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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Christmas, O prisoners of the Little Town of Bethlehem

15:10 12/22/2011

By Stuart Littlewood
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
While carving the turkey for your family and merrily quaffing mulled wine ‘midst happy laughter, remember that the romantic Little Town of Bethlehem at the centre of our childhood Christmases is now “an immense prison” in the words of Michel Sabbah, former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and entirely surrounded by Israel’s ugly 8-metre separation wall bristling with machine-gun towers.

The good citizens of Bethlehem are cut off from their capital Jerusalem, only six miles away, the rest of the West Bank and the whole world.

Consider that the United Nations, for obvious reasons, designated Jerusalem and Bethlehem a protected international zone under UN administration. Israeli rule was not to be permitted.

Consider also that when Palestine was under British mandate Christians accounted for 20 per cent of the population and how 63 years of terror, illegal occupation, dispossession, interference and economic wrecking tactics have whittled their numbers down to less than 2 per cent.

Consider that, at this rate, there will soon be no Christians left in the land where Christianity was born… thanks to the cowardice and inaction of our political leaders.

How will the 26 bishops sitting around in our House of Lords, doing nothing, explain that to their dwindling congregations?

As usual, many Palestinians in Bethlehem and the other cities and villages throughout occupied Palestine will be unable to reunite with their families or celebrate Christmas at their holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem due to cruel Israeli-imposed travel restrictions. Imagine for a moment what sort of Christmas the half-starved children in blockaded Gaza are having this year, and every year… and what New Year prospects face all the other Palestinian children struggling to grow up with the Israeli army’s boot on their necks.

Deep down it is not about religion at all. The struggle is between justice and a criminal conspiracy of huge international proportions, the tentacles of which spread far beyond the Holy Land and impact on all of us, even here in the deepest recesses of England’s green and pleasant land.

In the New Year civil society must resolve to DO SOMETHING about it, one way or another, before the evil spins irreversibly out of control.

- Stuart Littlewood's book Radio Free Palestine can now be read on the internet by visiting He contributed this article to

Israeli Settlers Enter al-Aqsa for Hanukkah

22.12.11 - 22:44 

On Thursday morning, more than a hundred Israeli settlers entered the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem under the protection of Israeli police on the occasion of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. No clashes were reported in the extremely sensitive area.

The Dome of the Rock, part of the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem (Brendan Work, PNN).

Director of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, Sheikh Azzam Al-Khatib, told PNN that more than 120 settlers entered the mosque under the name of a “foreign tourism program.” They entered through the al-Mughrabi gate, which is owned and operated by Israel and left through the al-Silsila, or Chain Gate.

Al-Khatib said that there were no confrontations between them and the worshipers at the mosque. He also said that he was sorry the settlers chose to commemorate Jewish festivals in such a way. 

Al-Khatib said that the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf typically refuses such foreign tourism programs. 

The al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits on the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, is one of the three most holy sites in Islam, revered as the site from which the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. In 2000, then-Israeli PM Ariel Sharon walked on the Haram al-Sharif—which Jews and some Christians call the Temple Mount—setting off the Second Intifada.

A Checkpoint Isn't Just a Construction

15:31 12/22/2011

A checkpoint is also there to mold consciousness and ideology. (Tamar Fleishman)

By Tamar Fleishman – The West Bank

Shuafat checkpoint that was inaugurated a few days ago disconnects the residents of the refugee camp from the center of their lives. It separates family members, employees from their place of work, patients from clinics, children from educational institutions and restricts the free movement of tens of thousands of human beings, for the ultimate goal set by its inventors and constructors to create a "strictly Jewish Jerusalem".

The architecture of the checkpoint correlates to the principles of modern prisons, the Panopticon, the concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe all inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched, according to Michel Foucault's definition:
"A metaphor for the modern disciplinary power which is based on isolation, individualization and supervision… the construction is divided into cells that provide the supervisors a clear view of the prisoners- so as to enable the creation of hierarchy and power. In this instance, the custodians (prison directors, wardens) are able to observe and control the space through different devises (closed-circuit televisions, patrols and so on) and they have control over and access to the entire site. In contrast, the prisoners' movement is restricted to a defined and narrow space, and their accessibility, as well as their ability to observe, is partial and limited according to the regulations of the administration".  

