‘Why evict us when we can both live here?’

This village is in Israel, not the Palestinian Territories. Its residents are full citizens of Israel. Yet they are treated as though they had no rights, no importance.

At the time of Israel’s war of independence in 1948 the villagers were thrown out of their ancestral village in a more fertile area in the Western Negev to make way for a Jewish kibbutz as part of the drive to “make the desert bloom”.

Eight years later they were forcibly moved again to their present location in the Atir valley in the less fertile northern Negev where they rebuilt their village and called it Um Al Hiran.

“It was a desert with no roads, water, houses or services. We built the village. We invested in the houses, the roads and the water pipes. Life has been tough, but we worked hard to develop this place into a beautiful and wonderful village,” said the village sheikh.Like all the other “unrecognised” villages in the Negev, they were provided with no mains electricity, no paved roads, no water, no sanitation. They had to do their best buying water from tankers and using solar panels for intermittent power.

This is not because it was remote. On the contrary, the Jewish owner of a dog-kennel only 800 metres away is provided with all mod cons. The Israelis do this solely to make life difficult for Arab villagers so they will move.

And it is not a question of money. Often if the villagers try to pave the roads, army bulldozers break them up; if they install water pipes, they are disconnected; if they build stone houses, they are demolished. The Israelis want the buildings to look temporary, ramshackle, worthless.
This makes it easier for the Israelis to sustain the myth that the villagers are Bedouin nomads who originate from other countries. In fact, while they are all proud of their Bedouin heritage, it is historically verifiable that their families have lived in the Negev for hundreds of years.
And while a few of the villagers were still engaged in the traditional Bedouin occupation of sheep-farming, Umm Al Hiran also had lawyers, teachers and doctors among its 500 residents.
Last year the leader of the Jewish settlers came and drank coffee with the villagers to ask them, disingenuously, why they were trying to block plans for the new Jewish village in the courts.
Salim Abu Alkia’n, Atwa’s brother, explained patiently: “To all the Jewish people who want to live in this town I say that people are already living in this town. We have been living here for 60 years and, even if they demolish our homes, we will stay here forever.”
Israelis can be excused for not knowing about the village, as it does not appear on Israeli maps. Even when the National Council for Planning and Building approved plans for a new Jewish town on the site in 2010, they submitted a map to the planning committee that made no reference to the fact that there was already an Arab village on the land.
When they applied for demolition orders, they claimed the buildings “had been discovered” by an inspection patrol and they had been “unable to identify or reach the people who owned the houses”.
When they applied for eviction orders, they described the villagers as “trespassers” squatting illegally on state land and the magistrate had to point out that they had lived on the land for years with the state’s knowledge and consent.
Written by Martin Linton – Palestine

Israeli bulldozers set to demolish Israeli Arab village to build Israeli Jewish town.

Emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu was reported to be sending his army’s bulldozers in at dawn today (Tuesday) to demolish this peaceful Bedouin village in Israel.
The Israeli government has long been planning to demolish the village of Umm Al Hiran and evict its inhabitants in order to build a Jewish village with the same name – Hiran – on exactly the same location.
For the last two years Netanyahu has been delaying the demolition because of international protests at this extreme case of ethnic cleansing, but now with Trump elected, he gave the go-ahead for the village to be razed.
The 500 Arab residents of the village have lived in the village for nearly 60 years and were ordered to move there by the Israeli military commander of the Negev who gave them a lease to build a village, farm the land and graze their sheep.
“We are not against them living here, but we want to stay here too and live together with them as neighbours…”
The village leaders say there is no need to evict them as the Jewish settlers can move onto a site next door. “We are not against them living here, but we want to stay here too and live together with them as neighbours,” says Atwa Abu Alkia’n.
They point out that there is plenty of space – 3¼ million acres – in the Negev and the settlers don’t need to move to the one small acre of land where they have been living since 1956.
The Israeli state has made it clear that the new village is for Jewish residents only and the Arabs must move out.
Written by Martin Linton – Palestine Briefing

Traumatised 12yo girl shot in both legs at Israeli checkpoint in attempted ‘Suicide by Soldier.’

Israeli forces shot an unarmed and suicidal child, Bara Esawi, 12, three times in the legs for failing to halt at Eliyahu checkpoint near Qalqilya, northwest of Ramallah in the West Bank, on September 21.

