UPDATE: Violence and Ethnic Cleansing in South Hebron Hills

One of our members is personally acquainted with these people and provides the following update. Please sign the petition below and consider donating to help both shooting victim Arun Abu Aram and arrested rights activist Sami Huraini.

Palestinian human rights activist Sami Huraini was arrested by Israeli forces during a pre-dawn raid on his home in the West Bank village of At-Tuwani on January 9, just hours after participating in a nonviolent demonstration in the neighboring village of Al Rakeez, where Israeli soldiers shot an unarmed Palestinian man, Harun Abu Aram, on New Year’s day.

Abu Aram, 24, was shot in the neck by Israeli soldiers who were conducting a raid on what remained of his neighbor’s home after a recent demolition. The soldiers were attempting to steal a generator from the neighbor. Abu Aram is in critical condition, in an induced coma, and is permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

Here is a short video account of the shooting.

Despite a complete lack of evidence and the peaceful nature of the protests, Sami Huraini has been charged with obstructing the peace and assaulting an Israeli soldier. He was conditionally released on January 15 after paying a cash bail of 10,000 shekels, while the prosecution prepares charges. The conditions of release are extremely punitive. In addition to the non-refundable bail, he is required to spend each Friday inside (or more likely waiting for hours outside) an Israeli police station inside a settlement, and is forbidden from planning or participating in any demonstration. He remains under threat of immediate re-arrest and is at risk of being taken into administrative detention.

These restrictions are indefinite, while the prosecution searches for evidence against him, so it is essential to continue to insist that all charges against him be dropped.

Sami Huraini is a leading human rights activist in the Masafer Yatta (South Hebron Hills) area. Residents of At Tuwani believe that his arrest is part of an effort to target him for his effectiveness as a community organizer and his leadership of the nonviolent protests that followed the nearby Abu Aram shooting. His arrest is just another example of the widespread targeting of activists by the Israeli military. The Israeli practice of trying Palestinians in Israeli military courts results in a conviction rate of over 99 percent and cannot be defended as just or democratic.

Sign a petition, addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the incoming United States Secretary of State, asking them to request that Israel drop all charges and restore Sami Huraini’s democratic rights to free speech.

Contribute towards bail and legal expenses for Sami Huraini via Palestine Partners (a non-profit based in Madison to assist women and activists in the South Hebron Hills area.)

Donate to the care of Harun Abu Aram & his family via our friends at The Rebuilding Alliance, see a video of the incident, and read updates on his condition.

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About Suffering: A Massacre of the Innocents in Yemen

The United States is contributing to the violent attacks on Yemen, while cutting back its humanitarian relief efforts.


Bruegel the Elder’s “Massacre of the Innocents”

Kathy Kelly, The Progressive, January 19, 2021

In 1565, Pieter Bruegel the Elder created The Massacre of the Innocents, a provocative masterpiece of religious art. The painting reworks a biblical narrative about King Herod’s order to slaughter all newborn boys in Bethlehem for fear that a messiah had been born there. Bruegel’s painting situates the atrocity in a contemporary setting, a sixteenth-century Flemish village under attack by heavily armed soldiers. 

Yemeni children are not “starving children.” They are children being starved by warring parties whose blockades and bomb attacks have decimated the country.

Depicting multiple episodes of gruesome brutality, Bruegel conveys the terror and grief inflicted on trapped villagers who cannot protect their children. Uncomfortable with the images of child slaughter, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, after acquiring the painting, ordered another reworking. The slaughtered babies were painted over with images such as bundles of food or small animals, making the scene appear to be one of plunder rather than massacre.

Were Bruegel’s anti-war theme updated to convey images of child slaughter today, a remote Yemeni village could be the focus. Soldiers performing the slaughter wouldn’t arrive on horseback. Today, they often are Saudi pilots trained to fly U.S.-made warplanes over civilian locales and then launch laser-guided missiles (sold by Raytheon, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin), to disembowel, decapitate, maim, or kill anyone in the path of the blast and exploding shards.

For more than five years, Yemenis have faced famines while enduring a naval blockade and routine aerial bombardment. The United Nations estimates the war has already caused 233,000 deaths, including 131,000 deaths from such indirect causes as lack of food, health services, and infrastructure.

Systematic destruction of farms, fisheries, roads, sewage and sanitation plants, and health-care facilities has wrought further suffering. Yemen is resource-rich, but famine continues to stalk the country, the United Nations reports. Two-thirds of Yemenis are hungry and fully half do not know when they will eat next. Twenty-five percent of the population suffers from moderate to severe malnutrition. That includes more than two million children.

Equipped with U.S.-manufactured Littoral Combat Ships, the Saudis have been able to blockade air and sea ports that are vital to feeding the most populated part of Yemen—the northern area, where 80 percent of the population lives. This area is controlled by Ansar Allah (also known as the “Houthi”). The tactics being used to unseat the Houthis severely punish vulnerable people—those who are impoverished, displaced, hungry, and stricken with diseases. Many are children who should never be held accountable for political deeds.


