UN expert warns of deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in Palestine and Israel

PRESS RELEASE
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

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GENEVA (21 March 2017) – Human rights defenders working to draw attention to abuses associated with Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territory are being increasingly targeted as a result of their work, according to a new report from a United Nations human rights expert.

Michael Lynk – the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 – expressed deep concerns about the shrinking space for civil society in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in a statement to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“As human rights defenders – Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals – persist with their intrepid activism to investigate and oppose the regime of human rights violations that is integral to the occupation. All indications are that they will continue to be the prime targets of those who are intolerant of their criticisms, yet alarmed by their effectiveness,” Mr. Lynk said.

The Rapporteur noted with alarm that Palestinian human rights defenders have been subjected to attacks, arrest, detention, and threats to their lives and safety. “They have experienced sophisticated interference with their vital work, and have faced toxic denunciations aimed at silencing them and discouraging their supporters,” he continued. Read more »

Text of Resignation Letter by ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf

The following text is the resignation letter submitted by Rima Khalaf in response to the formal request by UN Secretary General that ESCWA withdraw the publication of a report that asserts Israel is committing Apartheid.

Click here to access the full ESCWA report, which has since been removed from the UN website.

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Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

I have carefully considered your message conveyed through the Chef de Cabinet and assure you that at no point have I questioned your right to order the withdrawal of the report from our website or the fact that all of us working in the Secretariat are subject to the authority of its Secretary-General. Nor do I have any doubts regarding your commitment to human rights in general, or your firm position regarding the rights of the Palestinian people. I also understand the concerns that you have, particularly in these difficult times that leave you little choice.

I am not oblivious to the vicious attacks and threats the UN and you personally were subjected to from powerful Member States as a result of the publication of the ESCWA report “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”. I do not find it surprising that such Member States, who now have governments with little regard for international norms and values of human rights, will resort to intimidation when they find it hard to defend their unlawful policies and practices. It is only normal for criminals to pressure and attack those who advocate the cause of their victims. I cannot submit to such pressure.

Not by virtue of my being an international official, but simply by virtue of being a decent human being, I believe, like you, in the universal values and principles that have always been the driving force for good in human history, and on which this organization of ours, the United Nations is founded. Like you, I believe that discrimination against anyone due to their religion, skin color, sex or ethnic origin is unacceptable, and that such discrimination cannot be rendered acceptable by the calculations of political expediency or power politics. I also believe people should not only have the freedom to speak truth to power, but they have the duty to do so.

In the space of two months you have instructed me to withdraw two reports produced by ESCWA, not due to any fault found in the reports and probably not because you disagreed with their content, but due to the political pressure by member states who gravely violate the rights of the people of the region.

You have seen first hand that the people of this region are going through a period of suffering unparalleled in their modern history; and that the overwhelming flood of catastrophes today is the result of a stream of injustices that were either ignored, plastered over, or openly endorsed by powerful governments inside and outside the region. Those same governments are the ones pressuring you to silence the voice of truth and the call for justice represented in these reports.

Given the above, I cannot but stand by the findings of ESCWA’s report that Israel has established an apartheid regime that seeks the domination of one racial group over another. The evidence provided by this report drafted by renowned experts is overwhelming. Suffice it to say that none of those who attacked the report had a word to say about its content. I feel it my duty to shed light on the legally inadmissible and morally indefensible fact that an apartheid regime still exists in the 21st century rather than suppressing the evidence. In saying this I claim no moral superiority nor ownership of a more prescient vision. My position might be informed by a lifetime of experiencing the dire consequences of blocking peaceful channels to addressing people’s grievances in our region.

After giving the matter due consideration, I realized that I too have little choice. I cannot withdraw yet another well-researched, well-documented UN work on grave violations of human rights, yet I know that clear instructions by the Secretary-General will have to be implemented promptly. A dilemma that can only be resolved by my stepping down to allow someone else to deliver what I am unable to deliver in good conscience. I know that I have only two more weeks to serve; my resignation is therefore not intended for political pressure. It is simply because I feel it my duty towards the people we serve, towards the UN and towards myself, not to withdraw an honest testimony about an ongoing crime that is at the root of so much human suffering. Therefore, I hereby submit to you my resignation from the United Nations.