Bara Esawi, 12, was hospitalized after Israeli soldiers at Eliyahu checkpoint shot her legs for failing to stop. (Photo: Esawi family)
(Photo: Esawi family)

“In a case like this, where a child has attempted suicide by soldier, we are reminded that Palestinian children represent a vulnerable population,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at Defense for Children International – Palestine. “The media narrative of Palestinian children as would-be attackers does not reflect the reality on the ground.”

Bara, who was carrying only school books in her backpack, told DCIP that she missed her aunt whom Israeli soldiers shot dead at the same checkpoint in November 2015 after she allegedly brandished a knife, and wanted to “join her.” As she approached the checkpoint, Bara said she became afraid and wanted to return, but the soldiers aimed their weapons at her and spoke to her in Hebrew.

“Suddenly, one of the soldiers shot me three times, once in my left leg and twice in my right leg. I fell to the ground and my books scattered all over the place.”

“I stopped where I was because I did not understand what they wanted,” said Bara. “Suddenly, one of the soldiers shot me three times, once in my left leg and twice in my right leg. I fell to the ground and my books scattered all over the place.”

A military ambulance took Bara to Meir medical center in the Israeli city of Kfar Saba, where doctors informed her that she needed surgery to remove the three bullets lodged in her legs.

Bara spoke to a lawyer from DCIP from her hospital bed, while under guard by two Israeli soldiers. Bara said that nurses at the hospital were treating her badly and calling her a terrorist. She also reported that she was interrogated in the hospital without being informed of her rights, and without the presence of a lawyer or family member, and signed a statement without knowing its contents.

“The interrogator accused me of attempted stabbing against the soldiers at the checkpoint, but I denied it and told him I just wanted to get killed and that is why I came to the checkpoint carrying only my schoolbag, not a knife or a gun,” Bara told DCIP.

Israeli media initially misreported the incident as an attempted stabbing attack. However, following the shooting, the Israeli Defense Ministry issued a statement reporting that they found no traces of weapons when they searched Bara’s schoolbag, and the Israeli military court in Salem decided not to extend her detention.

The day before Bara was shot, 15-year-old Issa Salem Mahmoud Tarairah was fatally shot at a checkpoint near Bani Na’im after he was allegedly seen carrying a knife. A paramedic with the Palestinian Red Crescent told DCIP that he did not see a knife on the scene when he arrived to provide assistance.

Issa was killed during the most concentrated period of deadly violence in the West Bank since June, which saw four Palestinian boys killed by Israeli forces between September 16-20, three of them at checkpoints.

The fourth, Firas Moussa Mohammad Khaddour, 17, was fatally shot by Israeli soldiers after his car crashed at the entrance to the Israeli settlement, Kiryat Arba, on September 16. An eyewitness, who was in the vehicle at the time, told DCIP that Firas was not committing a ramming attack and that the crash was an accident.

A 2014 cross-sectional study published by the World Journal of Medical Sciences found that 25.28 percent of 720 Palestinian adolescents surveyed had attempted suicide. The paper stressed the need for stepped-up efforts “to reduce the escalating ideation and trend of suicide among the most vulnerable populations.”

published by Defence for Children International – Palestine: 02nd November 2016

‘Former Israeli soldiers speak out against the occupation’

In this article from AJ+, former Israeli soldiers are given a voice, an outlet, by Breaking the Silence to speak out against the unjust occupation of Palestine.

Carol Monaghan MP meets with Rohan Talbot from MAP & Yehuda Shaul from Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence
Carol Monaghan MP meets with Rohan Talbot from MAP & Yehuda Shaul from Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence
 
We were lucky enough to have co-founder of Breaking the Silence Yehuda Shaul with us at SNP National Conference in Aberdeen this time last year to speak to our members, MPs, MSPs & Cllrs from around the country.
Since then Yehuda has been on hand in occupied Palestine to give tours to a number of MPs who have travelled out to see for themselves the situation on the ground.
 
We praise the work that BtS are doing to expose the immoral occupation of Palestine against awful treatment by the Netanyahu coalition and its supporters.
 

ICC to assess whether Israel stands trial for Gaza war crimes.

In a completely unprecedented move, a delegation from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague is to visit Israel to assess whether the country is to be tried for

Red Crescent ambulance damaged in 2014 attack on Gaza.
Red Crescent ambulance damaged in 2014 attack on Gaza.

war crimes carried out during the 51-day military aggression carried out against Gaza in 2014.

