For Everything There Is a Season : Today I Mourn, Tomorrow

For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to mourn. . . . Ecclesiastes 3

Today, I mourn. I mourn with the people of Gaza where there were at least six children who were killed and at least 60 have died from the excessive force used by the Israeli military yesterday.

Today, I mourn. I mourn with all Palestinians who 70 years ago were forced off of their land where they and their ancestors have lived since. . . . forever. Over 700,000 Palestinians became refugees when 600 villages and towns by Israelis were attacked and many destroyed by Israelis. They and their descendants are still refugees living in conditions that are deplorable.

Today, I mourn. I mourn with the land that is Palestine, a land called Holy. As it was in the time of; Jeremiah and Isaiah, Micah and Amos, Jesus and Peter, it is a land that is occupied. Occupiers, then and today, treat the people of the land with disdain and as second class citizens subservient to those who wield power.

Today, I mourn. I mourn because there are those like Netanyahu and Trump and Kushner who blame the victims for the deaths and injuries they have caused. Who say it is a great day while the fields nearby are covered with blood.

Today, I mourn. I mourn because of politicians who call for calm and who refuse to demand accountability even in the face of evidence. These calls benefit only the aggressor.

Today, I mourn. I mourn because of journalists who slant the truth to support the narrative of the aggressor and who refuse to ask the difficult questions that can allow the people to have their eyes opened.

Today, I mourn, for it feels like what I do matters as much as a drop of rain in an ocean.

Tomorrow, I will work for peace and justice for one cannot exist without the other and that is all God truly asks of me and of you.

Below is my letter sent to Prime Minister Trudeau around mid-day on May 14 in Canada’s capital.

May 14, 2018
Dear Prime Minister,
Over 50 Palestinian protestors, including at least four children, have been killed by the Israeli military already today in Gaza; over 1,200 have been wounded. There are reports that the Israelis have used tanks to fire upon protestors. Meanwhile, there have been no reports of any Israelis being harmed.

I write to you as the Chair of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel, a network of members and friends of the United Church of Canada (UNJPPI), to plead with you to contact Prime Minister Netanyahu and demand that Israel cease and desist from their ongoing gross violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention in responding to protests in Gaza.

UNJPPI condemns any and all violence. We fear that the excessive use of force by Israel will surely feed the level of anger and mistrust toward Israelis by Palestinians. Israel’s disproportion use of force is unjustified and in violation of international law. This aggressive use of force serves as yet another massive blow to any hope for peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

We urge you to speak with members of your caucus who recently visited Palestine and who witnessed firsthand the reality of the illegal occupation of Palestine; from 12 year old children who are subjected to military tribunals, to inhumane treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, to the theft of Palestinian natural resources including and especially water, to separate roads and schools that have lead people like Nobel prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu to declare that the situation for Palestinians is worse than it was for blacks in South Africa under apartheid.

Canadians are proud of our historic role as defenders of peace and human rights globally. Your government by not taking a public stand serves as tactic approval to Israel’s excessive and deadly use of force. Therefore, we urge you to contact the Prime Minister of Israel to cease and desist. Also, that you register Canada’s strong condemnation of the excessive use of force against children, women and men who were exercising their rights as protected under international law.

Peace, Paix, Salaam, Shalom,
Rev. Steve Berube
Chair: United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel

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Khan Al-Ahmar Threatened Once Again.

An open letter to PM Trudeau.
May 7, 2018
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
I am writing to you as chair of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI), a network of members and friends of the United Church of Canada, to ask you to urgently apply diplomatic and public pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu to stop his Israeli government from demolishing the Palestinian village of Khan Al Ahmar in the occupied West Bank. If Israel follows through with the demolition orders, it would be in violation of several clauses of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Canada as a High Contracting Party is obligated to ensure respect for the Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Israel. Therein, we ask that you insist that Israel cease and desist from any demolitions in Khan Al Ahmar and other Palestinian villages in occupied territory. Further, that you urge Israel to respect its obligations under international law.