Respectfully

Rima Khalaf

PFLP will not participate in municipal elections following attack on demonstrators

PRESS RELEASE
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

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Comrade Khalida Jarrar, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, announced in a live interview on Quds TV on Sunday evening, 12 March, that the Front will not participate in upcoming municipal elections in the West Bank of occupied Palestine, in light of the Palestinian Authority’s continued security coordination with the Israeli occupation and violent attack on demonstrators protesting for the martyr Basil al-Araj.

She announced that the PFLP had decided today to suspend its participation in the elections after the attack on the marchers, including the father of Basil al-Araj. Jarrar demanded that those responsible for the suppression of the march and beating of demonstrators must be held accountable and security coordination brought to an end. She noted that if no action is taken on these key issues, the Front will announce further positions and take additional actions.

PFLP denounces attack on demonstrators in Ramallah by PA forces, demands accountability

PRESS STATEMENT
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

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The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine declared that the Palestinian Authority and the leaders of its security services are responsible for the blatant and brutal assault on demonstrators as they protested against the continuing trial of the martyr, Basil al-Araj and his comrades, and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees.

The Front noted that the PA security apparatus attacked peaceful protesters in Ramallah with tear gas, sound bombs, pepper spray and batons, injuring and arresting many including the father of the martyr Basil al-Araj, who was transferred to the hospital for treatment. This is an unforgivable crime and those who gave the orders and carried them out must be held accountable. Read more »

Al- Zahar: We will never abandon our prisoners

Hamas

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Member of the political bureau of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, Mahmoud Al-Zahar said that Hamas will never abandon the Palestinian prisoners, including the members of the Palestinian Parliament who are detained inside Israeli prisons.

Al-Zahar said during a protest that was held in front of the Palestinian Parliament that they have given a pledge not to forget their imprisoned colleagues in the Israeli prisons, noting that they will continue to express their anger over the frequent incarceration of their West Bankers colleagues.

He condemned the worldwide silence over the persistent Israeli policy of detaining members of the Palestinian Parliament.

Al-Zahar pointed out that arresting the members of the Palestinian Parliament is a blatant violation of universal rights, and urged the world legislative blocs to intervene in order to free Samira Halaiqa, the female member of the Palestinian Parliament who was detained on International Women’s Day.

Al-Zahar said that the Palestinian resistance should be mobilised on every inch of Palestinian land to expel the Israeli Occupation.

PFLP denounces PA trial of martyr Basil al-Araj and comrades, supports youth protests against security coordination

PRESS RELEASE
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

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The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine denounced the hearing at the Ramallah Magistrate’s Court on Sunday, March 12 in the trial of the martyr Basil al-Araj and his friends on charges of possessing unlicensed weapons. This hearing is yet another stain on the Palestinian Authority and its security coordination with the occupation.

The Palestinian Authority’s security forces arrested the martyr and his comrades and subjected them to physical and psychological torture in an attempt to force them to confess in the interests of security coordination with the occupation. In a new scandal and with utter disregard to the Palestinian people and the families and comrades of the martyr, the Authority held the hearing in the trial on these ridiculous and unacceptable charges of unlicensed possession of a weapon.

The Front demanded the PA leadership immediately end the practice of security coordination and apologize to the Palestinian people. The martyr Basil al-Araj and his comrades are heroes and national examples of pride for the Palestinian people. The insistence on holding this kangaroo court despite the martyrdom of Basil and the arrest of his comrades by the occupation represents a continued targeting of the resistance represented by the martyr in word, thought and deed. Instead, it is those responsible for their arrest and torture who should be held accountable for the continuation of security coordination in service to the occupation. Read more »

How Israel Uses Gas to Enforce Palestinian Dependency and Promote Normalization

Tareq Baconi
Al-Shabaka Policy Brief

Overview

Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory does not only exist above ground. Since 1967, Israel has systematically colonized Palestinian natural resources and, in the field of hydrocarbons, has prevented Palestinians from accessing their own oil and gas reserves. Such restrictions have ensured the continued dependence of Palestinians on Israel for their energy needs. The Palestinians’ own efforts to develop their energy sector fail to challenge Israel’s overarching hegemony over Palestinian resources. Rather, they pursue growth and state building within the reality of the occupation, further reinforcing – even if inadvertently – the asymmetric balance between occupied and occupier.

