Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Price of Dignity

Currently there are more than 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners locked up in Israel's jails. This week, I found out that my friend Hasan* (*not his real name) is one of them. When in Ramallah, I mentioned to a mutual friend that I had planned to ring him to let him know I was in Palestine. Our mutual friend informed me that Hasan was being held under “Administration Detention” and had been in prison for three months.

I last saw Hasan more than a year ago, when I was last in Palestine. A year previous to this last meeting, he had emailed me to apologise for not answering my phone calls and emails when I had tried to contact him when I was in Palestine. Unfortunately, he apologised, he had been in prison for seven months held without charge or trial by the Israeli military under an Administrative Detention order.

When I met him last year in a local Ramallah coffee shop, he looked the same but different. In his early to mid-twenties, Hasan, who I had met him several years before, had always had a lean but strong build, but now he was more thinner than I remembered him. He was also smoking more and his demeanour was different. He was still as politically sharp as I remembered him, but his youthful, upbeat enthusiasm had been tempered and he was much more cynical and world-weary than before. I could see that the seven months he spent in Israel’s prisons had taken a definite toll on him. Hasan told me that he had been repeatedly tortured while in prison but it had made him stronger and more committed to his people’s struggle.

Hasan with wry humour, also recounted the toll his imprisonment had also had on his family, particularly his mother. An atheist himself, Hasan, comes from a Christian Palestinian family and upon his release from Administrative Detention; he came home to find that his mother, a believer, had hung a crucifix on his bedroom wall and left a small crucifix on his study table. For the first few weeks, he told me, he out of love and deference for his mother he allowed the Cross on the wall to remain but would put the small one on his table away. However, every time he returned home from being out, he again would find the small cross had reappeared on his table, placed there by his concerned mother. Our mutual friend, when she told me of Hasan’s re-incarceration, also recounted to me that his mother after his release from his first imprisonment woke at 3 am every morning, the time the Israeli military had raid the family’s home to kidnap Hasan. His mother, terrified that the Israeli military would again raid her home and take either one or both of her sons, woke at this time each morning to check they were safely in their beds.

Hasan’s imprisonment, our mutual friend informed me, came at a time when he was finally getting over the horrors of his first imprisonment and torture and was much more like his “old-self”. As I write this article, I worry that my friend is being tortured and that his family is suffering, like so many other Palestinian families who are experiencing the same horrendous situation.

Since 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians or twenty percent of Palestinian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territories have been detained by Israel [1]. According to the Palestinian prisoner's support and human rights association, Addameer, most of those detained are male. Addameer notes that this translates to more forty percent of the total male Palestinian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territories being incarcerated since 1967.

Since 1967, when Israel illegal seized and occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, more than 1500 military regulations have been issued by Israel’s military to “govern” the West Bank, while more than 1400 have been issued to “govern” the besieged Gaza Strip[2]. These military orders can be issued on the whim of an Israeli military commander and do not need to be publicised. As a result, the Palestinians and the wider public, including the media and legal services, only become aware of the existence of such orders when they are implemented. In 1970, Israel issued Military Order 378, which authorised the military commanders of regions to issue “Administrative Detention” orders [3]. These orders allow Israeli occupying forces to detain and arrest large numbers of Palestinian civilians without charge or trail. In 1988, Military Order 378 was amended by Military Order 1229 in the Occupied West Bank and Military Order 941 in the Gaza Strip, with these amendments allowing military orders to be issued for Administrative Detention without designating a maximum period of time for incarceration without charge or trail [4]

According to the first paragraph of Military Order 1229: “If a Military Commander deems the detention of a person necessary for security reasons he may do so for a period not in excess of 6 months, after which he has the right to extend the detention period for a further six months according to the original order. The detention order can be passed without the presence of the detainee...” [5]
Under this regime, 22% of persons held under administrative detention are held for less than 6 months, while 37% have been held between 6 months to 1 year. Another eight percent have been held for 2-5 years. The longest period an individual has been held under administrative detention without then being charged is 8 years [6].
Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem notes that the highest number of Palestinians held under administrative detention was during the First Intifada, with almost 1800 Palestinians detain in November 1989 [7]. During the early to mid 1990s, between 100-350 Palestinian political prisoners were detained under administrative detention at any given moment. By the second year of the Second Palestinian Intifada, approximately 1000 Palestinians were detained under Israel's regime. B'Tselem notes that as of August of 2010, 189 Palestinians were being held under administrative detention.
B’Tselm points out that while administrative detention is allowed under international law, it “can only be used only in the most exceptional cases, as the last means available for preventing danger that cannot be thwarted by less harmful means” [8]. B’Tselem notes, however, that Israel uses administrative detention in an arbitrary and regular manner in order to detain Palestinian civilians, denying them proper legal recourse, which is in violation of international law. Not only are Palestinians, who are detained under Administrative Detention orders, not charged with anything and denied the right to a trial, both the detainee and their legal council are denied the right to even know what the detainee is accused of. The detainee’s lawyers are also denied the right to access the military ‘evidence’ against those detained under the Administrative Detention regime. Addameer notes that the use of administrative detention by Israel is such a manner is in contravention of Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as other international and human rights law.