When entering this lion's den one is sure to lose his way in the concrete monster, adorned with the hidden eyes of countless cameras and the revealed eyes of the men in uniform, who are seated in a room separated by bullet proof glasses.

The walls of this construction are impenetrable to sun beams, the vast space is lighted artificially, which causes the person walking in the meandering labyrinth to feel uncertain whether he is located on ground level or under it. In this atmosphere, in which one can't tell if he is above or under, whether it is day or night, of estrangement and isolation from natural surroundings, and in which in each moment a side door might open and the person might disappear to god knows where, it's no wonder that there is a sense of distress and suffocation.

A protest was supposed to be held on the inauguration ceremony. But the long arm of the occupation was quicker than the protest leaders, and in the dead of night it visited tens of houses and only at morning was it known that thirty five men were arrested. In the absence of the protest leaders children and teenagers took their places. Some had their faces bear and other covered them for fear of the cameras above that immortalize every movement made in the open space, as well as the long sighted camera that was attached to the military jeep patrolling at the side of the protest. Years of experience have taught them that after the cameras come hunters that do not distinguish between children and adults, to them they are all prey that can be arrested and locked up.

The children protested and threw stones and in response a burst of rubber bullets was fired, after which a group of armed men with drawn riffles came out of the checkpoint and stood at the center of the main street. Once they finished notifying every one of their presence- they headed back.

By the new pillbox, on the road heading out of the checkpoint, like a memoranda is the soldier post which was the symbol of the old checkpoint. The old checkpoint wasn't more humane than the new one, but it gave a sense of impermanence, and with impermanence comes hope. Unlike the new one, the actual construction of the old one enabled a physical encounter between occupier and occupied, without the alienating sterility which is typical to the new checkpoints.

A checkpoint isn't just a construction implemented for blocking and imprisoning, its essence isn't architectural; it is also and perhaps mostly there to mold consciousness and ideology.

(Translated by Ruth Fleishman)

- As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization's site: She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to

Jesus Is Behind The Apartheid Blockade

The Bethlehem Call: Here we stand – Stand with us



How long, O God, will they steal our livelihood? Oppress, imprison and humiliate our people? Deprive our children of their childhood? Indeed how long, God, will the multitudes of Christians of the world ignore the anguish of our Palestinian sisters and brothers and all of the oppressed?

“Come and see,” said the Christians of Palestine. “Come and see the olive groves, the bulldozers, the ancient terraces, the segregated cities. The situation is worsening.”

More than 60 participants from 15 countries heeded an urgent call by Kairos Palestine. On 410 December 2011; they joined Palestinians in the Kairos for Global Justice Encounter/Conference in Bethlehem.

The aims and objectives of the encounter/conference were to:
  • Bring awareness of and share a Kairos consciousness experienced by all groups attending the encounter;
  • Strengthen and build ties among Kairos groups to form a committed global network for justice;
  • Learn from the Palestinian experience the urgency of Kairos solidarity and to end injustice by implementing concrete actions at the national, regional and global level.
On the road to this encounter/conference, there was the Amman Call in 2007, which ended 60 years without a unified Christian voice speaking against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The next milestone was the Berne Perspective in 2008, which is illustrated in the statement: “Enough is enough. No more words without deeds, it is time for action.” The cry for justice in Palestine reached a pivotal moment when, in December 2009, Palestinian Christians launched the Kairos Palestine document: “A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.”

We now say: “Injustice no more. Here we stand. Stand with us”

The current context

Today, the illegal regime and illegal forms of the Israeli occupation of Palestine assumes dimensions of systemic injustice whereby the unthinkable and unimaginable becomes globally accepted, supported and normalized. This is an example of Empire (global domination) at work. It happens in Palestine as it happens in many other contexts around the world. At the same time, Palestine is clearly a global issue. The government of Israel claims to have and indeed enjoys an exceptional status within the international community. Israel regards itself to be above the law and is treated as exempt from international law. This status provides the Israeli government the freedom to occupy Palestine with impunity.

