THE COST OF FREEDOM
Palestinian Human Rights Under Israeli Occupation
1988 A Special Report
Confrontation between unarmed Palestinian residents of the West Bank and
Gaza and the Israeli military occupation authorities has been constant
since the beginning of the occupation in 1967. The nature of this
confrontation gradually changed during the 1980's, as more Palestinians
took to the streets to protest increasing Israeli repression and "Iron
Fist" policies. The development of region-wide students', workers' and
women's organizations, and the periodic closure of universities and
dispersion of students, helped to organize and politicize new sections
of the Palestinian community.
When demonstrations erupted in the Gaza Strip in December, 1987, the
initial trigger was a car accident: four workers from Gaza had been
killed when an Israeli tank transporter drove into a line of Arab cars
near the military checkpoint at the entrance to Gaza City. Gazans
considered the incident no accident, but rather a deliberate retaliation
for the stabbing death of a Jewish man in the city the previous day.
The funerals of the four workers, which were held in Jabalia and Mughazi
refugee camps later that day, became spontaneous demonstrations that
continued the following day in Jabalia with particular ferocity. There,
Israeli troops shot into a crowd of mourners killing a young teenager
which precipitated even wider protests.
Israeli occupation authorities soon found that clashes between
Palestinian civilians and the military, which had previously been
centered in universities, cities, and the more militant and organized
refugee camps such as Balatta, Dheisheh and Jabalia, suddenly expanded
to encompass every city, camp, and village. Demonstrations quickly
became massive and simultaneous in different areas, straining the
ability of the Israeli military to confront these protests in force when
and where they occurred. Faced with mass defiance by wide sectors of
the Palestinian population, Israeli forces reacted immediately by the
unrestrained firing of live ammunition into crowds of protestors, crowds
gathered at hospitals, and mourners at subsequent mass funerals.
Israel's harshness in its early repression of protests was no doubt a
prime factor in keeping these protests at an intense level, as
Palestinians reacted to "blood in the streets" with nearly continuous
demonstrations, funerals and memorial marches.
The unremitting and geographically dispersed pattern of the 433 killings
of Palestinians during the first year of the Uprising, attributed
directly or indirectly to the Israeli military, Israeli settlers, or
Palestinian collaborators, also indicates that the Palestinian Uprising
is a mass protest, widespread and unresponsive to Israel's attempts to
repress it by violent means. By the ninth month of the Uprising this
conclusion was supported by senior officers in the Israeli military.
Army chief of Staff Dan Shomron told a Knesset Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee on August 16 that military operations can only reduce
the level of hostile Palestinian activity in the territories to a
certain degree. The Israeli Defense Forces "cannot alter Palestinian
consciousness and cannot change Palestinian will."
Despite the political nature of Palestinian protests, articulated by the
United National Leadership of the Uprising (the underground coalition of
PLO factions which developed in January 1988 to give direction to the
uprising), Israel continued to respond by escalating and varying
military strategies: Policies aimed at killing and injuring
demonstrators, sweeping search and arrest operations in villages and
towns, prolonged curfews on and military closures of large areas, mass
detentions, expulsions, and large-scale house demolitions.
Military aggression became particularly pronounced at times when Israel
was under political pressure. This was, in fact, a stated military
goal: to relieve Israel's leaders of pressure to respond politically to
the Palestinian Uprising. Israel's current treatment of the 1.5 million
unarmed Palestinians under military occupation has been likened to the
military policies it pursues toward the population of South Lebanon
inside its so-called "security zone." The result has been the creation
of a limited war in the occupied territories which aims to intimidate
the entire population.
Israel is a country extremely sensitive to its public image, at home and
even more so abroad. Its inability to control a declining public image
has become an issue in itself which Israel has tried to remedy in two
ways: by making official statements "moderating" its military policies,
even if it did not do so in practice, and by banning the press from
witnessing its actions.
After some initial international criticism of the rising number of
fatalities in the occupied territories - 18 Palestinians being killed in
the first two weeks of January, 1988 - Israeli military authorities
sought to complement their policy of the wide use of lethal force with
so-called non-lethal "riot-control" techniques. These techniques
included, principally, the systematic beating of Palestinians and the
intensive use of tear gas, rubber and plastic bullets. These measures
quickly became lethal through Israeli abuse and misuse, whether
deliberate or not.
There were, remarkably, no shooting deaths in the second half of January
(although two people died from beating and a third after exposure to
tear gas) as Israeli policy shifted to the use of punitive beatings
rather than live ammunition. However, the publicity fallout from this
policy - after news clips of Israeli soldiers sadistically beating
handcuffed Palestinians with rocks, boots, and gunbutts were shown
around the world - had a dramatic effect on Israel's image abroad.
Israel retaliated by issuing region-wide bans or closings areas on the
spot to journalists. The policy of punitive beatings continued,
however, along with the reintroduction of the use of heavy gunfire.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF KILLINGS
In the first 12 months of this lopsided war, the Israeli army settlers,
and occupation authorities had already claimed the lives of 433
Palestinians - honored by the population as "martyrs" of the Uprising.
The death toll jumped by 12 on April 16 alone, as Palestinians were shot
to death in demonstrations protesting the assassination of Abu Jihad in
Tunis by Israeli Shin Bet (security) agents.
According to documentation by the PHRIC, about one-third of all deaths
occurred when Israeli troops opened fire on groups of people in the
course of a demonstration, funeral, memorial march, or Israeli-initiated
military raid on a village or camp. And contrary to the routine
explanation of Israeli military authorities that soldiers used gunfire
to extricate themselves from a "dangerous situation," the vast majority
of Palestinians killed during the Uprising were engaged in passive
activities: helping the injured, raising a flag, running away from a
demonstration, standing on a rooftop, or simply standing in front of
their homes or on the street, activities which posed no physical danger
to Israeli soldiers. In only three cases were there reports that the
Palestinians who were killed were holding or had just thrown a Molotov;
in all other cases Palestinians were unarmed when they were killed.
In at least 36 cases Israeli soldiers actively interfered with the
evacuation of the wounded to the hospital, either by arresting the
driver of the car trying to transport the injured, or by arresting the
injured person, who later died. In at least eight known cases, the
victim was beaten either before or after being shot and died as a result
of these beating injuries. Seven other people were shot or beaten to
death inside their own houses, usually trying to protect another family
member from beating or arrest. At least 26 Palestinians died as a
result of being beaten by soldiers, borderguards, or other military or
security forces, according to documentation by PHRIC; five of these
deaths occurred when the victim was officially in detention.
Tear gas-related deaths - Palestinians who died after inhalation of
large quantities of tear gas, or after being hit with gas canisters -
totaled 66 by the end of the Uprising year. Hundreds of miscarriages
attributed to the effects of tear gas on the mother and fetus,
especially second and third trimester miscarriages, were reported by
women and physicians primarily in Gaza refugee camps. Furthermore, tear
gas inhalation was the predominant affliction in hospital emergency
rooms for approximately 10 percent of all uprising-related injuries.
Most of the killings were by army gunfire used in separate incidents
over a wide geographical area and they occurred at a fairly constant
rate over the course of the year. The fact that the shooting victims
were both men and women, the very young and very old, demonstrators as
well as people simply aiding the injured, tragically indicates Israel's
confused and arbitrary shooting policy - a policy that military
authorities continued to define as "self-defense," despite eye-witness
testimonies to the contrary. The youngest shooting death was that of a
3-year-old child in Gaza and the eldest was a 75-year-old West Bank
The number of victims below the age of 16 increased dramatically in the
second half of the year as a consequence of Israel's freer shooting
policy. A total of 52 children (below the age of 16), representing more
than 20 percent of all those killed by gunfire, were shot dead by
Israeli soldiers during the year. (By January 1989, the average age of
those killed had dropped to 16.)
The heavy use of gunfire, especially of high-velocity bullets which
explode inside the body, sent 8,000-10,000 people to hospitals to be
treated for gunshot injuries in 1988. Most of these injuries required
surgery and many were life-threatening and permanently disabling,
resulting in the loss of an organ or paralysis.
According to a report by the Physicians for Human Rights published after
their fact-finding mission to the occupied territories, the x-rays and
clinical findings of fragmented bullets by the team of physicians
"reflect the inappropriateness of high-powered military weapons for
civilian crowd control. In any case...the wounds that result from
bullet fragmentation are extensive, involve damage to many structures,
and often cause neurologic injury of devastating consequence."
At least 64 Palestinians (over 20 percent of the cases) who were killed
had been shot with more than one bullet; some by as many as 8-12
bullets in gangland-style executions, even though they were unarmed
The pattern of army killings by gunfire changed at mid-year. Formerly
youths were reported shot "in demonstrations." This changed to killings
of specific youths who had been wanted by the occupation authorities.
These latter cases occurred most often during "search" missions of
villages - when villages were held under curfew and large forces of
soldiers conducted dragnet searches of fields and caves in the vicinity.
On such occasions, youths on arrest lists were vulnerable to army
gunfire as "wanted suspects" and could be shot on sight under standing
army regulations for "resisting arrest."
In the rare cases where shooting incidents have been investigated by
military authorities, Palestinian eye-witnesses have not been sought.