Nearly all Palestinian political prisoners, both male and female, as well as adults and minors, have suffered torture at the hands of their Israeli captors. According to Addameer, “Physical and psychological torture against Palestinian and Arab prisoners has been a distinguishing factor of Israeli occupation since 1967”, noting that “torture has taken different shapes throughout the period of occupation” [9]. According to Addameer since the beginning of the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, at least 30,000 Palestinians have been tortured by Israel.

Many of the Palestinian political prisoners detained under the Administrative Detention regime are minors. In the last week, the village of An Nabi Saleh, has been raided almost nightly and at least four Palestinian minors have been kidnapped by the Israeli military, including an 11 year old off the streets of the village. Under Israeli military law, Palestinian children age 14 years and over are tried as an adult in Israel’s military courts [10]. In practice, however, children as young as 11 and 12 have been brought before these courts and held under Administrative Detention. According to Defense for Children International, 213 Palestinian children are currently being held in Israeli prisons as of December 2010 [11]. The majority of Palestinian child political prisoners report that they have also been tortured by the Israeli military.

The children kidnapped and detained in An Nabi Saleh are now being imprisoned under the same barbaric and illegal regime that my friend Hasan is imprisoned under. Their freedom is denied and the Israeli military will attempt to break their spirits and their resistance to the brutal military occupation which Israel is intent on perpetuating. While the Israeli state and its military machine may break the bones and tear the flesh of its captives, it will fail to break their resistance because these young boys, men and women understand the struggle in which they are engaged is not just a struggle for a homeland, but a struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. And no man or woman or child, no matter how hard pressed by their oppressor, will ever give up the struggle for such basic and inalienable human rights.


Monday, January 17, 2011

To Exist is To Resist

Dear friends,

please find below my first "on-the-ground" report from Palestine. Since arriving in Palestine things have been extremely busy, so please accept my apologies for not sending any reports through earlier. I hope to make up for this in the next week and write up much more from my experiences here this time around.

Upon arriving after being away for sometime, it is clear to me that Israel's illegal occupation continues to deepen. While there is some economic prosperity evident in cities like Ramallah, it is clear that there is a growing class divide, with the disparity particularly noticeable between the rural areas of the Occupied West Bank and cities like Ramallah. At the same time, however, it is clear to me that the Palestinian people continue to resist.

Meeting with old friends and new acquaintances and contacts over the last little while, it is very evident that the Palestinian initiated Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign enjoys a lot of support amongst ordinary Palestinians, with many of the families and friends I know actively engaging in or supporting the campaign. When discussing BDS with my Palestinian friends and acquaintances here, they have been heartened to hear about the support for the campaign in Australia.

Please feel free to distribute the reports to your networks.

Wishing you all the best,

In solidarity,



by Kim Bullimore -16.01.2011

On Tuesday, the Israeli military demolished the dreams of a family of five in the Palestinian village of Azzoun Atma. At 8.30am, on January 11, more than 100 Israeli soldiers surrounded their home, forced them onto the street and then locked them in the neighouring house for the next three and half hours. As “the most moral army in the world” stood guard around the neighbouring house, ensuring the family could do nothing to stop what was about to happen, a heavily armoured Caterpillar bulldozer smashed down the walls of the home they had lived in for more than 8 years. The Israeli occupation forces then made their way to the other side of the village and demolished a farm house belonging to another family, along with their agricultural pens.

First home demolished by Israeli Occupation Forces

First home demolished by Israeli Occupation Forces

The day after the demolition of their dreams, myself and my team mates from the International Women's Peace Service visited the family to take a report. As we walked around what was once the home of the family we could see, even among the destruction and rubble which lay before us, the loving care they had put into their home. The trees in front of their home were pruned, shaped and manicured. Stepping through the rubble, their garden which was located at the back of their small home, was neat, green and well cared for. In the drive way of the neighbouring house, where they were locked and which belonged to the parents of the husband of the family, there was well-worn, but well-cared for modern style furniture which has subsequently been rescued from the demolished wreckage nearby.

The family’s “crime” was that they built their home on their own land without the permit of the Israeli military occupation administration, which is known in the Orwellian parlance of the Israeli state and its occupation forces, as the “Israeli Civil Administration”.