More than 2,200 Palestinians, including 490 children, were killed in what the Israeli military called ‘Operation Protective Edge’. Over 11,100 others, including 3,374 children, 2,088 women and 410 elderly people, were also wounded in the assault.

MAP & Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights launch refugee initiative.

Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) have launched an initiative to ensure that the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees from ‪#Syria‬ are given equal access to international protection by the UK government’s relevant resettlement schemes.index

They have identified and received confirmation that Palestinian refugees from Syria are excluded from the UK government’s flagship Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. Furthermore, they have obtained information from the UK government which reveals that no Palestinian refugees from Syria have to date been resettled in the UK through the ‘Gateway’ resettlement programme that it operates with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

 

You can read and download the full briefing here.

The Unique Vulnerability of Palestinian Refugees from Syria.

By Anne Irfan
PHD CANDIDATE, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS
This paper was presented in a Parliamentary seminar in the House of Commons on 21 March 2016.

As we are all too aware, Syria today is in the midst of a major humanitarian
disaster. More than 5 million Syrians have fled the country since the start of the
Civil War 5 years ago, leading the UN to describe the situation as the worst
refugee crisis since the Second World War.1 What we have heard much less about
is the plight of the many Palestinian refugees also fleeing Syria, and in the process
becoming twice or even three-times displaced as a long-term stateless population.

This evening, we want to highlight not only the numbers of Palestinian refugees
from Syria but also their particular vulnerabilities. To put it simply, Palestinian
refugees are suffering from further persecution and torment simply because they are
Palestinian.
At the core of their plight is of course their statelessness, which makes them
inherently vulnerable for the obvious reason that they lack the protection of a
state. In the case of Palestinian refugees from Syria, they are additionally
vulnerable because they also lack the protection of many other states and
international organisations which are responding to the crisis by focussing
exclusively on Syrian refugees, rather than all refugees from Syria. While this might
sound like merely an issue of semantics, it is in fact an important distinction.

Before the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011, there were around 560,000
registered Palestinian refugees living in Syria.2 This population can be traced to the
original refugees from Palestine in 1948 and their descendants. Their conditions in
pre-war Syria were relatively good; although they lacked citizenship, the
Palestinians were well-integrated into Syrian society and enjoyed many of the same
rights as Syrian citizens, including access to healthcare, education and
employment. Their situation was much better, by comparison, than that of
Palestinians in neighbouring Lebanon, who are denied the right to work in
professions, to own property or access state services.

Today the situation of Palestinians in Syria has changed drastically. More than
100,000 Palestinians have fled Syria, and it is estimated that around half of these
(45,000) have sought refuge in Lebanon. 3 The numbers fleeing to Lebanon
increased after January 2013, when the Jordanian government imposed a ban on
Palestinian refugees from Syria entering the country (although it has continued to
accept Syrians). The Jordanian ban drove many Palestinians escaping Syria to
travel to Lebanon instead, putting a huge amount of pressure on already overstretched
Lebanese resources. The Lebanese government subsequently closed
its doors to Palestinian refugees from Syria in May 2014.4

This has left those Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria with very few options. As
already mentioned, these people are uniquely vulnerable because of their
statelessness; they are also uniquely vulnerable because the international
organisations that were theoretically created to help them, actually leave them at a
major institutional disadvantage. Under international convention, Palestinian
refugees are administered and categorised differently not only to Syrians but to
every other group of refugees in the world. If this seems absurd, it is worth noting
that it is nothing new; it is certainly not limited to the last 5 years. In fact, this kind
of ‘Palestinian exceptionalism’ has always been the case, dating back to the very
beginning of their existence as a large-scale refugee population.

To recap briefly, the Palestinian refugee crisis began in 1948, in what is known as
the Nakba (meaning ‘the catastrophe’) when around three-quarters of the
Palestinian population lost their homes and became refugees. The newly-created
United Nations, which had been operational for 3 years at the time, intervened
directly. In 1949, it created the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), to respond specifically and exclusively to
the plight of Palestinian refugees. UNRWA became responsible for their welfare
in the 5 geographical fields with the largest Palestinian refugee population: the
West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and of course Syria. Since then, the Agency
has provided a huge range of major services that would conventionally be the
domain of the state, including healthcare, education and poverty relief.

