A joint report by the Palestinian Centre for Human rights (PCHR) and B’Tselem which analyzes the investigations Israel claims to have conducted following the Great March of Return protests, which were held for about a year and a half in the Gaza Strip as of March 2018. The report shows how Israel worked to whitewash the truth and protect the political and military officials responsible – instead of taking action against the individuals who devised and implemented the unlawful open-fire policy, which resulted in the killing of more than 200 Palestinians and the injury of some 8,000 others.
The horror in the Gaza Strip has been going on for so many years. We have reported on the blockade, the poverty, the wars. We have shared stories of life without water, without electricity, without hope. We have explained what international law requires and what conscience dictates. Now, words fail us. Eleven days of incessant airstrikes on or near civilian homes. With nowhere to run and no safe place. Dozens of people killed, thousands injured, thousands more bereft of their homes and all their earthly possessions. This is not a mistake, these are no “exceptional cases”. It is the policy. B’Tselem’s field researchers in the Gaza Strip spoke with people who lost their loved ones, their homes, literally everything. These are their words.
B’Tselem’s analysis finds AG’s claims, that the ICC has no jurisdiction in Palestine, rely on intentional misquotation, disregard for international law and an absurd misrepresentation of reality. Contrary to the AG’s position, the ICC has jurisdiction to carry out the necessary investigation of the situation in Palestine. This morning, B’Tselem published a position paper refuting the conclusion of Attorney General Dr. Avichai Mandelblit – the highest legal authority in Israel’s executive branch, whose legal opinion represents the government – that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has no jurisdiction to investigate suspected war crimes by Israel.
Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council meeting on 18 March 2019, on the findings of the UN commission of inquiry into the 2018 Gaza protests, B’Tselem has issued a position paper explaining that Israel’s promise to “investigate” 11 incidents in which protesters were killed is mere propaganda. In a letter, B’Tselem’s director, Hagai El-Ad called upon the head of the commission, Santiago Canton, to reject the tapestry of lies Israel has woven while killing more unarmed protesters.
Since the wave of protests near the Gaza-Israel fence began on 30 March 2018, the Israeli military has killed 32 Palestinians in Gaza, 26 of them demonstrators, and injured more than 1,000 with live fire. Despite the heavy toll on life and limb, all state and military officials refuse to cancel these manifestly unlawful open-fire orders and continue to issue – and justify – them. Ahead of this Friday’s demonstrations (13 April), B’Tselem has issued a position paper on its findings regarding the first day of protest, analyzing the illegality of orders to shoot at unarmed demonstrators who pose no danger to anyone.
Over the past twenty years, Israel has taken measures to guarantee a nearly blanket exemption from its obligation under international law to pay compensation to Palestinians harmed by its security forces. In a new report released today (Wed., 8 March), B’Tselem traces the development of this practice and illustrates how it has led to a major drop in the number of claims for damages Palestinians filed in recent years. Israel’s policy reflects how little value it places on the lives, bodies and property of Palestinians living under its control.
In the summer of 2014, Israeli security forces killed 1,391 people, including 526 minors, who did not participate in the fighting. The report describes how Israel creates the false appearance of investigations into alleged breaches of law during the fighting, when in fact, those who are truly responsible for the violations, those who designed the policy and issued the orders, were never investigated. The MAG Corps’ investigations focus only on the responsibility of the lower ranks for cases considered “exceptional”, ignoring the fact that scores more nearly identical cases ended with horrifying outcomes. The MAG’s stand, which absolves himself of responsibility and allows decision makers to repeatedly ignore these outcomes is illegal and immoral.
The report explains the reasons behind B’Tselem’s decision to no longer refer complaints to the military law enforcement system. It was made based on information compiled from hundreds of complaints B’Tselem has filed with the military, dozens of military investigations and many meetings with officials. B’Tselem will continue reporting violations but will no longer help a system which serves as a whitewash mechanism and that also, in advance, absolves senior military and government officials of responsibility for the policy they set out.
The report looks at the policy of bombing residential buildings in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. This policy was one of the horrifying hallmarks of the fighting in Gaza in the summer of 2014, leading to the death of hundreds of people – more than a quarter of the operation’s Palestinian casualties. The report examines the recurrent stories of many Palestinian families who lost everything in a split second and analyzes Israel’s contention that it followed IHL provisions. While Hamas openly declared its intent to harm Israeli civilians, Israeli officials kept saying, both during and after the war, that the military had obeyed the law and done everything in its power to avoid harming civilians. The report indicates that these claims are entirely baseless.
During Operation Protective Edge, Israel violated international humanitarian law in some cases, and many other cases are highly suspect. However, B’Tselem does not intend to demand that these suspicions be investigated by Israel’s current investigation mechanisms. This is due to the experience that B’Tselem gained following past military offensives in the Gaza Strip, which shows that there is currently no official body in Israel capable of conducting independent investigations of suspected violations of international humanitarian law.
Six months after the Turkel Commission’s issued its report on Israel’s investigative policy of alleged violations of laws of war, B’Tselem published a position paper on the report. While the commission held that Israel fulfills its obligation to investigate, it noted: “in several of the areas examined, there are grounds for amending examination and investigation mechanisms and in several areas, there are grounds for changing the accepted policy”. The commission’s recommendations are far-reaching. Nonetheless, B’Tselem emphasizes that greater systemic change is needed to bring Israel’s military investigative policy up to par.
The report reviews civilian casualties during Operation Pillar of Defense. It provides statistics regarding the number of Palestinians and Israelis killed during the operation (14-21 November 2012). The report challenges the prevalent perception among the Israeli public and media that the operation was “surgical” and caused practically no fatalities among uninvolved Palestinian civilians. The report also demonstrates a significant difference between the first and second half of the operation: 80% of the fatalities of uninvolved Palestinians occurred in the last four days of the operation.
The report reveals the full inventory of crowd control weapons used by Israeli security forces in the West Bank. These weapons are meant to be non-lethal, enabling authorities to enforce the law without endangering human life. In fact, however, some of these weapons are dangerous and may be lethal if used improperly. Crowd control weapons have killed and injured demonstrators and people throwing stones.
The report surveys the broad spectrum of issues regarding the Israeli authorities' human rights record in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past year, the 44th year of the Israeli occupation. An interactive version of the report is available online and distributed through social media. The report documents a sharp increase in the number of uninvolved Palestinians killed by the Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip in 2011. There was also an increase in the number of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians, compared to 2010.
Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end this regime, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.