The administration which was established by the Israeli military to administer the Palestinian territories that Israel illegal seized in 1967 claims to administer the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the interests of the Palestinian population. According to Israeli Military decree 947 which established the administration: “We hereby establish a Civil Administration in the region [West Bank and Gaza]. The Civil Administration shall run all regional civil matters, correspondingly to this [military] degree, for the wellbeing and for the sake of [the local] population and with the purpose of providing and operating the public services, considering the need to maintain a proper governance and public order”. [1]

However, rather caring for the “well being” of the Palestinian population or governing in their interest, the Israel military occupation administration has actively enacted policies which seeks to ethnic cleanse the people they are occupying, an act which is illegal under international law. Not only has Israel, as an “Occupying Power”, violated the Fourth Geneva Convention (which outlines the role and responsibilities of an occupying power) by engaging in illegal detentions, extra-judicial killings, the transfer of settler populations in to an Occupied Territory and the transfer of the resident indigenous population out of the Occupied Territory, it has also systematically violated Article 53 of the Convention, which prohibits an “occupying power” from destroying the personal property of the people they occupy [2]

First home demolished by Israeli Occupation Forces

First home demolished by Israeli Occupation Forces

Since its 1967 seizure of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, Israel has systematically demolished between 18,000 and 24,000 Palestinian homes [3 & 4]. The majority of these homes have been destroyed under the guise of an Orwellian system of “building permits”, which seeks to establish a faux legal system which prevents the Palestinian population from building homes and infrastructure. This system allows the Israeli military occupation administration to establish a “legal” precedent to demolish any Palestinian house and infrastructure built without its permission, in order to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian population.

In the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war, the Zionist state demolished more than 600 Palestinian homes in the Mughrabi Quarter in order to build a plaza in front of the Western (Wailing) Wall in Occupied East Jerusalem. The Israeli state went onto demolish more than 6,000 other homes, including four entire villages in the Latrun area, which is now known as “Canada” Park [5]. The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) note that in 1971, another 2000 homes were demolished in Gaza under the instructions of Ariel Sharon, who was at the time, the Commander of the South Command. The houses, which were located in the different refugee camps in Gaza were demolished to enable military control of the region. According to ICAHD, Israel destroyed another 2000 homes during the first intifada (1987 – 1993) and another 1700 during the Oslo Peace process between 1993 and 2000.

Since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, ICAHD documents that Israel has carried out numerous military operations which have destroyed Palestinian residential homes. This has resulted in up to 5000 Palestinian homes being destroyed in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and other cities, while at least 2500 were destroyed in Gaza. According to a 2010 survey done by the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (UN OCHA oPt) between January and July 2010, 199 Palestinian structures, including 59 homes were demolished, leaving 242 people homeless [6]. UNOCHA notes that in 2009 the demolition of homes by the Israeli military left 891 Palestinians homeless, including 499 children. In 2004, international human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch estimated that at least 50,000 Palestinians have been made homeless by military home demolitions since 1967.

Since 1967, Israel and its military occupation administration have made it almost impossible for Palestinian families to obtain building permits to build or extend their homes. This has been particularly noticeable in Area C, where Azzoun Atma is located.

Azzoun Atma is a “seamline” village located in “Area C” between the 1967 Green Line and Israel’s Apartheid Wall. Under the terms of the Oslo Accords “Area C”, which covers 62 percent of the Occupied West Bank, is under full Israeli control. Area C is home to up to 150,000 Palestinians and contains not only the area necessary for the expansion of Palestinian population centres (more than 270 communities) but also contains the bulk of Palestinian agricultural and grazing land. However, according to UNOCHA oPt, the Israeli Civil Administration (ie. The Israeli Military Occupation Administration) have continually refused to allow Palestinians to build in 99 percent of region covered by Area C, only allowing construction in only 1 percent of the region.

Similarly, according to a 2008 study by Israeli group, Peace Now, between 2000 and 2007, 94% of all Palestinian permit applications for Area C were rejected by the Israeli “Civil Administration”. [7]. During this period only 91 permits were granted. However, Peace Now noted that during that same time the number of building permits granted to settlers in illegal Jewish settlements located in Area C totalled 18, 472. According to Peace Now, during this period, the Israeli occupation forces demolished 33 percent of almost 5000 supposedly “illegal” Palestinians houses and structures, while in contrast only 7 percent of the 2,900 cases of illegal settler construction which had been place under demolition orders were torn down.

Second house demolition by Israeli occupation forces

The demolition of the home belonging to the family in Azzoun Atma on January 11 had nothing to do with the lack of a “legal” building permit. Instead, it was the act of settler-colonial state which seeks to permanently cleanse the land they have occupied of its indigenous inhabitants. Not only did Israel, in the words of one member of the family, seek to “destroy our dreams” by demolishing the houses in Azzoun Atma, the Zionist state also sought to destroy the dreams of an entire people by systematically restricting their right to decent housing with the aim of pushing them of their land permanently

However, despite, the hardships faced under Israel’s brutal military occupation, the Palestinian people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have continued to remain “sumoud” (steadfast) in the face of the human rights violations visited upon them. In Palestine, resistance comes in many forms. Not only will the family in Azzoun Atma rebuild the home of their dreams, so will thousands of other Palestinian families who have also experienced the same devastating destruction. As the slogans of resistance scrawled on Israel’s apartheid wall testify: “to exist is to resist”.

-Kim Bullimore is currently living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where she is a human rights volunteer with the International Women's Peace Service ( She writes regularly on the Palestine-Israel conflict for the Australian newspaper, Direct Action ( and has a blog at