Disregard for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Israeli soldiers argue with a Palestinian family as Israeli bulldozers demolish their house, near the West Bank city of Qalqilia, 22 November 2006. (MaanImages/Khaleel Reash)


Today the United Nations (UN) observes the 58th International Human Rights Day, commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the UN General Assembly, on 10 December 1948. On this occasion, Al-Haq is compelled to note the stark contrast between the fundamental standards enshrined in the UDHR, and the situation of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Over nearly 40 years, the Israeli occupation has been characterised by, amongst others, the practices of extra-judicial executions, land confiscation, arbitrary arrest and detention, and house demolitions. Over the past year, not only have these violations persisted with alarming tenacity, but the economic boycott of the elected Palestinian government has crippled the Palestinian economy, and severely damaged the provision of education and health services. The resulting violations of the rights to education, health and employment are more severe than they have ever been, deepening poverty and destroying social cohesion.

Of the numerous human rights violation to which Palestinians are subjected, none is more pervasive than the severe restrictions placed upon Palestinian movement within the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Movement restrictions limit access to education, employment, health services, and agricultural land, and have economic and social consequences beyond simply hindering travel. Movement restrictions are most commonly enforced through permanent and ‘flying’ military checkpoints, which are often the location of the ill-treatment, assault and, in some instances, killing of Palestinian civilians. Since 2002 the construction of the Annexation Wall in the OPT has increased land confiscation within the draconian regime associated with movement restrictions in the OPT.

On this Human Rights Day it is those who suffer under the above system of movement restrictions to whom Al-Haq seeks to give voice, through contrasting extracts of the testimonies gathered by our fieldworkers over the past year, with selected articles of the UDHR.

Palestinian laborers stand in line next to Israel’s annexation wall as they wait to cross a checkpoint into Jerusalem from the West Bank Town of Bethlehem, 26 June 2006. (MaanImages/Moti Milrod)


“Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.” Article 13(1) UDHR

At 11:30 am, my turn for inspection came. I proceeded as instructed by a hand gesture from one of the Israeli soldiers. When I was approximately 10 metres from the soldiers, one of the soldiers asked me to get out of the car. He told the passengers to do so too. Once we got out of the car, one of the soldiers asked us to lift our upper clothes and turn around. Then the soldiers verified our identity cards and allowed us to pass through the checkpoint to Nablus. This process, from when I arrived until I was allowed to pass through, took two hours.

After I dropped off the passengers in Nablus, I retuned to Jenin by way of the same road. I arrived at the same checkpoint at noon. I waited for around an hour and a half until it was my turn to be inspected. The checkpoint was crowded with Palestinian cars and people were complaining the entire time. After the Israeli soldiers thoroughly inspected me and my car, I was allowed to pass though. It was 3:00 pm. It took me three hours to get through al-Bathan checkpoint.

When I arrived at Toubas, I was surprised to find another checkpoint, a flying checkpoint. It took me around an hour and a half to pass through this checkpoint. As I reached the southern entrance to Jenin, specifically the Shuhada’ Junction, I was surprised to find another Israeli military checkpoint. It was difficult and boring. I was inspected by the soldiers and arrived in Jenin at approximately 5:30 pm. Travelling from Jenin to Nablus and back took me approximately nine hours. That’s incredible. It would take any person less time to travel from one to country to another than it would take Palestinians travelling from Jenin to Nablus and back.

Extract from Al-Haq Affidavit No. 2818/2006
Given by: Ahmad ‘Isa Muhammad al-Ghoul, resident of Jabal Abu-Dheir Quarter, Jenin Governorate

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Article 3 UDHR
I got out of my car and approached the soldier who was in the military outpost. I asked him if there was any problem with these young men (my brothers and nephew). I spoke to him in Hebrew, which I understand and speak very well. In response he said, “Shut up, son of a bitch”. I pointed out that I had spoken politely to him and asked him why he was talking to me in this manner. He then said, “I will show you the meaning of politeness”, at which point he came down from his outpost carrying his machine gun. He approached me and started beating me with his hands and feet. I tried to ask him why he was attacking me, and at no point did I push him away. In the meantime my brother Muhammad ran to a police car which was parked approximately three metres away, where there were two policemen and one soldier. Those three came to separate us. The soldier who had assaulted me threatened to kill me and aimed the gun at my face. I did not know what to do. The two policemen and the other soldier tried to take him away from me, but he hit me in the face with his gun, injuring me on the bottom of my face. By the time the soldiers managed to take the soldier away from me, my wound had begun to bleed heavily.