The testimonies of the soldiers who were involved are usually the only
affidavits recorded. A total of 50 soldiers have been brought before
military officers for disciplinary hearings related to abusive force or
undue violence against Palestinians during the Uprising. There are no
statistics available on the number punished for such abuses. In the few
cases reported in the press, demotions and courts martial by military
tribunals have routinely been overridden by the army chief of staff and
lesser punishments administered.
Killing unarmed Palestinians has not had a deterrent effect on popular
protests, however, nor can Israel use the argument of "self-defense" or
soldiers'"panic" as an excuse for the continued use of live ammunition
against a civilian population. Only seven Israelis have been killed by
local Palestinians during the Uprising, and all have died in isolated
incidents of Molotov attacks or armed action. Not one Israeli soldier
has died as a result of a demonstration - the kind of group action for
which claims of "firing in self defense" are made.
Israel's policy of punitively beating Palestinians, announced by Defense
Minister Yitzhak Rabin on January 19, 1988, was meant to reduce
international criticism of Israel's use of lethal force. In fact, a
policy of beating had been quietly in use throughout 1987 in Ansar 2
detention camp in Gaza City, where teenage Palestinian youths reported
being beaten by Israeli soldiers. In October, 1987, teenagers were
taken to hospital directly from the camp for surgery to repair limbs and
internal injuries suffered by soldiers' blows.
In the West Bank's largest refugee camp, Balatta, a similar policy was
being implemented in 1987. In September of that year, 13 to
16-year-olds were taken to a rooftop borderguard lookout post opposite
the camp and brutally beaten by soldiers wielding truncheons, gunbutts,
and fists, then left for dead. These cases were unusual given the young
age of the boys, the fierceness of the attacks, and the fact that there
was no attempt to arrest the boys. The soldiers' excuse or their
savagery was, however, the boys' attempts to "resist arrest."
As soon as the Uprising began in the Gaza Strip, residents by the score
appeared at hospital emergency rooms with reports that soldiers had beat
them in their homes, on the streets, in school yards, and even in
hospitals. By the time the policy was "official," beating injuries
accounted for half of all recorded injuries.
A group of doctors touring the area representing the Physicians for
Human Rights described the pattern of injuries (mid-shaft fractures,
deep lacerations, extensive soft tissue trauma, multiple limb fractures)
as clearly "a deliberate policy of systematic beating designed to
disable and not to kill, to inflict maximum damage while reducing the
risk of death...it seemed more a planned and purposeful form of
brutalization, indiscriminate in choice of victim but precise in choice
Israeli military authorities have not accepted responsibility for any
beating deaths. In one on-going trial of four Givati soldiers accused
of beating to death a Jabalia refugee camp resident, the soldiers were
released on bail because so many soldiers were engaged in beating the
man that it could not be established which soldiers were responsible for
the fatal blows. According to court testimony, orders to beat residents
came from the "highest military officers in Gaza."
The Israeli military's use of CS-gas or tear gas, as it is more commonly
known, at times appeared to be nothing less than a form of chemical
warfare. The aim was apparently not to disburse crowds but to punish
large groups of people, whether they were engaged in demonstrations or
not. Contrary to factory warnings, soldiers fired large quantities of
CS gas canisters into crowded neighborhoods and refugee camps, into
closed houses and hospitals, and directly at individuals. Those most
affected were pregnant women and the non-ambulatory or bedridden: the
very young, very old, and chronically ill.
The sudden rise in fatalities and fetal deaths which occurred in areas
heavily teargassed led Palestinian physicians to the conclusion that
tear gas was the direct cause of death. The PHRIC documented 66 deaths
attributed to the misuse or deliberate abuse of tear gas in the occupied
territories, especially in Gaza refugee camps, during the first year of
the Uprising. A report issued by a team of Israeli physicians and
health workers after a visit to Gaza hospitals in May resulted in
Israeli military authorities prohibiting soldiers from using tear gas in
enclosed spaces. Since the restrictions were issued, however, no
soldier has undergone a disciplinary hearing for firing tear gas into
homes, despite evidence that it is done frequently and with fatal
Several kinds of rubber bullets have been used against Palestinians by
Israeli forces in the past year. In refugee camps in Gaza, they are
plentiful enough to be scooped up from the ground and used by children
as slingshot ammunition. In the first half of 1988, the bullets being
fired were hard, black rubber cylinders of spheres, about the size of an
eyeball, with a solid metal core. Depending on the range at which they
were shot and where they hit the body, death could result and injury
could be slight to crippling, from large hematomas to the loss of an eye
or other organ.
By December 1988, Israeli journalists confirmed reports by Gaza
residents that a new spherical rubber bullet containing a shrapnel-like
material was being used by the army, causing serious damage. This type
of rubber bullet was found to penetrate the skull and enter deep tissue
intact or in fragments with damaging effects similar to high-velocity
ammunition. One example of its lethal effect is in the killing of Rana
al-Masri, a 16-year-old who was shot in the back of the head outside
Nablus' Rafidia Hospital with this type of "non-lethal" rubber bullet in
January 1989. She died days later from massive brain damage.
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin announced in early September 1988
that plastic bullets had been developed and were being put to use after
tear gas, rubber bullets and clubs had proved "ineffective" in stopping
demonstrations. Rabin predicted that injuries would increase since more
demonstrators were now within shooting range but that futilities would
decrease with the lighter weight bullet. He also admitted to a
psychological factor, that the plastic bullets would help to "restore
confidence" among the troops who were frustrated by their inability to
confront an agile and youthful civilian population with standard
Open-fire orders for plastic bullets, which are not considered "live"
ammunition despite their proven deadly capability, subtly changed.
Using plastic bullets, a soldier was now free to shoot whether or not he
was in a "life-threatening" situation. The young age of the new victims
showed that everyone was now at risk of serious injury in a
"shoot-to-punish" policy that had official endorsement from the Israeli
According to the Israeli media, plastic bullets were issued widely not
just to sharp-shooters and officers but to Israeli soldiers for their
personal weapons in combination with live ammunition. Although army
regulations called for the plastic series to be used from a distance of
not less than 70 meters, there was no practical way to limit its use
when it was distributed so widely. At a range of less than 70 meters,
plastic bullets can penetrate bones and organs, with results as lethal
as live ammunition.
On September 26, military officers held a briefing with the press at
West Bank military headquarters regarding the use of the plastic bullets
when an unprecedented number of Palestinians (78) were treated in the
hospital for gunshot injuries. The pattern of rates of injury as well
as fatalities has increased since mid-September, although the number and
intensity of demonstrations has remained about the same.
According to an Israeli military spokesman's statement issued on January
22, 1989, in the five months plastic bullets were in use by Israeli
troops, supposedly to reduce fatalities from live ammunition, the
bullets were responsible for the deaths of 47 Palestinians - about half
of all fatalities for the period - and the injury of 288. Injury
statistics for the same period indicate an average of 500 gunshot
injuries per month by live ammunition. Why the introduction of plastic
bullets would result in far more injuries by live ammunition can only be
explained by a corresponding relaxation of open-fire orders.
The first year of the Uprising was a year of unprecedented loss of life
for Palestinians living under military occupation as a result of the
Israeli occupation forces. Early shocking statistics of shooting deaths
gave way to a routineness of casualty reporting by the Israelis in which
circumstances of killings were not questioned, much less investigated.
The widespread brutalization of the population will no doubt have
long-term psychological as well as physical consequences for
Palestinians. Special note should be made of the young age of the
victims, the circumstances of death, the care and treatment of the
injured, the use of high-technology weapons against an unarmed
population, and the lack of any defensible standards of behavior of
Israeli soldiers, police, and borderguards in dealing with Palestinian
PRISONS AND PRISONERS DURING THE UPRISING
WHO IS ARRESTED?
An unprecedented number of Palestinians have been taken into detention
by the Israeli military authorities during the first year of the
Palestinian Uprising. Military authorities have made mass and arbitrary
arrests and subjected thousands of Palestinians to long periods of
detention-without-trial, similar to South Africa's 180-day detentions,
in an effort to intimidate the population and break what has become a
collective will of resistance to occupation.
Other first-time detention practices to be utilized during the Uprising
have been the large-scale arrests and physical abuse of women and
children, indefinite and prolonged detentions without arrest orders or
lawyer visits, interrogation and deportation of administrative detainees
as well as sentenced prisoners, the holding of court sessions and
sentencing of detainees without the presence of the accused or his/her
lawyer, and the continuous abuse and punishment of detainees in prison.
Arrests occurred daily and on a continuous basis, large-scale arrest
campaigns usually coinciding with Israeli political, rather than
"security," exigencies. There have been no rules in these waves of
arrests, no immunity, and no system of procedures for the wholesale
detentions. Palestinians have been rounded up from homes, workplaces,
roadblocks, streets, hospital beds, mosques, and churches, at all hours
of the day and night, by soldiers or even settlers who use no apparent
criteria for making an arrest. Even people with severe physical or
mental handicaps have been detained for long periods of time. Frequent
army raids on hospitals have put gunshot victims in double jeopardy as
targets for arrest. Often Palestinians are arrested when they appear at
military headquarters to answer a summons for questioning. An
atmosphere of "anything can happen for any reason" has left Palestinians
bereft of legal rights or even basic human rights.
