Where Can We Live?

In light of the recent  home destruction in Bir al-Maksour – in which the discriminatory zoning measures applied by the Israeli government make it impossible for the Arab Palestinian minority to have adequate housing – it is necessary to take a deeper look at this complicated issue to help us understand why a citizen of a democratic state has to stand idly while bulldozers roll through his home.  Before analyzing the current status of building codes and municipal zoning regulations, it is important to better understand the legal precedent for the odd arrangement that has arisen.  On May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion, as head of the World Zionist Organization and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared the establishment of Israel.  In the Israeli Declaration of Independence, the dual-role of the Jewish people as a religion and a national group was codified into the institutions of the state.  Due to this unique distinction, Israel would become a democracy, ostensibly with protection for the existing Arab inhabitants, and a Jewish state.  However, the codification of Judaism into state institutions has, over time, led to a division in the legal system and the development of apartheid.  In 60 years of struggle with Palestinian nationalism and wars with its Arab neighbors, Israeli leaders have sacrificed the integrity of the Declaration of Independence by forgetting this critical clause:

“In the midst of wanton aggression, we yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship and due representation in its bodies and institutions – provisional or permanent.”

That section, which protected the democratic rights of the Arab Palestinian minority, and should have ensured full and equal human rights for all residents of Israel has been ignored.  The allocation of land, specifically municipal zoning regulations, is one major way this difference is displayed.  The Arab Association for Human Rights is headquartered in Nazareth, specifically the Mary’s Well District.  A twenty-minute walk north from Mary’s Well will take you to al-Safafri, a poor, predominantly Muslim neighborhood.  Al-Safafri is about 60 years old and that is not a coincidence.  The families living there descended from people who were forced from there homes in a town called Safuri in 1948.  During the Nakba, Safuri was bombed and the residents either fled from the devastation or were transferred by the nascent Israeli state.  Though the majority now live in al-Safafri, there are descendents of Safuri refugees living in the refugee camps in Lebanon. Safuri was very close to Nazareth, it would be visible to residents of al-Safafri if its buildings stood today.  These people take their evening meals and gaze out their windows at land they used to own.

Roman mosaic in Zippori

Unfortunately, there is little physical evidence of the Arab town Safuri; itself a permutation of what was once Sepphoris, a Roman village.  The town is gone and in its place is Zippori, an Israeli national park, home to “mosaic floors [that] bespeak the opulence of Roman Sepphoris. The relatively small Roman theater is mute evidence of the cultural life the wealth could support.”  That is how Zippori is described in Fodor’s Travel Guide to Israel in which it is a “Fodor’s Choice” destination in the Lower Galilee.  Needless to say, the travel guides do not mention that today’s residents of al-Safafri are legally considered “absentees” and have no right to the land their families used to own.  Fodor’s recognizes Israel’s protection of the Roman mosaics and its defense of historical tradition, but both Fodor’s and Israel ignore the almost 2000 years of Arab history.  Israel has denied the Palestinian Arab minority basic human rights – in this case the right to own land – since its founding, and there is no sign of change in this policy coming. Almost a third of the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel is living in a situation like Roman ruins in Zipporithis one. These people no longer reside in the traditional homes of their ancestors because of the Kafkaesque, and discriminatory, machinations of the Jewish state.  

This brings us back to Nazareth; in 1953 the Israeli government started a program of Judaization in the Galilee.  Essentially, this campaign was to bring a “demographic balance” to the area of Israel with the highest population density of Arab Palestinians, in other words, it incentivized a massive influx of Jewish inhabitation.  Yosef Weitz, an executive at the Jewish National Fund and proponent of the campaign, described the Judaization in terms of quelling “The Arab threat”.  These new, Jewish, cities were planned and built on confiscated land from Arab families: Karmiel, Maalot, and Nazerat Illit. As the following map shows, Nazerat Illit covers far more ground that Nazareth, the designated Arab municipality.

Nazareth and Surrounding Area: The municipal zones are marked (click for larger view)

What the map above does not show is the population changes and the demographic history of these two municipalities. Nazerat Illit has grown as fast as the government can allocate new areas for Jewish emigrants, but Nazareth has had construction stifled.  In the 49 Arab municipalities in Israel, the land that the government’s central planners designate for construction has increased 1.5% while their populations have increased by 600 times. That is the pressure that the Arab Palestinian minority is under and the motive Hassan Gdir had for building his home in Bir al-Maksour without a permit.  He needed the space and the government was not permitting anyone to build residences to accommodate the natural growth in population.

