGOs asserted that film from three video cameras placed at different angles showed that Abu Rahmeh was situated east of the separation barrier, did not act violently, and was not endangering the IDF when a soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at him.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

  • The IDF frequently raided and entered Palestinian homes, including in Area A, most often at night, which it stated was due to operational necessity.
  • In the West Bank and Jerusalem, the Israeli Civil Administration (part of Israel’s Ministry of Defense), the Jerusalem municipality, and the MOI continued to demolish homes, cisterns, and other buildings and property constructed by Palestinians in areas under Israeli civil control on the basis that these buildings lacked Israeli planning licenses… Properties approximately 328 yards (300 meters) from the separation barrier, IDF military installations, or firing ranges also remained subject to a heightened threat of demolition or confiscation. NGOs expressed great concern over demolitions in Area C of the West Bank.
  • During the year Israel demolished approximately 660 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and East Jerusalem, displacing nearly 1,100 persons, compared with 604 structures and 886 persons in 2012. According to OCHA the displacement rate in East Jerusalem rose by 300 percent compared with 2012. Palestinians and human rights NGOs reported the IDF was largely unresponsive to Israeli settlers’ actions against Palestinians in the West Bank, including demolition of property.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

  • In Jerusalem displays of Palestinian political symbols were punishable by fines or imprisonment, as were public expressions of anti-Israeli sentiment. Israeli security officials regularly shut meetings or conferences held in Jerusalem affiliated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), PA, or with PA officials in attendance. For example, in June Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch issued a decision to shut a Palestinian puppet theater festival at the Hakawati Palestinian National Theatre in Jerusalem on the grounds that it was funded by the PA in violation of the Oslo Accords. On July 1, Israeli authorities released cartoonist Mohammed Sabaaneh from military prison, where he was held since his arrest when he attempted to return to the West Bank from Jordan on February 16. Israeli authorities arrested him for having “contacts with a hostile organization.”

Violence and Harassment:

  • Palestinian journalists claimed Israeli authorities routinely harassed them when trying to report in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank. There were also reports of Israeli authorities detaining, assaulting, or intimidating journalists. In various incidents Israeli forces subsequently raided those journalists’ homes in the West Bank.
  • Palestinian journalists complained of harassment by Israeli security personnel in Jerusalem. On December 3, Palestinian photojournalist Muammar Awad was selected for additional security screening by Shin Bet agents after being refused entry to cover an event involving the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem. According to Awad and local press reports, Awad was ordered to strip and was questioned for approximately 90 minutes. Awad, who holds a Jerusalem identification and a press card issued by the Israeli government, was then escorted out and not allowed to cover the event. He was not accused of any wrongdoing at the time, and charges were not filed against him.
  • On November 6, Israeli security forces arrested Palestinian journalist Mohammad Abu Khdeir of al-Quds at Ben Gurion airport when he returned from a professional visit to Egypt. Abu Khdeir asserted that during his month-long detention, authorities interrogated him regarding his work as a journalist and about interviews he conducted, especially with members of the Hamas leadership. Israeli authorities did not file any charges against Abu Khdeir and released him on December 5.
  • On March 1, the IDF shot Palestinian photographer Jihad Alqadi while he covered clashes in front of Ofer prison. Alqadi suffered injuries to his colon, spleen, and liver. There was no information available on the status of an investigation.
  • On June 5, the IDF wounded Associated Press photographer Nasser al-Shiyoukhi with a rubber bullet to the neck while he was covering clashes between the IDF and Palestinian youth in front of Ofer detention center near Ramallah.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

  • Israel at times prevented Palestinians from accessing education. Israeli restrictions on movement adversely affected academic institutions and access to education in the West Bank, as Israeli checkpoints, although they decreased in number, created difficulties for students and faculty commuting to schools and university campuses.
  • The Israeli Supreme Court upheld the 2000 Israeli ban on students from the Gaza Strip attending West Bank universities. Generally, students in the Gaza Strip did not apply to West Bank universities because they understood that Israel would deny permit requests. Israeli travel restrictions also prevented students in Gaza from participating in study programs abroad.
  • In March Israeli soldiers apprehended 27 minors on their way to school in Hebron, five of whom were under the age of criminal responsibility, including some as young as age eight, for stone throwing.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association Freedom of Assembly