"No cause" arrests are so widespread that village and camp youths in the
vulnerable age of 15 to 25 have spent months in the hills near their
homes, sleeping in caves to avoid arbitrary arrest by Israeli troops.
But, avoiding arrest can increase the consequences for family members as
well as the young men themselves: homes are regularly raided and family
members are beaten or arrested as hostages in place of a sought-after
There are several cases of young men being targeted by Israeli snipers
or being deliberately shot by Israeli "special operations" teams, after
According to figures released in late November 1988 by the Israeli
Ministry of Defense, more than 5,600 Palestinians from the West Bank and
Gaza were in detention in prisons, army camps, and makeshift detention
centers both inside Israel and in the occupied territories at the time.
Of these, only 377 had been tried and sentenced. An estimated total of
30,000-40,000 Palestinians have passed in and out of Israeli prisons,
some repeatedly, throughout the Uprising - a rate of one in 10 men
between the ages of 15 and 60. And those arrests have affected nearly
every family; with fathers and sons being arrested together in some
Human rights activists estimate that as many as 1,000 women have been
detained in the last year for periods of several hours to six months.
The vast majority are released without charges or trial; currently 60
women are being held in Israeli prisons. During the past year 15 women
- all active in the women's movement - have been arrested arbitrarily
and sentenced to 6 months administrative detention. Even young
children, aged 12 through 16, who are not yet eligible for Israeli
military-issued ID cards, are detained for long periods by Israeli
soldiers and receive the same mistreatment accorded older detainees.
Such wholesale arrests of people - often 40 to 50 people from one
village are arrested in a single night - have resulted in a
deterioration of prison conditions and chaos in the detention camps.
Lawyers report that many times families know only that their relatives
have "disappeared" and ask help in tracing them. It can take a month to
six weeks, and often longer, before a Palestinian can be confirmed as
officially detained and located in a specific detention facility.
According to the families of detainees, prison officials have become
even more uncooperative than usual, forcing them to wait hours and
sometimes even for days in front of detention centers only to be told
there are "no visits" or "no such prisoner."
INSIDE THE PRISONS
By the second month of the Palestinian popular uprising, Israeli Defense
Minister Yitzhak Rabin announced that the Israeli army would not be
constrained by the lack of prison facilities in making mass arrests. In
addition to the 17 Israeli prisons, detention camps and jails currently
in use for Palestinian political prisoners and administered by the
civilian Prisons Authority inside Israel and in the occupied
territories, the Israeli army now operates 10 unofficial detention and
interrogation centers which it has hastily converted from military
Four of these detention centers were established in 1988 and hold more
than 3,500 Palestinian detainees in huge tent internment camps and
primitive facilities: Ansar 3 (Kitziot; inside Israel) in the Naqab
desert, Ofer near Ramallah, Anata near Jerusalem, and Dhahariya in the
Another 2,000 detainees, primarily teenagers, are held in two detention
centers which have been operating since 1982: Ansar 2 in Gaza City and
Fara'a in the Jenin area. In addition, scores of Palestinian youths
under the age of 16 are held by the army for periods of one week or more
in tents at military headquarters compounds adjacent to West Bank
prisons or local police headquarters.
The physical abuse meted out to Palestinian detainees by soldiers,
police, interrogators, and collaborators, from the moment of their
arrest to their release, has made the situation inside prisons critical.
Political detainees released during the Uprising have complained of
blindness, paralysis, broken limbs, disease and nerve disorders
resulting from head injuries, and psychological trauma. Moreover, there
is always the possibility of dying while in detention - there have been
3 detainees killed by army gunfire and at least 4 others who died
apparently from fatal blows or suffocation while being detained.
Israeli military authorities call these deaths "suicides," but the
reports of the Israeli military-conducted autopsies allegedly confirming
this cause of death are not released to the families.
The physical conditions of detention are primitive and resemble
internment camps which are designed not only to imprison but to punish,
according to foreign lawyers visiting the detention camps. The largest
camp, Ansar 3, is permanently overcrowded, with up to 28 prisoners in a
single tent. Latrines are flooded and filthy, washing and drinking
water are insufficient, food is inadequate and often spoiled, prisoners
are not given clean clothes or sufficient supplies of foam mattresses,
blankets, soap, towels, razors, or toilet paper.
The health situation of the prisoners is also extremely grave.
Detainees in Ansar 3 have called the prison the "camp of slow death"
with prisoners reporting dehydration and weight losses of 20 to 40
pounds during their periods of detention. Skin diseases, bug
infestation, intestinal and respiratory disorders, and food poisoning
are all chronic and common problems among detainees. Prisoners with
special problems, such as a heart condition, diabetes, kidney disease,
blindness or mental retardation are given no special medical attention
nor are detainees who have been severely beaten.
Hundreds of detainees have had their six month detention orders renewed
on their release day. And when a prisoner is released, many times long
after his/her sentence or detention period has expired, his/her fate is
uncertain. Detainees are released without money, transport, and
sometimes without their all important identity cards. Seriously ill
detainees are released in the middle of the night from distant prisons
to find their own way to a hospital or village. Bedouin shepherds have
found men released from Ansar 3 prison wandering in the desert, still
handcuffed, and miles from the nearest village. Residents of Dhahariya
village, near the army detention center in the Hebron area, have become
accustomed to receiving released detainees in the middle of the night
and providing them with food, beds, and transportation home.
Israel's policy of administrative detention: detaining people for long
periods on the basis of an administrative, rather than judicial order,
without charge or trial, brought the government international criticism
in the 1970's. As a result, the measure was temporarily suspended until
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin launched his "iron fist" policy
in 1985. Scores of activists were arrested for six month renewable
periods under the new policy. Since the first weeks of the Uprising,
Israel has arrested an unprecedented number of Palestinians under the
Under administrative detention, Israeli military authorities do not have
to bring charges against the detainee but have only to bring "secret"
evidence before a military judge in the occupied territories, or a
district court judge in Jerusalem or inside Israel, within 48 hours and
96 hours respectively, to justify a detainee's six month detention order
on a claim of "preventing" security violations. The detainee and
his/her legal counsel do not have access to the secret evidence, and
there is no effective appeal procedure against the orders themselves,
only against procedural errors. The number of detainees who have had
detention periods actually reduced during the court presentations has
been negligible; even after reductions in sentences, detainees are
often given new six month detention orders.
Previously, administrative detention orders were issued only by the
minister of defense or the district commander and were officially
subject to review by a military judge after a three month period.
However, since the third month of the Uprising, this procedure has been
streamlined to allow any field commander to issue a six month detention
order. In addition, it is now reviewed in the prison or detention camp
itself by a military committee with only advisory powers. By June this
committee was replaced by a single military judge (usually a civil law
attorney on reserve duty) who could confirm, cancel, or shorten the
According to Israeli regulations and international law, administrative
detainees should be accorded better conditions than those of other
prisoners. For example, they should be kept separate from other
prisoners, be provided radios, newspapers, reading materials, and
civilian clothes. In fact, during the Uprising, conditions for
administrative detainees have been the same, if not worse, than the
other prisoners. In most detention centers - really only tent camps -
there are no newspapers, radios, family visits or lawyer's visits, and
often detainees must wait weeks for even a change of underwear.
ADMINISTRATIVE DETAINEE POPULATION*
Laborers (including union leaders) 50%
Skilled laborers 7%
Employees (e.g. clerks) 5%
*Based on 1,000 cases, predominantly from the West Bank, documented by
PHRIC. Most were arrested during the height of the administrative
arrests between March and May 1988.
INTERROGATION AND TORTURE
Increasingly, as the Palestinian Uprising continues, the Israeli
government and particularly the secret police have been under pressure
to keep as many Palestinians as possible in prison on actual charges.
The principal "evidence" used against the detainees are so called
confessions of political activity and soldiers' testimonies. This has
led to a significant increase in brutality by interrogators determined
to obtain confessions from detainees, whether such confessions have any
basis in fact or not. Even so, by year's end only several hundred
Palestinians had been tried, convicted and sentenced for security
violations during the Uprising.
That Palestinians are routinely beaten in prison while under
interrogation is an established fact, which even Israeli military
authorities do not dispute. Such abuses have been given legal sanction
by the Israeli government. In late 1987 the Landau Commission was
established to investigate the practices of the Shin Bet (security
services) after a detainee died while being detained at Jenin prison.
The commission concluded that "moderate force" could be used to extract
confessions from Palestinians in detention. Exactly what constitutes
"moderate force" and within what limits and circumstances it may be used
were not defined in the publicly released portions of the report.
Palestinians do not have to be accused of anything to be physically or
psychologically tortured in prison. For example, on the first night of
arrest every prisoner, without exception, is systematically hooded with
a thick canvas bag pulled tight around the neck. The bag is filthy and
heavy enough to impede breathing, and has a severe psychologically
disorienting effect on the detainee. The prisoner, already handcuffed
behind the back and sometimes leg-shackled, is then chained to a hook or
pole set at varying heights to make either sitting or standing
impossible. The detainee can be left in this state for hours or days,
without water, food or toilet facilities. He/she is sometimes drenched
purposely with water and left in the cold, as well as beaten and
humiliated by passing soldiers.