As witnessed with our own eyes, the treacherous conditions imposed by the Israeli occupation on Palestinians and their land have reached a level of almost unimaginable and sophisticated criminality. This includes the slow yet deliberate and systematic ethnic cleansing and the genocide of Palestinians and Palestine as well as the strangling of the Palestinian economy. The brutality in the “violence of silence” internationally provides an almost impenetrable shield for the Israeli government to implement its evil designs in blatant disregard for human rights and international law. Silence is an opinion. Inaction is an action. We witness decidedly spineless cowardice in failure to resist the Israeli government by the majority of governments, political parties, media outlets, businesses, most of organized religion including Christianity and the silence of prophets worldwide. This makes us accomplices in crimes against humanity, such as the crimes of apartheid and persecution as described in international law.1

We witness also the resolve and resilience of Palestinians to match the imbalance of political, economic and military power with unbending steadfastness for their freedom and just peace.
The deligitimization and criminalization of the Israeli government and its local and international support base is gaining unstoppable momentum. The existence of international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns and other forms of nonviolent resistance is an established fact. The government and state of Israel is now regarded as an apartheid regime in terms of international law, with particular reference to the UN Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court. The severity of the Palestinian situation makes comparisons with apartheid in South Africa superfluous and almost irrelevant. The benchmark is international law and not South Africa.

Globally we observe a context of growing fluidity and volatility. In this context, we are deeply concerned to observe how governments and societies in the West, including churches and ecumenical bodies dominated by the West, are becoming more and more exclusive, supremacist and dictatorial in conserving an unjust status quo. Furthermore, the growing economic and political volatility of world powers in North America and Europe creates a context of uncertainty for precise timelines in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian situation. However this fluidity in addition to the Arab Awakening holds potential for hope.

(1) Relevant international laws include the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (adopted in 1973 and enacted in 1976); and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article 7 (1)(h) & (j),and Article 2 (g) & (h) 0f 1998.

The global South, also complicit in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, possesses the potential to be an untapped source of hope. This potential holds value not only for Palestinians but also for those societies in the global North where Empire crumbles.

We are also acutely aware of struggles for justice everywhere, including within Israel itself. We have come to ignite, nurture and strengthen a Kairos consciousness for each of these contexts as interconnected and interrelated. We draw inspiration and strength from each other and also from progressive peace activists and human rights groups in Israel.

In the deep pain of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, of
Palestinian refugees and of Israeli Arab citizens, we witnessed the tears of God. God keeps the flame of faith alive, as the darkness of despair closes in. God lives and breathes in the lament of those whose future has been stolen. In the cries of the dispossessed we have sensed the passion of God for right to prevail.

God takes sides for justice against injustice. God does not take kindly to injustice and the perpetrators of injustice. “He has shown the might with His arm. He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly (Luke 1:4655). A spirituality that recognizes the face of God in every human being is, therefore, inevitably marked by a bias towards justice for the poor and the oppressed. “One thing God requires of you is only this, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8). This is the true essence of both Testaments. Christ still weeps over Jerusalem.

A Kairos is both the recognition of God’s will and the urgency of our response. It is in the awareness of a God of the Now, who is deeply involved in the human predicament. God keeps us steadfast in courage, hope and love as we continue to struggle and resist.

We pray and plead for a radical change of hearts, policies and practices of the Israeli government and those governments that support it. If this does not happen, we pray in trembling and hope if it is God’s will…. for these governments to fall.

Some non-negotiable: Occupation no more

In the light of the above and with our conviction that Palestine is in an ever deepening crisis, Kairos Palestine urgently calls us to move forward boldly and act radically by speaking out with courage, passion and determination. The time for words and diplomatic niceties, that obscure the reality, are over. We affirm the churches’ commitment to and contributions for decisive action since the Amman Call as well as in the creation and impact of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF).

