Ramallah: Israel’s ruthless occupation is taking a daily toll on every aspect of the lives of Palestinians. However, despite the ruthlessness of the Israeli government there are a number of Israeli human rights organisations that are fighting on behalf of the Palestinians.
Abdullah Abu Nab, 55, a store keeper, and his wife and two sons live in a tiny home in Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem. His family has lived there for decades from before Israel occupied East Jerusalem following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
But now Israeli colonists want to take over his home as well as dozens of other Palestinian homes in Silwan, some of them belonging to other members of the Abu Nab clan, in a concerted effort to Judaise occupied East Jerusalem.
The Abu Nabs could be made homeless at any time. “I don’t know what I’m going to do or where my family will go if the Israeli colonists take over our house. We have no other home,” Abu Nab told Gulf News.
One of the Israeli groups that has been fighting on behalf of the residents of Silwan is Peace Now, which monitors Israeli colony construction in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem and petitions the courts on behalf of Palestinians who’ve been made homeless.
Peace Now has been monitoring the situation in Silwan as hundreds of Palestinians have been made homeless after being evicted from their houses to make way for Israeli colonists.
“We have publicised the struggle against the evictions by updating the media on a regular basis. We also visit the area regularly to study the issue and keep abreast of the facts,” Peace Now spokesperson Hagit Ofran told Gulf News.
“We have contacted foreign embassies so that the international community is aware of what is happening on the ground.”
“One of the other options we are exploring is taking further legal action and embarking on a massive publicity campaign so that the issue of colonies becomes a major part of Israeli public discourse,” said Ofran.
Another Israeli organisation, Breaking the Silence (BTS), comprises former Israeli soldiers who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada, or uprising in October 2000.
The ex-soldiers take Israelis and tourists on tours of Hebron as they try to publicise abuses against Palestinians and explain the situation on the ground to tour participants.
“We endeavour to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life,” Achiya Schatz, BTS’s director of public outreach told Gulf News.
“We explain to the tour groups that Israelis are not the victims of the occupation but that the Palestinians are.”
Many of the Israeli soldiers, who remain anonymous, talk about abuses that were committed against Palestinians while they were serving.
Another tactic taken by Israelis who oppose the occupation is refusing to be part of Israel’s formidable military machine.
These include the “refuseniks” or Israelis who have been jailed for refusing to carry out their compulsory military service.
Yonatan Shapira was a former captain in the Israeli Air Force (IAF) who came from a family of ardent Zionists and lost many members of his family in the Holocaust.
Together with 30 other Israeli military pilots Shapira penned a letter which stated, “We the undersigned are no longer willing to be part of the indiscriminate attacks on Palestinians in the occupied territories.
“We declare our refusal to participate in what we believe to be illegal and immoral activities,” read the letter.
“I had heard about so many acts of brutality and unnecessary killing. But what really brought the situation home to me was the then commander of the IAF Dan Halutz’s comments on the indiscriminate bombing of a residential building in a densely populated neighbourhood of Gaza City in 2002,” recalled Shapira.
A one-tonne bomb was dropped on a building housing Saleh Shehade. Fifteen innocent civilians, including many children, were killed, and about 150 injured in the attack along with Shehade.
“All I would have felt when the airplane dropped the bomb was a slight tremor of the aircraft,” responded Halutz when asked how he felt about the deaths of so many civilians. Shapira refused to fly any other missions over Palestinian territories and was arrested by Israeli commandos when he took part in a boat flotilla breaking the siege of Gaza in 2010.
The Israeli Ir Amim peace organisation works with Palestinians. It is a non-profit organisation founded in 2004 that focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in occupied Jerusalem.
The group established the Jerusalem Policy Forum with the Palestinian NGO, the Peace and Democracy Forum.
The group provides information to the Israeli parliament and Jerusalem Municipality on actions which they believe undermine occupied Jerusalem’s stability, impede equality or threaten future peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
It also safeguards occupied Jerusalem’s holy places, as well as their historical and cultural heritages.
This is done through study tours, media work, briefings, house meetings, and educational programmes. Hamoked, the Centre for the Defence of the Individual is an Israeli rights group that defends individual Palestinians in the Occupied Territories whose rights have been violated by Israel. This includes petitioning the courts on behalf of Palestinians, providing legal support and making Palestinians aware of their legal rights.
The group also fights against Palestinian home demolitions, torture of Palestinian prisoners and for the right of these prisoners to receive family visits.
— Mel Frykberg is a freelance journalist based in Ramallah