Dorothy Online NewsLetter


Dear Friends,

8 items below tonight, most on events here and in the OPT the past 2-3 days, mostly on Palestinian political prisoners in Israel.

Item 1 is on a slightly different note—a UN official slams Israel’s treatment of Eritrean refugees—their choice being either a lengthy stay in prison or return back to where they came from.  For a country in which many of its older community were themselves refugees, and had difficulty in finding a refuge from the Nazis, Israel’s treatment of Eritreans and others seeking safety, is appalling! Actually, it’s appalling on any count, but made worse by Jewish past history.

In item 2 Amira Hass insists that it is ‘time to question Israeli interrogations.’  Indeed!  Has been time long since!

Item 3 reveals how Israel legitimizes torturing Palestinians to death.

Item 4 is a Haaretz editorial arguing that the recent events are the last call before the next intifada.  It’s not the intifada that is worrying, but rather Israel’s inhumanity to humans.

In item 5 Abbas warns to stop mistreating Palestinian prisoners.

Item 6 contains links from today’s international press about the recent events in the OPT.  Actually, I had thought to find more, but as bad as things are here, they can’t compare with those of other places, as Syria, for instance.

Item 7 turns to a different subject, telling how a master plan for the Old City of Jerusalem was derailed by right-wingers on the Jerusalem city council.
And item 8 closes with Today in Palestine for Sunday, February 24, 2013
That’s it for today, except to note what you all know: neither the Palestinian film (5 Broken Cameras) nor the Israeli one (The Gatekeepers) won the prize, but having been nominated for the Oscar gave their films a great deal of publicity and probably brought many to view them that otherwise would not have.  Given their subjects, this was indeed positive.

1 Haaretz

UN refugee official slams Israel over Eritrean repatriation

In exclusive interview, UNHCR head William Tall tells Haaretz: ‘It is explicitly not voluntary return.’
By Talila Nesher
UNHCR representative William Tall. Photo by Moti Milrod

African migrants marching to the UN headquarters in Tel Aviv in protest of violence against asylum seekers from South Sudan and Eritrea, June 10, 2012. Photo by Daniel Bar-On

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ representative here slammed Israel’s so-called voluntary return of Eritreans to their life-threatening home country, saying there was nothing voluntary about it. Last week Haaretz published testimonies by jailed Eritreans saying they were coerced by threats of three years imprisonment into signing documents agreeing to be sent home.

In an interview with Haaretz, William Tall, the representative here of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “As UN High Commissioner, we have access to the prison, and we heard what the state offered them. Agreement to return to Eritrea under an ultimatum of jail … can’t be considered voluntary by any criterion. It is explicitly not voluntary return.”

According to the testimonies, immigration officials from the Interior Ministry give jailed Eritreans two choices: Spend at least three years in prison or sign a voluntary return form, according to which they supposedly are interested in going back to their country.

According to reports by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the totalitarian regime in Eritrea violates human rights and defines its army as an extremely dangerous force. Men and women are conscripted into military service for almost their entire lives. Punishment for draft dodging and leaving the country to avoid the draft is usually not made through the court system, and includes death by burning, extended imprisonment in inhumane conditions, torture and forced labor.
The Population and Immigration Authority responded in a statement that the details are being checked and it has no intention to discuss the matter based on shreds of information until clarification is completed. The Justice Ministry has yet to comment, while the Eritrean Embassy in Tel Aviv refused to respond.

The director general of the Population and Immigration Authority, Amnon Ben Ami, recently responded in writing to MK Dov Khenin’s (Hadash) demand for an explanation by saying no one had been forcibly expelled to Eritrea, and that there was currently no change in the state’s policy or danger of “expulsion” to that country. However, he admitted that “recently the Population and Immigration Authority received a number of requests by Eritrean detainees, who asked to arrange their voluntary departure from Israel, and the matter is under examination.”

Tall rebuked the Population and Immigration Authority’s treatment of Eritreans, saying those in detention “don’t receive full access to the refugee apparatus, and when there’s no access to the refugee apparatus that can lead to their release, then there is no voluntary return.”

In contrast to the dealings with the Eritreans, with which the UN refugee agency is not involved, Tall says that in the past his office was involved, for example, in the genuinely voluntary return of South Sudanese. “We saw people, and there were clear criteria,” he says. “One of the clear rules was that there are no interviews from within the prison, because factually there is no voluntary return from prison because there is no free will.

