Israel ‘guilty of war crimes’ for Jerusalem deportations

A Palestinian woman sits next to the remains of her home after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in Musafir Jenbah, West Bank, in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 09 August 2017

Israel ‘guilty of war crimes’ for Jerusalem deportations

AMMAN: Israel may be guilty of war crimes under international law by revoking Palestinians’ rights to live in Jerusalem and forcing them to move, a leading human rights organization said on Tuesday.
Revoking residency status is used by Israel to punish Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis, and as collective punishment against the families of suspected attackers. Nearly 15,000 Palestinians had their residency revoked between the start of the Israeli occupation in 1967 and the end of last year.
“Israel has revoked residency based on the claim that Palestinians violated an obligation of loyalty to the state of Israel, but international humanitarian law expressly forbids an occupying power from compelling people under occupation to pledge allegiance to it,” Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, told Arab News.
Revoking residency means Palestinians have to leave Jerusalem, which is also illegal. Deportation or forced transfer from an occupied territory may be a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Human Rights Watch said.
The prohibition extends beyond cases in which a military force directly moves a population under its control, to cases in which the military force makes life so difficult that people are essentially forced to leave.
For its report, published on Tuesday, the New York-based group investigated eight cases in which Palestinians had their right to live in Jerusalem revoked. They interviewed the families and their lawyers and reviewed letters revoking their status, court rulings and other official documents.
One man who had his residency revoked had to scale Israel’s separation barrier to attend a family wedding in another part of the West Bank. Another said Israeli authorities refused to issue birth certificates to his five children, all born in Jerusalem. Other Jerusalem residents without residency status described being unable to legally work, obtain social welfare benefits, attend weddings and funerals or visit gravely ill relatives abroad for fear Israeli authorities would refuse to allow them to return home, the report says.
It is the first time the issue of the rights of Palestinians in East Jerusalem has been subject to wide-ranging international legal analysis. The report also examines the wider issue of Israel’s takeover of all of Jerusalem.
It says: “Residency revocations, alongside decades of unlawful settlement expansion, home demolitions and restrictions on building in the city, have increased unlawful settlement by Israeli Jewish citizens in occupied East Jerusalem while restricting growth of the occupied Palestinian population.
“This reality reflects the Israeli government’s goal of ‘maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city,’ as stated in the Jerusalem municipality’s master plan, and limiting the number of Palestinian residents.”
Planners originally set a target of 70 percent Jews and 30 percent Arab, but later acknowledged that this was not attainable and adjusted it to 60-40. Palestinians constituted 37 percent of Jerusalem’s population in 2015, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.
“As part of its quest to solidify a Jewish majority in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities force Palestinians to live as foreigners in their own homes,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the rights group’s Middle East director.
“The status of Palestinians only remains secure so long as they do not exercise their right to travel abroad to study or work, move to the wrong neighborhood or obtain status in another country.”
Sani Khoury, a Palestinian lawyer who specializes in Jerusalem citizenship issues, told Arab News that the issue of revoking residency had been going on since 1967, and often reflected the politics of the day or the ideologies of the Israeli government and judiciary.
“Israel’s right-wing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked appointed four new justices last February. One of the recent judges appointed to the Israeli high court is a settler,” Khoury said.
To avoid being deported, some Palestinians have resorted to applying for Israeli citizenship. A path to citizenship exists, but the vast majority choose not to pursue it as it involves pledging allegiance to Israel, the occupying power. And not all of those who apply are granted citizenship. Since 2003, only about 15,000 of Jerusalem’s 330,000 Palestinians have applied; Israeli authorities have approved fewer than 6,000, the report says.

Prison becomes ‘second home’ for Turkish cartoonist

Updated 27 min 34 sec ago

Prison becomes ‘second home’ for Turkish cartoonist

  • Unfailingly optimistic and modest, Kart refuses to be run down by his ordeals

ISTANBUL: Renowned Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart says he has spent as much time in prison and courthouses as he has at work since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power.

His latest stint in jail started in April, after an appeals court upheld his sentence of three years and nine months for “helping terrorist organizations.”

Released last week pending another appeal, Kart told AFP: “For 15 years, prisons and courthouses have become a second home to me.”

Kart, who was recognized last year by the Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace, was among 14 journalists and staff from the renowned opposition paper Cumhuriyet convicted in the case.

He was initially arrested in 2016 after Erdogan launched a major crackdown on opponents in the wake of a failed coup.

“I have spent almost the same amount of time in court corridors as I spent in the paper. It is very unfortunate,” he told AFP.

Unfailingly optimistic and modest, Kart refuses to be run down by his ordeals, and says he always made an effort to look his best for prison visitors.

“I never welcomed my visitors in a hopeless state,” he said. “I would shave, pick my cleanest shirt from my modest wardrobe and welcome them with open arms. We would spend our time telling jokes.” His morale was boosted by the knowledge he had done nothing wrong.

“If you believe that your position is right, if you have an inner peace about your past actions, then it is not that difficult to stand prison conditions,” he said. Kart has been in and out of trouble since Erdogan took power in 2003.

His first lawsuit came in 2005 over a cartoon portraying Erdogan, then prime minister, as a cat entangled in a ball of wool.

“I have drawn cartoons for over 40 years ... I did it in the past with other political leaders, but I was never the subject of a court case,” Kart said. 

“The frame of tolerance has seriously narrowed today.”

The current case against him claims he contacted members of the Gulen movement accused of orchestrating the failed coup in 2016. 

It also says the 14 Cumhuriyet staffers had conspired to change the paper’s editorial policy to support the Gulenists, as well as Kurdish rebels and the ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front.

“Today the accusations of terrorism have gone well beyond a realistic point,” Kart said.

“When you take a look at my cartoons, you see how much I am against any kind of terrorist organization and how seriously and strongly I criticize them.”

Rights advocates including the Reporters Without Borders have called on Turkey to revise its anti-terrorism and defamation laws, which they claim are abused to silence opponents.

Cumhuriyet — Turkey’s oldest daily founded in 1924 — is not owned by a business tycoon but by an independent foundation, making it an easier target for authorities.

The paper’s former editor-in-chief Can Dundar fled to Germany after being convicted in 2016 over an article alleging that Turkey had supplied weapons to Islamist groups in Syria.

It has its own internal problems, too — Kart and some of the others actually quit the paper last year over disagreements with the new management.

But the case has added to the chilling effect that has infected the whole of the media in Turkey, which has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.

No date has been set for the next appeal, and Kart has no idea how the saga will end.

“Everyone knows that there has been a political shadow hanging over our case,” he said.

Whatever happens, he said his focus would remain on drawing.

“Cartoons are really a very strong language because you can find a way to express yourself under any circumstances, even under pressure.”