Escalating violence in Israel/OPT: Time to Address the Root Causes

EuroMed Rights is deeply alarmed by the escalation of violence, the loss of life, and the daily breaches of international law occurring in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

These events must be understood within the context of the daily oppression and humiliation faced by 4 million Palestinians living under Occupation, and the lack of any political horizon.  The EU and its Member States must clearly condemn all unlawful attacks against civilians, the use of excessive force by Israeli security forces, collective punishment and the mounting incidents of settler violence, and take serious steps to compel Israel to end the Occupation.

Recent weeks have seen a wave of uncoordinated deliberate attacks, predominantly by young Palestinians against Israeli nationals. To date 8 Israelis have been killed.

Since 1 October, Israeli forces have killed 30 Palestinians, including 7 children while thousands of Palestinians have been injured as a result of the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces in Gaza, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

This “shoot-to-kill” policy comes amidst the Israeli security cabinet’s decision in September 2015 to authorise the use of snipers and live ammunition against Palestinian protestors, as well as the relaxation of the rules of engagement in dealing with individuals suspected of attacking other civilians or members of the security forces. Under international law, the use of firearms is permissible only as an absolute last resort in the case of self-defence or the defence of others against imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Beyond the excessive use of force, the Israeli authorities have also adopted successive measures aimed at suppressing the legitimate right of Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, to protest against the government’s policies and exercise their right to freedom of expression. This has included arbitrary arrests, preventive arrests of protest organisers, the arrest of parents of protestors, and intimidation.

Together with an increase in punitive home demolitions and arbitrary movement restrictions in the West Bank, including the recent decision to impose a closure on the Palestinian neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and to revoke the residency of Palestinians in Jerusalem charged with attacks, these acts amount to collective punishment and imply the further expansion of the practices of Occupation.

EuroMed Rights condemns these and all unlawful attacks against civilians, which are unjustifiable under international law. Regrettably, what is missing in the EU’s response to the current escalations has been the application of such international standards to Palestinian civilians and a consideration of the escalations’ root causes.

Another element dismissed in the EU’s response, is that these escalations occur amidst an upsurge of settler violence against Palestinian civilians, with the settlers oftentimes acting with Israeli military protection, and the perpetual failure of the Israeli authorities to protect Palestinians from such attacks. Between 28 September and 4 October 2015 alone 29 incidents of settler violence have been reported.

In order for the EU to address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of these escalations the EU must call for the full respect of international law and ensure that all perpetrators, including Israeli security forces, are held accountable. In this regard EuroMed Rights welcomes the EU’s call  on Israel to conduct thorough investigations into the killings of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli security forces, yet reminds the EU of Israel’s lamentable track record in ensuring accountability for violations of international law.

It is vital that the EU seeks not only an end to the current escalations but also an end to the unlawful status quo of the 49-year prolonged Occupation, which characterises the conflict.