For some reason, no one has asked us why we did not speak out in criticism of the two border police officers who were filmed grabbing and kicking a Palestinian child in Hebron. No one asked, despite the fact that this incident clearly relates to human rights and despite the fact that even the border police spokesperson himself has denounced it.
It’s surprising because we are often expected to condemn various serious incidents – anything from what is going on in Syria to Qassam rockets being fired at Israeli civilians (which we have, in fact, condemned). On the other hand, no one raises an eyebrow when we say nothing about outposts being built, “price tag” incidents, the Eisner affair, or other cases of unlawful violence.
In any event and though no one has asked, Gisha believes this incident provides a good opportunity to share, as we have in the past, the considerations that guide our decisions on whether or not to issue responses to various events.
One of the goals of Gisha’s work is to expose restrictive access policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially in Gaza, to judicial, public and parliamentary scrutiny. We believe that this type of scrutiny is essential in a democracy and feel that focusing on the kind of rights that allow for economic development, education, trade, healthy family lives – in short, a future – is critical.
In the fairly narrow field of focus that is “freedom of movement”, we work to maintain high professional standards that incorporate a commitment to our clients, a reliance on Israeli and international law as our foundation and the use of reliable and accurate information. Any departure from our mandate and area of expertise is carefully considered and even then, we proceed with utmost caution. Fortunately, there are Israeli organizations that are adept at professionally investigating and condemning rights violations in spheres that we do not cover in our work, including violence perpetrated by both sides.
But wait, if this is the case, why did we condemn the rockets?
Because security considerations often have an impact on human rights, including the right to freedom of movement. Restrictions on movement are imposed on Gaza within a specific security context, and this context is relevant for understanding why the restrictions were introduced and whether they are reasonable and proportionate. Providing the entire context for these restrictions would be impossible, but since rocket fire has been and continues to be used by many as a justification for the civilian closure of Gaza, we thought it was important to address it. The firing of rockets toward civilian population centers is a war crime and a breach of international law. That cannot be ignored. However, it is also important to note that violations of international law by one party to the conflict cannot justify further violations by the other party.