Nevertheless, we will strengthen and increase our advocacy initiatives.
Therefore, we:

• Reject the silence of the church, lest we be accomplices in crimes against humanity, such as those of apartheid and persecution. It is imperative to speak up and cry with the oppressed in demanding justice.
• Refuse to be coerced into accepting financial assistance from any church or organization that supports the Occupation.
• Challenge any church which, either directly or indirectly, invests in companies which support the occupation. As congregants of a church, we will be alert towards church policies and challenge unethical financial investment and spending practices.
• Call the Israeli occupation of Palestine a crime and sin. We reject any theological or political justification for the Occupation. We regard such theologies as defying the core of the Gospel.
• Reject any argument aimed at convincing Palestinians and the international community that the problems are caused by Muslims rather than the Occupation.
• Demand that churches take bold and courageous positions for justice against injustice. We are appalled at the spiritual and institutional cowardice that refuses to take an unequivocal stand for justice. Equally, victims and perpetrators cannot be put on equal footing in efforts to create illusions of balance.
• Confirm our obligation to resist the Occupation in faith, hope and love. We reject calls to cease advocating and practicing BDS or any other form of nonviolent civil resistance that will end the Occupation.
• Resist being party to any church or church-related organization offering tours to the Holy Lands that do not include an encounter with local Palestinians and express our opposition to such initiatives. Alternative tourism groups are now available that Christians and others can avail themselves of.
• Demand that the Right of Return for all Palestinian refugees be enforced.
• Steadfastly uphold the principle of compassion toward the oppressor. We acknowledge and understand their experiences of oppression, fears and insecurities. Our demands are in the best interests for a better future for all involved.
In love, we rage against injustice and yet refuse to be destroyed by our anger.

Our vision: Call to act now

A shared vision of peace with justice inspires us to respond with committed action, at this critical moment. This vision must include affirming voices from the Jewish, Muslim and other faith traditions that express hope for a pluralistic, democratic society here.
The tide is turning. The pain will pass soon if we act now. This calls for a collective willingness to take risks in the cause of justice.

Theology: One voice for justice

We commit ourselves to develop contextual biblical theologies and practices of resistance and liberation. We will unmask those theologies in our midst that are harbingers of death for Palestinians and the oppressed worldwide and we will challenge traditional ways of doing theology.

Dismantling Israeli apartheid

We support and commit ourselves to the dismantling of Israeli apartheid, insist on the enforcement of international law and ensuring the fulfillment of legitimate demands of Palestinians. These demands include:

  • People living side by side in justice and peace within pre1967 borders;
  • A shared Jerusalem including open access to all holy sites;
  • The right of return for Palestinian refugees;
  • An end to all settlement extensions and dismantling of the settlement system;
  • Free access to water and sanitation;
  • The breakdown of the apartheid wall.
We should not accept the argument that the fear of civil unrest between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is a deterrent to achieving Palestinian freedom.

Prophetic communities that support Palestine

We commit to:

Acknowledge that people at the community level are empowered as the primary theologians of a Kairos Consciousness.
Develop effective south-north and south-south coalitions for prophetic action
Agree that Kairos Palestine create a core group to facilitate these coalitions

Boycott-Divestment-Sanction (BDS): Creative, non-violent now
  • We commit to engage in creative, nonviolent resistance in response to the call from our Palestinian sisters and brothers to this end, including BDS.
  • We will actively participate in and lend credibility to popular, nonviolent resistance in Palestine, Israel and internationally, including giving effect to BDS We will oppose with appropriate means the policies of our governments that support the occupation.
Holy Lands Tourism and Pilgrimage

We will:
  • Promote and participate in alternative tourism and Kairos pilgrimages in the Holy Lands for the purposes of spiritual nurturing, awareness-raising and advocacy.
  • Insist that such tours be organized by or in partnership with Palestinian tour operators
  • Utilize those travel agencies that follow “Come and See: A Call from Palestinian Christians for Ethical Tourism”2. We will challenge and boycott those that do not.
  • Actively seek to enable targeted groups to travel to Israel-Palestine.

The Bethlehem Call for a here-we-stand, stand-with-us journey provides each one of us a joyous blessing and honor, difficult though the journey may be. We seize this opportune, Kairos moment with conviction and hope.

Palestinians and a world community have gathered: here in, breaking barriers between regions and cultures and building bridges of friendship and solidarity because we have a common dream to see a Palestine and a world free of all forms of injustice. We believe that each one of us was called to Bethlehem for a purpose.

“We are the ones we have been waiting for.” (Alice Walker)

A Franciscan benediction:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, at half truths and superficial relationships so that we may live deeply within our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation. May God bless us with tears to share for those who suffer in pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world so that we can do what others claim cannot be done. And may the blessing of the God of Abraham and Sarah, and Jesus born in Bethlehem of our sister Mary, and of the Holy Spirit, who broods over the world as a mother over her children, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen.