From this "softening up" treatment, meted out to men, women and children
of all ages, whether charged with an offense or not, physical abuse can
escalate to what is defined as torture by international law. During the
entire period of interrogation, the detainee may not have family visits
and legal counsel is often denied at least for the first 18 days.
Pressure on detainees to confess to any allegation is intense, even if
the charges are only holding a flag in a women's demonstration or
throwing a stone.
In the past year, some Palestinian detainees have reported that Israeli
investigators have forced them to spend days without food, water, or
clean clothes while handcuffed inside a small, narrow closet - a kind of
stand-up coffin or zinzana - even before they have been asked any
questions or been told the reason for their arrest. These complaints
have come from prisoners, particularly women, who are held in Israeli
prisons including the main detention center in Jerusalem, indicating
that the use of the "closets" is systematic and widespread. After being
subjected to this form of psychological abuse many of the prisoners are
released without charge within two weeks of arrest.
Other complaints about treatment in detention include the use of
"punishment cells" - solitary confinement. A detainee is held in one of
these cells for days or even a month at a time. Tear gas is often
poured into these small cells as added punishment.
Outright beating of detainees by guards, interrogators, soldiers or
police creates an atmosphere of insecurity and terror, especially for
younger detainees and those with no prior prison experience. Injuries
sustained during interrogation are not treated in the minimal-treatment
prison clinics, and detainees are seldom granted medical
release-on-bail. A variety of methods of torture have been reported to
be used on Palestinian detainees: freezing and heating units, rubber
whips with stones or razors attached to the ends, metal bars and
electric prods, and wooden clubs affixed with nails are among a few.
Most often prisoners are simply hit with whatever is at hand: gunbutts,
sticks, boots, and fists, until a confession of some kind is extracted.
Threats are also used and include warnings of expulsion, long-term
sentence, and even murder.
DEATHS IN DETENTION
During the Uprising, the obvious escalation of brutality inside the
prisons has had the inevitable result of Palestinians dying in
detention. A death in detention is a lonely and tragic end for a human
being, and virtually impossible to prove. There are no witnesses, and
prison authorities are unlikely to admit that detainees have been
abused. While previous deaths in detention were isolated cases
occurring in 1981 and 1987, at least six Palestinians have died in
detention during a six month period in 1988. Six more Palestinians have
died apparently as the result of beatings by soldiers or police after
arrest. They either died in the hospital from their injuries or their
bodies were found in the surrounding area. But because their deaths did
not occur officially in prison or detention centers, they are not
strictly considered to have occurred in detention.
Two Palestinians were killed after soldiers opened fire on prisoners in
Ansar 3 protesting harassment by soldiers. (One of the detainees was
shot dead by the camp commander at close range, eyewitnesses said, when
he bared his chest in defiance.) The deaths of four other Palestinians,
all under detention without charge, were ruled suicides by prison
authorities. The families of all four believe that their sons were
beaten to death, judging from the serious wounds and signs of battery
they saw on the bodies as well as the corroborating testimonies of other
Ibrahim M'tur, a father of five, who was accused of organizing a hunger
strike for better conditions in a West Bank detention center, died in
detention after being separated from other prisoners for two days during
which time, by all accounts, he was beaten by a dozen soldiers. Prison
authorities ruled his death a "suicide." According to his family who
saw the body briefly before the military-ordered burial, his arm was
broken in two places, the marks of tight shackles could be seen on his
wrists and ankles, and he had deep wounds on his head.
Another young man, Nabil Mustapha Bedah, summoned for interrogation to
Jerusalem's Moscobiyya detention center for unpaid car taxes, was
returned to his family, dead, five days later. His death was also ruled
a "suicide," although his family said his arm and teeth were apparently
broken. A body of a third young man, Ata Ahmad Ayyad, was brought at
midnight, to his family in Kalandia refugee camp near Jerusalem, after
only a month in detention. His body reeked of tear gas and bore signs
of beating. The fourth man, Ibrahim Rayya Zeid, was found dead in Ramle
prison in an isolation cell, after spending eight months of solitary
confinement without making a confession. Prison authorities also
claimed his death was a "suicide." There are still more questionable
cases of Palestinians who were taken away from the scene of a
demonstration by soldiers after being injured by gunfire in the leg and
later listed as having died in Israeli hospital of chest wounds.
In the Gaza Strip, there have been a number of uninvestigated cases in
which Palestinians have been seen taken from their homes or from the
street by soldiers and then found dead. Hani al-Shami, a middle-aged
man from Jabalia refugee camp, was beaten by soldiers in his house in
front of his family and taken into custody. Later he was found dead in
the Jabalia military headquarters. A military court could not determine
which soldiers dealt him the mortal blow since so many had beaten him
and so released the four Givati soldiers arrested in connection with the
A few of the youths who have "disappeared" still cannot be traced and
are also feared dead. One, a 14-year-old retarded boy from a village
near Jerusalem, has been missing since February.
Since January 1988, 60 Palestinians have been issued administrative
orders by Israel forcibly expelling them from the occupied territories
(compared to 45 for the previous three year period). Israel has based
the expulsions on allegations by Israeli intelligence and "secret
evidence" that the men had engaged in (nonviolent) political activities,
primarily organizing community "popular committees." By year's end, the
26 Palestinians were still in prison either appealing expulsion orders
or awaiting imminent expulsion. (On January 1, 1989, 13 were expelled
to South Lebanon.)
Palestinians selected for expulsion have no right to a fair defense
since neither they nor their lawyers, can see what, if any, charges are
brought against them. A committee of military officers must review the
orders on procedural grounds and make a recommendation to the commanding
officer of the district, usually the man who issued the expulsion order.
In three cases in 1988, this military committee made unprecedented
recommendations that expulsions not be carried out. Its recommendations
were accepted in only one of the cases.
The second stage of so-called "appeal" for Palestinians facing expulsion
is the Israeli High Court. So far all Palestinians who have chosen to
appeal to the High Court have had their expulsions upheld.
Increasingly, Palestinians have appealed to the court and then withdrawn
their appeals when "secret evidence" against them was not revealed. In
December 1988, two Palestinians withdrew appeals in exchange for a deal
from the state prosecutor that their expulsion be "voluntary," a
euphemism for an expulsion order which is limited to a five year period
and conditional on the expellee not engaging in "anti-Israel" activity.
The two retracted their agreement on the same day and are again
appealing their expulsion orders to the High Court.
The average age of Palestinians expelled in 1988 is 31. Almost all are
married and have children. They include physicians, lawyers,
journalists, trade unionists, university lecturers, laborers, and
students. Their arrest records are varied; some have been in prison
since 1986, others have never before been arrested or even interrogated.
None are accused of violent activities; they are being expelled clearly
for their leadership capabilities. Israeli intelligence authorities
reported in May that they have prepared a list of 1,200 more
Palestinians whom they would like to expel.
A special one-issue Israeli political party "Moledet" campaigned in the
Israeli elections this past year in favor of a government policy of
"transfer," that is the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied
territories. The party won two seats out of 120 in the Israeli
parliament. Moreover, Israeli opinion polls indicate that 41% of the
Israeli public support mass transfer of Palestinians to other
The families of the expellees face serious travel restrictions,
resulting in permanent separation from loved ones. Often Israel refuses
to issue travel documents to the wives of the expellees or simply turns
back the families at the Israeli-Jordanian border. In one case the wife
of an expellee, herself an activist, was not permitted to join her
husband outside the West Bank until she signed a self-exile order
relinquishing her right to return to the West Bank for a three year
Since the mid-1970's, Jewish settler violence has been a constant source
of tension in the Israeli occupied territories. This violence peaked in
the early 1980's with the advent of a settler underground organization
which orchestrated a number of attacks against Palestinians and their
property. Despite the indictment of twenty-seven settlers, vigilantism
has continued relatively unabated since that time.
Acts of settler violence committed since the beginning of the
Palestinian Uprising have not only increased in number but have become
more deadly. During the first twelve months of the uprising, settlers
killed fifteen Palestinians. Most of these murders were committed as
"reprisals" against Palestinians in response to specific acts (e.g. rock
throwing). Others were committed as a method of expropriating land for
the expansion of settlements.
Only two of the settlers involved were indicted and brought to trial,
both on charges of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of
twenty years, unlike murder with a minimum sentence of twenty-five
years. On November 30, Israel Ze'ev, a recent American immigrant from
Chicago, was found guilty of manslaughter for the shooting death of
Judeh Taim in an unprovoked attack as Taim tended sheep on his land
close to Ze'ev's settlement. Ze'ev received a sentence of only three
While the number of killings committed by settlers has increased
dramatically during the Uprising, the principle violation of the
Palestinians' rights has been incessant harassment. Settlers have used
the heightened tensions in the territories as an opportunity to
"demonstrate Jewish presence." This has mainly taken the form of
increased raids on villages and refugee camps located near settlements
or major transportation arteries. A large number of these raids have
taken place in coordination with local army units and have included the
destruction of property and crops, assault on residents, and the
indiscriminate use of gunfire. Several killings also were committed
during such raids.