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Read more »

Mohammed al-Qiq achieves victory, suspends hunger strike after 33 days

PRESS RELEASE
SAMIDOUN

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On his 33rd day of hunger strike, Friday, 10 March, imprisoned Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qiq announced the suspension of his strike with an agreement for his release in mid-April, three months after his arrest on 15 January by Israeli occupation forces.

Fayha Shalash, al-Qiq’s wife, said that he will begin a series of medically-supervised processes to lift his strike; he was transferred to Assaf Harofeh, a civilian hospital, on 8 March after severe deterioration in his health, especially considering his medical weakness following his 2016 strike.

Shalash specifically emphasized that al-Qiq is dedicating this victory to the spirit of Basil al-Araj, the Palestinian youth activist shot down by Israeli forces on 6 March.

Lawyer Khaled Zabarqa reported that al-Qiq’s three-month administrative detention order for his imprisonment without charge or trial will not be renewed. He launched his hunger strike on 6 February when he was ordered to administrative detention after 22 days of interrogation. This was his second major hunger strike against administrative detention; in 2016, he refused food for 94 days to demand his freedom, winning his release in May 2016. Read more »

ADDAMEER AND CODEPINK: 55 PALESTINIAN WOMEN AND GIRLS IN ISRAELI PRISONS ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

PRESS RELEASE
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

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This International Women’s Day, there are 55 Palestinian females held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including 12 female children and 2 administrative detainees held without charge or trial. Among these female prisoners and detainees, 16 are mothers of 58 children. In total, 42 are held in HaSharon Prison and 13 are held in Damon Prison. Both of these prisons are located inside Israel in contravention with the Forth Geneva Convention which prohibits the transfer of the population from the occupied territory.

ARREST AND DETENTION OF PALESTINIAN WOMEN AND GIRLS

Since the beginning of the occupation 50 years ago in 1967, over 10,000 Palestinian women have been arrested and detained by Israeli occupation forces. In 2017, Palestinian women and girls are routinely arrested from the streets, Israeli military checkpoints, and during violent night raids on their homes during military incursions accompanied with the presence of Israeli soldiers, intelligence officers, and police dogs, during which destruction of household items and property damage takes place. They are blindfolded and their hands are tied, and are forcibly taken to a military jeep. Read more »

UNRWA deplores escalating violence in southern Syria

UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness
PRESS STATEMENT

UNRWA is alarmed by the escalation of violence in Dera’a Governorate, south of the Syrian capital, Damascus. Fighting among parties to the conflict in the area is causing the displacement of Palestine refugees, impeding humanitarian access to critical aid and has resulted in the deaths of Palestine refugees in recent weeks.

Over the last three days, UNRWA has been providing assistance to over 200 families who have escaped violence in the village of Jilin located 25 km west of Dera’a City. UNRWA estimates that over 90 percent of the Palestine refugee families from Jilin have fled as a result of the escalation of armed violence reported to have started on February 20. The two UNRWA schools in the village are now closed. Read more »

