The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Israel to provide Palestinians living under occupation with full political and civil rights.
In a report released on Tuesday, HRW said Israel should grant Palestinians in the West Bank rights protections that are at least equal to those of Israeli citizens.
The law of occupation permits some restriction of civil rights in the early days of an occupation based on limited security justifications, but sweeping restrictions are unjustified and unlawful after five decades.
The 92-page report, “Born Without Civil Rights: Israel’s Use of Draconian Military Orders to Repress Palestinians in the West Bank,” evaluates Israeli military orders that criminalize nonviolent political activity, including protesting, publishing material “having a political significance,” and joining groups “hostile” to Israel.
HRW examined several case studies to show that Israel unjustifiably relies on these sweeping orders to jail Palestinians for anti-occupation speech, activism, or political affiliations, outlaw political and other nongovernmental organizations and shut down media outlets.
Omar Shakir, the former director of HRW in Israel and the occupied territories — who was deported by Israel on Nov. 25 — told Arab news that Israel has taken for granted that it can deny Palestinians their basic rights.
“Political and civil rights are a critical part of international human rights, yet for five decades Israel has systematically barred Palestinians from exercising them. Israel has taken for granted that it can get away with denying their rights.”
Shakir noted that according to international humanitarian law, an “occupier must provide political rights, yet what we have seen is that military order number 101 has forbidden any political activity since the beginning of the occupation and as a result, thousands of Palestinians have been denied this basic right enshrined in international law.”
The HRW expert said that the right for political activity is the bedrock of international law and that it applies specifically to people under prolonged occupation.
Shakir believes that the same issue applied to East Jerusalem.
“East Jerusalem is considered occupied territories by the international community and the same applies to Gaza even though Israel has used different tools to exercise its effective control since 2005.”
He called the shooting of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in the past year a “definitive sign of the lack of Israeli respect to the political right of assembly and expression for Palestinians in Gaza.”
HRW recommended the Israeli government “grant full human rights in the occupied territories and to use the rights it provides its own citizens as a benchmark for that.”
Among the remedies suggested by HRW is the need to rescind military order No. 101.
HRW also called on the international organization to join them in demanding the need for Israel to provide political rights to Palestinians.
Anis Al-Kassim, editor of the Palestine Yearbook of International Law, told Arab News that all the rights that humans are guaranteed under international humanitarian law should be afford to Palestinians under occupation.
Al-Kassim said that the only exception is that the occupying power is allowed to exert unique authority in times of emergency. “In the West Bank and for the past 52 years, the situation has lost this character of emergency and the occupation has become a routine part of their life. Therefore, what the Israelis are doing is a gross violation of elementary human rights.”
Brian Reeves, spokesman for the Israel Peace Now movement, told Arab News that the HRW report goes to the heart of the immorality of perpetual occupation. “If Israel is intent on forever being an occupier, it should extend full rights to Palestinians. If it does not want to do that, it must strive earnestly to end its occupation as quickly as possible and enable Palestinians to create a state of their own.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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