“The government needs to provide an Eritrean access to sanctuary. That’s not happening,” he continued. “I wrote the government in no uncertain terms that we are concerned that these returns will be made under pressure, instead of allowing access to the refugee apparatus, and that it will be impossible to view them as voluntary returnees to Eritrea. We clearly wrote that under no circumstances can return under threat of imprisonment, without any access to the asylum apparatus, be considered voluntary.”

Israel, despite being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, does not recognize Eritreans as refugees, and therefore does not award them rights guaranteed according to the convention. Instead, Israel provides them collective protection from expulsion to their native country. Israel has held in jail indefinitely Eritreans who entered the country since June, when the amendment to the infiltration law went into effect.

While Israel does not grant refugee status to any Eritreans here, other countries confer this protection on 74 percent of Eritrean applicants who apply for it, according to the UN High Commissioner’s 2011 annual report.

2 Haaretz

After Palestinian dies in Shin Bet hands, time to question the interrogators

For years, Palestinian detainees and prisoners have complained about sleep deprivation, painful and prolonged handcuffing, humiliation, beatings and medical neglect. By international standards, this is torture.
By Amira Hass
An Israeli actor is seen demonstrating one of several standard torture techniques reportedly used by the Shin Bet. Photo by AP

Arafat Jaradat, 30, died while under interrogation by the Shin Bet security service. Every week dozens if not hundreds of Palestinians start down the road he began on February 18.

Dozens of Israelis whose names are unknown are on a parallel track: the soldiers who make the arrest in the dead of night, the military doctor who examines the new detainee, Shin Bet interrogators in their changing shifts; Israel Prison Service guards, workers at the prison clinic, and the judge who extends the remand.

True, thousands of others take this road or sometimes a longer and harder one – and stay alive. This is probably what the Shin Bet and the prison service will say in their defense. But from the Palestinian perspective, every stop on the road of detention and interrogation involves enormous physical and psychological pain that the army, the police, the Shin Bet and the prison service inflict intentionally.

This goes well beyond the suffering that should be caused by taking away a person’s liberty and issuing an indictment. For years, Palestinian detainees and prisoners have complained about sleep deprivation, painful and prolonged handcuffing, humiliation, beatings and medical neglect. By international standards, this is torture.

Jaradat was not a ticking bomb. He was arrested on suspicion of throwing stones and an incendiary device at Israeli targets. After three days of interrogation the police asked the court (in the name of the Shin Bet) to extend his remand for another 15 days for questioning. The remand hearing took place on Thursday, February 21, at the Shin Bet’s Kishon interrogation facility, in front of a military judge, Maj. David Kadosh. The judge ordered the remand for 12 days.

Unclear confession

Kamil Sabbagh, an attorney for the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoner Affairs Ministry, asked the police investigator at the hearing whether there were other suspicions against his client; he was told there were not. He asked whether Jaradat had confessed, and the police investigator answered: “partially.” Sabbagh concluded that Jaradat had confessed to throwing stones.

Experience shows that the additional days of interrogation – many, considering the minor nature of the offenses – were not intended merely to extract more confessions, but to get Jaradat to implicate others or to gather personal information, even of an embarrassing nature, to use in the future. From reports by detainees to their attorneys, it’s clear that sleep deprivation combined with painful and prolonged handcuffing is very common. As we learn at military court and elsewhere, people confess to things they haven’t done or implicate others falsely, only to be allowed to sleep.

In the short time Jaradat and his attorney had before the remand hearing, Jaradat, who was suffering from a herniated disc, was able to tell Sabbagh that he was in pain from prolonged sitting. Judge Kadosh knew about the pain from a secret report he had been shown.While the judge was writing his decision, Jaradat told Sabbagh that conditions were difficult for him in isolation and he wanted to be moved to another cell. Sabbagh had the impression that Jaradat was under severe psychological stress, and told the judge this.

The judge then added to his decision: “The defense attorney requests the court’s permission to present the matter of the suspect’s mental health while in a cell alone, and his concerns about psychological damage. He requests that the suspect be examined and properly attended to.”
The role of informants

The remand hearing took place at 10 A.M. Thursday. As of Sunday, Sabbagh did not know when Jaradat had been moved to Megiddo Prison, where he died. Palestinian organizations representing prisoners say one possibility is that he was placed in a cell with informants at Megiddo.

