The Daily Life of Kawther Salam

  ..: Speech at the University of Sussex at Brighton, UK :..
March 13, 2003
Note:  This speech was delivered at the School of Legal Studies at University of Sussex at Brighton by invitation of professor Richard Vogler.

Dear ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be with you today and to give a talk on the "Enforcement of International Law in the Occupied Territories". I want to express my sincere appreciation to Dr. Richard Vogler, senior lecturer in law here at Sussex, and to the British and Austrian governments, who provided me with this opportunity to come and share my thoughts with you in this talk.

I would like to use this talk to give a brief statement about the "Enforcement of International Law" in the occupied territories, and to describe to you the current situation under the military occupation law in the occupied territories, and continued violation of human rights by the Israeli occupation forces.

Actually, there is no enforcement of International Law in the occupied territories. What is being enforced in the occupied territories is a new political global order based on contradicting standards and aimed at changing the political map and the conflict history in the occupied territories.

In the occupied territories there is continued violation of the law: violation of the International Law, violation of uncounted UN resolutions, violation of the Geneva Conventions, violation of the most basic humanitarian principles, and even violation of the laws of Israel. What is being enforced in the occupied territories is the occupation law, which gives foundation to tyranny and wholesale injustice, which the native Palestinian population has had to suffer and endure during over 36 years of the so-called "peace"-time.

Seven years after having signed the Oslo agreements and during and during this so-called "peace"-time, the Palestinians in the occupied territories were living under the military law which incorporates the worst aspects of the British Mandate Law, the Turkish Law from the times of the Ottoman Empire, and the Israeli Military law, which are often void of any considerations whatsoever for justice and humanitarian considerations.

Let me make it clear, and give you and example that may help to bring to your attention the violation of human rights under the military law, and also help explain why the Palestinians started the second Intifada on the 29th September 2000, why do Palestinian kids carry weapons, why do Palestinian youths resort to becoming suicide bombers.

First, under a ruling by the Israeli supreme court, it is legal to use torture, "all sorts of torture" in Israel. In fact, this is what has happened in hundreds of cases: Palestinians have been tortured by the Israeli authorities.

Second, on September 6, 2000, I made a research into the violations of human rights under the occupational military law. I visited the military court "Adoraym" just outside of Hebron. At the entrance of this court I found that the lawyers for the defendants were standing behind blocked doors in uncomfortable conditions. They were made to stand among foul smelling garbage and under the harsh sun, without any shelter.

In order to send a message to the courtroom, which was at hundreds of meters of distance from them, the lawyers had to start yelling out loud whenever they wanted to intervene for their clients. When I saw this situation, my feeling of injustice and humiliation were intense. I suggested that the lawyers hold loudspeakers to call the court workers next time. One lawyer responded to my suggestion "We have protested several times, but nobody listens to us. We have to do our duties, otherwise our client will lose".

After over half an hour of shouting and calling the court workers, four soldiers cane. They ordered the lawyers to open their pant zippers and take off their shoes and hand over any piece of metal. They then started to search the lawyer's pockets by hand palpation and using electronic machines.

The harsh way in which I noticed the Palestinian lawyers were treated outside the court, reflected the situation inside the courtroom, including the general disregard for the notion of the human rights of the defendants.

Inside the courtroom a session was being held for several reasons, but I was there to find out the real facts behind the filing of 71 complaints of sexual harassment by a settler woman against Palestinian youths.

To recapitulate: In Hebron, whose center is being occupied by about 400 illegal jewish settlers amongst the middle of about 40 thousand Palestinians, a young man needs only walk in the area under control of the Israeli occupation authorities and look in a "normal" way at a jewish woman to find himself in a military court accused of sexual harassment. These charges are but another way of causing troubles for the Palestinians and forcing them to stop using in the central "Al-Shuhada" street on their way to and from home.

On that day, the court authorities decided, behind closed doors, to delay the trial session in the case about sexual harassment which I was following. The reason for the delay was my presence in the court room.

The attorney general approached me after a while. He said "we know that you are a very busy journalist, your time is very valuable, and surely you have a schedule full of other stories for today. Because of this we decided to delay the court and inform you that we will not hold the trial session in the case about sexual harassment today". When I asked the attorney general how they had made their decision without holding an official session – this is the legal way of making decisions in the court - he went inside and closed the door behind him.

After not too much time, the police brought three Palestinians from the court jail into the court room. The prisoners identified me, and one of them said "please write about the victims of the military law. For 17 trial sessions the judge has held me without any charge. They have kept me in jail for 18 months under bad conditions. No food, no tea or coffee, no medicine, no break.