Extract from Al-Haq Affidavit No. 3140/ 2006
Given by: Ibrahim Khader Ibrahim ‘Atallah, a resident of ‘Atsyon area / Beit Sakariya, Bethlehem Governorate.

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Article 5
A piece of glass was attached to a cement wall in the middle of the room. The glass sheet, 30 centimetres wide and 30 centimetres long, separated me from the soldiers. I knew these two soldiers. One was a white man of medium build in his twenties. He spoke Hebrew. He asked me to take off my jacket and I did as he said. Then he asked me to remove the clothes from my upper body and my pants. I did as he said and was left in my underwear.

The two soldiers started laughing at me hysterically. Then the same soldier who ordered me to remove my clothes asked me to take off my shoes and turn around. I saw writing in Arabic and Hebrew on the wall of the room. It said, ‘Additional Inspection.’ Believe me, even if you shouted in your loudest voice, no one would hear you from inside that small room. The soldiers did not find any metal objects on me throughout all the inspection processes I went through. I remained naked for around half an hour. After that, without any instruction from the soldiers, I put my clothes on. I believe that this room contained surveillance cameras. After half an hour, the Israeli soldiers returned my ID and allowed me to pass through the gate to Barta’a.

These inspection rooms were constructed by the Israeli occupying forces at the barrier of Barta’a just two months ago. They were constructed to humiliate and suppress the citizens of Barta’a. This situation has had a negative psychological impact on its citizens. The people have become afraid to leave their village because they don’t want to be subjected to humiliation in those closed rooms when they return to their village.

Extract from Al-Haq Affidavit No. 2777/2006
Given by: Mahmoud Ibrahim Yousef Qabaha, resident of Barta’a, Jenin Governorate.

“Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” Article 17 UDHR
Not content with the confiscation of land and the deprivation of the livelihood of citizens, the Israeli army also intentionally destroyed the lands located west of the Wall. On 5 August 2006, the Israeli army intentionally burned 300 dunums of agricultural lands located west of Far’on that were planted with olive trees. On 6 August 2006, the same thing happened when the Israeli soldiers burned 500 dunums planted with olive trees. Then, on 7 August 2006, they burned a further 300 dunums in the same area and in the same way. Once again, on 12 August 2006, the army burned 12 dunums of agricultural lands. In all these cases, the burning took place at noon in front of Far’on citizens. Typically, a military jeep would arrive, soldiers would get out and burn the lands. On each occasion the army prevented citizens from reaching their lands to extinguish the fire. The Israeli army also threatens to fire at us if we approach the Wall or are in the vicinity of it when they burn the lands. Moreover, they prevent the fire services of Toulkarem Municipality from entering the lands and extinguishing the fires.

As a result, approximately 1,500 fruitful and productive olive trees have been burned every year, without us being able to do anything to protect our trees and lands. It seems to me that the occupier’s intention in burning the lands is to empty our land of everything, even trees. All these acts and procedures have destroyed the agricultural sector in Far’on village, from the initial confiscation of land, cutting off of water supplies, prevention of farmers from reaching their lands and then burning the lands and crops.

Extract from Al-Haq Affidavit No. 3156/2006
Given by: ‘Abd-al-Karim Jamal ‘Abd-al-Majid ‘Umar, resident of Far’on village, Toulkarem Governorate.

Under the UDHR, Member States of the UN have “pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

It is evident that, in the implementation of movement restrictions alone, the Israeli authorities are in breach of numerous principles upheld in the UDHR. The cumulative effect of these flagrant violations and widespread disregard for human rights is the near impossibility of Palestinians in the OPT living their daily lives in dignity and equality as envisioned by the UDHR.

Al-Haq reminds the international community that on this day 58 years ago the United Nations held that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, and pledged to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” It is time for both Israel and the international community to uphold these commitments.

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