By refusing to permit the expansion of Arab municipal zones, the Israeli government has forced the hands of men like Hassan Gdir and reneged on the promise of “full and equal citizenship and due representation”for the Arab Palestinian minority.  Additionally, the devolution of Safuri village into the al-Safafri neighborhood of Nazareth and Zippori National Park indicates that this discrimination has been going on since the foundation of the state and, as long as the dual Jewish and democratic definition of Israel hold equal status, it will continue into the future. So, in response to the section of the Declaration of Independence quoted above, if the Arab Palestinian minority is to “return to the ways of peace and play their part”, where can they live?

Paul Karolyi is the current intern of the Arab Association for Human Rights.

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UNHRC poses “List of Issues” for Israel to Consider

Nazareth – On August 31, 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) requested answers from Israel to 26 questions covering the national human rights situation, including new developments since the last meeting.  Israel signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1991.  Israel must respond to this “List of Issues” in the report to the HRC in 2013.  The report will be used to judge Israel’s compliance with the ICCPR and will guide future HRC recommendations.

In consideration of human rights status of the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel, The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) would like to call the attention of the HRC and the public specifically to a few of the 26 questions.  The following questions, taken directly from the HRC “List of Issues”, and their answers in Israel’s 2013 report, will be critical in considering the ongoing discrimination faced by the Arab Palestinian minority and the necessity for change:

  • Please provide detailed information on any significant developments in the legal and institutional framework within which human rights are promoted and protected at the national level that have taken place since the previous periodic report, including any relevant case law.
  • Please provide updated information on developments aimed at ensuring the full application of the Covenant in Israel, as well as in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and in the Occupied Syrian Golan.
  • Please indicate any step taken to include the principle of equality and nondiscrimination in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and to repeal any discriminatory laws.
  • In light of the Committee’s previous concluding observations (paras. 17 and 24) and in order to guarantee minorities’ rights, especially those of Palestinians and Bedouins, please provide updated information on measures taken:
    • To cease the  practice of  the  collective punitive  demolition of houses and private property
    • To recognize and promote the Bedouin population’s right to ancestral land and traditional livelihood (follow-up analysis on paragraph 24, CCPR/C/105/2). In this regard, please provide detailed information on the situation of the unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages and indicate measures that have been taken to stop the demolition of houses and indicate whether the State party envisages withdrawing the 2012 proposed Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev (Also known as the Prawer Plan)
    • To ensure the Bedouin’s and Palestinians’ access to health services, education, adequate housing, water and sanitation
    • What measures have been taken to ensure linguistic rights of Arab citizens of Israel?
    • To provide information on steps taken to ensure:
      • Equal representation of Jewish and Arab citizens in the civil service, in particular in decision-making positions
      • Equality in access to education between Jewish and Arab citizens, in particular in higher education where Arab citizens still face challenges to be accepted
      • The right of every citizen to participate in public life. In this regard, please comment on cases where political leadership of the Arab minority faces continued and severe attacks and harassment, including Members of Knesset
      • Please provide detailed information on efforts made to end the practice of administrative detention and whether the State party envisages withdrawing its derogations from article 9 of the Covenant. Please also indicate any measures taken to ensure that civilians are not tried before military courts and provide information on cases of ill treatment of detainees and arbitrary detention, in particular in cases of “shabah” and beatings.
      • Indicate how the State party ensures the full application of the principle of equality between women and men, in particular with respect to Israeli Arab women and women belonging to minorities
      • Please provide information on legislative measures envisaged or taken to incorporate the crime of torture in the legislation in conformity with article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and article 7 of the Covenant and to remove any justification of torture, including the notion of “necessity”
      • Provide detailed and updated information on the progress made to review  the legislation governing the state of emergency and the declaration made under article 4 of the Covenant. How does the State party refrain from using administrative detention and ensure that administrative detainees are afforded, in practice, all the fundamental safeguards, including the rights to have prompt access to a lawyer, to have an independent medical examination, to notify relatives and to receive visitors
      • Please indicate any steps taken by the State party to protect the rights of religious minorities and to ensure equal and non-discriminatory access to places of worship for Christians and Muslims
      • Provide detailed and updated information on the situation of human rights defenders’ freedom of association and freedom of opinion and expression and provide detailed information on the new Israeli anti-boycott law and its compliance with the right to freedom of conscience, expression and opinion. Please also provide information on the “Foreign Funding Law”, adopted on 2 March 2011 and specify what measures have been taken or are envisaged to revise these laws
      • Please provide information on measures taken to revoke the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary provision) and to review the State party’s policy with a view to facilitating family reunifications for all citizens and permanent residents without discrimination… Please also provide information on steps taken to ensure the right of Israeli citizens and residents of East Jerusalem to marry or live with a Palestinian partner.

