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The Story of Two Daughters of Jerusalem

    Monday, July 18, 2016 - 15:35
    Photo Credit: 
    © Amnesty International

    By Jim Joyce, Amnesty International Canada's Coordinator for Israel/OPT/Palestine

    Samah Dweik, a reporter for the Jerusalem Arabic newspaper, Al-Quds, (the largest Palestinian newspaper in circulation), was detained on  April 10th, 2016. She was accused, not for the stories she filed on patterns of human rights violations — house demolitions, nor it seems her reports on the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence; but for “incitements of violence” found by Israeli authorities on her Facebook page. She was taken into detention from her home in Silwan, an area of East Jerusalem. Her parent’s house was ransacked, her computer, files, books were carried away. At her first court date, the Central Court reversed the decision of Magistrate Court [conditional release] and extended her detention until the conclusion of legal proceedings. Her family was informed on 11 May that her trial date was 16 May. At that hearing she was charged with “media incitement” and the trial was postponed to June 1st. She remained in Hasharon prison. When she was bought to court [18 July], she was convicted for “incitement” [in her posts on Facebook] and sentenced to six months. Her name was among the nineteen and then twenty-one and now more, Palestinian journalists, some of them receiving administrative detention.  [See the case of Hasan Safadi and Omar Nazzal.]

    One of the last set of stories Samah Dweik was working on was about Marah Bakir, a 16-year-old student shot and wounded for “waving a knife” by border police on the way home from school on 18 Oct. 2015.  There are photos of her lying on the ground, bleeding. Samah Dweik spent time with Marah Bakir’s family who were attempting to visit her in the hospital. They could not visit her after she was imprisoned.

    After she was shot Marah Bakir was taken to hospital where she received care while handcuffed to her bed.  Soon she was moved to a cell in prison; a girl from East Jerusalem to Hasharon, a woman’s prison inside Israel. She was labeled “a terrorist” by Israeli authorities because she had a knife, according to the border police who did the shooting. She was one of three girls named in a World Health Organization report identifying patterns of physical abuse - Palestinian children held without charge in Israeli prisons.  Other concerns were identified: children kept with adults in the same prison; like most of Palestinians moved from were they lived into Israel proper, often preventing families from visiting them, making it difficult for lawyers, especially Palestinians from contacting them. Her shooting in the second week of October was but one in a horrific week of killings and counter-killings.  When tightened Israeli security saw a threat at every checkpoint, additional delays fed anger as the usual wait yet made longer.  In October, when the numbers were totalled up, 10 Israelis and 69 Palestinians had been killed.  More deaths have been occurred since.

    There are more numbers beyond the number of Israelis and Palestinians killed; numbers in stories about the kinds of attacks by Palestinians, some with cars, some with guns, and most with knives or scissors, or phantom knives. There are stories of Palestinians killed by many Israelis, settlers, border police and soldiers. There have been hundreds of Palestinians detained, many of them children.

    Amnesty International has said again, “Deliberately attacking civilians is contrary to one of the most fundamental principles of international law and can never be justified."

    A relative of Samah Dweik pointed out the dilemma: “For Israel, covering the human suffering in Jerusalem and the aggression that Palestinians face on a daily basis is considered incitement.  They want Palestinians to remain silent and they want to conceal the true face of the occupation by arresting and persecuting people like my sister”. For reporting on a shooting by armed border guards, she is the one jailed and charged with “inciting violence”. Most reports about the use of lethal force are not investigated, those that are are done perfunctorily in house with findings buried in secrecy by Israeli officials. 

    Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, condemns the continued and systematic targeting and arrests of journalists. In its statement, Addameer calls these journalists human rights defenders. The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders describes their activities: (a) collecting and disseminating information on violations; (b) investigating, gathering information regarding and report on human rights violations; (c) investigating and reporting on violations to help end ongoing violations. The persecution of journalists who disseminate information on human rights violations is the repression of press freedom as well as freedom of speech.

    These two daughters of Jerusalem remain in Israel’s prison for women. The sixteen-year old student has now been detained for eight months for one dubious incident on the way home from school one day, for which she was shot and wounded.  She has been since physically abused in prison. The journalist remains in prison for the comments she posted on her Facebook page. 

    O daughters of Jerusalem do not wave a knife or phone. 

    For More information See:

    Israeli forces in Occupied Palestinian Territories must end pattern of unlawful killings [27 Oct 2015]

    All deliberate attacks on civilians reprehensible and unjustified [20 Nov 2015]

    Children Administratively Detained [Urgent Action, 03 Nov 2015]

    For more information or sources, contact Jim Joyce: IsrOTPalcoordinator@amnesty.ca


    Jim Joyce is Amnesty International Canada’s Coordinator for Israel/OPT/Palestine. You can contact him here.