‘Collective Punishment Is Never Permissible!’

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‘COLLECTIVE punishment is never permissible under any circumstances,’ human rights charity Amnesty International said, in response to Israeli forces demolishing yet another family home.

ties notified the family of Bahaa Elayyan, who was killed in an attack on a Jerusalem bus in October 2015, of orders to demolish the family’s house. Elayyan was shot dead by Israeli police on October 13, 2015, yet Israel plans to demolish his family house in the neighbourhood district of Jabal al-Mukabir in Jerusalem in revenge of the attack. 

The young man was fatally shot by Israeli police after he reportedly ‘attacked with a knife’ passengers on an bus in Jerusalem. On October 6, 2015, Israeli police demolished – in a punitive measure – the family homes of three other Palestinians and sealed off another with cement in Jerusalem, for their alleged involvement in attacks against Israelis. 

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, says: ‘The people who bear the brunt of the punitive demolitions are relatives – including women, the elderly, and children – whom Israel does not suspect of involvement in any offence. In the vast majority of cases, the person whose actions prompted the demolition was not even living in the house at the time of the demolition,’ added the group. The official objective of the house demolition policy is deterrence … yet the deterrent effect of house demolitions has never been proven.’

It said that, ‘Since this constitutes deliberate harm to innocents, it is clear that even if house demolition had the desired deterrent effect, it would, nevertheless, remain unlawful.’ Amnesty International said that the Israeli authorities’ claim that such demolitions are effective in dissuading potential attackers ‘is entirely irrelevant in the eyes of international humanitarian law, which places clear limits on the actions which an occupying power may take in the name of security, and the absolute prohibition on collective punishment is one of the most important of these rules.’

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday Israeli troops blocked a major road in Hebron with barbed wire.

The barbed wire closed a number of entrances which lead to Tal Rumeideh neighbourhood and al-Shuhada Street in Hebron, completely isolating the area. Shuhada Street was closed for Palestinians then reopened under a peace agreement in 1997. In 1999 under the Hebron Accords, the city was officially divided in two parts by barricades and checkpoints, and the road was closed again.

Israeli forces have also continued to close the main eastern entrance of Aboud village, northwest of Ramallah, for the 12th consecutive day. The Head of Aboud Local Council Youssef Mass’ad denounced the ongoing closure of the village entrance and said it is ‘part of the Israeli occupation authorities’ policy of collective punishment against the villagers’, who are forced to take difficult alternative detours in order to reach their universities, colleges and work in Ramallah.

Last Saturday, Israeli forces suppressed a rally organised by hundreds of Aboud villagers to protest at the prolonged closure of the main entrance. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters at protesters to disperse them, causing several to suffer from excessive tear gas inhalation.

Protesters held placards reading, ‘No to the policy of collective punishment’, ‘We have the right to free movement as other people’ and ‘Christmas means peace, not closure’. Protesters raised the flag of Palestine and chanted ‘free Palestine’. Mass’ad said the village has ‘become a big prison, that is closed from all sides’.  

The detour road that passes through the nearby villages of Beit Rima and Nabi Saleh is occasionally inaccessible as Israeli forces close the metal gate at the entrance of Nabi Saleh. Mass’ad added that other alternative routes leading to the nearby village of Shuqba, west of the village, is very difficult to travel through.

‘Given this, we have decided to protest at the entrance of Aboud in order to convey our message to the whole world that the Israeli occupation has been hindering local development and denying patients from accessing healthcare services at Aboud medical centres,’ Mass’ad added.

The village entrance has been closed with earth mounds for a week following the killing of a 27-year-old Palestinian local. Abed al-Rahman al-Barghouthi was shot dead on Friday December 4th, after he allegedly ‘stabbed an Israeli soldier at the village entrance’. However, eyewitnesses said al-Barghouthi was heading back to his house in the village following a visit to his fiancée’s house in the nearby village of Deir Ghassaneh.

He was dropped off by a public taxi near the village entrance, where clashes were taking place between local youths and Israeli forces. ‘Al-Barghouthi was ordered by soldiers to show his identity card, when soldiers opened fire at him, hitting him in the neck and head with over six bullets, causing his immediate death,’ said Husni al-Barghouthi, Abdel al-Rahman’s uncle, refuting the Israeli allegations.

The uncle stated that the Israeli soldiers ‘planted a knife beside his body’. Aboud is one of the Palestinian villages with a balanced Muslim and Christian population who live in harmony. The village is renowned for its many churches and monasteries, including the Orthodox Church dating back to the Byzantine era.

• Denmark’s largest private pension fund, FPA Pension, with assets close to $50 billion, is withdrawing its investments from the international construction materials corporation Heidelberg Cement, due to its indirect involvement in exploiting the natural resources of the occupied West Bank.

FPA said it doesn’t want to contribute in any way to illegal activity in the West Bank, adding that during 2015 it examined divesting from companies that exploit natural resources in contravention of international law. 

The decision is a relatively exceptional way of divesting from companies that operate in the West Bank, Haaretz said. It is a third party boycott – not a boycott against a settlement product or an Israeli company that produces it, but against international entities or companies that have economic ties with Israeli companies that operate in the occupied West Bank. 

FPA Pension is the second Scandinavian insurance company to divest from Heidelberg Cement in the past half year. In June, the large Norwegian insurance company KLP also divested from Heidelberg Cement because it operates quarries in the West Bank through Israeli subsidiaries and is thus exploiting the national resources of an occupied area in violation of the Geneva Convention. 

Heidelberg Cement is one of the largest construction materials companies in the world, operating in more than 40 countries.  In 2007 it acquired the British firm Hanson, which, through its subsidiary, Hanson Israel, operates quarries in Area C of the West Bank, which is under total Israeli control. 

Under The Hague Convention and the Fourth Geneva Convention, which define the ‘laws of occupation,’ it is forbidden to use the natural resources of an occupied area if the profits from this benefit the occupiers and not the residents of the area. Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Golan Heights, both occupied since 1967, are considered illegal under international law.

The settler population in the West Bank is estimated at 531,000: in late 2012 the population of the West Bank settlements was 341,400; in late 2011 there were 190,423 individuals living in Israeli neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. B’Tselem the Israeli human rights group said, ‘The settlements have been allocated vast areas, far exceeding their built-up sections. These areas have been declared closed military zones by military orders and are off limits to Palestinians, except by special permit. In contrast, Israeli citizens, Jews from anywhere in the world and tourists may all freely enter these areas.’