Unlike Shin Bet interrogations, which are documented in memos, the existence of informants is not officially acknowledged by the authorities. Informants use various means to extract information, whether true or false. They boast about their exploits as members of Palestinian organizations, they suggest that the detainee is a collaborator because he does not discuss his actions with them, and they threaten him.

The investigation of Jaradat’s death must go through all phases of his detention and interrogation – and those of thousands of others. But any interrogation will be flawed from the outset because, by authorization of the High Court of Justice, Shin Bet interrogations are not filmed.

Only two weeks ago, on February 6, justices Asher Grunis, Hanan Melcer and Noam Sohlberg turned down a petition by four human rights groups demanding the annulment of a 2003 law letting the police forgo the filming or audiotaping of security suspects’ interrogations. The organizations also asked the court to require the Shin Bet to visually document the questioning of suspects. The justices said that because the law was now under scrutiny, “the time has not yet come to examine the petitioners’ arguments themselves.”

The Palestinians do not need an Israeli investigation. For them, Jaradat’s death is much bigger than the tragedy he and his family have suffered. From their experience, Jaradat’s death isn’t proof that others haven’t died, it’s proof that the Israeli system routinely uses torture. From their experience, the goal of torture is not only to convict someone, but mainly to deter and subjugate an entire people.


3 Al Jazeera

How Israel legitimises torturing Palestinians to death
Charlotte Silver

Israel’s policy of torture has left many dead and completely lacks accountability.

Many in the West Bank are in mourning over the passing of Arafat Jaradat, who was tortured to death in an Israeli prison – he leaves behind a pregnant widow and two children [AFP]

Six days after Arafat Jaradat was arrested by the Israeli army and the Shin Bet, he was dead. Between the date of his arrest – February 18 – and the day of his death – February 23 – his lawyer Kamil Sabbagh met with Arafat only once: in front of a military judge at the Shin Bet’s Kishon interrogation facility.

Sabbagh reported that when he saw Jaradat, the man was terrified. Arafat told his lawyer that he was in acute pain from being beaten and forced to sit in stress positions with his hands bound behind his back.
When it announced his death, Israeli Prison Service claimed Arafat – who leaves a pregnant widow and two children – died from cardiac arrest. However, the subsequent autopsy found no blood clot in his heart. In fact, the autopsy concluded that Arafat, who turned 30 this year, was in fine cardiovascular health.

What the final autopsy did find, however, was that Jaradat had been pummelled by repeated blows to his chest and body and had sustained a total of six broken bones in his spine, arms and legs; his lips lacerated; his face badly bruised.

The ordeal that Arafat suffered before he died at the hands of Israel’s Shin Bet is common to many Palestinians that pass through Israel’s prisons. According to the prisoners’ rights organisation Addameer, since 1967, a total of 72 Palestinians have been killed as a result of torture and 53 due to medical neglect. Less than a month before Jaradat was killed, Ashraf Abu Dhra died while in Israeli custody in a case that Addameer argues was a direct result of medical neglect.
Al Jazeera reports from West Bank funeral
The legal impunity of the Shin Bet, commonly referred to as the GSS, and its torture techniques has been well established. Between 2001 and 2011, 700 Palestinians lodged complaints with the State Attorney’s Office but not a single one has been criminally investigated.

Writing in Adalah’s 2012 publication, On Torture [PDF], Bana Shoughry-Badarne, an attorney and the Legal Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, wrote, “The GSS’s impunity is absolute.”

Israel’s High Court has been extravagantly helpful in securing the Shin Bet with its imperviousness to accountability to international law, and thus enabling widespread and lethal torture.
In August of 2012, Israel’s High Court rejected petitions submitted by Israeli human rights organisations Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and PCATI to demand that Israeli attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, carry out criminal investigations into each allegation of torture by the Shin Bet.

And in the first week of February, two weeks before Arafat was killed, the High Court of Justice threw out Adalah’s petition that demanded the GSS videotape and audio record all of its interrogations in order to comply with requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) to which Israel is a signatory.