The HRA calls on Israel to make a forthright and conclusive effort in responding to the concerns we highlighted here in the report to the HRC in 2013.  The State of Israel, in signing the ICCPR, is obliged to uphold international standard of human rights and humanitarian law. Accurate censure of human rights abuses within Israel is a necessary condition of upholding those standards and that is what the HRA calls on the State of Israel to do in this report. Additionally, the HRA calls on Israel to implement the ICCPR and apply it to its full intent with regards to the Arab Palestinian minority.

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HRA Welcomes Corries to Nazareth

Nazareth – The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) held an event last Friday night to recognize Rachel Corrie and her family. It was an evening of stirring speeches and emotional tributes to the Corrie family’s ongoing struggle. Last month in a Haifa district court, Judge Oded Gershon denied the Corrie family’s most recent call for justice when, in his verdict, he decided Rachel Corrie was responsible for her own death.  This decision is the most recent event in the ongoing court case over Rachel Corrie’s death at the hands of the Israeli military in Gaza in 2003. Many advocacy groups, including the HRA, have denounced this ruling with a common complaint that it reinforces the “culture of impunity” for discriminatory Israeli institutions and practices.

In their visit to Nazareth, the Corrie family met with local dignitaries, including Mayor Ramiz Jeraisy. Mayor Jeraisy welcomed the Corrie family to the municipality building.  He took the occasion to say a few words to Craig and Cindy Corrie, “someone came to express the struggle against the occupation, and then her death came as a great shock.  It gives huge support for you to continue struggling.”  He continued, “a high price is paid every day, and the highest is the life of the people.”  Craig and Cindy graciously accepted the mayor’s welcome and kind words.  Mr. Corrie described his family’s efforts “when we join your struggle, we join the struggle for human rights everywhere.  We do not support Palestinian rights; we support human rights.  If they are being violated in Palestine, South Africa, or the United States, that is where we all need to defend them.”

Later, the HRA sponsored an evening program of distinguished speakers for a supportive crowd.  The program began with a heartwarming video of a young Rachel Corrie dipping her toes into the pool of international progressive issues and advocating for public health and the safety of the world’s children.  Another video showed an interview Rachel Corrie gave two days before her death.  In it she describes the devastation in Gaza caused by the Israeli occupation and displays compassion for the Gazans she had come to know.  Following the short videos a series of speakers recognized both the Corrie Family and Rachel’s dedication.  Such prominent community leaders as Mohammad Zeidan, head of the High Follow-Up Committee, the head of the Northern District Committee of the Israel Bar Association, Khalid Zoabi, and Ibtissam Mualem, chairperson of the HRA took turns speaking. Hussein Abu Hussein, the Corrie family’s lawyer and a board member of the HRA, described litigation process and the prospects of an appeal.  A feeling of solidarity pervaded the speeches and there was a consistent sense of communal support for both the Corrie family and the cause they have, through their diligent pursuit of justice, come to symbolize.

The HRA was honored to welcome them to Nazareth and will continue to support them personally and through their appeal in the Israeli justice system.

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House demolition and protest in Bir al-Maksour display Arab village zoning discrimination

Nazareth – Tuesday of this week, the Internal Ministry ordered the demolition of a house in Bir al-Maksour in the Galillee region. A Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel, Hassan Ghadir, owned it.  The house was demolished on the pretext that it was illegal or an unlicensed building.  Following the demolition, special police units attacked a group of hundreds of civilians who had gathered to protest the demolition. Tens of the civilians were injured in physical beatings and by tear gas canisters, most were secondary school students.

The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) condemns the demolition of this house and the violence that followed.  At the same time, we remind that this instance is just one example of the ongoing campaign of house demolitions against Arab villages that have been undertaken for various official reasons, but share clear motive.  The official explanation, that the house was an “unlicensed building”, is only applicable due to the official policy that restricts the natural expansion of Arab villages.  Recent research shows that in local Arab villages the territory they administer, and can legally build on, increased only 1.5% in the time their populations increased by 600 times. The HRA reminds that the recent Bir al-Maksour demolition is part of the same problem that Arab villages in the Naqab have been facing in the last several years.  This constitutes a basic violation of the human right to ownership of their land and the right to adequate housing according to international human rights conventions.