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January 21, 2021
Calling the Thing by its Proper Name

The Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) invites you to attend
“Apartheid” Between the Jordan River & the Mediterranean Sea
Thursday, January 21st
1:30-3:00pm EST
featuring
Hagai El-Ad (B’Tselem)
Nathan Thrall (Author, journalist)
Sawsan Zaher (Adalah Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel)
with
Lara Friedman (Foundation for Middle East Peace)

It has long been debated whether the term “Apartheid” has a place in discussion of Israel’s rule over Palestinians on one side of the Green Line – or both. While many Palestinian analysts and activists have for decades used Black South Africans’ struggles against apartheid as a legal and moral touchstone in their challenges to Israeli policies, defenders of Israel have long rejected this framing as inaccurate and irrelevant to the Israeli context, attacking those using the term “Apartheid” – even with respect to only the situation in the Occupied Territories – as anti-Israel and even antisemitic. 

Is it time to recognize Israel – on both sides of the Green Line – as an apartheid state?  With the occupation – and the separate-and-unequal regimes it involves – now in its 54th year, and with the 28 year-old peace process paradigm and its two-state solution rendered obsolete by Israeli facts on the ground (established expressly for that purpose), and with the Nation-State law codifying discrimination against Palestinians as a constitutional principle of the state of Israel, the question has salience today, both with respect to injecting honesty into the discussion around Israel-Palestine and to injecting energy, focus, and urgency into the fight for justice, human rights, freedom, and peace.

To discuss this question, FMEP is proud to host Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of Israel’s premier human rights organization B’tselem, which recently published a ground-breaking paper entitled, “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid;Sawsan Zaher, Deputy General Director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and who was part of Adalah’s legal team presenting oral arguments before the Israeli High Court of Justice in the petition against the Nation-State Law; and Nathan Thrall, an author and journalist who recently published an essay entitled, “The Separate Regimes Delusion.” 

Panelists

Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of B’Tselem בצלם بتسيلم, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Previously he was director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI, 2008–2014) and the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH, 2000–2006). In 2014, El-Ad was among Foreign Policy’s “100 Leading Global Thinkers.” In 2016 and again in 2018, he spoke before the United Nations Security Council calling for international action in order to end the occupation. He lives in Jerusalem and tweets at @HagaiElAd.

Sawsan Zaher is a Palestinian feminist and human rights lawyer, based in Haifa, Israel. She is the Deputy General Director and senior litigator at Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. She has litigated several landmark cases before the Israeli Supreme Court challenging discriminatory laws and policies against Palestinians including the recent Jewish Nation State Basic Law. She was selected as a Young Global Leader (2015); a Yale World Fellow (2013); a fellow at the Women in Public Service Project at Wellesley College, M.A., (2012); and a Fellow of the Public Law Program in the Public Interest Law Institute in Colombia University, NYC (2008). 

Nathan Thrall is the author of The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine (Metropolitan/Henry Holt). He is a contributor to The New York Times Magazine, the London Review of Books, and The New York Review of Books. His writing has also appeared in GQ, The Guardian Long Read, The New Republic, and The New York Times, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. He is the former Director of the Arab-Israeli Project at the International Crisis Group, where he spent a decade covering Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel’s relations with its neighbors, from 2010 to 2020. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three daughters.

Moderator

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This Is Apartheid

B’Tselem, 12 January 2021

More than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians, live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule. The common perception in public, political, legal and media discourse is that two separate regimes operate side by side in this area, separated by the Green Line. One regime, inside the borders of the sovereign State of Israel, is a permanent democracy with a population of about nine million, all Israeli citizens. The other regime, in the territories Israel took over in 1967, whose final status is supposed to be determined in future negotiations, is a temporary military occupation imposed on some five million Palestinian subjects.

Over time, the distinction between the two regimes has grown divorced from reality. This state of affairs has existed for more than 50 years – twice as long as the State of Israel existed without it. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers now reside in permanent settlements east of the Green Line, living as though they were west of it. East Jerusalem has been officially annexed to Israel’s sovereign territory, and the West Bank has been annexed in practice. Most importantly, the distinction obfuscates the fact that the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians. All this leads to the conclusion that these are not two parallel regimes that simply happen to uphold the same principle. There is one regime governing the entire area and the people living in it, based on a single organizing principle.

When B’Tselem was founded in 1989, we limited our mandate to the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, and refrained from addressing human rights inside the State of Israel established in 1948 or from taking a comprehensive approach to the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Yet the situation has changed. The regime’s organizing principle has gained visibility in recent years, as evidenced by the Basic Law: Israel – the Nation State of the Jewish People passed in 2018, or open talk of formally annexing parts of the West Bank in 2020. Taken together with the facts described above, this means that what happens in the Occupied Territories can no longer be treated as separate from the reality in the entire area under Israel’s control. The terms we have used in recent years to describe the situation – such as “prolonged occupation” or a “one-state reality” – are no longer adequate. To continue effectively fighting human rights violations, it is essential to examine and define the regime that governs the entire area.

