Exposing the reality of life in the Occupied Territories
Over 3000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in the Occupied Territories since 2009. Almost 90% of these fatalities have occurred in Gaza. The Gaza Strip is in the throes of a manmade humanitarian disaster. A recent United Nations report stated that unless there are significant changes, the territory will become uninhabitable by 2020. Israel’s continued blockade has left the 2.3 million people living in Gaza in a life of abject poverty with dire conditions and inadequate infrastructure. Some 80% of Gaza’s residents depend on humanitarian aid, and about 60% suffer from food insecurity.
B'Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) works to end Israel’s occupation, seeing this as the only way to forge a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all. Founded in 1989, B'Tselem began by devoting most of its efforts to documenting human rights violations that come under Israel’s purview as occupying power. This included publishing statistics, testimonies, video footage and reports concerning human rights violations and their implications.
After over half a century of occupation, during which Israel’s settlement and road-building policies in the Occupied Territories have created profound changes that indicate long-term intentions, it is clear that this reality cannot be viewed as temporary. Therefore, B’Tselem additionally speaks out to expose the injustice, violence and dispossession that lie at the very core of the occupation, challenging its legitimacy in Israel and abroad and helping to expedite its end.
Their recently launched campaign, “Sorry Commander, I cannot shoot” is a reaction to the recent use of live fire by Israeli soldiers against unarmed demonstrators at the Gaza border which killed 18 and injured hundreds of Palestinians. The campaign includes newspaper advertisements explaining to soldiers that they must refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators. They explain that unjustified use of live fire could amount to wilful killing of civilians – which is a breach of international law. B'Tselem emphasised that the illegality of orders from commanders to use live fire “is not a question of form, nor is it imperceptible, or partially imperceptible.” But it is “an illegality that pains the eye and outrages the heart, if the eye be not blind and the heart be not callous or corrupt.”
The fearless work carried out by B’Tselem, from the field researchers in Gaza and the West Bank, to the office staff in Jerusalem and many Israeli and Palestinian volunteers, is shining a light on the realities of life in the Occupied Territories and holding up a mirror to Israeli policy. Through reliably and meticulously documenting human rights violations, they reveal the guise of legality under which Israel has held control over Palestinians for over fifty years, and the deplorable tactics that must be employed to sustain this occupation.