Today, Hana al-Shalabi, who spent 43 days on hunger strike to protest her detention without charge or trial by Israel, was banished to the Gaza Strip for three years, under a highly controversial deal that Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights- Israel have said is illegal under international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
In the course of this appalling act, Israeli occupation forces used Twitter to commit an additional breach of international law and Hana al-Shalabi’s rights.
Banishment to Gaza is a war crime
In a joint statement, Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel noted:
Ms. Shalabi’s release is contingent upon her expulsion for a period of three years to the Gaza Strip, which, although part of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), has been hermetically sealed off from the rest of the oPt by Israel. Therefore, with no guarantees that she or her family will be permitted to travel, her expulsion could essentially become an extension of her previous isolation from her home and family while in prison.
Israel has used expulsion or banishment in other cases, and the statement observes regarding such forcible transfers:
The terms of these expulsions violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits forcible transfers and deportations of protected persons, a proscription that is part of customary international humanitarian law. Unlawful deportation or transfer also constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GC IV) and qualifies as one of the most serious war crimes.
Given the stark asymmetry in power, resulting from the belligerent occupation, between the Palestinian and Israeli parties involved, neither the potential “consent” of the prisoners nor the fact that these deals have been negotiated by a Palestinian authority can serve as justification for the deportations as this contravenes the spirit of articles 7, 8 and 47 of the GC IV concerning the inviolability of the protections afforded by the Convention.
In other words, Hana al-Shalabi is going from being the victim of one Israeli war crime – prolonged detention without charge or trial – to another: expulsion and banishment to a distant region.
Israel’s use of Twitter to further violations against Hana al-Shalabi
I have already noted that while Hana was being held without charge or trial, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official spokesman Ofir Gendelman was using Twitter to defame and smear her – while she is denied any right to respond to these or any other accusations.
Today, as Hana al-Shalabi was being transported to Gaza under Israeli captivity, another official Israeli Twitter account tweeted a link to a photograph with the following text “Hana Shalabi is currently meeting her family in Erez terminal & will cross over to Gaza in less than an hour.”
Screenshot of Twitter user ICLAGaza’s timeline taken on Sunday, 1 April 2012 at 16:41 UTC.
The “Erez terminal” is the crossing into Gaza which is under full control of the Israeli occupation forces. The account that tweeted the photograph is @ICLAGaza which according to its bio is “Official Israeli Coordination & Liaison Adminstration for the Gaza Strip Twitter: real-time information and updates” (In this tweet another Israeli army Twitter account recognizes @ICLAgaza as official and urges people to follow it).
The photograph – which I decided not to share – shows Hana al-Shalabi with members of her family in the Israeli occupation facility.
A captive prisoner who is being illegally banished and is under the full control of the occupation forces cannot freely consent to having her photograph taken, and much less for that photograph to used in propaganda by the occupiers to demonstrate how “humane” they are in allowing a brief visit before an atrocious three-year banishment of a woman who has never been accused of any crime.
It is likely that this photograph posted on Twitter and its use for propaganda purposes by Israel constitutes a violation of Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention:
Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.
By publishing her photograph, without the possibility of consent and under coercive circumstances, Israel has subjected Hana al-Shalabi and her family at the very least to “public curiousity.”
Violation of Twitter Terms of Service
In addition, Israel’s use of Twitter in this manner violates Twitter’s own terms of service, which state:
You may use the Services only if you can form a binding contract with Twitter and are not a person barred from receiving services under the laws of the United States or other applicable jurisdiction. You may use the Services only in compliance with these Terms and all applicable local, state, national, and international laws, rules and regulations.