(2) Come and See: A Call from Palestinian Christians A journey for peace with Justice Guidelines for Christians Contemplating a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

'If Jesus were to come this year, Bethlehem would be closed'

A strip of settlements built on what was northern Bethlehem threatens to cut the city off from its historic twin, Jerusalem

, Bethlehem,

A Palestinian shepherd watches his flock near the Israeli settlement of Har Homa, near Bethlehem
A Palestinian shepherd watches his flock near the Israeli settlement of Har Homa, near Bethlehem. Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA
If Joseph and Mary were making their way to Bethlehem today, the Christmas story would be a little different, says Father Ibrahim Shomali, a parish priest in the town. The couple would struggle to get into the city, let alone find a hotel room.

"If Jesus were to come this year, Bethlehem would be closed," says the priest of Bethlehem's Beit Jala parish. "He would either have to be born at a checkpoint or at the separation wall. Mary and Joseph would have needed Israeli permission – or to have been tourists.

"This really is the big problem for Palestinians in Bethlehem: what will happen when they close us off completely?"

Bethlehem is the heart of Christian Palestine and it swells with pride every Christmas. Manger Square is transformed into a grotto of lights and stalls crowned by a towering Christmas tree. Strings of illuminated angels, stars and bells festoon the streets. But just a few minutes' drive to the north, the festive atmosphere stops abruptly.

A strip of Israeli settlements built on 18 sq km of what was once northern Bethlehem threatens to cut the city off from its historic twin, Jerusalem. To the Israeli authorities, these have been neighbourhoods of Jerusalem since 1967. One of the settlements, Har Homa, is built on land where angels are said to have announced the birth of Christ to local shepherds. A narrow corridor of land between Har Homa and another settlement, Gilo, still connects Bethlehem to Jerusalem but the construction of Givat Hamatos, a new settlement announced in October, will fill this in a matter of years.

The European Union and United Nations routinely denounce Israel's unilateral settlement expansion but in October, EU high commissioner Baroness Catherine Ashton warned the construction of Givat Hamatos was "of particular concern as [it] would cut the geographic contiguity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem".

European concern is not slowing Israel's progress. Last week, 500 new units were approved for Har Homa and a further 348 in Betar Illit, on Bethlehem's western boundary. Earlier this month, an additional 267 units were sanctioned for settlements running up to the edge of the city's southern suburbs, where the Ministry of Defence also gave settlers permission to start a farm on Palestinian land. This is in addition to the 6,782 new apartments already slated for Har Homa, Gilo and Givat Hamatos.

In the short term, the closure won't make a big difference to everyday life in Bethlehem: the separation wall already prevents Palestinians from entering Jerusalem from the town without an Israeli permit.

But this ring of settlements will permanently change the geography of the biblical landscape: if a peace agreement razes the separation wall, the two cities will remain divided.

Israeli activist Hargit Ofram, director of Peace Now, reads a clear political intention in Israel's plans: "These efforts are being made to prevent a possible two-state solution because in order for that to work, you would need a viable Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

"If that capital is going to be surrounded by settlements, Israel would have to remove them. The more Israel is building, the higher the price of a Palestinian state is becoming."

A coalition of 20 rights organisations including Oxfam and Amnesty International warned this month that the number of Palestinian homes demolished in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by Israeli authorities had doubled in the past year.

Under the terms of the Oslo Accords, 13% of Bethlehem now falls within Areas A and B controlled by the Palestinian Authority. This area houses 87.6% of the Palestinian population. The rest falls in Area C, where Israel controls who builds what.

The al-Makour valley is Bethlehem's last green space and one of few areas left for urban expansion. It is in Area C and overlooked by Gilo checkpoint at one end and Har Homa settlement on the other. Israel's separation wall is slated to run through the middle of the valley. No Palestinian has been given a permit to build here since 1967.

Despite Israel's building restrictions, Miranda Nasry Qasasfeh spent every weekend of the past year renovating a stone storehouse owned by her husband's family for 150 years. She built a new iron roof and had planted almond, plum and eskadinia trees, which were about to bear their first fruit. Hers was one of four Palestinian structures in al-Makour demolished on 12 December. Most of the trees were uprooted.

