Cut off arms to Israel, Amnesty Int’l says, citing 22 civilians killed at protests last year

Israel/Palestine
Bilal Tamimi being attacked by an Israeli soldier during demonstration in Nabi Saleh, May 2013. Photo by Tamimi Press, used in Amnesty Int'l report

Bilal Tamimi being attacked by an Israeli soldier during demonstration in Nabi Saleh, May 2013. Photo by Tamimi Press, used in Amnesty Int’l report

Amnesty International has released a stunning report saying that the international community should cut off military aid to Israel because Israel has killed dozens of civilians at peaceful protests in the last three years “widespread impunity”– including 22 civilians last year. The human rights organization concludes

It urges the USA, the European Union and the rest of the international community to suspend all transfers of munitions, weapons and other equipment to Israel.

“Without pressure from the international community the situation is unlikely to change any time soon,” said Philip Luther [Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International].

“Too much civilian blood has been spilled. This long-standing pattern of abuse must be broken. If the Israeli authorities wish to prove to the world they are committed to democratic principles and international human rights standards, unlawful killings and unnecessary use of force must stop now.”

Here’s the PDF for the 87-page report, which is titled, “‘Trigger-happy’ Israeli army and police use reckless force in the West Bank.”

The Institute for Middle East Understanding emphasizes that the report comes out just as AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is having its Washington conference at which it will celebrate US aid to Israel:

Its publication coincides with the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, which runs from March 2 to 4 in Washington, DC, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama, which is scheduled to take place while Netanyahu is in Washington for the conference.

The report documents “mounting bloodshed” in the occupied territories as a result of the Israeli army’s use of “unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force against Palestinians” over the past three years. In the press release accompanying the report, which is included below, the director Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, Philip Luther, notes: “The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy.”

Amnesty’s summary emphasizes that the victims were protesting occupation:

Israeli forces have repeatedly violated their obligations under international human rights law by using excessive force to stifle dissent and freedom of expression, resulting in a pattern of unlawful killings and injuries to civilians. They do so with virtual impunity due to the authorities’ failure to conduct thorough investigations. This report focuses on the use of excessive force in the West Bank since the beginning of 2011. It includes cases of killings and injuries of Palestinian civilians in the context of protests against Israel’s continuing military occupation of the Palestinian territories, illegal Israeli settlements and the fence/wall.

Here’s more from Amnesty’s coverage of its report,

Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity, said Amnesty International in a report published today.

The report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, describes mounting bloodshed and human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as a result of the Israeli forces’ use of unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force against Palestinians since January 2011.

In all cases examined by Amnesty International, Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers did not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life. In some, there is evidence that they were victims of wilful killings, which would amount to war crimes.

“The report presents a body of evidence that shows a harrowing pattern of unlawful killings and unwarranted injuries of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in the West Bank,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy.”

Deaths and injuries

Amnesty International has documented the killings of 22 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank last year, at least 14 of which were in the context of protests. Most were young adults under the age of 25. At least four were children.

According to UN figures, more West Bank Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in 2013 than the total number killed in 2011 and 2012 combined. Forty-five were killed in the past three years.

Peaceful protesters, civilian bystanders, human rights activists and journalists are among those who have been killed or injured.

In the last three years at least 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, have been seriously injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in the West Bank.

An astonishing number of Palestinians in the West Bank – more than 8,000, including 1,500 children – have been wounded by other means, including rubber-coated metal bullets and the reckless use of tear gas, since January 2011.

Algemeiner has attacked the report, saying Amnesty’s bias is proved by video of one incident that shows Palestinian demonstrators throwing large stones at occupying Israeli soldiers.

“According to Amnesty, the IDF must wait until a soldier is killed before using lethal force…. The anti-Israel bias is blatant.”

But as Annie Robbins points out, the stone-throwing Algemeiner publicizes followed the killing of three Palestinians by Israeli soldiers (see Allison Deger’s reports at the links).

Algemeiner completely strips the context of the event out of their report.

Omar Barghouti says Amnesty has made a “courageous call,” and highlights the fact that it echoes Palestinian demands:

In 2011, Palestinian civil society had called for a full military embargo on Israel (export and import), including joint military production and all military-related research. This is one of the highest priorities for the global BDS movement.

Amnesty’s courageous call for cutting all transfer of weapons to Israel is a very significant first step towards a full embargo. Israel should not get away with what Amnesty rightly characterizes as “war crimes” and “willful killings” of Palestinian civilians.

The US government may seem hopeless for the time being. It will take a lot more work to make it respect its own laws and stop all military sales to Israel because of its use of US weapons in committing human rights violations and war crimes. Well, the fact that the US uses those same weapons to commit even more heinous crimes makes that case that more tougher.

But the US government is hardly seen as a bastion of human rights by the great majority of the world.

Hypocritical European governments, on the other hand, that claim to uphold international law and to respect human rights are gesturing towards — but still dragging their feet in implementing — any meaningful ban on products of companies producing in illegal colonies in the OPT, while continuing military trade and research with Israel. They should be exposed and pressured to respect their own laws, as well as international law.

India, Brazil, China and other governments that are supposedly “pro Palestinian” must also be held accountable for their massive import of Israel weapons, mostly “field tested” on Palestinian, Lebanese and other civilians.

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