Mohammad Zeidan, HRA general director, responds “the international community, including embassies and foreign governments, should keep the issue of continuing house demolitions in Arab villages on their agenda in all official dealings with Israel. The protection and defense of the human rights of the Arab Palestinian minority is an international issue and Israel needs to be held accountable for allowing these injustices to persist.”

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Upcoming EU-Israel ACAA vote an opportunity for acountability

September 5, 2012

Nazareth – This past week the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) sent letters to the members of European Parliament on the INTA Committee, which is set to vote September 18 on the EU-Israel Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA).

The INTA Committee will vote on the future of a new protocol that would accelerate trade relations between Israel and the EU.   The HRA, along with our colleagues in the Euro-Med Human Rights Network (EMHRN), advocate the suspension of assent procedure until Israel complies with several human rights law and international humanitarian law standards.  The Treaty of the European stipulates concern for human rights standards in consideration of any trade agreements, so this advocacy has solid legal precedent.  Furthermore, a vote in assent to new ACAA protocol would amount to an acceptance of Israel violations of human rights in its own territory and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The HRA encouraged the MEPs on the INTA Committee to vote for a suspension in order to send a clear message that the status quo in the OPT and the status of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel is unsustainable.

The HRA, in coordination with the EMHRN, will continue to reaffirm the consideration of human rights and international law standards in EU-Israel relations and will target advocacy accordingly.  Mohammad Zeidan, General Director of the HRA, said preparation of the meeting “Israel should not be rewarded for violating human rights and the EU should send a clear message that human rights are an essential element of its foreign policy with Israel as with all other countries in the world.”

Palestinian Products Exhibition in Nazareth

This past weekend, from August 31 to September 2, the Souq and Nazerat Illit’s megamalls had some extra competition for business because the Palestinian Products Exhibition was in town.  The Exhibition was held in the Mary’s Well district of Nazareth in the same building as the Golden Crown Hotel.  Over 40 Palestinian-owned and operated companies came to display their wares for the Nazareth business community, but also directly to consumers.  Many sectors of Palestinian industry were represented.  There was a chocolate company, soap makers, candy wholesalers, furniture sellers, and even a brewery.

I wandered through the lobby of the Golden Crown on Monday morning. It was a little before noon and I was hoping to avoid the heaviest hours of foot traffic, but even at that hour, when the bright desert sun was blaring down from its peak, the booths were busy.

Before exploring the two full floors of booths and stalls, I took the opportunity to check out the Exhibition’s promotional materials.  It was no surprise that this ostensibly commercial enterprise had a political undertone.  Each company represented was allotted two pages in hefty booklet.  On which they were profiled briefly, gave contact information, and gave the motive for their participation in Exhibition.  To my eyes, the sight of the Golden Crown lobby filled with bustling crowds of local business owners and consumers made motives apparent, and many of the businesses did indeed describe their presence as an effort to simply “open new markets”.  However, some of these companies see some sort of secondary Palestinian nationalist ambition to their participation.  One company in particular, New Farm Company for Marketing and Agriculture, described their objective as “to market the company’s products in the occupied Palestine 1948.” Describing the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel as “occupied” is an interesting choice for a company looking to build business relations in Israel and turn a profit given how controversial some Israeli would see that claim. But, their boldness expresses the condition of the Palestinians in Israel and no one reading these promotional materials is going to be offended.  Palestinian business can define themselves in solidarity with the Palestinian minority in Israel because of the intense separation between Jewish Israeli and Palestinian Arab communities.  New Farm is not going to lose business.

New Farm is not alone in defining their commercial enterprise in terms of Palestinian solidarity. Many other businesses in attendance described their regional goals with reference to “the green line” and “’48 territories”.  Another attendee, Emirates Delights Company, was motivated to participate by a desire to “enhance the company’s name and display its various luxury products for the Palestinian consumer inside the Green Line.”  Though others alluded to this fact, the premise was clear; these companies from Gaza and the West Bank were producing and marketing goods for primarily Palestinian consumers, be they in Israel or the Occupied Territories.  Even a simple exhibition of consumer products takes on a political purpose in Nazareth; for this one, it was an exhibition not only of Palestinian products, but also of Palestinian nationalism.