In May 2009, UNCAT condemned [PDF] Israel for exempting the Shin Bet’s interrogations from audio and video recording, noting that such oversight is an essential preventative measure to curtail torture. Yet despite this admonition, in 2012 the Knesset extended the exemption for another three years.
Rationalising its failure to comply with this most basic requirement of recording interrogations, the State maintains that it is in the interests of “national security” that its interrogation techniques not be made public.

Arafat was killed under torture. Torture is routine. But the following is not routine: upon the announcement of his death, thousands of Palestinians, already unified in solidarity with the arduous struggle waged by Palestinian hunger striking prisoners, responded in force. At least 3,000 prisoners refused their meals; thousands poured into the streets of Gaza and impassioned demonstrations erupted across the West Bank. While the State of Israel continues to deploy its deadly arsenal of weapons to repress Palestinians, the banality of the evil of this regime is, as it will always be, eclipsed by the mighty Palestinian will for self-determination.

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in San Francisco and the West Bank. She is a graduate of Stanford University.
Follow her on Twitter: @CharEsilver

5 Abbas warns Israel: Don’t play with Palestinian lives

Riots break out near West Bank military prison after mass funeral procession for Arafat Jaradat; IDF confirms several Palestinians wounded by rubber bullets, says no live ammunition shot; U.S. Consulate temporarily limits official travel to West Bank; Egypt FM condemns Israel’s ‘inhumane treatment’ of Palestinian prisoners.
By Jack Khoury and Gili Cohen
Clashes between Palestinians, IDF outside Ofer military prison in West Bank Photo by Reuters

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr condemned on Monday what he defined as Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinian prisoners that led to the death of detainee Arafat Jaradat. In a statement issued by Egypt’s foreign minister, Amr warned that Israeli policy could lead to loss of control and tensions not just in the West Bank but the entire region.

Jaradat died in Israel’s Megiddo Prison on Saturday. Over 10,000 Palestinians attended a funeral procession for him near Hebron on Monday, where no disturbances were reported.
The foreign minister expressed his condolences to Jaradat’s family and called on the international community to intervene and exert pressure on Israel to put a stop to Israel’s inhumane policy regarding Palestinian prisoners.

Earlier on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blasted Israel, warning it against “playing with the lives” of Palestinians, and accusing it of using live fire against Palestinian children, in a statement on Jaradat’s death.

“We won’t allow them to play with the lives of our sons,” Abbas said at a memorial ceremony held for those killed in a 1983 bombing of a Palestinian research center in Beirut, adding,”they stand before our children and target them with live fire.”
Abbas demanded an inquiry into Jaradat’s death and added that it would hold Israel responsible for the incident. “We won’t allow our prisoners to remain behind bars for life due to unfounded charges, he said.
He further accused Israel of trying to generate a situation in which the Palestinians no longer want peace, but stressed: “We demand peace that is based on justice and the uprooting of settlements.”
Some 100 Palestinians clashed with IDF forces outside the prison as they protested Jaradat’s death. Palestinians reported that 10 people were wounded by IDF fire on Monday afternoon in the West Bank town of Beitounia, next to the Ofer military compound, in clashes that ensued after Jaradat’s funeral. The IDF confirmed that six Palestinians were wounded, but claimed the casualties are from rubber bullets and denied it used live ammunition.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a meeting Monday evening with his top security brass to evaluate the situation following three consecutive days of clashes. During the discussion, security officials raised various possible scenarios and ways of coping with them.

U.S. temporarily bans official travel

Clashes between Palestinians, IDF outside Ofer military prison in West BankReutersAlso on Monday, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem issued a statement announcing a temporary ban on official travel for American citizens due to ensuing West Bank clashes.
“Due to demonstrations occurring at locations across the West Bank, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem has temporarily limited official travel to the West Bank by U.S. Government personnel. In addition, personal travel to Bethlehem by U.S. Government personnel is temporarily suspended. U.S. citizens are advised to defer non-essential travel to and within the West Bank and to exercise an extra measure of caution during this period,” the statement read.
“The U.S. Consulate General takes this opportunity to remind U.S. citizens that demonstrations, even peaceful ones, can turn violent with little or no warning. U.S. citizens should be aware of their surroundings at all times, and avoid large crowds.”


