A new Amnesty International Report on the West Bank has charged Israel
with the "destruction of hope" of Palestinians. The report, "Enduring Occupation: Palestinians under siege in the West Bank," released Monday morning, contains a litany of accusations against Israel, including "unlawful land grabs," causing the deaths of Palestinians with medical emergencies who wait at checkpoints, and "using excessive and unwarranted force" against "international peace activists demonstrating against the fence/wall/."
"Khaled Daud Faqih was just six months old when he died on 8 March 2007 at an Israeli army checkpoint. His parents, from the village of Kafr 'Ain, had been trying to rush their baby to the nearby hospital in Ramallah in the West Bank, but were forced to wait at the checkpoint by Israeli soldiers," the report begins.
"Such cases are neither new nor rare. The hundreds of checkpoints and blockades which every day force long detours and delays on Palestinians trying to get to work, school or hospital, have for years limited their access to essential health services and caused medical complications, births at checkpoints and even death," it added.
Describing the security fence as "the wall of death," the report states: "The 700-kilometer fence/wall that Israel is building through the West Bank, from north to south and through parts of Jerusalem, is causing massive long-term damage to Palestinian life and is undermining the ability of those living in dozens of villages and communities to realize a wide range of their human rights."
In the report, Amnesty lists seven "recommendations" for the Israeli government, which include calls to "end the regime of closures in its current form, as well as other forms of restrictions on freedom of movement of people and goods, that result in collective punishment... Stop the construction of the fence/wall inside the West Bank, including East Jerusalem..." and to "stop immediately the destruction of houses, land, and other properties without absolute military necessity as prescribed by international humanitarian law."
Speaking to Ynetnews, the report's author, Donatella Rovera, denied that her work was biased.
Ynetnews: How did you put this report together? Did you travel to the areas mentioned in the report? Tell us about your methodology.
DR: We traveled to the areas fairly regularly. In some cases we've been monitoring the places mentioned in the report for years. As you know, this is an ongoing situation.
In your report, you listed 7 recommendations for the Israeli government, 1 to Palestinian terrorist organizations, and 1 to the Palestinian Authority. Isn't that a fair indication that your report is biased?
DR: No. I think it’s important to look at what can be asked of each actor. So if we take for example the Palestinian armed groups, they are guilty of killing people, or trying killing people. So that is what we must ask of them (to stop). I mean basically our message to the armed groups has been the same, and very consistent. One must ask them to stop committing the abuses they commit.
When you address a state, be that the Israeli state, or any other state, a state has the power to do a number of other things. For example, to conduct an investigation, bring people to justice. Those kinds of recommendations make the list longer. But you cannot ask armed group to conduct investigations, or to put in place mechanisms, because that's not what armed groups are supposed to do. One wouldn't want to give them that legitimacy. Those are tasks that are up to a state to carry out. So far as armed groups, you will always find recommendation which is based (on ending) one action. What else can you ask them to do?
You could ask them to stop indoctrinating children for jihad, or using child-combatants, for example. There appear to be no references at all to the systematic indoctrination of children to racial hatred and genocide in the PA, why is that?
DR: You need to separate cases. Children are used by a variety of armed groups. That is something we have condemned, we've called on the PA to take measures to prevent and end all attacks against civilians, whether committed by minors or by adults. That is something that we oppose completely... So our calls to the PA is for them to take measures to stop all Palestinian armed groups, whatever age (their members) are. But certainly when we found specific cases of children being used to either perpetrate attacks or transport explosives, or involve them in other ways; that is something we absolutely condemn.
Regarding indoctrination, we have not carried out studies on textbooks used in the PA or by other authorities on that matter. As far as the issue of armed struggle of different parties throughout the world that wish to conduct wars, or armed struggles, as an organization we're not opposed to that. The issue is specific attacks against civilians... we tend to focus on concrete incidents and patterns of the actions of the parties concerned. We tend to address deed more than speech. In the same way, there are calls from certain movements or certain politicians in Israel for expelling all of the Palestinians; again that is not something we've addressed because we look at deeds."
Why do you think you are widely perceived as being biased in Israel? What steps do you think your organization can take to improve your image in Israel?
DR: "I haven't seen any comprehensive statistics. That is your conclusion that Amnesty is widely perceived as biased. I think that on whole, the position that Amnesty takes on the different issues is not so different from the positions taken by Israeli human rights organizations. If we look at the treatment of civilians, which is our mandate, the remit of our work, our position is crystal clear, and has been crystal clear since Amnesty has existed, which is that we oppose attacks on civilians, whether the civilians are Israelis or Palestinians. So in that respect I don't see what you mean about bias.
In your report's background information, you mention a rise in the killing of Palestinians by the IDF, but there is no mention of what the IDF was doing, such as responding to intelligence of imminent attacks and threats to Israel's security. Don't you think it damages your credibility to omit such facts?
DR: The background does not mention the number of incursions and attacks which have not resulted in killings. It looks at attacks against civilians, instances of where civilians have been harmed. It also does not look at the number of bombings, air strikes, artillery attacks from Israeli forces which have not led to civilian casualties... This report looks at the whole issue of 40 years of occupation, and how certain measures have affected the Palestinian population, such as the existence of settlements, which are a violation of international law, and which impact the lives of these populations in the occupied territories.