They are killing us for no reason. My lawyer is not respected by the court authorities, he is not allowed to argue by the court authorities. He is only allowed to share the session and give an approval of the results, for the sake of conferring to the court a seal of legitimacy. I requested from the judge to let me have an Israeli lawyer so he can argue with them, that is my right. But the judge does not listen to my demands". The police interrupted this conversation, and shouted at the prisoner.

What I observed and noticed in the military court of justice can not be called justice. It is colonial tyranny, a violation of the human laws, and even so, a violation of the military law itself.

Another example from Hebron which I wish to share with you is the history of a child who was accused as an adult in military court. Sawsan Abut Turki. This is an example which explains why Palestinian do carry weapons.

Sawsan Abut Turki from Hebron was 9 years old when she was attacked by Israeli soldiers on her way home. The Israeli soldiers stopped the child on her way home. At this time, before the second Intifada, Hebron had been living most of the time under an intermittent curfew. The Palestinians had been living for 123 days under a strictly enforced curfew before the second Intifada started.
At a checkpoint, one of the soldiers allowed Sawsan to pass, the other one said "no" and ordered her to return. As it was already late, the child refused to return. The soldier pushed her to the ground and started kicking her and hitting her head with the butt of his rifle. Sawsan was transferred to the hospital in a state of coma. The child spent 5 days in the hospital under pain and continuous headache in the hospital. When she was released, she still had headache and could not read or concentrate any more. The terrible headache made her cry most of the time.

After above mentioned incident, Sawsan suffered melancholy and headache all the time. She was not capable of going to school or learning any more. She just remembered the incident with the soldiers all the time, for over one year.

On September the 6th, 2001, I saw Sawsan on the old Market of Hebron. She was not wearing her school dress. After a while I received a call: "Sawsan tried to kill a soldier in the old Market". Sawsan's friends confirmed that she had left school with her clothes on. Her father was astonished as he heard the news, he wondered where she had obtained the knife she had carried.

The eye witnesses from the old market said that Sawsan had thrown a knife at a military patrol on tour in the old market and then ran to hide herself in the closest shop.

On the first day of her arrest, Sawsan was raped twice by the Israeli police. She was forbidden from receiving visits. During her trial at Beit Il military court she had her hands tied and was placed behind bars. The child was indicted and tried at court for attempting to murder an Israeli soldier.

I carried the story of Sawsans rape by the Israeli police to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. The story of her psychological case, which I publicized through the media forced the judge to grant her a conditional release for 15 thousand shekel (about 4 thousand dollar) until further proceedings and a definitive decision had been reached at the Beit Il military court.

The illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has been violating the basic human rights of Palestinian children. All violations perpetrated by Israelis against Palestinians over the last decades, ranging from torture to illegal killings to expulsion, prevention of the access of medical treatment, discrimination, destruction of the homes and livelihoods of Palestinian families, have all had a disproportionate effect on the children of Palestine.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees the fundamental rights of all children. The state of Israel willingly signed and ratified this agreement in October, 1991. Since this time, Israel has not only failed to comply with the conventions provisions, but has consistently and systematically violated the rights of Palestinian children in every way.

To support this, I'd like to share some numbers with you:

Since September 29, 2000, 383 Palestinian children under the age of 18 have been killed by the Israeli army and the illegal settlers. These are almost 19% of all Palestinians killed (as of November 21, 2002).

Approximately 36% of the Palestinians injured, estimated at more than 41 thousand, are children.

86 of these children were under the age of ten.

21 infants under the age of 12 months have been killed.

500 Palestinian children have been permanently disabled due to Israeli attacks.

In Hebron, four schools have been converted to military bases with three of them still under Israeli control, denying 1.920 students access to their schools.

Since September, 2000, 197 Palestinian schools have been damaged. 9 schools have been vandalized and 11 have been completely destroyed.

Since March 29, 2000, well before the start of the second Intifada, the education process has been completely paralyzed in 850 Palestinian schools.

From March to May 1, 2001, 1.289 schools were closed, 45.000 tawjihi students supposed to take the general exam in June were prevented from accessing their schools, and 54.730 teaching sessions per day were lost due to complete cessation of classes in major West bank towns  during Israeli military operations.

Public services such as water have deteriorated rapidly throughout the Intifada. Almost 60% of the children in Gaza suffer parasitic infections. In Hebron, 80% of children suffer of typhoid ea and illnesses related to amoeba infections.

In Hebron, each housing quarter was receiving water for three hours every 60 days, while the settlement were stealing the Palestinian water. This situation cause a cute shortage of water, and as a result Typhoid fever and Amoeba contamination related sickness were spreading in the southern area of Hebron even before the Intifada as a result of the use of contaminated water.