The year after the UN created UNRWA, it moved to establish a broader
organisation for refugees across the world. In 1950 it created the office of the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). When the UN created UNHCR, the
crucial decision was made that UNRWA would not be merged with it. Instead,
both organisations continued to exist alongside one another, with UNRWA
responsible for Palestinian refugees, and UNHCR responsible for all other
refugees globally. As a result, the Palestinians are the only group of people
excluded from UNHCR’s mandate.5

This set-up remains in place to this day, such that UNHCR is responsible for all
refugees in the world, except the Palestinians. Today, Palestinian refugees are
cared for by one organisation, and everyone else is served by another organisation.
One might ask why this matters, if the result is that everyone is ultimately being
served. It matters because there are fundamental differences in what these two
organisations – UNRWA and UNHCR – are mandated to do. UNRWA has a
much more limited mandate than UNHCR, which has put the Palestinian refugees
at a serious disadvantage.

Most crucially, there is a disparity in the two organisations’ mandates for
providing protection to the refugees they serve. UNRWA is not mandated to
provide protection to the Palestinian refugees or to pursue political solutions to
their plight. Instead, this is the role of yet another UN body, UNCCP.6 UNCCP
was established in 1948, just before UNRWA, with a mandate to pursue political
solutions to the Palestinian refugee crisis. In reality UNCCP has been inactive for
many decades now. UNRWA claims that it has a de facto mandate for protection,
and its work in this area has increased over the last two decades, but it remains
informal and adhoc.7 Ultimately no UN organisation is formally mandated to
provide protection or pursue political solutions for the Palestinian refugees.

By contrast, UNHCR is mandated to provide protection and to pursue political
solutions for the refugees it serves – for example, it explicitly promotes return as a
solution.8 Of course, the Palestinians are excluded from UNHCR’s mandate,
generating what is known as a ‘protection gap’ whereby the Palestinian refugees
are left uniquely vulnerable.

Moreover, in practical terms UNRWA is also limited by its geographical
constraints. UNRWA is only mandated to work in the 5 fields of the West Bank,
Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and of course Syria. By contrast UNHCR has a much
larger mandate to operate across the world in every continent.

What does all this mean for Palestinian refugees from Syria? Unfortunately, this
disparity between UNRWA and UNHCR, and the resulting protection gap, had a
host of negative repercussions for Palestinians fleeing Syria today.

Firstly and fundamentally, it means that Palestinian refugees are lacking formal
protection at a time when they need it most. As Palestinian refugees are ineligible
for UNHCR services and are not Syrian citizens, too often they are falling through
the gaps and not being able to access the services they need. As they cannot
register with UNHCR, their numbers, needs and conditions are excluded from the
data.

There is a particular problem when Palestinians from Syria seek refuge outside the
5 geographical fields where UNRWA works. In theory, in these situations they
should fall under the mandate of UNHCR; Palestinian refugees become eligible for
UNHCR services when they are outside UNRWA’s fields of operation. 9 In
practice, this is often quite complicated, and the Syrian refugee crisis has only
served to highlight the difficulties.

For example, Turkey shares a long border with Syria and has received many
refugees fleeing the civil war, both Syrian and Palestinian. Turkey is outside
UNRWA’s fields of operation, and UNHCR operates there through the Turkish
government. Unfortunately, there are reports that Palestinian refugees from Syria
have not been allowed to register with UNHCR in Turkey.10 As the Turkish
government does not allow UNHCR to perform refugee status determination, the
Palestinians’ legal status in Turkey remains unclear.11

The situation is even worse in Egypt, where the government does not allow
Palestinians to register with UNHCR on the explicit grounds that they come
under the mandate of UNRWA. As UNRWA is not mandated to work in Egypt,
the result is that Palestinians there lack any assistance whatsoever, let alone
protection. In contrast to Syrian citizens, Palestinians in Egypt cannot register
with UNHCR as refugees and therefore they cannot receive residence permits, or
access food vouchers, medical support or any emergency relief.12 Even worse,
there are reports that some have been forcibly deported back to Syria, in
contravention of the 1951 Refugee Convention.13

Even those Palestinian refugees from Syria who have been able to register with
UNRWA in Jordan or Lebanon, remain at a disadvantage. They must rely on the
very limited resources of UNRWA, which is already hugely overstretched.
UNRWA’s financial problems have only worsened due to the Syrian crisis, and it
is of course the Palestinian refugees who are suffering as a result.14

Finally, Palestinians are ineligible for many of the special programmes that have
been set up to aid Syrian refugees, including the one that David Cameron has
launched on behalf of the UK government. Mr Cameron announced in
September 2015 that the UK will take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next 5
years. He also announced that these 20,000 refugees will be identified through
UNHCR, which will mean that Palestinians are automatically excluded.