Basil of Al-Walaja: RIP

Mazin Qumsiyeh

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My encounter with the Al-Araj family began in 2009, the year I met Basil and Shireen and started joining them in demonstrations in Al-Walaja village. On 6 March 2017, Basil was murdered by the Israeli army. He was 31 years old. Others will speak of his martyrdom, I will speak of his life and what he told me. Basil would have wanted it told this way. I learned intimate details about Basil and his family life the third time we were detained together. He was 24 years old, I was twice his age. This was in what Basil accurately described as “a holding pen not fit for animals” which I and many Palestinian males shared with one Palestinian female, my friend and Basil’s aunt Shireen Al-Araj. I had been “taken” twice before with Basil and once with Shireen before this particular incident (and more after). It was these arrests that deepened my high regard for the family. Beyond their decency and honest dealings were acts of self-sacrifice that earned the family the respect of their entire village of Al-Walaja and I dare to say all of Palestine. This is similar to Al-Tamimi family of Nebi Saleh and it was no coincidence that Basem Tamimi was there with us in Al-Walaja the day after Basil’s murder. Here I am not telling you the story of Basil but I am recounting what Basil told me and I had written down in 2014 (was planning to publish inspirational Palestinian stories in a book). I merely now edited it to a) add this introduction) b) change to past tense instead of present tense (‘Basil says or relays’ now becomes ‘Basil said or relayed’), and c) I added a brief ending with his last words. Read more »

PFLP denounces the assassination of young Palestinian struggler and leader Basil al-Araj

PRESS RELEASE
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

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The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine joins with the masses of our resisting people in mourning one of the most prominent young Palestinian strugglers, Basil al-Araj, who was assassinated today by the cowardly Zionist occupation. The martyr fought a heroic battle after many months of pursuit. The Front called on resistance actions to come together in unity and coordination to respond to this crime and intensify operations against the Zionist occupation.

The Front emphasized that Palestine today has lost one of the finest young strugglers of Palestine, who paid with his life for his principles and values. He was committed to rejecting all capitulatory solutions and a clear vision of liberation, and he worked to chronicle the history of Palestine and confront all attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause. Read more »

Israeli forces shoot, injure 2 Palestinians in northern Gaza

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On Friday evening Israeli occupation forces shot and injured two Palestinians in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip.

Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al Qedra has confirmed that Red Crescent paramedics rushed two injured Palestinians civilians to the Indonesian Hospital.

One of the civilians suffered critical abdominal injuries, while the other sustained moderate injuries to his leg and shoulder.

The Israeli occupation army also attacked the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, firing artillery shells which struck Palestinian resistance sites.

UNRWA strongly condemns violations of inviolability, neutrality of United Nations installations in Ein El-Hilweh

PRESS STATEMENT
Chris Gunness, UNRWA Spokesperson

Ein al-Hilweh (Photo: Wattan TV)

Ein al-Hilweh (Photo: Wattan TV)

March 3 2017
Jerusalem

Today, 3 March 2017, an UNRWA security mission conducted a preliminary inspection to ascertain the extent of the damage to UNRWA’s installations in Ein El-Hilweh camp in southern Lebanon, following several days of clashes in the camp.

The inspection revealed that five UNRWA installations – three schools, one Relief and Social Services Office and the Camp Services Office have been entered and used by armed actors, contrary to the inviolability of United Nations premises.

The Agency’s Marj Ben Ammer school and one UNRWA Relief and Social Services Office have sustained significant material damage. The cost of the damage to UNRWA installations is yet to be finally determined. Once the situation permits, the Agency will conduct a full assessment of the damages and will consider seeking compensation from relevant actors, as appropriate.

UNRWA strongly condemns these violations of the inviolability and neutrality of United Nations installations. Read more »

Erasing the UN

Richard Falk
Opinion

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Donald Trump has articulated clearly, if somewhat vaguely and incoherently, his anti-globalist, anti-UN approach on foreign policy. For instance, in late February he told a right-wing audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference that “there is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag. This is the United States that I am representing. I am not representing the globe.” A similar sentiment was expressed to Congress a few days later in a tone of voice and choice of words praised by media wonks as ‘presidential.’ On this occasion Trump said, “[m]y job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.” Such rhetoric coming from a normal American leader would probably be interpreted as an expression of geopolitical humility, implicitly rejecting the standard insistence on American exceptionalism, exemplified in recent times by the project to create and maintain the first global state in human history.