The settlers have continued to be active on the political front,
repeatedly calling on the government to broaden the interpretation of
the "rules for opening fire." The government has officially resisted
such pressure. However, in practice, the rules are indeed being
interpreted more liberally by the local authorities. Settler activists
have also called for the expulsion of large numbers of Palestinians on
several occasions. Again, while the government did not overtly
acquiesce to these demands, it continued to accelerate its own policy of
Settler violence against Palestinians could not continue without
government collusion or at least approval. While expressing token
disapproval, the government has consistently refused to take any serious
action to curb the violent activities of its citizens living in the
territories. The national government has in fact actively created a
situation in the territories which provides both the means and the
impetus for the settlers' actions.
The settlers have been permitted to accumulate large numbers (over
10,000) of small arms. While virtually all of these weapons are legally
owned and licensed, the government has chosen to exercise little
practical control over them.
Another exacerbating factor is the dual legal system under which Israeli
settlers are subject to Israeli civil law while Palestinians are
governed by Israeli military law. Settlers are thus exempt not only
from the Israeli military court system but the local Palestinian court
system as well. Any Palestinian wishing to bring charges against a
settler must do so within the Israeli civil legal system, a step few
Palestinians are willing to take.
The most crucial factor which has helped to increase settler violence is
the collaboration of local military and civil authorities. A government
commission revealed in 1984 that the local Israeli authorities
encouraged the lawless actions of the settler population by not carrying
out complete criminal investigations and by committing perjury.
Although the commission recommended radical reforms none were ever
carried out and conditions have remained much the same.
Statements by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir urging settlers to "remain
strong" have been calculated to encourage their actions. This, combined
with the sympathy of other government and local law enforcement
officials, encourages the settlers to continue to "take the law into
their own hands" with often fatal results.
HOUSE DEMOLITIONS DURING THE UPRISING
The Israeli military authorities' dynamiting and bulldozing of thousands
of Palestinian homes, a practice carried out since the first days of the
1967 occupation, is probably the harshest collective punishment used by
the Israeli army to punish whole families for the suspected "security
crimes" of one family member. House demolitions accelerated
dramatically during 1988, especially in the latter half of the year.
These destructions have included hundreds of homes built without a
military-issued license. The pretext of homes being "illegally built"
was used to punish individuals and whole villages for their activities
in support of the popular uprising.
Demolitions are carried out suddenly to maximize shock value by a force
of hundreds of soldiers who are frequently accompanied by settlers,
usually between midnight and dawn. The village is curfewed and the only
warning for targeted families is soldiers banging on the door and
shouting orders to leave the house. Residents are given only minutes to
try to empty the house of its contents before the explosive charges are
set or the bulldozer begins its destructive work. The contents of the
house, nearby farm animals, orchards, and grape arbors, as well as
neighboring houses, are often destroyed by the force of the blasts used
by the Israeli army in areas of high population concentration.
Despite the curfews, village residents often take to the streets to
protest demolitions of their own or their neighbors' houses. On at
least two occasions during the Uprising, Palestinian youths have been
killed in confrontations with soldiers after house demolitions. In the
village of Beit Furik, one of the bloodiest incidents of the Uprising
occurred when soldiers fired into a crowd of demonstrators after a house
demolition; 17 people were injured including a son of the homeowner, who
later died of his injuries.
In rare cases, doors to houses or rooms are welded shut, rather than
destroying the entire house, but it is not known what criteria army
commanders use for choosing this particular punishment.
550 homes housing almost 5,000 people were destroyed by Israeli forces
in 1988. These Palestinians have no alternative housing, only the small
emergency tents given them by international relief organizations. The
families who lived in houses destroyed for "security" reasons are not
permitted to build again on their land. Those who built "unlicensed"
houses have no hope of ever obtaining a building permit due to the
deliberate Israeli policy of limiting Palestinian home building. During
the Uprising, no housing licenses were issued by military authorities in
the occupied territories. In fact, for the past several years a
slowdown - almost a work stoppage - has been in effect in the
Israeli-run West Bank planning department. Palestinians say that they
are victims of the Israeli occupation's many Catch-22's designed to stop
Palestinian construction by simply not issuing the needed licenses.
Palestine families whose homes have been destroyed said they built
without permits because they were forced to by the Israeli civil
The Bedouin hamlet of Qisan near Bethlehem was almost completely
obliterated in October 1988 after the destruction of 30 houses and sheds
which Israeli authorities said were built on land requisitioned by the
military. The demolitions were carried out after most of the hamlet's
remaining land was confiscated for the expansion of a modern Israeli
settlement next door.
In Idna village in the Hebron district, a politically active village
which Israeli military authorities had threatened to "break," 112
families were given notices in May that the Israeli army intended to
destroy their houses for being built without the necessary permits. In
other villages under prolonged curfews, Israeli civil administration
officials accompanied by soldiers used the opportunity to make tax raids
as well as to survey for licenses and distribute demolition notices to
those homeowners who built their houses without permits.
Israeli military authorities avenged the killing of a reserve soldier by
a resident of Tamoun village by displacing the entire Tamoun migrant
farmer population which was living and working in the Jiftlik valley.
In early November an estimated 80 to 100 huts used by the Tamoun farmers
and their families during the winter working months were razed,
displacing more than 400 people. Israeli authorities denied that the
destruction of these huts was for security reasons although migrant
farmers in the Jiftlik valley originating from other villages were not
One-third of the houses destroyed in 1988 were demolished in reprisal
for vague "security" offenses ranging from an armed action against a
soldier to stone-throwing. At least two houses were destroyed "by
mistake," after the arrest of occupants who were later released without
charge. Israel has also, for the first time, reacted to attacks on its
informers by destroying the homes of Palestinians accused of attacking
the person or destroying property of collaborators.
The largest number of houses destroyed at one time for "security"
reasons was in Beita in April, after a young Israeli settler was
accidently shot dead by her armed settler escort in an incident near the
village involving village residents. Fifteen Beita homes were destroyed
within 48 hours of the incident amidst calls by settlers and right-wing
Israeli government officials that the village be "razed to the ground."
Another eight homes were damaged by the blasts and made unhabitable.
Demolitions have been carried out in response to the political
atmosphere, or the demands of Israeli settlers or government officials,
rather than to the alleged offense. In more than a half-dozen cases,
houses were destroyed even before arrests of a family member was made.
The Israeli army became judge, jury, and executioner using bulldozers or
dynamite to punish the entire families of those presumed guilty before
suspects were actually charged and brought to court.
Palestinians live with their extended families in solid stone houses
which they build by hand over a period of years. More than 80 percent
of the disposable income of the residents of the occupied territories is
directed toward the building of private homes. In addition to rendering
families homeless, therefore, the destruction of such homes represents
great emotional heartache, the loss of years of hard labor, and economic
A cornerstone of occupation policy has always been the attempt to
prevent the development of independent Palestinian institutions and the
emergence of independent Palestinian leaders within them. While
occupation troops have waged a military campaign during the Uprising
ostensibly to "restore order," they have also busied themselves with
hampering any form of normal Palestinian life and impairing the ability
of Palestinians to organize to meet their basic needs.
During the Uprising there has been a systematic and sustained attack on
Palestinian educational, cultural, research, charitable and social
institutions and on trade unions, press offices and print shops.
Serious violations of the right to religious freedom have occurred
through interference in workshop services and religious institutional
concerns, desecration of holy places, and persecution of clergy. Health
care services and facilities have also been jeopardized, seriously
impeding care of the wounded and the sick.
The closure of schools and universities, combined with sustained attacks
on school facilities, teachers and students, has resulted in the virtual
loss of an educational year. These repeated Israeli-instituted closures
have severely jeopardized the educational system and inflicted
irreparable damage on the educational development of hundreds of
thousands of students.
All West Bank schools were closed for four months in the spring of 1988
and only reopened, in stages, for fall classes beginning December 1.
Many schools were not reopened at all and several were closed for
varying periods. Gaza Strip schools have also suffered severe extended
closures and disruptions, which educators estimate has meant a loss of
at least 50% of the educational year. Jerusalem schools, which wee
closed together with West Bank schools in the spring, reopened in
October 1988, followed by sporadic closures of specific schools. All
Jerusalem schools were also closed November 11-17 as a preemptive
measure during the convening of the Palestine National Council.
The civil administration closed all educational and research institutes
on the West Bank in September 1988 to prevent alternative classes from
being held there. Alternative classes organized by the popular
committees have been specifically banned. Teachers in public and
private schools were even prohibited from giving students workshops to
continue their education at home.
The universities and colleges, closed in December 1987 and January 1988,
have remained closed, with no declared date for reopening them.
Even when schools have been open, the educational process has been
continually disrupted. The army and sometimes settlers have vandalized
and raided schools, forcing students and employees to leave the
premises. The army has besieged schools and not allowed students and
employees to enter, has carried out individual or mass arrests of
students from classrooms, and has taken over several schools to use as
military installations or temporary detention centers.
The closures of schools and universities has placed a tremendous strain
on the financial resources of educational institutions. Teachers in
public schools have faced salary cuts. Private schools which have
suffered drops in tuition payment have been forced to dismiss teachers
and cut back on facilities. Most importantly, hundreds of thousands of
students have suffered a disruption of their educational process, which
has been most severe for young students acquiring literacy and for
students in their matriculation year.
