[News] Israel/West Bank: Grant Palestinians Equal Rights - 52 Years into Occupation, Rights Suspension Unlawful, Unjustifiable

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 18 12:15:53 EST 2019


  Israel/West Bank: Grant Palestinians Equal Rights

*52 Years into Occupation, Rights Suspension Unlawful, Unjustifiable*

December 17, 2019

(Jerusalem) – Israel 
<https://www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/israel/palestine> should grant 
Palestinians in the West Bank 
<https://www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/israel/palestine> rights 
protections at least equal to those afforded Israeli citizens, Human 
Rights Watch said in a report released today, citing Israel’s 52 years 
of occupation with no end in sight. The law of occupation permits 
occupiers to restrict some civil rights in the early days of an 
occupation based on limited security justifications, but sweeping 
restrictions are unjustified and unlawful after five decades.

The 92-page report, “Born Without Civil Rights: Israel’s Use of 
Draconian Military Orders to Repress Palestinians in the West Bank 
<https://www.hrw.org/node/336507/>,” evaluates Israeli military orders 
that criminalize nonviolent political activity, including protesting, 
publishing material “having a political significance,” and joining 
groups “hostile” to Israel. Human Rights Watch examined several case 
studies to show that Israel unjustifiably relies on these sweeping 
orders to jail Palestinians for anti-occupation speech, activism, or 
political affiliations; outlaw political and other nongovernmental 
organizations; and shut down media outlets.

“Israel’s efforts to justify depriving Palestinians of basic civil 
rights protections for more than half a century based on the exigencies 
of its forever military occupation just don’t fly anymore,” said Sarah 
Leah Whitson <https://www.hrw.org/about/people/sarah-leah-whitson>, 
executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human 
Rights Watch. “Given Israel’s long-term control over Palestinians, it 
should at minimum allow them to exercise the same rights it grants its 
own citizens, regardless of the political arrangement in place.”

Human Rights Watch conducted 29 interviews, primarily with former 
detainees and lawyers who represented them, reviewed military court 
indictments and decisions, and examined eight illustrative cases of 
activists, journalists, and other Palestinians detained under 
restrictive Israeli orders in the last five years. The report also 
reflects substantive responses to the findings from the Israeli army and 

In the lead-up to the report release, the Israeli government, rather 
than substantively responding to the Human Rights Watch report, has 
chosen instead to impugn a Human Rights Watch staff member.

Other governments and international organizations concerned with the 
rights of Palestinians should endorse a civil rights framework to 
highlight the impact of Israel’s restrictive military orders in the West 
Bank and press Israel to grant Palestinians full civil and other rights 
at least equal to what it grants Israeli citizens, Human Rights Watch 
said. Those should supplement such protections under the law of 
occupation as the prohibition against building settlements, which remain 
in place so long as the occupation persists.

The international law governing military occupation requires Israel as 
the occupier to restore “public life” for the occupied Palestinian 
population. That obligation increases in a prolonged occupation such as 
Israel’s, as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Israeli 
Supreme Court have said and the Israeli government itself has 
acknowledged. The Palestinian population’s needs have increased over the 
decades while Israel has done far too little to develop more narrowly 
tailored responses to countering security threats that minimize rights 

Suspending rights for a short period may temporarily disrupt public 
life, but long-term, indefinite suspension cripples a community’s 
social, political, and intellectual life. 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. In cases of indefinite occupation, such as Israel’s, the 
rights granted to an occupied population should be at least equal to the 
rights afforded the occupier’s citizens.

British Mandate-era regulations that remain in force in the West Bank 
and military orders that Israel has issued since it captured the West 
Bank in 1967 allow the Israeli army to strip Palestinians of basic civil 
rights protections. The regulations, for example, allow Israel to 
declare unlawful groups that advocate “bringing into hatred or contempt, 
or the exciting of disaffection against” local authorities and to arrest 
Palestinians for affiliation with such groups.