I had a great time chatting with some of the vendors and I have to say the stalls filled with chocolate were very tempting.  Here are some photos from the exhibition:

Walking past the Golden Crown Hotel, it was impossible to miss the myriad banners and signs advertising the Exhibition. They did a great job marketing online too.  The Exhibition was sponsored by PalTrade, The Peres Center for Peace, the Nazareth and Galilee Chamber of Commerce, and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  It was surprising to me, but Norway is very active in Palestinian development.

Free sample, sir? Yes, please!

I did a double take on this one too. Your eyes are not deceiving you, that is Sonic the Hedgehog being used to sell Palestinian snacks. “These cheese puffs are so edgy and cool!” Can you spot the other classic video game icon in this advertisement?

This is a real salesman at work. Easing the customer in to the purchase with pure positivity; this man walked out of the Exhibition with two big bags of nuts and I’m sure he felt like a champion.

“Delicious AND nutritious, we’ll show you how tonight on Channel 6 News”

Keep up with the HRA online! Check out our website. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Paul Karolyi the current intern at the Arab Association for Human Rights.

Rachel Corrie: Blaming the victim

This article originally appeared in Haaretz on 9/2/2012.  It can be viewed here.

-Hussein Abu Hussein

On Tuesday, Judge Oded Gershon of the Haifa District Court dismissed the civil lawsuit I brought on behalf of Rachel Corrie’s family against the State of Israel for the unlawful killing of their daughter, an American peace activist and human rights defender who legally entered Gaza to live with Palestinian families in Rafah whose homes were threatened by demolition.

While not surprising, the verdict is yet another example of impunity prevailing over accountability and fairness and it flies in the face of the fundamental principle of international humanitarian law – that in a time of war, military forces are obligated to take all measures to avoid harm to both civilians and their property.

It is not the first time courts have denied victims of Israeli military actions the right to effective remedy. Just ask the many Palestinians who have faced a myriad of legal hurdles and fought for decades simply to have their day in court. Thousands of legitimate claims continue to be denied based on the controversial legal theory – which Judge Gershon adopted – that soldiers should be absolved of civil liability because they were engaged in military operational activities in a war zone.

Rachel’s case is unique because she was the first foreign national to be killed while protesting Israeli occupation, though she was hardly the last. Tom Hurndall, a British peace activist, was shot in the head and killed by an Israeli sniper less than three weeks after Rachel was killed. And less than a month after that, James Miller, a British cameraman was also shot and killed by the IDF in Rafah.

In reaching his decision in Rachel’s case, Judge Gershon accepted virtually all of the government’s legal arguments and either ignored or distorted critical facts in order to reach his decision. For example, he concluded that Rafah was a closed military zone, as declared by the Israeli military’s southern command (never mind that no such order was presented in court, and the ground unit commander testified he was unaware of the area’s designation as a closed zone). And that conclusion had implications.

When the former Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade Commander Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz, who was in charge in 2003, testified, he confirmed that the rules of engagement at the time Rachel was killed were to “shoot to kill any adult person on the [Philadelphi] route.” As another Israeli colonel who testified put it: “There are no civilians in a war zone.” By accepting the testimony of Zuaretz and others, Judge Gershon essentially accepted that the “shoot to kill” order was acceptable, which violates the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law, mandating that soldiers distinguish between combatants and civilians.

We knew from the beginning that it would be an uphill battle to find truth and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict not only distorts the strong evidence presented in court, but also contradicts fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders. In denying justice in Rachel Corrie’s killing, this verdict is part of a systemic failure to hold the Israeli military accountable for continuing violations of basic human rights. As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter put it: “The court’s decision confirms a climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.”

The Corrie family has always stressed that the purpose of this lawsuit was larger than compensation for their loss. For them, it was about understanding exactly what happened to Rachel and exposing the injustices their daughter and her friends in the International Solidarity Movement stood against. They filed suit on advice of Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who, on behalf of the State Department, told the family in 2004 that the United States did not consider the investigation into Rachel’s death to be “thorough, credible and transparent.”

The U.S. government has repeatedly reiterated its position regarding the failed investigation, and after nearly seven years of mounting evidence since the case was initially filed, it has become even clearer that the military conducted its investigation not to uncover the truth of what happened, but rather, to exonerate itself of any blame.

In his decision, Judge Gershon concluded that because Rachel put herself in harm’s way, she is to be blamed for her own death. That conclusion puts at serious risk the lives of human rights defenders and it creates yet another dangerous precedent regarding the protection of civilians in war. Not surprisingly, the court avoided any analysis of international law obligations.

