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Demand Protection for Palestinian Civilians Amid Operation Protective Edge

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We are petitioning to express our deep concern with Israel’s ongoing military aggressions toward civilian populations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory during, and in the aftermath of, “Operation Brother’s Keeper."

On June 12, three Israeli settlers disappeared. On June 30, their bodies were discovered. We send our heartfelt condolences to the settlers’ families, and we condemn all violence against civilian populations. In retribution for the settlers, Israel is carrying out air strikes in Gaza, believing that these killings were orchestrated by Hamas. Hamas has consistently denied responsibility for the attacks. Sadly, in searching for the settlers, Israel had shot and killed seven Palestinian civilians in the West Bank while engaging in unlawful and disproportionate acts that have affected thousands of innocent, law-abiding, peaceful Palestinians and Americans.

On June 21, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) indiscriminately fired rounds of live ammunition and rubber bullets in Ramallah which directly affected American citizens. A rising third year American law student, fell victim to this unlawful aggression. The IDF shot a bullet through his window in a high-rise downtown apartment complex. Despite the distress and property damage he incurred as a result of the IDF's violent actions, there is no viable, legal avenue for him to receive compensation.

On July 5, Tariq Khdair, an American citizen, age 15, from Florida was severely beaten and hospitalized in critical condition. Videos and photographs show Tariq being beaten by masked Israeli soldiers who were punching him in the head without due cause. There is no evidence that Tariq was engaged in any violence. This was yet another indiscriminate attack that affected an American citizen.  The IDF continues to conduct a widespread and aggressive operation, claiming their military tactics as necessary for Israeli security.

 Al-Haq, an independent non-governmental human rights organization established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, has documented these aggressions through on-the-ground field research, eyewitness testimonies, and hard evidence in its June 2014 MDD Report. From June 13 to July 1, the IDF has shot and killed seven Palestinian civilians, including one child. According to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Israel has arrested approximately five hundred Palestinians across the West Bank since the start of the operation, seventy-seven of whom are being held in administrative detention. Israeli forces have also executed: late-night raids and ransacking of Palestinian homes; the destruction and theft of private property; and checkpoint closures which restrict the freedom of movement for Palestinian civilians. Furthermore, since the beginning of the operation, Israeli citizens residing in the West Bank have engaged in increased levels of settler violence, targeting innocent Palestinians in their homes and on the streets. Most unfortunate was the killing of 17-year-old Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir who was abducted from a street near his home in Shu'fat, in occupied East Jerusalem, and burned alive.

Under these documented facts, Israel is in clear violation of its obligations as an Occupying Power under international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Restricting the freedom of movement and the livelihood of Palestinian civilians, while inflicting excessive amounts of damage to property and possessions, is a form of collective punishment which is expressly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Under Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel must protect Palestinians against all threats, insults, and acts of violence. Instead, Israel has systematically enabled settler violence towards Palestinians. Under Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Israel must allow the occupied Palestinian people to enjoy their home and family free from arbitrary interference. Israel, however, continues to conduct widespread, indiscriminate night-time raids which have resulted in a drastic increase in administrative detainees. These highly disruptive raids instill within Palestinian society a constant fear that a loved one may be arrested at any time without warning. In June, two elderly Palestinians died from heart attacks associated with these raids.

As concerned and politically engaged Americans, we believe it is necessary for the United States government to separate itself from Israel's unlawful actions in order to safeguard the American image and American interests in the region. The $3.1 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel this year implicates the U.S. as a partner to the Israeli military's violations of international law.

In January 2009, fifty-four Members of Congress sent a joint letter of concern to the Obama Administration, advocating for Israel to end its economic blockade in Gaza. In order to help end injustices that are perpetuated as a result of U.S. military aid to Israel and to distance the U.S. from Israel’s illegal and retributive actions, we hope that you, and other Members of Congress, will once again encourage the Obama Administration to restrict U.S. military aid to Israel until Israel is able to:

- Present a legal basis for each arrest and reevaluate its administrative detention policy

- Treat all persons arrested with humanity and respect inherent to their right to dignity

- End the impunity enjoyed by settlers who engage in violence towards Palestinians

- Provide reparations to those unjustly affected by indiscriminate military violence

- Cease activities which impose collective punishment and excessive force on Palestinians

If the current strategy of Operation Brother’s Keeper continues, the political, economic, and humanitarian consequences will be disastrous, especially now, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Continued widespread aggression towards the Palestinian people will also further derail the peace process.  As Americans living on the ground and working for human rights organizations in Israel and in Palestine, we truly hope that the U.S. government will encourage its military ally, Israel, to take the aforementioned steps to ensure justice and peace.

We recognize that the Israeli government has conducted Operation Brother’s Keeper out of a keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action. This concern, however, must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of Palestinians. We pray that no more innocent lives are lost. Undoubtedly, fulfilling the needs of civilians in both Israel and Palestine are mutually reinforcing goals which advance peace and security for all those living in the region.

We believe it is in the United States’ national interest to show the world that the U.S. is dedicated to addressing Israel’s security needs and to safeguarding the rights of the occupied Palestinian people. We hope you will join other Members of Congress in encouraging the Obama Administration to demonstrate this commitment as soon as possible in order to prevent further deaths of innocent civilians in the region. Thank you for your time and consideration.



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