6 On occurrences in the OPT today in international press

LA Times,0,6531298.story

Washington Post

Al Jazeera
7 Haaretz Monday, February 25, 2013
Jerusalem Old City master plan derailed by rightists on city council
New master plan for Palestinian construction in Old City, in the works for 8 years, blocked because it didn’t include new Jewish neighborhood.
By Nir Hasson
A Jewish settler in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter. Photo by Emil Salman

Residents of Beit Safafa, in southern Jerusalem, protest the construction of a road through their neighborhood. Photo by Emil Salman

Right-wing members of the Jerusalem City Council succeeded in blocking a master plan for Palestinian building in the Old City, saying one of their big objections was its omission of a new Jewish neighborhood in the Muslim Quarter.
For the past eight years the Jerusalem Municipality and Jerusalem Development Authority have been working on a new master plan for the Old City. The current master plan does not enable the issuing of hardly any new building permits, which has led to more and more illegal building. Two months ago the plan was submitted to the local committee for planning and building, but due to pressure from right wing-members such as Yair Gabai (former member of the National Religious Party) and Didi Hershkovitz (Yisrael Beiteinu), changes were made.
In its new form, the plan does not enable any residential building whatsoever. Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Kobi Kahlon, who serves as chairman of the local planning committee, said on behalf of the municipality that the current master plan, which deals only with conservation of monuments and fixing infrastructure, should be promoted.

According to Aviv Tatarski, who wrote a report dealing with the issue for the left-wing Ir Amim, the committee’s members were pressured by activists of Ateret Kohanim, an organization promoting Jewish settlement in the Muslim Quarter. In their attempt to influence the plan, Ateret Kohanim members met with officials of the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Development Authority.

The right-wing organization’s opposition to the plan also stems from the absence in it of approval for 22 residential units for Jews near Herod’s Gate, in the heart of the Muslim Quarter. Moreover, the plan added conditions that would not allow the Jewish neighborhood to be built in the future, such as prohibiting building adjacent to the city walls or above the walls’ height.
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Pepe Alalu (Meretz) said: “We’ve waited years for a master plan for the Old City, for its residents, and we see how various elements, with access to the mayor, ruin these plans for political reasons.”
Council member Gabai acknowledged opposing the plan because it did not include the Herod’s Gate neighborhood, but stressed that his main objection was that it ignored the needs of the Jewish Quarter (which, however, is subject to a different building plan). Another problem, according to Gabai, was that the plan was drawn without addressing the Old City’s pressing problems.
Another reason for the right-wing’s opposition was the involvement in the plan of architect Mike Turner, who was ousted as chairman of UNESCO’s Israel World Heritage Committee after he opposed the large building plans for the Old City and the surrounding areas.

“Turner saw to it that the Herod’s Gate neighborhood was deleted from the plan, despite a former decision of the planning committee, due to its proximity to the city walls,” said Gabai. “The problem is that this rule is used exclusively against Jews, and nobody does anything about similar Arab buildings, some of which use the city walls as the house wall. This is straight-forward discrimination.”

Tatarski argues that the current stalemate suits the needs of Ateret Kohanim officials, since they, unlike their Palestinian neighbors, do not encounter problems when submitting building plans. Tatarski says that since 1974, only six building permits in the Muslim Quarter were submitted, five of them by Jews.

The municipality’s failure to have the master plan approved follows several other failures in promoting plans for Palestinian building in East Jerusalem. The largest plan, stalled for two years now, deals with 2,500 residential units in the neighborhood of Sawahra al-Arbiya. Mayor Nir Barkat declared several times that this plan is an important step in decreasing housing gaps between the eastern and western parts of the city. Still, Kahlon was forced to withdraw the plan when he understood it wouldn’t be approved due to the opposition of right-wing and Haredi committee members. A senior municipality official admitted yesterday that “there are political obstacles concerning that plan.” Two other plans concerning the nearby neighborhood of Jabal Mukkaber, are also being stalled in the local planning committee.

Last week, attorney Neta Patrick of Hebrew University Faculty of Law’s human rights clinic sent an angry letter to senior municipality officials on behalf of landowners in Sawahra al-Arbiya. “The Jerusalem Municipality, which often complains that East Jerusalem residents solve the housing shortage by illegal building, leaves them no other choice by failing to have the plan approved by the committee,” wrote Patrick.

Kahlon said municipality would continue to push for the Sawahra al-Arbiya housing plan’s approval.


8 Today in Palestine

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