Other cultural and research facilities have been affected as well. The
Hakawati Theater in Jerusalem, for example, has been raided and closed
on several occasions. Activities of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian
Society of International Affairs have been disrupted. The main premises
of the Arab Studies Society, the largest local Palestinian research
institute, were closed July 31. Its President, Faisal Husseini, was
placed under 6 month administrative detention for the fourth time.
Employees of the Arab Studies Society and several other cultural and
research institutes have also been administratively detained.
CHARITABLE AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS
Several formal and grassroots institutions in the West Bank and Gaza
provide welfare, medical and social services to residents. They
compensate for the lack of services provided by the Israeli civil
administration and constitute the foundation of an independent
Palestinian society. Always subject to obstruction and repression by
the occupation authorities, these institutions became the targets of a
concerted attack when other methods of crushing the popular uprising had
In'ash al-Usra, the largest charitable society on the West Bank, was
closed for two years June 20. Some 34,000 people were directly and
indirectly affected by the closure, including 1,300 children sponsored
by the society. The Society's president, Samiha Khalil, was later
charged with 11 counts of incitement and posession of illegal material.
The Union of Charitable Societies in Jerusalem, which coordinates and
distributes funds to over 100 charities, was closed for one year August
28. Its director, Dr. Amin al-Khatib, was administratively detained for
two months. Licenses have been revoked from other charitable societies,
such as the Tulkarm Patients' Friends Society, which among other medical
services, houses the districts x-ray facilities. Youth centers, YMMA's
(Young Men's Muslim Association) and other social centers have been
closed. The Shabiba (youth movement) was declared illegal in March;
within days of its criminalization people were arrested for membership
and several of its youth centers closed.
The popular committees, which had provided vital services in most
communities, were formally banned on August 18. The authorities claim
that several hundred committee activists have been detained, including
the 25 men ordered expelled on August 17. Members of voluntary work,
health, agricultural development and women's committees, not explicitly
targeted by the ban, have also been imprisoned for committee
PRESS AND INFORMATION SERVICES
Throughout the uprising the authorities have restricted access to events
and disrupted the flow of information by the media. Foreign journalists
as well as Palestinian journalists have been subject to these measures,
which have included restrictions of entry to closed military zones,
confiscation and destruction of equipment, notebooks and film, and
withdrawal of press credentials for allegedly failing to submit material
to the military censor. At least one photojournalist was shot and many
others (foreign and Palestinian) have been assaulted and beaten.
moreover, the media have complained that on occasion, intelligence
agents have entered villages posing as journalists to make arrests, a
practice which undermines their credibility with Palestinians and
consequently hampers their work.
Those most severely affected by such measures have been Palestinian
journalists, press offices, print shops, and publications. The
Palestine Press Service was closed for six months march 30; the closure
was extended September 30 for another year. At least five other press
offices were closed for varying periods. The licenses of Al-Awdah
magazine (English and Arabic) and Derech Hazitzots/Tariq a-Sharara
newspaper were revoked. Procedures were also begun in January 1989 to
close the Arabic weekly, Al Ra'i.
In addition, press offices have been subject to raids and telephone
cuts. Newspapers face on-going censorship and periodic distribution
bans. In the last year, eight journalists have been expelled, at least
38 placed under administrative detention for six months or longer, and
numerous others arrested and detained for six months or longer, and
numerous others arrested and detained for varying periods.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE LAW
Human rights workers and lawyers defending Palestinian clients have been
subjected to harassments and serious interference in their work. Five
fieldworkers of the Ramallah-based al-Haq/Law in the Service of Man, an
affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, and three
fieldworkers of PHRIC have been placed under administrative detention.
Other workers have been harassed, prevented access to witnesses, had
their identity cards seized, and been detained and interrogated for
varying periods. At least four lawyers, three in Gaza and one in the
West Bank, have been administratively detained. In some cases, the work
of lawyers and human rights workers has been specified as the reason for
their administrative detention. In the absence of other reasons, it
must be assumed that human rights and legal work constituted the basis
for the other detentions as well.
The Gaza Bar Association has conducted a strike against the military
court system since December 17, 1987, and the West Bank Lawyers
Association has conducted similar periodic protest strikes. The Gaza
Bar Association, which has continued to monitor the courts and to
publicize serious human rights violations, has been raided (ostensibly
for tax collection purposes); records and affidavits have been
confiscated. The civil administration has threatened to prevent prison
visits to turn civil court matters over to the military courts. Some
civil court employees have already been dismissed.
Like the other institutions, trade unions have been systematically
harassed; many offices have been closed or rendered inoperative. The
Trade Union Complex in Jenin was closed for two years in March, the
General Federation of Trade Unions headquarters in Nablus closed for one
year August 26, and the Professional Associations Complex in Jerusalem
closed for two years August 25.
In addition, the local and regional offices of most unions and
federations have been effectively inoperative to avoid permanent closure
orders and arrests of union activists. Furthermore, union and
professional association offices have been raided, documents confiscated
and premises vandalized. An estimated 27 offices were formally closed
by the authorities. Tens of union officers and hundreds of union
members have been put under administrative detention. Two union
officers have been expelled to Lebanon, and four others are in prison,
appealing expulsion orders.
As a result of these measures, union activity during the Uprising has
virtually ceased at a time when workers, particularly those employed in
Israel, face increasing exploitation, repression, and loss of jobs as a
result of prolonged absences during strikes and army imposed curfews.
HEALTH CARE SERVICES AND FACILITIES
As an occupying power, Israel is obliged under the Fourth Geneva
Convention to ensure provision of health care services to the occupied
civilian population. The failure to fulfill this obligation has been a
source of contention throughout the occupation. Not only have
Israeli-run health care facilities been inadequate in meeting the needs
of a growing population, but more importantly, the Israeli occupation
authorities have severely hindered the free development of independent
Palestinian primary and secondary health services attempting to satisfy
During the uprising, the occupation authorities have restricted medical
care of the wounded in several respects, by obstructing medical
treatment, delaying transportation of wounded to the hospital, and
mistreating wounded Palestinians in their custody. Ambulances en route
to evacuate the injured have been commandeered by soldiers who use them
to enter villages and make arrests. Entire villages and camps have been
denied medical care while under curfew and prolonged siege; on occasion
even Red Cross officials have been prohibited entry to these besieged
areas. Moreover, these curfews and prolonged sieges have prevented care
for chronic health problems and induced illness, particularly among
young children deprived of proper sanitation, running water, milk and
basic food stuffs.
Denial of adequate medical care in prisons and detention centers, common
before the uprising, has become even more commonplace for the large
numbers of detainees held in substandard military camps. Scores of
prisoners with chronic health problems and disabilities have appealed
for treatment or early release to no avail. Israeli doctors themselves,
serving in army reserve capacity in several facilities, have complained
that inmates under interrogation and in regular detention are abused and
that these wounded prisoners are not accorded proper medical treatment.
On several occasions, troops have invaded hospitals, smashing medical
equipment, assaulting medical personnel and families of patients, and
forcibly removing the wounded. Teargas and live ammunition have been
fired in and around hospitals. Medical personnel have also been
assaulted and detained while giving medical treatment or while en route
to hospitals. Doctors, nurses, and other medical workers have been
arrested, served administrative detention orders and three have been
Since Jordan's formal withdrawal of financial support for the occupied
territories in August, Israel has refused to make funds available to
supplement hospital budgets and salaries formerly underwritten by
Jordan. It has also taken steps to ensure that the PLO does not supply
the lost funds. On July 10, even before Jordan's withdrawal of
financial support, Israel ordered government hospitals to demand
prepayment for 3-days of hospitalization, an order the hospitals have
largely circumvented as contrary to their medical obligations. Transfer
of patients to Israeli hospitals for treatment unavailable in West Bank
and Gaza hospitals has also been severely restricted, even for patients
covered by insurance.
The most frequently violated religious right has been the right to
worship. Numerous mosques in both the West Bank and Gaza have been
closed or access to them denied. Residents of the West Bank have been
denied access to al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem for Friday noon prayers
since May due to roadblocks placed at the entrances to the city
specifically for this purpose. Christians as well as Muslims have
suffered from this violation of rights. The major churches in
Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour in the West Bank are surrounded by
soldiers every Sunday.
Loudspeakers used for the call to prayer have been confiscated from
hundreds of minarets on the grounds that they were being used for
incitement. In many locations worshippers have been subjected to
identity checks upon entering or leaving mosques and churches, resulting
in the arrests of numerous individuals. On more than one occasion,
troops have shot teargas into mosques and churches and have even entered
mosques to make arrests. Virtually all major funeral processions,
Muslim and Christina, have been violently dispersed by the military, in
several cases resulting in the deaths and serious injury of
participants. The right to worship has also been systematically denied
in detention centers, where the gathering or holding of communal prayer
has been prohibited and individual attempts to pray have met with brutal
Vandalism and desecration of holy sites has escalated during the
Uprising. Windows, doors and sacred writings in churches and mosques
have been vandalized; firearms and teargas have been used inside
mosques. Several mosques have been destroyed or heavily damaged by
arson. On July 3, the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs started an
excavation adjacent to the walls of the Haram al-Sharif (the compound
including the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque) in Jerusalem without
informing the Islamic Waqf which controls the site. The excavation set
off massive demonstrations in Jerusalem in order to defend the Haram
against what was viewed as a hostile incursion into one of Islam's
Both Muslim and Christian clergy have been targeted for harassment.