The Israeli government is threatening to destroy the homes and forcibly displace 173 people including 92 children so they can expand the illegal Ma’ale Adumim settlement. This action would constitute gross violations of the following articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention:
– Article 33 prohibiting collective punishment.
– Article 49 prohibiting all forcible transfers of civilian populations by an occupying power.
– Article 50 obligating the occupying power to ensure the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children. The demolition orders target the “Rubber Tire” school in this village that serves the children of the village and 150 children from neighbouring villages.
– Article 53 prohibiting the destruction of personal property by an occupying power unless it is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

Further, this action can be construed as an act of systematic oppression by the Israeli government committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one ethnic group over a different ethnic group which is prohibited under the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid: Article II (d).

UNJPPI stands in solidarity with Israeli human rights groups in supporting the statement of B’Tselem that the forcible transfer of an entire Palestinian community in the occupied Palestinian territories would be “virtually unprecedented” since the Israeli military occupation began in 1967.

I would further note that the current situation in Khan Al Ahmar exemplifies the level of contempt for Palestinians by the Israeli government. I visited the village with the First Secretary of the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv. Embassy officials can testify that infrastructure to support a nearby illegal Israeli settlement is located in a fenced area adjacent to the village. Yet, the Israelis have not provided the Palestinians with access to either electricity or running water. This means Palestinians live in third world conditions while a few hundred meters away is an illegal settlement with modern infrastructure found in any city in a developed nation.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, said the following on Feb. 27, 2018:
“Few issues are as important as those that relate to human rights and freedoms.

We make a point of promoting and defending the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and doing everything in our power to protect all people against all forms of abuse to ensure that everyone fully benefits from the fundamental rights and freedoms proclaimed in the declaration.
In 1948, representatives from many countries, including Canada, came together and drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.”

We are encouraged by Minister Freeland’s statement and believe that Canada must take a principled leadership role in the international community and hold other governments to account – including Israel.

Based on Minister Freeland’s comments, your government’s silence on the killing of 45 Palestinians including 5 children and the wounding of over 5,000 during the peaceful March of Return in Gaza is disconcerting especially in light of comments made by the European Union nations.

I urge you as a leader who trumpets Canada’s role as a supporter of human rights to call Prime Minister Netanyahu and express Canada’s concerns with Israel’s plan to demolish Khan Al Ahmar and its disregard for the human rights of Palestinians. Further, that you insist Israel abide by the international treaties that both Canada and Israel have signed.

I look forward to your response.

Peace, Paix, Salaam, Shalom

Rev. Steve Berube
Chair: United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel

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Gaza 3.0

For the third consecutive Friday, tens of thousands of Palestinians exercised their right, under international law, to protest.  The “March of Return” focuses on their rights, guaranteed under the Geneva Convention, to return to the land their ancestors have inhabited since before recorded history.

For the third consecutive Friday, Israelis violently attacked Palestinian protestors. More than 30 Palestinians have been killed, including two minors, and hundreds have been injured by Israeli forces. There is video evidence of Palestinians being shot in the back and of others shot while bowed in prayer.

Gaza April 13

For the third consecutive Friday, Israelis blamed Palestinians for the violence. Yet, there have been no reports of any Israelis being harmed. Nor have any Palestinians crossed the fence from Gaza into Israel.

The roots of the “March of Return” go back to 1948, when faced with terrorist attacks by Israeli forces, 750,000 Palestinians fled some 600 villages and towns. Many ended up in Gaza where today 1.3 million of Gaza’s 2 million people are refugees.

Gaza has become known as, “the largest open air prison in the world.” The Palestinians who live there do not have adequate hospitals. Also, the water is undrinkable, electricity  is available for only a few hours a day and raw sewage is being pumped into the Mediterranean. This is mainly because much of Gaza’s vital infrastructure was destroyed by Israel in 2012 and 2014.gaza

The Gazan economy is in collapse because of the 11-year long blockade by Israel and its ally Egypt. A few supplies are allowed in but it is insufficient for the needs let alone rebuild after the destruction in 2014. Unemployment is around 50 percent.

International groups are pleading with governments to send medical supplies to hospitals in Gaza that are severely under stocked.

