UN investigator: Israeli settlement is 'war crime'

A UN human rights investigator announced July 9 that Israeli settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem meets the definition of a war crime. Special rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, addressed a Geneva meeting of the Human Rights Council, in which he gave a report on whether the settlements violate the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Three elements must be satisfied to meet the definition of the war crime of transferring a civilian population into an occupied territory. The material elements are transfer of the population into the territory, and that the transfer took place arising from an international armed conflict. This element was met when Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 as part of an international armed conflict.

The third element is "mental," and requires that the perpetrator was "aware of factual circumstances that established the existence of an armed conflict." The report noted that the Israeli government has a long history of supporting the growth of the settlements and that the government "has been fully aware of the clear direction from the international community" that its policy is in direct violation of international law.

Lynk concluded that Israeli behavior meets the definition of a war crime and therefore falls under the jurisdiction of the ICC. He accused Israel of not being "serious about peace" because of its ongoing defiance of the Rome Statute.

Lynk also said that the international community "cannot be serious about its own laws" if it does not hold violators accountable. He included a list of recommended actions for the international community to take, including a review of trade, cultural, and investment agreements with Israel, and a ban on arms sales to Israel. His recommendations also included holding accountable Israeli political, military, and administrative officials responsible for the violations of international law.

Israel, which does not recognize the special rapporteur's mandate nor cooperate with his office in any way, was not present at the meeting.

From Jurist, July 11. Used with permission.

Note: An ICC investigation into possible Israeli war crimes was formally opened earlier this year—over the protests of Israel, which refuses to recognize the Court's authority.

Israeli high court proposes 'compromise' on Sheikh Jarrah

Israel's top court has proposed a plan to prevent the eviction of dozens of Palestinians in the East Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah. The Supreme Court was expected to issue a ruling to end the long legal battle, but instead urged both sides to accept a compromise. Under the proposed deal, the four Palestinian families could stay in their homes if they formally recognize that the land is owned by a Jewish settlement company. The sides have been given a week to respond. (BBC News, AP)

Israel moves ahead with West Bank settlements plan

Israel's Civil Administration on the West Bank on Oct. 27 approved plans to build some 3,000 homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied territory, defying a harsh rebuke from the Biden administration, which expressed "deep concern."

Bassam al-Salhe, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization said the decision showed that Israel's new government, led by far-right politician Naftali Bennett, is "no less extreme" than the administration of the veteran leader he replaced, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Civil Administration has given preliminary approval for 1,344 new housing units and a final go-ahead for construction of 1,800 homes.

It will be up to Defense Minister Benny Gantz to give final approval for the construction permits to be issued. (Haaretz)

Israeli settlers attack village in occupied West Bank

Israeli settlers have attacked the northern village of Burqa, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian authorities. The attack under the cover of night came after a settler rally earlier on Dec. 23 had turned violent, with Israeli forces using tear-gas and rubber-coated bullets against Palestinians. Dozens of Palestinians have been wounded in the two days of clashes. (Al Jazeera)

Palestinian prisoner ends hunger strike after deal with Israel

Palestinians and human rights defenders around the world on Jan. 4 cheered reports that Hisham Abu Hawash—who has been imprisoned in Israel without charge for 16 months—is ending a 141-day hunger strike after reaching an agreement with Israeli officials.

Haaretz reports that Abu Hawash's administrative detention—a policy under which the Israeli military indefinitely imprison men, women, and children without charge or trial—will not be renewed under the terms of a deal with Israeli authorities. The 40-year-old father of five will remain hospitalized at the Shamir Medical Center in Be'er Ya'akov, Israel while he recovers.

A lawyer representing the Palestinian prisoner—who, according to a medical report released Sunday by Physicians for Human Rights, was in "imminent danger" of death due to nutritional deficiencies—said he will be released on Feb. 26.

Palestinian journalist Aya Isleem called the development "a heroic story of the triumph of determination and willpower despite all odds and sacrifices." (CommonDreams)

Israel saw a wave of Palestinian prisoner hunger strikes in 2016.