The verdict ensures that the Israeli culture of impunity will continue unchecked. Rachel Corrie lost her life standing non-violently with those who have been subject to Israel’s systematic policy of destruction and demonization. Like the Freedom Riders in the United States who, during the civil rights movement, joined oppressed black communities in their struggle for equality, Rachel and her friends in the ISM presented a new challenge and model of non-violent activism, solidarity and resistance to the longest military occupation in modern history.

In a country in which the judicial system has enabled the occupation for almost 50 years, I suppose it’s not surprising that the judicial system blamed the victim for her own death.

Hussein Abu Hussein is a human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights. He represented the Corrie family in their case against the Israeli government and the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

Rachel Corrie trial verdict a failed attempt to criminalize solidarity

This article was posted originally on Electronic Intifada on 8/31/2012.  It can be viewed here.

This week the Haifa District Court rejected the Corrie family’s appeal to the state of Israel for its responsibility in the death of their daughter, Rachel. Rachel was killed in 2003 by an Israeli army bulldozer in the Rafah area of the Gaza Strip. International and local media have covered the ruling extensively; their focus has brought back to the surface issues of human rights violations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

From a human rights perspective, this verdict highlights three major issues. These are not restricted to the specific case of Rachel Corrie, but also display the low status that international law and principles of human rights have in the Israeli political and legal institutions.

The first issue is the attempt to undermine the group Rachel belonged to. Judge Oded Gershon opened his verdict with an attack on the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), of which Rachel Corrie was a member. Members of the ISM travel to the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, where they attempt to prevent human rights violations using their physical presence. The ISM ethos dictates that a civilian and nonviolent presence will, first of all, provide an eyewitness, and second, that the physical presence of their members will prevent the violation from occurring in the first place.

Yet the verdict states: “The ISM provided physical, logistical and moral support to the Palestinians, including the terrorists and their families.” It adds: “This movement manipulates human rights and moral standards to cover their violent actions.” By condemning the ISM in this manner, the Israeli legal system joins the wider political effort to demonize this international, peaceful presence. This effort is part of broader campaign which validates and legitimizes the attacks on, and even the killings of activists and journalists (such as Tom Hurndall and James Miller) who are seen by this verdict as “members of a terrorist organization” or “supporting terrorists.”

Israeli courts undermine international law

The second issue was major holes in the verdict. Firstly, it makes absolutely no reference to international law, human rights conventions, or universal values. This absence is not an accident, neither is it a result of Gershon’s personal views. Rather, it is a manifestation of the political, military and legal culture that dominates all Israeli institutions. The prevailing majority belief is that international law does not apply to Israel and its activities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The verdict shows that universal values do not constitute a credible reference as far as the Israeli legal system is concerned.

Also absent in the verdict is any sympathy towards the Corrie family, who had dutifully attended every hearing of the case and deserved human and moral consideration for the loss of their daughter. The verdict essentially says to the family bluntly that their daughter was a part of an organization that “supports terrorists” and that by entering a “military area” she took full responsibility for her own death.

The third issue brought up by the verdict is a re-emphasis of a decades-old attitude that has prevailed in the Israeli courts. The courts enforce no accountability on the army and they maintain impunity for Israel’s security and military infrastructure. The army operates without fear of consequence for their crimes and human rights violations. The verdict not only provides legal legitimization for the actions under review, but also a sense of understanding for the conspicuous efforts undertaken to destroy evidence relating to the case.

Evidence that “simply do[es] not exist anymore”

There were audio cassettes recorded during the autopsy, but Judge Gershon accepted the state explanation which claimed that “The tapes simply do not exist anymore because of financial problems at the Institute of Forensic Medicine.” The fact that evidence from this important trial could be lost to simple malpractice calls into question the priorities of the institute. All tapes that contain critical information for ongoing legal proceedings should be exempt from the apparently strict recycling policies.

But the verdict has failed to accomplish the goals of its underlying motive — the attempt to criminalize the ISM failed to prevent expressions of international solidarity. In fact, solidarity grew despite the killing. Also, in failing to perform its sole function of providing justice, the Israeli legal system has created the necessity for appeals to international forums where there is no statute of limitation on war crimes.

To the Corrie family we say: your nine-year struggle to follow the case has been an inspiration to the Palestinians and people around the world striving for justice and defending human rights. The efforts to silence your voices and deny you justice will only galvanize your supporters, inspiring greater efforts to the cause your daughter stood and died for.

Mohammad Zeidan is the General Director of the Arab Association for Human Rights.