  • The IDF continued to use a 1967 military order that effectively prohibited Palestinian demonstrations and limited freedom of speech in the West Bank. The order stipulates that a “political” gathering of 10 or more persons requires a permit from the regional commander of military forces. The penalty for a breach of the order is 10 years’ imprisonment or a heavy fine.
  • Various NGOs noted the IDF demonstrated a lack of respect for freedom of assembly and often responded to demonstrators aggressively. Israeli security forces used force against Palestinians and others involved in demonstrations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, killing one. The IDF used force particularly against weekly protests in or near Areas B and C. The IDF responded to protests with military crowd-control techniques or force, using weapons such as tear gas and stun grenades to push back protesters, which NGOs alleged often amounted to using nonlethal force in a lethal manner. In August several prominent NGOs issued a press release calling for the army to “end its use of rubber bullets as a means to disperse demonstrations.”
  • The IDF Central Command declared new areas of the West Bank to be “closed military zones” and maintained the same designation for areas adjacent to the separation barrier in the villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin every Friday during the hours in which Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists regularly demonstrated. For example, in July the IDF indicted two Palestinian women for entering a newly declared “closed military zone” near Nabi Saleh. B’Tselem described the arrests for nonviolent protest as “unprecedented.” There were frequent skirmishes between the protesters and IDF personnel. IDF and Israeli police personnel stationed on the far side of the barrier during weekly protests in those villages responded to rock throwing with tear gas, stun grenades, skunk water, sound bombs, and rubber-coated bullets. Multiple human rights organizations stated that the IDF’s use of crowd control devices, including shooting tear gas canisters directly at protesters, constituted the lethal use of force. There were reports the IDF killed at least two persons with “nonlethal” crowd control devices, including tear gas canisters and rubber bullets.
  • On February 22, an IDF soldier shot a rubber bullet at and killed 22-year-old Muhammad Asfur near a demonstration near Ramallah where protesters were throwing stones.
  • ACRI continued to report arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of assembly in Jerusalem, including the use of unlawful arrests to intimidate demonstrators.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

  • The IDF restricted Palestinians’ movement within the occupied territories and for foreign travel, and, citing military necessity, it increased these restrictions at times. Barriers to movement included checkpoints, a separation barrier that divides the majority of the West Bank from Israel and East Jerusalem, internal road closures, and restrictions on the entry of persons and goods into and out of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Restrictions on movement affected virtually all aspects of life, including access to places of worship, employment, agricultural lands, schools, and hospitals, as well as the conduct of journalistic, humanitarian, and NGO activities.
  • The Israeli government continued construction of the separation barrier, which ran largely inside the West Bank and along parts of the Green Line (the 1949 Armistice line). By use of special permits, Israel continued to restrict movement and development within this area, including access by some international organizations. NGOs reported authorities allowed many Palestinians separated from their land access to their property only a few days each year.
  • Israel eased restrictions on access to farmland in the Gaza Strip near the boundary with Israel and to fishing areas along the coast. Despite this easing reports indicated Israel continued to enforce “buffer zone” restrictions on nonfarmers. The buffer zone encompassed approximately 24 square miles, representing 17 percent of the Gaza Strip’s territory. OCHA estimated that nearly 35 percent of the Gaza Strip’s cultivable land was located within the restricted area.
  • NGOs alleged that Israeli authorities attempted to reduce the number of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and limit their movement in areas under Israeli control. Military authorities continued to restrict severely Palestinian vehicular and foot traffic in the commercial center of Hebron, citing a need to protect several hundred Israeli settler residents. Palestinians were prohibited from driving on most roads in downtown Hebron and from walking on Shuhada Street and other roads in the Old City; however, Israeli settlers were permitted free access to these roads. The prohibition, which began in 2000, resulted in the closure of 1,829 businesses and 1,014 Palestinian housing units, according to B’Tselem; the IDF closed most shops on the street and sealed entrances to Palestinian houses. Demolition orders in and around Hebron also threatened single buildings, family homes, and other civilian structures; in some cases entire villages such as Dkaika, southeast of Hebron, were subjected to demolition orders.
  • Restricted access to Jerusalem had a negative effect on patients and medical staff trying to reach the six Palestinian hospitals there that offered specialized care unavailable in the West Bank. IDF soldiers at checkpoints subjected Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulances from the West Bank to harassment and delays or refused them entry into Jerusalem even in emergency cases. When ambulances lacked access, medics moved patients across checkpoints from an ambulance on one side to a second ambulance (usually one of five East Jerusalem-based ambulances) or a private vehicle on the other side. The PRCS reported hundreds of such actions taken against its teams and humanitarian services during the year. Most incidents included blocking access to those in need, preventing their transport to specialized medical centers, or maintaining delays on checkpoints for periods sometimes lasting up to two hours. Most incidents took place at the Qalandiyah and Az-’Za’ayyem checkpoints leading to Jerusalem, while the remainder took place at other checkpoints circling the West Bank.
  • The IDF restricted students in the Gaza Strip from studying in the West Bank or Israel and limited West Bank Palestinians from university study in Jerusalem and Israel.
  • According to NGOs residency restrictions affected family reunification, which did not qualify as a reason to enter the West Bank. For a child in the Gaza Strip, for example, Israeli authorities permitted access to a parent in the West Bank only if no other relative was resident in the Gaza Strip. Israeli authorities did not permit Palestinians who were abroad during the 1967 War, or whose residence permits the Israeli government subsequently withdrew, to reside permanently in the occupied territories. It was difficult for foreign-born spouses and children of Palestinians to obtain residency. Authorities required Palestinian spouses of Jerusalem residents to obtain a residency permit and reported delays of several years in obtaining them.
  • Continued Israeli revocations of Jerusalem identity cards amounted to forced exile to the occupied territories or abroad. According to HaMoked, an Israeli human rights organization, the Israeli MOI renewed “temporary” orders authorizing the revocation of Jerusalem residency rights from legal residents. Between 1967 and 2012, Israel revoked the status of 14,203 Palestinians from East Jerusalem. In 2012 Israel revoked the residency permits of 116 Palestinians holding Jerusalem identification cards, including 64 women and 29 minors, and reinstated the residency of 32 Palestinians with Jerusalem identification cards… Reasons for revocation included having acquired residency or citizenship in another country, living “abroad” (including in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip) for more than seven years, or, most commonly, being unable to prove a “center of life,” interpreted as full-time residency, in Jerusalem. Some Palestinians born in Jerusalem but who studied abroad reported losing their Jerusalem residency status.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