Numerous Muslim imams and Waqf employees have been arrested or placed
under administrative detention. Two Muslim religions leaders have been
expelled. Beating and humiliation of local religious figures who refuse
to cooperate with the authorities or who speak out against the
occupation has become a common occurrence. The most serious incident
has been the charging of Sheikh Jamal a-Rifai of the Higher Islamic
Council with "encouraging illegal assembly" in connection with the July
3 demonstrations in Jerusalem. Christian clergy have also been targeted
by the authorities. Patriarch Michel Sabbah of the Latin (Roman)
Catholic church has twice been denied access to his parishioners under
curfew, despite his diplomatic status which technically ensures such
access. Other clergy have been assaulted and some called for
The authorities have also continued their transparent policy of
attempting to split Christians and Muslims by spreading rumors that
Islamic fundamentalists plan to expel Christians from Palestine once
independence is achieved. However, most Israeli policies have, in
effect, helped build unity among Palestinians of all beliefs; Muslims
and Christians alike have been killed, injured, besieged and
The systematic interference with and obstruction of institutions did not
begin with the Uprising but has been a persistent feature of the Israeli
occupation, especially within recent years. The intensification of this
harassment and the criminalization of the popular committees currently
amounts to a direct attack on the Palestinian community's ability to
provide for its basic needs: to educate its children and young adults;
to inform itself about its conditions; to provide health care and other
services for its needy; to organize and protect its workers; and to
exercise its basic rights to freedom of expression and religion. The
harassment and closure of specific institutions must be seen in the
context of this overall attack on the ability of the Palestinian
community to face the specific needs and stresses of the uprising.
Israel has always claimed that the occupation has been of economic
benefit to Palestinians. In fact, the economic history of Israel's
occupation of the territories has been one of exploitation of cheap
labor and captive markets, aggressive de-industrialization, and
destruction of the indigenous agricultural economy. Israel actually
"earns" from Palestinian taxpayers at least six times the amount it puts
back into the area in minimal services. Occupation has actually proven
lucrative for Israel.
Land confiscation played a major role in providing a pool of cheap,
unprotected labor for Israel, especially on the West Bank. As of 1985,
52% of West Bank land had been confiscated and 40% of Gaza, hence by
1986, 48% of all employed Palestinians worked outside their villages,
most of them commuting to work in Israel.
Palestinian laborers officially registered in Israel are forced to pay
up to 40% of their income in taxes and insurance payments, although only
citizens of Israel or residents of Jerusalem are eligible to benefit
from these deductions. Palestinians working irregularly in the
so-called "black market" travel with Arab subcontractors from their
village or camp to work sites in Israel or wait on street corners in
Jerusalem, Gaza City, and other major cities for an employer to hire
them. This group of Palestinians is the poorest paid segment of the
Israeli work force and is given the most undesirable jobs.
By the end of 1987, an estimated 115,000 men from Gaza, virtually the
entire adult male population, worked inside Israel, most of the
illegally. From 3:30 a.m. the center of Gaza City was packed with men
who had come in from the villages and camps to travel to work in Tel
Aviv. Some of the men, however, stayed all week in the city, risking
arrest for staying in Tel Aviv overnight without a permit.
In the course of the Israeli occupation the two major industries in
Gaza, citrus and fishing, were systematically destroyed. Restrictions
on permissible areas for fishing combined with the refusal to renew
licenses on boats has brought the fishing industry down to less that 10%
of its pre-1967 level. Total or partial restriction of access to
markets destroyed the value of the citrus crop.
Economic pressure on the Palestinians, however, extends far beyond the
exploitation of a subject population. The stated purpose of economic
policies which have destroyed the agricultural and industrial
infrastructures of the West Bank and Gaza and left most Gazans in penury
has been the encouragement of migration: discomfort at home combined
with training and opportunities abroad have been used to induce
"voluntary" emigration. To some extent, before the mid-1970's, this
policy was successful. Since 1978, however, there has been a conscious
effort by Palestinians to remain in their homeland, regardless of the
Since 1982, indigenous economic difficulties have been exacerbated by
the economic recession in the Gulf States, which had previously provided
lucrative jobs for many Palestinians, and by tighter visa restrictions
in the West. By 1987, there were an estimated 10,000 unemployed
Palestinian college graduates.
Many college graduates, including physicians and engineers, worked as
day-laborers inside Israel. To create further economic difficulties for
the Palestinians, the Israelis have steered visitors away from the Arab
businesses in Jerusalem. This strategy plus the steady decline in
tourism have worsened economic conditions. Restrictions have also been
placed on marketing agricultural products, which has resulted in a
pattern of annual decreases in agricultural export levels and undermined
what was left of the agricultural base.
From the beginning the Uprising was a conscious response to the economic
pressures placed on Palestinians and the underlying motives behind them.
One of the first demands of the Leadership was that workers stay home
from work in Israel. This demand was later modified because the
community subsisted on that income. An estimated 15% of the workforce
was, however, able to leave work in Israel through a system of reduced
consumption, income redistribution, and development of village-based
income-producing measures. The work boycott was coupled with the demand
by the Leadership to boycott Israeli goods wherever possible and to
refuse to pay taxes, as well as the establishment of general strike days
and an ongoing partial general strike. Businesses, with the exception
of pharmacies and bakeries, were open from 9:00 a.m. until noon. People
were encouraged to begin home gardening and to work for small-scale
economic independence. The boycott of Israeli products has proved
remarkably effective, with Israeli economic sources reporting a 40% drop
in West Bank-Gaza consumption of Israeli products.
For months, the right of businesses to set their own hours was a major
source of conflict with the army. Soldiers attempted to force shops
open during closed hours and closed during open hours. Shops which
refused to open were welded closed. Shops were also forced open when
the owners were not present and on occasion tear gas was thrown into
ships to force them to close. Since May, however, shops have for the
most part been left to set their hours and obey the strikes.
Shop owners have received tax assessments double or even quadruple the
value of their merchandise, hence, tax resistance has been another
source of conflict. Businesses have been raided, vandalized and closed
because of tax resistance. Identity cards (essential for movement
anywhere) have been confiscated. Family members have been imprisoned as
hostages for back taxes. Dozens, if not hundreds, of cars have been
confiscated at checkpoints for nonpayment of taxes. Raids on villages
and curfews have become increasingly common in attempts to collect taxes
and have often resulted in bloody confrontations.
In May, the Israelis began replacing identity cards in the Gaza Strip.
In order to obtain the required new card Gazans had to obtain clearances
from a number of administrative offices including the tax authorities.
New car licenses in both the West Bank and Gaza were given only under
the same conditions, as were approvals for import-export licenses or
travel abroad. The renewal of any regular license (drivers, etc.) also
required a tax clearance.
The Israelis have also considered home gardening a major threat to their
rule. Soldiers have arrested gardening suppliers and people working in
their gardens and have bulldozed the gardens themselves.
CURFEWS AND SIEGES
On almost every day of the Uprising, at least some areas of the West
Bank and Gaza have been under curfew. PHRIC has documented at least
2,000 curfew days (excluding partial day and night curfews). The number
of people affected ranges from a few thousand to several hundred
thousand. The Gaza Strip has been under night curfew since March, and
some West Bank areas have had similar curfews for prolonged periods.
The army also regularly closes areas to the press, which effectively
prevents any entry to and exit from designated areas; most closures are
not formally announced so it is impossible to know the exact number. On
two occasions, during the week of Land Day in March and on Yom Kippur in
September, the entire West Bank and Gaza were sealed off. During the
convening of the Palestine National Council and again on the Uprising
anniversary, the entire Gaza Strip was placed under curfew and most
areas of the West Bank either closed or placed under curfew.
The most serious closure practices are the military sieges on villages
or camps which last for several days or weeks, during which all
utilities in the area are cut, entry and exit of people and products is
prohibited, and villagers are prevented from harvesting or caring for
crops. In many cases, a curfew is also imposed. PHRIC has documented
at least 150 prolonged sieges of towns, villages and camps.
During curfews imposed on villages in planting and harvesting seasons,
crops have been deliberately destroyed and left to rot in the fields.
Prolonged sieges have resulted in the loss of 50% or more of the
agricultural income. During the grape harvest alone, 90% of the crop
was lost. This is a major source of income form any Palestinians,
especially in the Hebron region. Thousands of sheep, chickens and other
livestock have died since residents are not allowed to care for them.
Thousands of dunams of grapevines, olive, almond, date and citrus trees
have been uprooted or ploughed under, as well as hundreds of thousands
Harsh measures were taken against a number of villages during the olive
harvest, the most important single crop in the West Bank. Olives have a
two-year season and 1988 should have been a peak year. The income from
olive oil alone could reasonably have been expected to exceed
US$100,000,000, according to officials of the West Bank Agricultural
Cooperative Union. At least 12 villages were prohibited from harvesting
and marketing their olives. Many more olive presses were raided and
closed. In other areas, settlers and soldiers shot at people going to
harvest their crop. Villages which managed to harvest their bumper crop
reported major income losses due to export restrictions.
