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From the field

B'Tselem in brief + New report- March 2017


Dear Friends,

Twenty years ago, B’Tselem received a fax from the Israeli Ministry of Justice. It was entitled “Draft bill for Addressing Claims Arising from Activity of Security Forces in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip (Exemption from Liability and Paying Compensation), 5757- 1997”. To our surprise, we found the document to be the draft of a new bill that would exempt the state from any obligation to compensate Palestinians in the Occupied Territories for damage caused them by Israeli security forces. 

The bill sparked vigorous opposition among jurists and human rights organizations in Israel and abroad, and it was shelved. Yet the state did not abandon its objective to cease paying financial compensation to Palestinians, and kept seeking other means to realize this goal. Over time, Israel enacted several legislative amendments, gradually broadening the existing definition of “warfare activity” - which exempts the state from paying compensation - and imposed procedural and evidentiary obstacles on potential claimants. The amendments, in conjunction with inclusive construal by the courts, made it virtually impossible for Palestinian plaintiffs to get compensation for the harm they suffered. The original bill may have been shelved, but its goal was achieved. 

Watch Basmah Mansur tell her story: A mother of ten, she was hit by soldiers’ gunfire as she stood by a window in her Nablus home.

In May 2016, B’Tselem published The Occupation’s Fig Leaf, a report on the military law enforcement system. The report also explained our decision to stop referring complaints to a system which functions primarily as a whitewash mechanism while maintaining a semblance of efficient law enforcement with regard to criminal offenses. Yet Israel’s false show of justice also extends to civil matters: Theoretically, Palestinians harmed by Israeli security forces can sue for damages; in practice, few can overcome the obstacles placed in their path by the state and the courts. 

Underlying these mechanisms is the aim of enabling Israel to shirk all responsibility for harm caused to Palestinians, all the while ostensibly upholding the rule of law. This elaborate pageant, the collaborative effort of various authorities, is designed first and foremost with a view to sustaining the occupation which has been going strong for half a century. Israel seeks to minimize the cost of the occupation. We demand it be brought to an end. 

Read our new report – Getting Off Scot-Free: Israel’s Refusal to Compensate Palestinians for Damages Caused by Its Security Forces.

Sincerely yours,
Attorney Yael Stein
Research Department Director



We thank the 214 people who donated to B’Tselem in February, about half of them contribute on a monthly basis.




  • Israel continues to demolish homes and infrastructure, disrupting lives of Palestinian communities in Jordan Valley 

In Jan. and Feb. 2017, the Civil Administration (CA) demolished water supply infrastructure, leaving Palestinian farmers without water for domestic and agricultural needs.
On 20 Feb., the CA demolished an elderly woman’s donated trailer home near Khan al-Ahmar and a water pipe in Jordan Valley.
On 19 Feb., the CA served stop-work orders for all Khan al-Ahmar buildings, including the school.

2016 saw Israeli authorities demolish a record number of homes throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, citing lack of building permits as a pretext. It was the largest number B’Tselem ever recorded since we began systematically documenting demolitions in 2004. Eighty-eight homes were demolished in East Jerusalem and 274 elsewhere in the West Bank, notwithstanding that Israel intentionally denies Palestinians the possibility of building legally in these areas. This policy directly infringes upon the most basic human rights of tens of thousands of people, and indirectly harms hundreds of thousands more. The demolitions offer decisive evidence that Israel has long-term plans to continue controlling the area, while oppressing and dispossessing its residents.



  • New interactive documentary by B’Tselem offers virtual tour behind the invisible walls of occupation.

Viewers are invited on a virtual tour of the Palestinian village of Burqah, a rural suburb of the city of Ramallah that has become cut off from its urban center through various restrictions imposed by Israel. Burqah residents lead viewers on the tour, which depicts the story of the village and illustrates various aspects of Palestinians’ daily life under occupation. 





Gazan women describe living without electricity just an hour and a half away from Tel Aviv.

Gazans have suffered severe power shortages ever since Israel bombed Gaza’s power plant in 2006. Since then, Israel has prevented restoration of the plant and impeded infrastructure repairs and upgrades. As a result, supply is rotated, with residents getting power only 4-8 hours at a time.




  • Heartbreaking: Israel’s cruel policy of keeping families apart.

"It's very hard when you’re denied your most basic right: to meet your children whenever you want, to hug them. It's very hard to live with the yearning. I want to hug my daughter so much. A person can't know in advance how much she’ll miss and want to hug her children or grandchildren. We have been denied these experiences, and the right to see the people who are dearest to us.”
Read more testimonies of families split between Gaza and the West Bank.



  • Israeli soldier shoved elderly woman, who lost consciousness, during raid to deter legitimate protest in Kafr Qadum.

The soldiers, who were masked, acted violently and aggressively, threatened children, and shoved an elderly woman, who fell and lost consciousness. They warned residents not to attend the weekly village protests which have been held since 2011, when the road linking the village to Nablus was transferred to the exclusive use of settlers. Such threats violate the villagers' rights of expression, protest and demonstration.



  • Civil Administration uproots some 1,000 olive trees to build bypass road on ‘Azzun village land.

On 15 Jan. 2017, the Civil Administration began uprooting olive trees and levelling land near the Palestinian villages of ‘Azzun and a-Nabi Elyas. Declarations that the appropriation will serve “the public interest” are belied by Israel’s policy of using Area C for its citizens only. Past false statements about seizing Palestinian land “for the public good” and pressure from the settler lobby to build the road attest to Israel’s policy and aims.



  • Once again a Palestinian is killed despite posing no danger: Soldier fatally shoots Ahmad Kharubi, 19.

 killed two Israelis two months earlier. They shot and killed Ahmad Kharubi, from al-Bireh, who had come with several youths to protest the sealing of the home.



  • Military collectively punishes 10,000 residents of ‘Azzun for actions by individuals.

Collective punishment is prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that persons must not be punished for offenses that they did not commit. For some 2½ weeks, beginning in late Jan. 2017, the military blocked all vehicular access to and from the Palestinian village of ‘Azzun, as collective punishment for incidents of stone throwing, Molotov-cocktail hurling, and live gunfire at a major road nearby. The road closure also affected the 6,000 residents of neighbouring Palestinian communities.



B'Tselem in the Media:
+972 Magazine: Who pays when Palestinians are harmed by Israeli forces?
Al Jazeera: Israel denies redress to thousands of Palestinians
Haaretz: Israeli anti-occupation group refuses to be the army's 'useful idiot'. Interview
Ynet: B’Tselem: 2016 a record year in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes



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