This paper analyzes how the Israeli regime works to advance its goals in the entire area under its control. We do not provide a historical review or an evaluation of the Palestinian and Jewish national movements, or of the former South Africa regime. While these are important questions, they are beyond the purview of a human rights organization. Rather, this document presents the principles that guide the regime, demonstrates how it implements them and points to the conclusion that emerges from all of this as to how the regime should be defined and what that means for human rights.

Apartheid Minisite

Divide, separate, rule

MapIn the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians. A key method in pursuing this goal is engineering space differently for each group.

Jewish citizens live as though the entire area were a single space (excluding the Gaza Strip). The Green Line means next to nothing for them: whether they live west of it, within Israel’s sovereign territory, or east of it, in settlements not formally annexed to Israel, is irrelevant to their rights or status.

Where Palestinians live, on the other hand, is crucial. The Israeli regime has divided the area into several units that it defines and governs differently, according Palestinians different rights in each. This division is relevant to Palestinians only. The geographic space, which is contiguous for Jews, is a fragmented mosaic for Palestinians:

  • Palestinians who live on land defined in 1948 as Israeli sovereign territory (sometimes called Arab-Israelis) are Israeli citizens and make up 17% of the state’s citizenry. While this status affords them many rights, they do not enjoy the same rights as Jewish citizens by either law or practice – as detailed further in this paper.
     
  • Roughly 350,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem, which consists of some 70,000 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 square meters] that Israel annexed to its sovereign territory in 1967. They are defined as permanent residents of Israel a status that allows them to live and work in Israel without needing special permits, to receive social benefits and health insurance, and to vote in municipal elections. Yet permanent residency, unlike citizenship, may be revoked at any time, at the complete discretion of the Minister of the Interior. In certain circumstances, it can also expire.
     
  • Although Israel never formally annexed the West Bank, it treats the territory as its own. More than 2.6 million Palestinian subjects live in the West Bank, in dozens of disconnected enclaves, under rigid military rule and without political rights. In about 40% of the territory, Israel has transferred some civilian powers to the Palestinian Authority (PA). However, the PA is still subordinate to Israel and can only exercise its limited powers with Israel’s consent.
     
  • The Gaza Strip is home to about two million Palestinians, also denied political rights. In 2005, Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip, dismantled the settlements it built there and abdicated any responsibility for the fate of the Palestinian population. After the Hamas takeover in 2007, Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip that is still in place. Throughout all of these years, Israel has continued to control nearly every aspect of life in Gaza from outside.

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Free Sami Huraini

Palestine Partners started this petition to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’.

Palestinian human rights activist Sami Huraini was arrested by Israeli forces during a pre-dawn raid on his home in the West Bank village of At-Tuwani on January 9.  The arrest occurred just hours after Sami’s participation in a nonviolent demonstration in the neighboring village of Al Rakeez, where Israeli soldiers shot and paralyzed an unarmed Palestinian man on New Year’s day. Despite a complete lack of evidence and the peaceful nature of the protests, Mr Huraini has been charged with obstructing the peace and assaulting an Israeli soldier.  

Mr Huraini is a leading human rights activist in the Masafer Yatta (South Hebron Hills) area. Residents of At Tuwani believe that his arrest is part of an effort to target him for his effectiveness as a community organizer and leadership of the nonviolent protests that have followed the January 1 shooting in nearby Al Rakeez. His arrest is an example of the widespread targeting of activists by the Israeli military courts. The Israeli practice of trying Palestinians in Israeli military courts results a conviction rate of over 99 percent and cannot be defended as just or democratic. 

We ask that you call on the Israeli government to drop the politically-motivated charges against Sami Huraini so that he can continue his work to protect human rights.

Sign this petition

The village where Palestinians are rendered completely powerless

Help Harun Abu Aram Heal

Rebuilding Alliance is organizing this fundraiser and will be working with the family to meet their needs. They are a U.S. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works to realize a just and enduring peace in Palestine and Israel founded upon equal rights, equal security, and equal opportunity for all.

Harun Abu Aram was shot and paralyzed by Israeli security forces on Friday in his village, where even having electricity is deemed illegal


Ashraf Amour and family members inside their home, in a cave in the village of Khirbet al-Rakiz, in the West Bank’s south Hebron Hills. (Emil Salman)

Amira Hass and Hagar Shezaf, Haaretz, January 5, 2021

"I blame myself for Harun’s injury,” said Ashraf Amour from the village of Khirbet al-Rakiz, near the cave where he and his family live in the West Bank’s south Hebron Hills.

“Ultimately, all that he did was come and help me when he saw soldiers confiscating my generator, and because of that, they shot him,” Amour said Sunday in describing the incident that left village resident Harun Abu Aram paralyzed from the neck down. 

'All that he did was come and help me when he saw soldiers confiscating my generator, and because of that, they shot him'

“It would have been easier for me if they had demolished my animal pen or my children’s swings or if Harun had been shot in the arm or the leg,” Amour said, not attempting to hold back his tears, “but the bullet hit his neck and came out the other side, hitting nerves. Now he’s lying in the hospital paralyzed.”

The incident near the town of Yatta occurred on Friday and the height of the confrontation was caught on video by one of Amour’s neighbors. The army issued a statement for this article saying that the incident is being investigated.

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