In view of this, the question remains as to what action can be taken.
Fundamentally, there is a need to insert the plight of the Palestinians into the
many discussions taking place about Syria. Many people are simply not aware that
there are Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria at all, let alone that they suffer from
particular discrimination. The task of ‘raising awareness’ may sound clichéd, but it
is a vital first step to take.

In this spirit, the UK charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is launching a
new factsheet on Palestinian refugees from Syria, with the objective of spreading
the word about their plight. Highlighting the Palestinians’ exclusion from relief
programmes is also vital. MAP is petitioning the UK government to ensure that
its response to the Syrian refugee crisis does not exclude Palestinians. The petition
can be viewed and signed online at www.map-uk.org/Syria

Unfortunately, the conditions of many Palestinian refugees from Syria are dire and
getting worse every day. Action needs to be taken as soon as possible to prevent
total catastrophe. While raising awareness may seem basic, it really is a necessary
step to ensure that Palestinian refugees from Syria can get the protection and the
assistance they so desperately need.


1 http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52055#.VvKGdse3Pww
2 http://www.map-uk.org/news/archive/post/364—palestinian-refugees-from-syriabetween-
dispossession-and-displacement
3 Ibid.
4 https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2014/07/families-ripped-apart-palestinianrefugees-
syria-denied-entry-lebanon/; https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/08/07/jordanpalestinians-
escaping-syria-turned-away ;
http://www.mapuk.org/news/archive/post/364—palestinian-refugees-from-syriabetween-
dispossession-and-displacement
5 Article ID of the 1951 Refugee Convention excludes ‘persons who are at present
receiving from organs or agencies of the UN other than the UNHCR protection or
assistance’. The Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA are the only group to
whom this applies.
6 United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine
7 Lance Bartholomeusz, ‘The Mandate of UNRWA at Sixty’, Refugee Survey Quarterly, 28:2-
3, 452-474; Susan Akram, ‘Reinterpreting Palestinian Refugee Rights under International
Law’, in Nasser Aruri (ed.), Palestinian Refugees: The Right of Return (London: Pluto Press,
2001), 165-194.
8 The preface to the UNHCR Handbook on Voluntary Repatriation states: ‘voluntary
repatriation is usually viewed as the most desirable long-term solution by the refugees
themselves as well as by the international community. UNHCR’s humanitarian action in
pursuit of lasting solutions to the refugee problems is therefore oriented, first and
foremost, in favor of enabling a refugee to exercise the right to return home in safety and
with dignity.’ UNHCR, Voluntary Repatriation: International Protection (Geneva, 1996).
9 See also Endnote 5. The second paragraph of Article 1D states that ‘when such
protection or assistance has ceased for any reason, without the position of such persons
being definitively settled…. these persons shall ipso facto be entitled to the benefits of this
Convention.’ This is usually interpreted to mean that when registered Palestinian
refugees have ceased to receive UNRWA services as a result of being outside its 5 fields
of operation, they consequently become entitled to UNHCR services. See also: UNHCR,
Revised Note on the Applicability of Article 1D of the 1951 Convention relating to the
Status of Refugees to Palestinian Refugees, October 2009.
10 http://www.badil.org/phocadownload/badil-new/publications/periodicals/almajdal/
al-majdal-57.pdf
11 https://al-shabaka.org/briefs/palestinian-refugees-from-syria-stranded-on-themargins-
of-law/
12 http://www.badil.org/phocadownload/badil-new/publications/periodicals/almajdal/
al-majdal-57.pdf
13 Article 33 of the 1951 Convention prohibits signatory states from expelling refugees to
territories where their lives may be endangered (the principle of non-refoulement). Turkey
and Egypt are both parties to this Convention.
14 In 2014 UNRWA reported a deficit of over $60 million. Its funding crisis was so
severe last year that it had to delay the start of the school year while it sought emergency
funding.