New escalation at Sheikh Jarrah

The eviction of a family from their home in the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah was delayed after police clashed with locals. The attempted eviction saw Mohammed Salahiya, a Palestinian, barricading himself on the roof with his children and threatening to blow up a gas tank. (Haaretz)

Eviction carried out at at Sheikh Jarrah

A Palestinian family was removed from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem in an overnight operation carried out by Israeli police Jan. 19. The Jerusalem municipality said the eviction was ordered following district court approval, and meant a school for local children with special needs could be built on the site. (CNN)

Settlers attack activists on West Bank

Four human rights activists were injured in a settler attack Jan. 21 near the Palestinian village of Burin in the West Bank. Footage from the scene depicts a group of masked men attacking activists with clubs, hurling stones at them, and setting one of their cars on fire. Rabbis for Human Rights and Olive Harvest Coalition activists arrived in Burin, south of Nablus, to assist local farmers. According to the activists, the group of around 15 masked assailants came from the nearby illegal outpost of Giv'at Ronen, fleeing the scene before IDF soldiers arrived. (Haaretz)

Amnesty International accuses Israel of crime of apartheid

A new report from Amnesty International says Israel is committing the international crime of apartheid against Palestinians, through a “system of oppression and domination” that includes massive land and property seizures, restrictions on movement, and unlawful killings. Apartheid is a crime against humanity under the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute and the 1973 Apartheid Convention. (TNH)

A Human Rights Watch report last year also accused Israel of the crime of apartheid.

Another escalation at Sheikh Jarrah

Israeli police arrested eight for "public riots and violence" in the East Jerusalem neighboorhood of Sheikh Jarrah during a visit by a controversial far-right Jewish lawmaker. Street clashes broke out on Feb. 13 as Itamar Ben Gvir of the Religious Zionism alliance opened a parliamentary office in the neighboorhood, in what he described as an effort to show support for its Jewish residents. (Al Jazeera)

Muslim judge takes seat at Israel's Supreme Court

Khaled Kabub was named the first Muslim judge to have a permanent seat on the Supreme Court in Israel, court authorities announced Feb. 21.

More than 20% of Israeli citizens are Arab, and there has been an Arab jurist on the top court since 2003, but all previous appointees have been Christian.

Kabub, 63, has become the first Muslim permanently named to the tribunal in the nation where Arabs, Christians and Muslims, have complained of systematic discrimination.

Previously a judge at the Tel Aviv district court, Kabub was one of four new justices appointed by a committee comprised of Supreme Court justices, cabinet ministers, lawmakers and attorneys.

Born in Jaffa, he studied history and Islam at Tel Aviv University. He completed his law degree there, then worked in private practice before becoming a judge.

The only other Muslim to have sat on the Supreme Court was Abdel Rahman Zoabi, who was given a temporary, one-year term, in 1999. (AFP)

Sheikh Jarrah evictions halted by Israel Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Israel ruled March 1 that four Palestinian families living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem may continue to reside in their homes until Israel's Ministry of Justice resolves the property dispute over their land. Such a resolution may take years. Under the ruling, the Palestinian families must pay a modest rent of about 745 dollars per year.

Lawyer Sami Irsheid said he was "happy and proud" after the ruling. Resident Abdel Fattah Skafi told ArabNews he is "happy with this achievement, which has not happened in 50 years."

During a United Nations Security Council meeting on Feb. 23, delegates "urged" Israel to stop evictions in the neighborhood. According to a UN press release, Norway's envoy "condemned the eviction of the Salihiya family from their home [in Sheikh Jarrah] in January, warning that pursuing such practices can escalate the conflict." 

The legal dispute began in 1972 when Jewish settlers sued Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Israeli Custodian General gave ownership of the land to Jewish Committees who, in turn, "sold their ownership rights to Nahalat Shimon International, a private settler organization, which does not have ties to the original alleged Jewish owners. The settler organization has vigorously worked to bring eviction lawsuits" against Palestinian residents. Under Israeli law, Jews may reclaim the land they owned before 1948.  (Jurist, Al Jazeera)