The Hebron area H2 under the Israeli control was under curfew for 123 day before the Intifada started, 1500 Palestinian shops were closed in the city of Hebron by military orders, Over 300 official complaint through the Israeli police unit made by Hebronite people after the settlers and the army engaged in stealing their shops during the curfew.

Hundreds of the Palestinians houses in Hebron under the occupational control, were prohibited rebuild by military orders. Some families were obliged to leave their houses by the military and police forces.

Half a million Palestinian children have been prevented from receiving required vaccinations due to the closure and the Israeli invasions.

There have been 36 known cases of Palestinian women in labor who were delayed at checkpoints and refused permissions to reach medical facilities, or for ambulances to reach them. At least 14 of these women gave birth at the checkpoints, and 8 of these births resulted in the death of the newborn infants.

Halemeh Al Alol from Halhol delivered and lost her infant at the Israeli border at the entrance of Hebron in 1999, after the Israeli soldiers prohibited her to enter the Hebron area under control of the Palestinian Authority and reach the hospital.

According to official Israeli sources, at the beginning of February, 2003, 1.107 Palestinians were held in administrative detention.

According to data collected by Human Rights Law Organizations, there were around 1.800 administrative detainees as of Feb.24, 2003.

In addition, two Lebanese citizens have now been held under administrative
detention in Israel for 8 and 13 years.

Just one example: the human rights activist Abed Ahmar was detained without trial as follows:
- From February 1996 to May 1998
- From May 2001 to May 2002
- From May 2002 to the present

Between September 2000 and February 2003:

The Center for Human Rights documented the demolition of 603 houses in the Gaza Strip.

The Center for Human Rights Law documented the demolition of 520 houses in the West bank, 95 demolitions in East Jerusalem alone.

The U.N. documented that 285.808 fruit and olive trees had been uprooted and wells and various agricultural constructions destroyed.

Furthermore, between September 29, 2000 and June 30, 2002, the PA Ministry reported 670.285 trees were uprooted and destroyed, in addition to 50.247 acres documented as destroyed.

Law documented 54.783 animals killed between September, 2000 and August, 2002.

I will now share some documented cases of sexually harassment of IDF soldiers against women and children during and before the intifada.

The army platoons occupying Palestinian houses will often engage in sexually harassing women and raping men, like the case of Nazeeha Abut Dahood from Hebron, who was harassed sexually in 1997 and who is still a psychological patient. Her husband Nayef Abut Dahood was killed in my house on 30 December 2000 for no reason than arguing with the IDF soldiers to stop them from harassing his wife sexually.

Khaled Al Nawagah, also from Hebron, was raped by an an officer of a border police unit while on his way back to Yatta village in 1998. Mr. Asad Al Hemony was raped by an Israeli officer in prison on June 2002.

The two sisters, Wla'a and Isra'a Al Atrash were harassed sexually by the Israeli border police in Al Shuhada street on 12 June 2002, and charged with disobeying military orders. These and many other cases were documented through official complaint filed with the Israeli police, as well as in articles published in the newspapers and my diary on Gush Shalom web site. 

This terrible situation of constant abuses which the Palestinians live under the occupational army and the settlers forced the Palestinians to start the Intifada. The Intifada was started for one reason: STOP THE OCCUPATION. And nobody will be able to end it.

The Palestinians have the right to fight the occupation, the illegal settlers and military. They have the right to fight for freedom in any way possible, but nobody has the right to kill innocent civilians in Israel, and any these attacks of suicide bombers were always condemned by the majority of the Palestinians, despite living under the Israeli military occupation and the continued heavy shelling of our cities and people by the air force.

But everybody should understand that anyone living under the occupational terror will eventually learn to be terrorist. The suicide bombers come as a result of the occupation, the frustrating situation, and as a personal revenge of what the military occupation did to their families in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Any young person who has their brothers killed, the father arrested and possibly his families house demolished by the occupiers will not find any other way to express his anger than to kill himself, hopefully taking some of the enemies with him in the act. The suicide bombers will not inform their family of their decision most of times.

The Palestinians are fighting in a way that will bring  peace, justice, freedom and independence. The Israeli government is fighting in a way that will continue the occupation, the violation of human rights, building Jewish settlements. The Palestinians are not fighting to crush Israel, but they are fighting so that they will not crushed by the occupation.

I do not understand how long the the US will continue supporting the terror perpetrated by the occupiers and corrupting the Israeli society with their support, while solution to the conflict is very simple: Just stop the occupation and building the settlements. Implement the UN resolutions 242, 338, declare the Palestinians Independent State with East of Jerusalem it's capital. Give the refugees the rights of self determination, to return to their homes if they decide to do so. And release the Palestinians political prisoners from the Israeli Jails.

Otherwise, the area will continue living in a spiral of blood and revenge, and the Israelis will never achieve security by force and continuing their occupation of Palestina.