  • OCHA estimated that house demolitions during the year displaced 1,103 individuals in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
  • The Israeli government obstructed refugee access to UNRWA-provided humanitarian assistance in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The UNRWA estimated that more than 70 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip depended on services provided by the UNRWA. Additionally, Israeli security operations rose significantly during the year, leading to a sharp increase in both injuries and fatalities to Palestinian refugees.

Access to Basic Services

  • The deterioration of socioeconomic conditions during the year severely affected refugees in the Gaza Strip… The UNRWA operated 245 schools with more than 225,000 refugee students in the Gaza Strip. As a result of the shortage in school buildings, the quality of education remained a major problem, resulting in a double-shift system, shorter hours, and a high number of students per classroom.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

  • Many NGOs alleged Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza amounted to racial and cultural discrimination, citing legal differences between the treatment of Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

Education

  • As of the end of June, UNICEF reported 29 attacks on schools in the West Bank, amounting in some instances to periodic denial of access to education. Palestinian armed groups, Israeli authorities, and Israeli settlers were responsible for the attacks. In Jerusalem Palestinian children did not have access to the same educational resources as Israeli children, and NGOs reported that East Jerusalem needed an additional 2,200 classrooms to provide adequate space for Palestinian children to attend official schools (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).

Child Abuse

  • Israeli security forces also were responsible for violence against children in custody and during arrest in the West Bank or near the Gaza Strip buffer zone, according to NGO and UN reports. In July IDF forces shot a 14-year-old boy in the West Bank town of Silwad, striking him in the neck and shoulder. The case was reportedly under investigation by Israeli authorities.
  • Doctors Without Borders reported the number of children with posttraumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders, including depression, increased in recent years. The organization attributed a majority of the cases to trauma experienced during Israeli military incursions or as a result of settler violence.
  • Conflict and demolition orders displaced children in the occupied territories. OCHA reported 558 children were displaced due to home demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the year.

Trafficking in Persons

  • NGOs reported employers subjected Palestinian men to forced labor in Israeli settlements in industry, agriculture, construction, and other sectors. The PA was unable to monitor and investigate abuses in these areas and elsewhere because the PA does not control its borders and has limitations on its authority to work in Areas B and C.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

  • According to OCHA an estimated 27,500 Bedouin live in Area C in the West Bank. UNRWA registered many Bedouin as refugees and inhabited areas designated by Israel as closed military zones or as areas planned for settlement expansion. Forced displacement continued of Bedouin and herding communities in Area C, and many of these communities suffered from limited access to water, health care, education, and other basic services.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