The military orders impose prison terms of up to 10 years on civilians 
convicted by military courts for influencing public opinion in a way 
that could “harm public peace or public order.” A 10-year sentence can 
also be imposed on Palestinians who participate in a gathering of more 
than 10 people without a military permit on any issue “that could be 
construed as political” or if they display “flags or political symbols” 
without army approval.

These sweeping restrictions apply only to the 2.5 million Palestinian 
residents of the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, but not to the 
more than 400,000 Israeli settlers in the same territory who fall under 
Israeli civil law. That law, which also applies in East Jerusalem – 
annexed by Israel, but still occupied territory under international law 
– and in Israel, much more robustly safeguards the rights to free 
expression and assembly.

“Nothing can justify today’s reality where in some places people on one 
side of the street enjoy civil rights, while those on the other side do 
not,” Whitson said.

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.”

In one example, the Israeli army detained Farid al-Atrash, 42, who works 
for the Independent Commission of Human Rights, a quasi-official body of 
the Palestinian Authority, for participating in a peaceful demonstration 
in Hebron in February 2016 that called for reopening a major downtown 
street to Palestinians. Military prosecutors cited provisions of 
military law that prohibit political gatherings, pointing to his “waving 
Palestinian Authority flags” and holding a sign that read “Open Shuhada 

They also accused him of entering a “closed military zone,” and “assault 
of a solider,” but furnished no evidence of this offense. The 
authorities released him after five days, but continue to prosecute him 
more than three years later.

Israeli authorities also rely on military orders to ban 411 
organizations, including all the major Palestinian political movements, 
and to detain people affiliated with them. Israel’s association-based 
claims against one banned organization, al-Hirak al-Shababi, appear to 
focus on its protests against the Palestinian Authority, based on a 
review of an indictment against Hafez Omar, an artist in Israeli 
detention since March 2019. Military law affords no appeal of such bans.

Prosecutors have cited the broad definition of incitement under Israeli 
military law to criminalize speech advocating resistance to the 
occupation, even when it does not call for violence. For example, they 
used the charge to justify detaining a 43-year-old activist, Nariman 
Tamimi, over a livestream she posted to Facebook of an encounter between 
her then-16-year-old daughter Ahed and Israeli soldiers in her front 
yard in December 2017.

“Israeli military law in place for 52 years bars Palestinians in the 
West Bank from such basic freedoms as waving flags, peacefully 
protesting the occupation, joining all major political movements, and 
publishing political material,” Whitson said. “These orders give the 
army carte blanche to prosecute anyone who organizes politically, speaks 
out, or even reports the news in ways that displease the army.”

*Excerpts from Selected Israeli Military Orders*

“A person who organizes a procession, assembly or vigil without a 
permit, calls for or instigates their being held or encourages them or 
participates in them in any way … shall be liable for imprisonment for 
ten years or a fine of ten thousand liras, or both.” /Military Order 101/

“It is forbidden to hold, wave, display, or affix flags or political 
symbols, except in accordance with a permit from the military 
commander.” /Military Order 101/

“It is forbidden to print or publicize in the region any publication of 
notice, poster, photo, pamphlet or other document containing material 
having a political significance, unless a license is previously obtained 
from the military commander of the place in which it is intended to 
execute the printing or publication.” /Military Order 101/

“[T]he expression ‘unlawful associations’ means any body of persons … 
which by its constitution or propaganda or otherwise advocates, incites 
or encourages … the bringing into hatred or contempt of, or the exciting 
of disaffection against [local authorities].” /Defense (Emergency) 
Regulations of 1945 (enforced by the Israeli army)/

“A person who [a]ttempts, orally or otherwise, to influence public 
opinion in the Area in a manner which may harm public peace or public 
order, or … [c]arries out an action expressing identification with a 
hostile organization, with its actions or its objectives or sympathy for 
them, by flying a flag, displaying a symbol or slogan or playing an 
anthem or voicing a slogan, or any similar explicit action clearly 
expressing such identification or sympathy, and all in a public place or 
in a manner that persons in a public place are able to see or hear such 
expression of identification or sympathy – shall be sentenced to ten 
years imprisonment.” /Military Order 1651/

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