Qasasfeh's 75-year-old father rushed to the site of the demolition, where he found his daughter in deep distress. Hours later, he suffered a stroke and is now paralysed down his left side. Given the events of the past week, Qasasfeh has postponed putting up Christmas decorations.

"The Israeli commander told me that I have nothing here, that it is not my land. But it is and we need to live and expand. What other choice do we have? Should I go an build on someone else's land?" she asks.

But despite the destruction of her property, Miranda Qasasfeh still has hope that the political situation will change. She has threatened to disown her eldest son if he carries out his threat of leaving Bethlehem to find work elsewhere.

"I keep telling my children, planting it in their minds, there is nowhere else in the world like this. We cannot leave." She adds: "And we have Christmas. For a few days at least we can forget, or try to forget, what is happening here."

Father Shomali's outlook is more glum: "When I look down my church register, many of the historic family names from the area have already gone. In 20 years, I think we will have no more Christians in Bethlehem."

Dr Jad Isaac, an expert in Bethlehem's demographics and a consultant to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, says aside from the physical restrictions on development, Bethlehem's economy is being strangled by the loss of land and restrictions on Palestinian movement.

With work in Jerusalem now impossible to all but the 6,000 granted permits to work inside Israel, unemployment in Bethlehem sits at 23%, poverty levels simmer at 18%. Many have little option but to work illegally for £25 a day building the nearby settlements. Dr Isaac's forecast is bleak.

"The little town of Bethlehem? It will soon be the little ghetto surrounded in all directions by Israeli settlements," he predicts. "We've already passed the stage where Bethlehem can be saved. Frankly, that's why I don't celebrate Christmas any more."

Report: Hamas agrees to join PLO

Published yesterday (updated) 22/12/2011 21:49
CAIRO (Ma'an) -- Hamas has agreed to join the Palestine Liberation Organization in a move intended to bolster Palestinian reconciliation, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

There was no immediate confirmation, but officials in Cairo said Hamas and Islamic Jihad expressed flexibility and indicated they would accept the PLO's legitimacy.

The report came after President Mahmoud Abbas met Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Cairo to put "final touches" on an agreement to reconcile the leaders' rival factions.

Officials from Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian National Initiative said late Thursday that they had accepted positions on an "interim leadership" of the PLO.

Ayed Yaghi, a PNI leader, said the small faction joined the PLO and that it was a natural position to take.

Head of the PNI Mustafa Barghouthi called it "a historic day in the lives of the Palestinian people with the development of a united national leadership as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PNI joined the PLO’s leadership framework."

An Islamic Jihad leader, however, said that joining the "interim leadership framework" of the PLO did not necessarily mean it had formally accepted membership in the Palestinian body.

Khaled Al-Batsh told Ma’an that joining the organization requires a clear framework for how the PLO will be restructured.

He added that if there was an agreement concerning these issues, Islamic Jihad would become a member in the organization. However, if there was not, the group said it was still willing to contribute.

“We’re now in the phase of national dialogue," he said. "We’re in the interim leadership framework, which will handle restructuring the PLO, and we hope to succeed.”


By Editor

– May 26, 2011 Posted in: Factsheets

Last Updated: 11 February 2008

“Israel is the sole country in the world to have legalized the use of torture” -B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights

Torture: The Facts


- Since the beginning of the Occupation in 1967, over 650,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israel. Almost 95% of them have been subjected to some form of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

- Since 1967, over 105 documented torture techniques have been used by Israel. At least 66 Palestinians have been tortured to death.

- To date, no Israeli official has ever been charged and sentenced for torture-related crimes.

- Israel justifies torture by designating the Palestinian Territories as being under ‘exceptional circumstances’. But this is a direct violation of the 1984 Convention Against Torture, ratified by Israel in 1991. Article 2(2) states that ‘no exceptional circumstances whatsoever… may be invoked as a justification of torture’.

- The right of every person not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is one of the few human rights that are considered absolute. It is forbidden to balance this right against other rights and values, or suspend or restrict this right, under any circumstances.

