On the 39th Friday

The Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege
Israeli Forces Kill 3 and Wound 115 Other Civilians

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Ref: 138/2018, 21 December 2018

On Friday evening, 21 December 2018, Israeli forces Killed 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child and a person with a mobility impairment, and wounded 115 other civilians, including 21 children, 2 women, 2 journalists and 3 paramedics, in the peaceful demonstrations in the eastern Gaza Strip despite the decreasing intensity of the demonstrations there for the eighth week consecutively and absence of most means usually used during the demonstrations since the beginning of the Return and Breaking the Siege March 8 months ago.

According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, for the eighth week since the beginning of the Return March on 30 March 2018, burning tires and stone-throwing decreased while the attempts to cross the border fence and throw incendiary balloons were completely absent.

Though the demonstrators were around tens of meters away from the border fence, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing teargas canisters at them, without the later posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.

On 21 December 2018, the incidents were as follows:

At approximately 14:30, thousands of civilians, including women, children and entire families, started swarming to the five encampments established by the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege adjacent to the border fence with Israel in eastern Gaza Strip cities. Hundreds, including children and women, approached the border fence with Israel in front of each encampment and gathered tens of meters away from the main border fence, attempting to throw stones at the Israeli forces. Although the demonstrators gathered in areas open to the Israeli snipers stationed on the top of the sand berms and military watchtowers and inside and behind the military jeeps, the Israeli forces fired live and rubber bullets in addition to a barrage of teargas canisters. The Israeli shooting, which continued at around 17:00, resulted in the killing of 3 civilians, including a child and a person with a mobility impairment.

Continue reading

Israeli military edited video of fatal strike

‘Warning strike’ killed two Palestinian teenagers

B’Tselem, 19 December 2018

The case

On 14 July 2018, around 6 P.M., the partially constructed al-Katibah Building in Gaza City was the target of an Israeli airstrike, consisting of four initial missiles, followed by four larger strikes. The first missile killed two Palestinian teenagers, Amir a-Nimrah and Luai Kahil, as they sat on the roof of the building. Twenty-three others were injured in the following strikes, which also damaged two neighboring buildings—a cultural center and a mosque.

The four initial missiles launched were part of what the Israeli military calls ‘roof knocking’, a policy by which ‘low-explosive munitions’ are used, supposedly to warn civilians of a larger impending strike and to allow time for them to evacuate the area. Israel claims that these warnings are legal and are meant to protect civilians. However, quite to the contrary, missiles launched as ‘roof knocking’ form part of an attack, for all intents and purposes. As such, they must follow the relevant rules under International Law. In this case a-Nimrah and Kahil were killed as a result of an attack that disregarded these rules completely.

The investigation

Following the attack, the Israeli military published footage of the strikes via its Twitter account, @idfspokesperson, supposedly showing four different strikes.

The attack was documented by a number of different sources. In addition to the Israeli military’s aerial footage, the attack was captured by nearby CCTV cameras. B’Tselem’s field researchers gathered further video material on the ground, as well as from social media and other open sources.

Continue reading

A Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath

So She Lost Her Texas Elementary School Job

pll-1544914724

Map: Palestine Legal

Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, December 17 2018

A children’s speech pathologist who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told that she can no longer work with the public school district, after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas, alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech.

The child language specialist, Bahia Amawi, is a U.S. citizen who received a master’s degree in speech pathology in 1999 and, since then, has specialized in evaluations for young children with language difficulties (see video below). Amawi was born in Austria and has lived in the U.S. for the last 30 years, fluently speaks three languages (English, German, and Arabic), and has four U.S.-born American children of her own.

Amawi began working in 2009 on a contract basis with the Pflugerville Independent School District, which includes Austin, to provide assessments and support for school children from the county’s growing Arabic-speaking immigrant community. The children with whom she has worked span the ages of 3 to 11. Ever since her work for the school district began in 2009, her contract was renewed each year with no controversy or problem.

But this year, all of that changed. On August 13, the school district once again offered to extend her contract for another year by sending her essentially the same contract and set of certifications she has received and signed at the end of each year since 2009.

She was prepared to sign her contract renewal until she noticed one new, and extremely significant, addition: a certification she was required to sign pledging that she “does not currently boycott Israel,” that she “will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract,” and that she shall refrain from any action “that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israeli or in an Israel-controlled territory.”

Continue reading

Lawmakers Consider Adding Measure Protecting Israel

Senator Richard C. Shelby, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has objected to unrelated bills clinging to his panel’s work. (Erin Schaff for The New York Times)

Emily Cochrane, New York Times, December 17, 2018

WASHINGTON — Just days away from a partial government shutdown, lawmakers are weighing adding a contentious measure to a stymied spending package that would keep American companies from participating in boycotts — primarily against Israel — that are being carried out by international organizations.

Critics of the legislation, including the American Civil Liberties Union and a number of Palestinian rights organizations, say the bill infringes on First Amendment rights and is part of a broader effort on the state and federal levels to suppress support for efforts to boycott, divest investments from and place sanctions on Israel, a movement known as B.D.S.