  • OCHA, the Jerusalem Legal Aid Society and Human Rights Center, and other NGOs reported a slight increase in attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians and their property in the West Bank. The attacks included direct violence against Palestinian residents. Some Israeli settlers reportedly used violence against Palestinians as a means of harassment and to keep them away from land that settlers sought to acquire. “Price tag” attacks (property crimes and violent acts by extremist Jewish individuals and groups in retaliation for activity they deemed to be antisettlement), continued during the year.
  • Various human rights groups continued to claim settler violence was insufficiently investigated and rarely prosecuted. Some groups attributed this circumstance in part to the Israeli Civil Administration’s neglect of Palestinian complaints, as well as to Palestinian residents’ reluctance to report incidents due to fears of settler retaliation or because they felt discouraged by the lack of accountability in most cases. The Israeli NGO Yesh Din reported that authorities closed more than 90 percent of Israeli investigations into offenses against Palestinians in the West Bank without indictments.
  • Israeli officials discriminated against Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem regarding access to employment and legal housing by denying Palestinians access to registration paperwork. In both the West Bank and Jerusalem, Israeli authorities placed often insurmountable obstacles in the way of Palestinian applicants for construction permits, including the requirement that they document land ownership in the absence of a uniform post-1967 land registration process, high application fees, and requirements that new housing be connected to often unavailable municipal works… According to B’Tselem since 2000 Israel curtailed the Palestinian population registry, denying paperwork to Palestinians, and effectively declaring Palestinians illegal residents. Some Palestinians defined as illegal residents faced harassment, arrest, or deportation to the Gaza Strip.
  • The World Bank reported that Palestinians suffered water shortages, noting approximately half of the domestic water supply for Palestinians was purchased from Israel. The Palestinian Water Authority claimed Israel controlled 90 percent of the shared water resources of the Mountain Aquifer, which underlies the West Bank and Israel. According to AI [Amnesty International] Palestinians received an average of 18.5 gallons of water per person per day, falling short of the World Health Organization’s standard of 26.5 gallons per person per day, the minimum daily amount required to maintain basic hygiene standards and food security. Political constraints limited the PA’s ability to improve water network management and efficiency, including the requirement for Israeli approval to implement water-related projects and the PA’s lack of authority in Area C to prevent theft from the network, as well as by the PA’s own management problems. The Israeli military continued to destroy water cisterns, some of which donor countries funded for humanitarian purposes. The Israeli military also destroyed unlicensed Palestinian agricultural wells, particularly in the Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, claiming they depleted aquifer resources.
  • NGOs alleged that Jerusalem municipal and Israeli national policies aimed at decreasing the number of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. Government-sponsored construction of new Israeli housing units continued, while building permits were difficult to obtain for Arab residents of Jerusalem, and homes built by Arab residents without legal permits were subjected to demolition. The Israeli NGOs Bimkom and Ir Amim stated that Palestinians in East Jerusalem continued to face barriers to purchasing property or obtaining building permits. Land owned or populated by Arabs (including Palestinians and Israeli Arabs) was generally zoned for low residential growth. Approximately 30 percent of East Jerusalem was designated for Israeli residents. Palestinians were able in some cases to rent Israeli-owned property but were generally unable to purchase property in an Israeli neighborhood. Israeli NGOs stated that only 13 percent of all land in East Jerusalem was available for construction and that, in the Israeli neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, land was unavailable for Arab construction.
  • The Jerusalem Municipality and Jewish organizations in Jerusalem made efforts to increase Israeli property ownership or underscore Jewish history in predominantly Arab neighborhoods of [occupied East] Jerusalem.
  • Although Israeli law entitles Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to full and equal services provided by the municipality and other Israeli authorities, the Jerusalem Municipality failed to provide sufficient social services, infrastructure, emergency planning, and postal service for Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Palestinian residents constituted approximately 35 percent of Jerusalem’s population but received only 10 to 15 percent of municipal spending. According to ACRI 78 percent of Jerusalem Palestinians lived in poverty, and 85 percent of East Jerusalem children lived below the poverty line. Only 46 percent of students studied in official municipal schools. There was a chronic shortage of more than 1,100 classrooms in East Jerusalem’s official school system, and, despite commitments made by Israeli authorities and a high court ruling that the municipality fill the gap of missing classrooms in East Jerusalem by 2016, authorities built only 150 classrooms in the last five years. The municipality reported that 400 classrooms were in various stages of planning or construction. Bus services in Jerusalem were largely segregated between Israelis and Palestinians.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

  • Israeli law applies to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, but it was not enforced uniformly. Most settlements applied Jordanian labor law to Palestinian workers, which was the applicable law prior to 1967 and provides for lower wages and fewer protections than Israeli law.

d. Acceptable Conditions of Work

  • Palestinians working in Israeli settlements reported they continued to receive wages lower than the Israeli minimum wage, despite a 2008 high court ruling that Israeli labor laws apply to relations between Palestinian workers and Israeli employers in settlements in the occupied territories.
  • Israeli authorities did not conduct labor inspections in Israeli settlements, where Palestinian workers constituted a significant part of the workforce. The lack of a competent labor authority in the settlements increased workers’ vulnerability to exploitation. NGOs such as Kav LaOved stated that exploitative practices in Israeli settlements were widespread. Israeli NGOs brought some cases in Israeli labor courts on behalf of Palestinian workers employed by enterprises in the settlements.


See here for the full report.

 

PHOTO: Christopher Hazou/IMEU