Tuesday, December 10, 2019

B'Tselem: On the Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation

Just the tip of the iceberg:
One victim a year, times thirty years

December 10, 2019

B’Tselem is marking 30 years since its founding in 1989. As always when reaching a milestone, we debated how, if at all, to mark this anniversary, given that it’s certainly not a happy occasion. In the end, we decided to focus on one issue we have grappled with since day one - the lack of accountability by security forces for harm to Palestinians. The result is this collection of testimonies: “Just the tip of the iceberg: One victim a year, times thirty years.

To write this publication, we went back to the hundreds of files that document in minute detail what has long since become daily life - and death - in the Occupied Territories: cases in which soldiers killed, wounded and beat Palestinians. We selected one incident from each year since our founding, and over the past few months, went back to the victims and their families to learn about how their lives were affected, and to hear their reactions to the fact that no one was held accountable for the harm done to them or their loved ones.

During this process, we quickly learned two things. The first was that confining the conversation in this manner was not possible. The occupation takes control over every aspect of the lives of people living under it, and this gets reflected in what they say: a father whose son was killed by soldiers had to stop working in Israel after his permit was denied and the family was thrown into a life of poverty; a mother who could not visit her wounded daughter in the Jerusalem hospital she had been taken to because the authorities would not give her a permit; a resident of Gaza whose brother was killed when he was a child, and then, after he reached adulthood, his parents were killed in Operation Protective Edge, and many more.

The second thing we learned is that while much has changed since B'Tselem was founded, the main thing remained the same: Israel imposes a cruel and brutal regime of military occupation, which denies millions their fundamental rights. Almost every decision requires Israel’s consent, and Israel, for its part, chooses to ignore the needs of the Palestinians and refuses to see them as human beings who are entitled to everything Israeli citizens are entitled to - first and foremost, life, but also a home, water, privacy and security.

Israel hardly pays a price. Internally, it faces no accountability for its policies (neither criminal nor civilian), and abroad, the international community avoids taking effective action to compel Israel to change its policies. And so, without any significant diplomatic, political or economic repercussions for these policies, Israel really has no incentive to change anything.

Despite all this, the horrific, intolerable reality of occupation has to be changed. The occupation is not fated. It is a policy repeatedly chosen by successive Israeli governments. As such, it can and must be brought to an end, and a different reality must be chosen, one in which all 14 million people living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River live in freedom and equality.

Yael Stein
Research Director 

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