“The crux of it is silencing one side of the Israel-Palestine conflict,” said Manar Waheed, the senior legislative and advocacy counsel for the A.C.L.U. “Anything that creates a penalty for any First Amendment-related activities is an infringement of the First Amendment.”

The bill, known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, is one of several pieces of pet legislation that lawmakers are advocating in the final days of the session, hoping to add to a package of seven spending bills that need to pass to keep the government fully funded past Friday. President Trump has said repeatedly that he will not sign any spending bills unless they contain at least $5 billion to begin building a wall on the border with Mexico.

As the package languishes, lawmakers see an opportunity to give their bills life before the current Congress ends this month. Other pieces of legislation that could be added include the so-called Blue Water Bill, which would allow Vietnam-era sailors who say they were exposed to Agent Orange as they served offshore to receive the same health benefits as those who were exposed on land. Other lawmakers are seeking to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which was extended with a brief stopgap spending bill two weeks ago.

Continue reading

Curbing Speech in the Name of Helping Israel

A Senate bill aims to punish those who boycott Israel over its settlement policy. There are better solutions.

Senator Ben Cardin speaking at the J Street National Conference in April. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa, via Associated Press)

The New York Times Editorial Board, December 18, 2018

One of the more contentious issues involving Israel in recent years is now before Congress, testing America’s bedrock principles of freedom of speech and political dissent.

It is a legislative proposal that would impose civil and criminal penalties on American companies and organizations that participate in boycotts supporting Palestinian rights and opposing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

The aim is to cripple the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as B.D.S., which has gathered steam in recent years despite bitter opposition from the Israeli government and its supporters around the world.

The proposal’s chief sponsors, Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, and Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, want to attach it to the package of spending bills that Congress needs to pass before midnight Friday to keep the government fully funded.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a leading pro-Israel lobby group, strongly favors the measure.

Continue reading

Collective Punishment Against Families

Israeli Forces Blow up Building Belonging to Abu Hmeid Family for the Third Time

Ref:135-2018, December 15, 2018

As part of the collective punishment policy adopted by the Israeli forces against the families of Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks against Israeli soldiers or/and settlers, on Tuesday early morning, 15 December 2018, the Israeli forces blew up a building belonging to the family of prisoner Islam Abu Hmeid in al-Am’ari refugee camp in central al-Bireh. Blowing up the building came two days after the Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netenyahu’s decision to expedite the demolitions of the houses belonging to Palestinians carrying out attacks. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) accordingly condemns this new crime, which is added to the series of Israeli crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). PCHR also emphasizes that the crime is part of the Israeli forces’ collective punishment policy against innocent Palestinians in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits collective penalties and reprisals against protected persons and their property. PCHR calls upon the international community to offer protection to the civilians in the oPt and ensure the application of the aforementioned convention.

According to PCHR’s investigations and eyewitnesses’ accounts, at approximately 01:30 on the abovementioned day, Israeli forces backed by military vehicles and around 150 soldiers moved into al-Am’ari refugee camp in central al-Bireh. The soldiers stepped out of their military vehicles and deployed between houses while around 30 of them topped the roofs of many houses. A large number of the Israeli soldiers raided a residential building belonging to the family of prisoner Islam Abu Hmeid to apply the demolition decision which the family was informed of previously under the pretext that a marble stone was thrown on the head of an Israeli soldier during an incursion into the camp on 06 June 2018 and led to his death. Dozens of the camp’s residents and Palestinian activists along with International human rights defenders and Chairman of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, Minister Waleed ‘Assaf, stood in front of the building attempting to prevent the demolition. However, The Israeli soldiers forced them, including the 60-year-old mother of Islam, who was alone living in the building, to evacuate the building by firing sound bombs and teargas canisters directly at them while they were inside. The Israeli soldiers also beat up and pushed them, including photojournalist Mohammed Hamdan after breaking his cell phone, with the firearms’ muzzles.

Following that, a large number of Israeli soldiers raided and searched the residential houses in the vicinity of the building. They forced the residents to evacuate them immediately and forcibly, causing fear among them. The residents were forced to leave towards al-Bireh School, in the center of the camp, where they were detained for 3 consecutive hours before the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) crews were allowed to transfer them to the PRCS office adjacent to the camp. They were more than 500 civilians, including children, women and elderlies, detained in a very cold place. In the meantime, dozens of young men and boys gathered and threw stones and empty bottles at Israeli soldiers who deployed throughout the camp. The soldiers fired heavily rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at them, wounding 6 young men with rubber bullets in addition to other civilians and journalists suffering tear gas inhalation and fainting. Meanwhile, an Israeli military force was demolishing the internal walls of the building with special equipment and planting a large quantity of explosives inside it in preparation for blowing it up. At approximately 06:50, the 150-square-meter building comprised of 4 floors was blown up and completely destroyed. It is noteworthy that the Israeli forces demolished the house of the Abu Humaid family for the third time as the first time was in 1994 and the second in 2003. Moreover, the family of Abu Hamid had a son who was killed previously by the Israeli forces and has 6 prisoners serving their sentences in the Israeli prisons, the last one was Islam who was arrested on 13 June 2018.

Continue reading