Methods of Torture


- Detainees are frequently “softened up” before their interrogation starts. Any examination of torture therefore has to consider the cumulative impact of the conditions imposed on a detainee.

- The methods of unlawful treatment include:

• Isolation, including prohibiting meetings with attorneys and relatives to exacerbate the sense of powerlessness;

• Confinement in cells lacking daylight without any items to pass the time, to induce sensory deprivation;

• Weakening of the body by preventing physical activity, sleep disturbance, and inadequate food supply;

• Cuffing in the ‘shabah’ position, i.e. painful binding of the prisoner’s hands and feet to a chair;

• Intimidation, cursing and humiliation by threats, strip searches, shouting and spitting.

- Detainees are also subjected to direct physical violence, such as:

• Dry beatings;

• Tightening of handcuffs;

• Violent shaking;

• Sharp twisting of the head;

• The ‘frog’ crouch (forcing the detainee to crouch on tiptoes for extended periods);

• The ‘banana’ position (bending the back of the detainee in an arch whilst they are seated on a backless chair with their hands and feet bound).
JPG - 21.2 kb
In the ‘banana position’ a detainee’s back is bent into an arch for extended periods of time.


Torture and Israeli Law


- In 1987, the Israeli government established a commission headed by former Supreme Court President Moshe Landau, to investigate methods of interrogation used by the General Security Services.

- The Landau Commission concluded that in cases in which obtaining information is necessary in order to save lives, the investigator is entitled to apply ‘a moderate degree of physical pressure’. However, the guidelines of this accepted form of physical pressure – which per se contradicts article 2(2) of the Convention Against Torture – still remain undisclosed.

- In 1996, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) submitted its concluding observations to Israel’s first report regarding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UN HRC stated that ‘… the methods of interrogation, which were described by non-governmental organizations… were neither confirmed nor denied by Israel. The committee must therefore assume them to be accurate’.

- Under international law, statements resulting from torture cannot be invoked as evidence in any judicial proceedings. However, under Israeli law, information extracted from detainees by any means can be used freely in trials, except for confessions. In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court stated that ‘if it emerges that the means of pressure, whatever they were, did not actually influence the interrogee… it should not be said that the confession was the result of the use of improper means’.


The Pretext of ‘Ticking Bombs’


- In 1999 the Israeli Supreme Court held that security officials do not have legal authority to use physical means of interrogation that are not ‘reasonable and fair’. However, the Court stated that interrogators who used prohibited ‘physical pressure’ may avoid criminal responsibility if it is subsequently found that they acted ‘in the proper circumstances’.

- By stating that the necessity defence ‘likely arises’ in the case of ‘ticking bombs’ even when the danger is not immediate, the Supreme Court failed to clearly identify these ‘proper circumstances’.
- In this way, every Palestinian can be viewed as the ‘clue’ that leads to vital information that can prevent an attack in the near future.


Torture During the Two Intifadas


- During the First Intifada (1987-1993) Israeli security forces interrogated approximately 23,000 Palestinians. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel estimates that almost all of them endured some form of torture.

- Methods frequently used against detainees included:

• Tying up detainees in painful positions for hours or days;

• Solitary confinement and confinement in tiny, cramped cubicles;

• Beatings;

• Covering the detainee’s head with a sack;

• Violent shaking;

• Deprivation of sleep and food;

• Exposure to extreme cold or heat;

• Verbal and psychological abuse;

• Sexual abuse;

• Threats against the detainee’s life or family members’ lives;

• Lack of adequate clothing or hygiene.

- Since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000, violations have increased and become more systematic.

- Responsibility for investigating suspected offences committed by security forces rests with the Israeli State Attorney. Since 2000, the State Attorney’s Office has received over 500 complaints. To date it has not ordered a single investigation related to torture.


The Use of Human Shields is Torture


- During the 2002 massacre in Jenin refugee camp, residents were used as ‘human shields’ by Israeli soldiers. They were forced at gunpoint to lead the way into homes, opening doors which the soldiers thought might be booby-trapped.

- The use of human shields is a breach of article 16 of the Convention Against Torture.

- The Israeli Supreme Court forbade this practice on 6 October 2005.

