Does Humanity End at the Border?Monday 20/01/2020

In a world where oppression and punishment are a means of securing power, respect for human life becomes scarce and is replaced by inhumanity and suffering.  But do we really know what is happening on the other side of Israel’s border?

            Imagine that you and your family live somewhere in the West Bank. One day, you discover that a child is about to be used as a suicide bomber to blow up a bus. A desire to do everything possible to prevent a child from becoming a suicide bomber and averting the death of many innocent people is a natural response for you and me. However, under the Palestinian Authority (PA), this response would be grounds for receiving a life sentence and thus commences a nightmare. Because you have tried to stop a fatal attack, you will be arrested and all the people around you will pay a price.

            First, it starts with your child. Let’s say your child was born prematurely and she needs to remain in an incubator that provides an environment that allows her to properly mature.

            However, because the PA operates like a machine of terror; cruel and creative forms of inhumane acts are implemented against individuals as a form of punishment. And for this reason, because you saved innocent people, the PA decided not to give your child the necessary treatment and they expel your child from the hospital. Consequently, an innocent child is severely handicapped not only physically but also psychologically for all her life. Still, the punishment goes on.

            You might be imprisoned and subjected to many different types of torture, such as being tied to a post and beaten until losing consciousness, burnt with cigarettes, having boiling and cold water thrown on you, having your nails and teeth ripped out, being electrocuted and deprived of sleep and food. The methods of torture are endless. This is not a nightmare or fiction, but rather the reality of many Palestinian citizens who oppose the politics of the PA or take a stand against acts of terror. This is one of the many real cases that occurred under the PA regime which JIJ has documented and reported.

            Palestinian security forces systematically inflict ill-treatment and torture on their citizens as a form of government policy, cruelly disrespecting human rights. The PA speaks worldwide, appealing for the rights of the Palestinians and their territories, but it is the PA who violates the rights of its own citizens by secretly shedding blood and putting in place an oppressive machine to destroy all who disagree with their acts.

The Oslo Agreement was signed in September 1993 by the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The Palestinian Authority (PA) was then created in 1994 to govern the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (areas A and B). However, the Palestinians have not complied with the provisions of the treaty. Violent clashes broke out between the two Palestinian factions: Hamas and Fatah following the January 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections. Thus, in 2007, Hamas lost its ruling position in the West Bank, being replaced by Fatah and independent members. Hamas, in turn, expelled Fatah from Gaza and retained control of that area. This division resulted in two separate administrations: the Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah under Mahmoud Abbas controlling the West Bank; and control of the Gaza Strip by Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s leader. These groups have since then exercised effective control over everything that happens in those regions.

            Palestinian witnesses reported and described the abuses that the PA had perpetrated against them, including abduction, imprisonment, torture, and rape. The PA reportedly murdered and illegally detained many of their citizens intentionally and premeditatedly to intimidate its civilians.

            This is condemned by international criminal law. A crime against humanity is characterized as any of the atrocious acts indicated in art.7 of the Rome Statute, committed in the framework of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population, with knowledge of that attack. Thus, illegal acts include sexual assault, torture, murder, kidnapping, and imprisonment.

            The international legal standard of general human rights must be met by all governments and regimes in order to ensure peace, prosperity and the welfare of individuals. It falls upon society as a whole to prevent crimes against humanity from occurring. Therefore, the best definition of international crimes is that which contemplates the idea of ​​acts performed by states or individuals, and that violate principles and rules that protect values ​​to which humanity attaches great importance. According to the Rome Statute, crimes against humanity can occur in times of war or peace. In this article, it is clear what the elements of the crime are. First, a physical element is required, such as murder, imprisonment, torture and other inhumane acts. The second element is contextual, meaning a crime is committed as part of a widespread (“large-scale nature of the attack, which should be massive, frequent, carried out collectively with considerable seriousness and directed against a multiplicity of victims”) or systematic attack directed at any civilian population (“the organized nature of the acts of violence and the improbability of their random occurrence”). This means that there have to be numerous threats in a geographical area and that the violence has to follow a methodical approach. Finally, the crime must be committed with the knowledge of an attack, that is, the mental element. Beyond all these elements, crimes against humanity occur only when they are committed for the sake of a state or political organization.

            In these terms, it is considered that the PA violated the human rights of its citizens by murdering, imprisoning, torturing, and kidnapping them. These acts were carried out in a judicious, organized and frequent manner to a multitude of victims, under a large-scale attack.

            Palestinian citizens experienced severe physical and mental pain and suffering, which was premeditated and calculatedly caused by their leaders to oppress them and to preserve positions of leadership in both territories. This violates international human rights law. The PA controls both the police and the military as well as the courts themselves, so nothing is done to help Palestinian citizens within the West Bank. This is a cycle of violence, repression, and misery for the victims, their families, the entire Palestinian people, and potentially even their regional neighbors. Palestinian leaders must realize that because they have signed and agreed to treaties such as the Rome Statute, they are legally obligated to prevent cruel acts against their own people.

            On this matter, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice has already submitted several communications to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding crimes against humanity committed by Palestinian leaders, such as murder, imprisonment and torture, respectively, against Palestinian civilians.

            Crimes against humanity are serious violations of international law. It is time to take responsibility, we must not only point the finger at the culprits of these atrocities but also at the supporters and spectators who become accomplices. The real victims of this war are the Palestinian citizens who are cynically exploited as political pawns.

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