This potentially self-limiting language might even be understood as renouncing earlier claims to assert American global leadership as the keystone of world order. George W. Bush in 2002 gave this bold leadership claim a sharp edge when he insisted the that only the US model of market-based constitutionalism was a legitimate form of governance for sovereign states in the 21st century. Or even more grandiosely, in the spirit of Michael Mandelbaum and Thomas Friedman, that the United States as a consequence of its martial strength, technological prowess, democratic values and institutions, and skills of leadership provides the world with the benevolent reality of virtual ‘world government.’ Let’s face it, Donald Trump is not a normal political leader, nor is he someone disposed to embrace humility in any form, so we should take his pledge to represent American interests while leaving the world to fend for itself with many grains of salt, especially if we consider the specifics of the Trump worldview. What Trump seems to be offering is maximum disengagement from international and global arrangements designed to institutionalize cooperation among sovereign states, and that is where the UN figures in Trump’s unfolding game plan. Read more »

UN rights experts denounce Israel’s growing constraints on human rights defenders

PRESS RELEASE
Office of the High Commissioner, UN Human Rights Council

Israeli forces shower protesters in Shuhada Street with teargas and stun grenades

Israeli forces shower protesters in Shuhada Street with teargas and stun grenades

GENEVA (3 March 2017) – Two United Nations Independent Experts are calling on the Israeli Government to fully respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of human rights defenders and organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, and the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, say human rights defenders in the region have been facing escalating restrictions by Israel on their activities.

“We are deeply concerned by the latest constraints on the invaluable work being done by human rights activists – Palestinian, Israeli and international – who investigate, research, advocate and peacefully mobilize with respect to human rights concerns in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” they said. Read more »

Hamas holds Israeli Occupation fully accountable for latest escalation

PRESS STATEMENT
HAMAS

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The spokesperson of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, Fawzi Barhoum said in a press release that the Israeli Occupation is fully responsible for the latest escalation against the Palestinian people and the resistance’s posts in the Gaza Strip.

He noted that continuing targeting and raiding the public places, residents’ properties, and resistance posts is unacceptable and aims to exacerbate the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Barhoum added that the Palestinian resistance will never accept imposing new realities on it whatever the price may be.

GISHA: public opinion poll 10 years into the closure of Gaza

PRESS RELEASE
GISHA

10 years into the closure of Gaza – a new public opinion poll reveals:

A majority of the Israeli public believes that the government’s policy in Gaza has undermined security; Economic improvements in Gaza would decrease levels of hostility and violence toward Israel

– Two-thirds of the public believe Israel’s policy in Gaza has undermined security; 69 percent of the public believe that improving living conditions there “serves Israel’s interests.”

– Fifty-seven percent of the public prefer alleviating restrictions on the civilian population to tightening the closure.

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Read more »

Killing of three Palestinians on Egyptian border

PRESS RELEASE
Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas

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With sorrow and regret, the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas” extends condolences and expresses its sympathy with the families of “martyrs of the blockade” Abdullah Waleed Al Namuly, Salama Suleiman Abu Shusha, and Obaid Mohammed El Sofy, who were killed by gas while trying to earn a living in the besieged Gaza Strip.

We condemn this tragic incident, emphasizing that there is no justification for the Egyptian Authorities to continue using such lethal means in dealing with the besieged Gazans.

We call upon our brothers in Egypt to open the Rafah Crossing permanently to end the suffering of Gazans.

We also affirm the right of our people to live freely with dignity like other peoples of the world.

Finally, we call the international community to intervene to end this unjust and illegal blockade.

The Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas”

UNRWA: Gaza Neutrality Issue – UPDATE

UPDATE 26/02/2017 22:31

On the record quote (not statement) by UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness:

“We have seen the latest communication from the Israeli authorities. Before that communication, and in light of our ongoing independent internal investigation, we had been presented with substantial information from a number of sources which led us to take the decision this afternoon to suspend Suhail al Hindi, pending the outcome of our investigation.

As with all UN Agencies, we will ensure that a staff member’s due process rights are followed.”

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Press Statement
UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness

23 February 2017

Allegations have been circulating in conventional and social media networks about an UNRWA staff member being elected to political office in Gaza.

As soon as the allegations came to UNRWA’s attention, the Agency undertook a preliminary investigation, including discussing the allegations with the staff member. Based on the due diligence carried out by the Agency to date, UNRWA has neither uncovered nor received evidence to contradict the staff member’s denial that he was elected to political office. Read more »