The long curfews also have taken an incalculable economic toll in lost
wages and increased expenses. In addition to food shortages, lack of
running water, and sanitation problems, there is also significant cost
to families subjected to raids on their homes. Furniture is destroyed,
food stores systematically vandalized, solar heating units destroyed
(soldiers also urinate and defecate into them), and windows and doors
Land confiscation has also continued during the Uprising. The owners of
an estimated 25,000 dunams (6,000 acres) have received new confiscation
notices. Settlers have also taken over large tracts of land which have
not been officially expropriated, thus further prohibiting the
Palestinian residents from farming to sustain themselves during the
Currency restrictions have been implemented to prevent outside aid from
reaching Palestinians in need. In March, the Israeli government
announced a JD400 (US$1,000) ceiling on money brought in over the
bridges from Jordan (the previous level had been JD2,000(US$5,000)).
Money was also confiscated, with no warning, at the Tel Aviv airport.
Israel acknowledges having confiscated over $200,000 from Palestinian
airline passengers. Palestinian sources claim many times that amount
actually has been taken. At the same time, charitable societies have
been closed and hundreds of thousands of charitable funds confiscated.
Limits have also been placed on the amount and frequency of bank
Jordan's renunciation of its claim to authority over the West Bank
resulted in salary losses by 21,000 civil servants, an immediate loss of
$45,000,000 annually in salaries alone. Monetary transfer restrictions
have ensured that the PLO or any other body would not be able to make up
for the lost funds.
The results of most of these policies cannot be calculated precisely.
annual per capita income in the West Bank and Gaza, only $1,230 in 1986
(largely buttressed by external sources of income not rooted in the
Palestinian economy itself), has undoubtedly declined considerably,
according to some estimates as much as one-third. Exorbitant fines and
taxes, sieges, property destruction, repeated imprisonment, killings and
injuries continue to drain Palestinian economic and human resources.
Yet as the popular uprising continues in the face of escalating
collective punishments, Palestinians say this is a price they are
willing to pay for independence.
Human rights violations committed against Palestinians by Israeli
occupation forces and their agents (settlers and collaborators), are not
a new occurrence. They have been a constant feature of Israeli policy
toward Palestinians since the formation of the Israeli government in
1948. Many techniques and "legal" justifications of human rights abuses
were adapted from the British Emergency Defense Regulations and in large
part integrated into Israeli law. Other techniques were adapted from
those employed by Jewish terrorist units and militias of the 1940's,
members of whom continue to play key roles in the formulation and
execution of Israeli government policy, in power or in opposition,
notably as military leaders, and defense, foreign, and prime ministers.
Human rights violations practices or condoned by the Israeli government
against Palestinians are not isolated deviations form a humane and just
norm. Rather, the constitute a POLICY aimed at stripping Palestinians
or their land an their rights, crushing any social, economic or
political development or organization that would enable Palestinians to
achieve self-sufficiency and sustain independence. The goal is to make
life miserable enough to encourage or force emigration and to eliminate
or neutralize leaders through imprisonment, killing, and expulsion. The
ultimate goal has always been, and remains today, the achievement of a
Jewish state "clean" of undesired Arabs, leaving only a manageable,
submissive labor pool and captive consumer market.
Human rights violations during the Uprising must be seen, first and
foremost, as a continuation of this basic policy. Nonetheless, he
character of the Uprising as a mass popular revolt of unprecedented
dimensions, and the corresponding widespread and intensive use of force
to crush it, has led to a qualitatively new situation. Today, as the
Uprising enters its second year, the volume and character of human
rights violations have reached a crisis point, which might quickly
escalate to the extremely dangerous prospect of mass transfer and even
genocide if real international constraints are not placed on the Israeli
As the human rights community celebrates the heroic and inspirational
uprising of a whole nation demanding the recognition of their most
fundamental rights as human beings and as a people, it must also give
serious consideration to the dangers confronting an unarmed, unprotected
civilian population confronting the fourth largest military power in the
world. A clear understanding of current trends in Israeli policy is
essential to develop resolute and effective strategies to support
Palestinian just demands for national independence and to prevent
CURRENT POLICY TRENDS AND HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS
The employment of wholesale atrocities has become the explicit method of
the occupation forces (Professor Israel Shahak coined the term
"atrocities as a method" in a recent collection of articles translated
from the Hebrew press). Troops, prison guards and interrogators, who
through frustration or zeal in performing their appointed tasks, have
qualitatively adjusted their behavior to employ increasingly more cruel
forms of humiliation, vandalism, torture, and brutality, particularly
against women and children. Official defense establishment statements,
court decisions, military orders, and army disciplinary measures,
however, indicate a deliberate, disciplined, and officially sanctioned
strategy to crush the population and eliminate those who cannot be
crushed. Human rights observers, as well as the Palestinian victims
themselves, fear that the aim of this "method of atrocities" is to
fulfill what has become a popularly legitimated yet still officially
unstated policy of effecting a population transfer.
There are six major indicators of this method as policy:
1. Despite the fact that the character of the Palestinian resistance
has changed considerably since the beginning of the uprising, from
large-scale demonstrations and marches to massive civil
disengagement from the Israeli system combined with small-scale
confrontations, the casualty rate has remained high and even
increased in recent months, with a marked increase in the percentage
of children killed and wounded. Since September 1988, the
percentage of children 16 and under injured in Gaza alone has risen
from an average of 25-30% to 50% of all injuries. By January 1989,
17 of 19 (nearly 90%) shooting fatalities were of teenagers or
The context of shooting casualties has also changed dramatically
since the beginning of the Uprising, when the army followed a policy
of shooting into large crowds of demonstrators or marchers, with the
apparent aim of dispersing the crowds and deterring further
protests. In contrast, most casualties now occur in the context of
army-provoked confrontations and raids of villages and camps. The
army has adopted a systematic policy of raiding villages and camps,
often at night or in the early morning hours, to ambush young men
who have been sleeping in the surrounding hills, intervene in
Palestinian enforcement of work strikes, and terrorize families into
"turning over" wanted youth. In addition to the young men executed
by "special operations" units, several others wanted by the
authorities over a period of time, were killed under particularly
brutal circumstances, sometimes shot or beaten while in custody.
Recent changes in the rules for opening fire, which explicitly allow
shooting in non-life threatening situations, even against youths
fleeing the scene of a demonstration, portend far greater
casualties. Testimony from the trial of four Givati brigade
soldiers being prosecuted for the beating death of Hani Shami
further revealed that "deterrent beating" of the kind that killed
him is perceived by soldiers in the field as part of official
policy. In their defense, they claimed they were "only following
2. The demolition of homes as a punitive measure threatens whole
communities. Licensed homes can now be demolished for "security"
reasons, based solely on suspicion of "stone-throwing" or activity
in popular committees by any family member. Thousands of unlicensed
homes could face demolition in the coming year, as the authorities
threaten to extend their demolition policy to any village continuing
resistance and disengagement from the authorities. This cruel
policy stands today as a prelude to "transfer," forcing hundreds of
families from their homes.
3. Raids, curfews, sieges, and other forms of collective punishment
against whole villages and camps, combined with economic sanctions
and coercions (licensing and taxes) designed to crush popular
resistance and to reassert military bureaucratic control, severely
hamper the Palestinian population's ability to meet its basic needs
and to assert any independent control over its lives. To date,
Palestinians have paid the price of resistance in economic terms
primarily through a reduction in their standard of living. The
continued assault on Palestinian agriculture and infrastructure, as
well as prolonged sieges and cutting off of basic utilities, pose
even greater dangers in short-term health and nutritional terms, and
the long-term development capacity of the entire population.
4. The policy of large-scale arrests without proper judicial
procedures, the detention of thousands of people in military
detention camps bereft of the most basic amenities, and the
increasing use of brutality and torture which has already resulted
in an alarming number of deaths in detention, appear to be
continuing despite widespread international and Israeli protest. Of
particular concern is the detention of young children, and the
imposition of fines and prison terms on parents of children
suspected of stone-throwing.
5. The assault on national institutions and other forms of popular
organization continues unabated in the form of closures, bannings,
and arrests of leaders. The education of an entire generation of
young people is jeopardized as hundreds of thousands of children and
youths are being denied access to schools and alternative education
for the second year. Continued assault on health care facilities
and personnel threatens not only the thousands injured by occupation
troops, but also untold numbers of chronic and acute patients denied
6. While the current Israeli government seems to have acknowledged that
expulsions have not been effective in crushing the Uprising, backed
by the Israeli High Court it maintains its "right" to expel any
number of Palestinians from their homeland, despite almost universal
condemnation of such actions. Israel's blatant disregard for
international law concerning the unequivocal prohibition of
individual or mass expulsions for any reason gives cause for concern
that collective punishments and other methods of inducing "voluntary
emigration" could quickly give way to forcible mass expulsions.
It is imperative that the human rights community maintain its vigilance
to ensure that such circumstances never come to pass.
Source: PHRIC - International, 4753 North Broadway, Suite 930,
Chicago, Illinois 60640 USA, Tel: (312)271-4492 (Office),
(312) 271-3377 (Fax)