- Israeli soldiers have continued to use human shields. Palestinain children as young as 11 were used as human shields during an Israeli military invasion of Nablus in March 2007.

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13 year-old Mohammad Badwan was tied by the arm to an Israeli military jeep in Biddo in April 2004.


Torture and International Law


- The 1984 Convention Against Torture defines torture as ‘any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining information or a confession, punishing or intimidating or coercing him… when such pain or suffering is inflicted by a public official’.

- Israel is the only state party to the Convention that prevents the Committee Against Torture from freely entering its prisons.

- Under international law Israel is obliged to launch investigations and prosecutions for all allegations of torture.

- If it fails to do so, all other states are authorized, and indeed obliged under the principle of universal jurisdiction, to arrest the suspected offenders when they are in their territory, and prosecute or extradite them.

- International law does not acknowledge any exceptions to the prohibition on torture.

'Israel uses immoral torture in jails'

Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:39PM GMT
Palestinian prisoners are forced to strip to their underwear in front of cameras by Israeli soldiers. (File photo)
An Israeli reserve military colonel has revealed disturbing information about indecent torture methods exercised against Arab and Iranian prisoners in Israel's notorious Unit 504 interrogation center.

Unit 504 is the Israeli army's Intelligence Corps unit tasked with interrogating prisoners, particularly those with Arab and Iranian nationalities.

The colonel, who has come to be known as Het, shed light on the cruel abuse and inhumane treatment of Iraqi refugees by an Israeli inspector identified as Captain George.

He has also divulged details on how Captain George tortured his subjects including Mustafa Dirani, a former member of the Shia Lebanese Amal Movement, founded in 1974.

Het said that he attended an interrogation session during which Captain George thrust a baton into the rectum of a prisoner. The captain, who has never been questioned, now serves as the Arab affairs adviser to the chief of the al-Quds (Jerusalem) district police.

This is while Dirani, who was abducted by Israeli forces in 1994, has testified that he was sodomized and tortured while being interrogated in Unit 504.

According to media reports, Israel's Channel 2 later aired a footage showing a nude interrogator stripping Dirani while beating and raping him with a rod.

In 1999, Het contacted Zvi Rish, an Israeli attorney who represented Diraini and some abused Iraqi refugees, and insisted that he was seriously ill and wished to disclose his unit's interrogation methods to "clear his conscience."

Additionally, in late December 2010, a human rights group called Public Committee Against Torture in Israel revealed that Palestinian detainees are systematically denied the right to meet a lawyer during interrogations.

Being shackled to chairs for long periods, sleep deprivation, intimidation, torture and abysmal detention conditions are some of the cases the rights group documented in its report.

Israel claims its army is “one of the most moral armies” in the world as it treats prisoners and detainees with honor.

But in recent years videos have come out, showing how Israeli soldiers abuse and humiliate blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian detainees.


Urgent Appeal: 10-year-old girl in need of life-saving brain surgery

Posted in Children, Urgent Appeal on Dec 20th, 2011

Please help us to save the life of 10-year-old Samar Maree from Ramallah. In early December, she was discovered with a tumor in her brain through a visiting mission led by pediatric neurosurgeon, Prof. Lorenzo Genitori at the Kuwaiti Hospital in Ramallah.

Unfortunately, the tumor could not be operated on in Palestine, so we are asking your kind help to donate so we can send her urgently to the Meyer Pediatric Hospital in Florence, Italy, where Dr. Genitori will operate on her in an effort to save her life.   In 2010, Dr. Genitori performed a similar surgery at his hospital for 4-year-old Ola Abu Jamous, who was also found to have a brain tumor through a PCRF mission. In November 2010, she had surgery and radiation therapy and is now fully recovered. The costs to send Samar with her aunt to Italy for life-saving care is roughly 16,000 Euros, so we’re asking for your kind and generous support this holiday season to help us save her life by donating any amount that you can, and spreading the word of this appeal.  Your  donation will go towards the costs of the her surgery, airfare, and travel expenses for Samar and her aunt. Please make a contribution today and help us save Samar’s life.

Additional Donation options:

Note: If you would like info on alternate donation options such as bank wire transfer and donation by mail, please visit our donation page here. When making a payment please indicate that you are donating towards this Urgent Appeal for Samar Maree.