Israeli human rights groups have joined international groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, in condemning the current harsh response from the Israeli military. B’Tselem said Friday that the open-fire policy was “manifestly unlawful.” Breaking the Silence issued a statement by five former Israeli snipers who said they were “filled with shame and sorrow” over the recent attacks on protestors. They also stated, “Instructing snipers to shoot to kill unarmed demonstrators, who pose no danger to human life, is another product of the occupation and military rule over millions of Palestinian people, as well as of our country’s callous leadership, and derailed moral path.”

Even the New York Times, one of the most pro-Israel newspapers in the world, has called for an independent investigation into the Israeli response to what have been peaceful demonstrations.

Israel is about to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its creation. It has much to be proud of. But, it also seems to have forgotten its roots within Judaism where the Biblical prophets focused on the call of God for the people; to beat their swords in ploughshares, to do justice, to care for the foreigner and for all in need. Israel continues to dehumanize Palestinians and it ignores the rule of international law and uses violence against the Palestinian people.

The demonstrations will continue until the middle of May.

It seems there is little I and others can do except to contact our respect governments, the governments of Israel and of Palestine to express concern the violence being directed against Palestinians and the long term injustices Palestinians have faced for 70 years including the right of return.

Also, for Christians, I encourage you to pray for Palestinians who were the first followers of Jesus. And for all people of faith, I encourage you to pray that God’s peace with justice may prevail across the entire world and especially in the land many of us call Holy.

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Good Friday and Gaza

The most solemn day for Christian’s is Good Friday, the day when a brutally oppressive occupying force executed Jesus under the pretense that he was a threat.

This Good Friday, another brutally oppressive occupying force killed 18 and wounded hundreds of Palestinians under the pretense that they were a threat.   2018 Gaza Protest

Just as Jesus posed no real threat 2,000 years ago, there was no real threat to Israel this Good Friday as an estimated 30,000 Palestinians walked though farm fields to the militarized fence that separates the two peoples. A few threw stones and others lit tires and rolled them to the border but no one attempted to cross the fence. Meanwhile, the hundred plus Israeli snipers who had been deployed crouched on top of a berm waiting to be called into action. When the order came from their superiors, they opened fire on men, women and children. Other Israeli military forces shot tear gas into the crowd. Others just watched.

There is strong evidence that the Israelis were itching for the Palestinians to do something so they could retaliate. On Maundy Thursday, an Israeli tank fired on and killed a Palestinian farmer who was working in his fields near the border. An innocent man harvesting parsley, as he did every day, literally became cannon fodder for the Israelis. They knew his death would trigger violence at the protest the next day. The die was cast for this Good Friday just as it was when Judas kissed Jesus in the Garden the night before his execution.

It is known Israelis often try to provoke violence from Palestinians before major events. I witnessed how they choked off the flow of people at the checkpoint in Bethlehem the two weeks prior to President Obama’s arrival. Movement through the border ground to a slow crawl. The normal 90 minute crossing became three hours or more. I feared that out of frustration someone might do something that would trigger a major crackdown but they didn’t. Then two days before Obama’s arrival the international media started to pour in and everything changed at the border. It was like someone opened a spigot and the flow of people was faster than I had seen in the previous two months. Palestinians were clearing Checkpoint 300 in twenty minutes.

I was told Israeli politicians like to provoke Palestinians to the boiling point before major international events. If the Palestinians react with violence then the Israelis crackdown and claim that they are under constant threat and they are the victims.

The violence on Good Friday reminded me of 2014 when Israel shocked and dismayed the world by its brutal attack on Gaza. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless. Hospitals and schools were razed. Critical infrastructure including water, sanitation and the electrical system were destroyed.

More important, over 2,250 Palestinians were killed including 551 children and 299 women as well as seventy-one Israelis including one child. Over 11,200 Palestinians were wounded including 3,540 women and 3,436 children. About one third of these children now have a permanent disability and more than 300,000 children are in need of psycho-social support as a result of Israel’s actions.

Since then, Israel and its ally Egypt have maintained a chokehold on Gaza that has blocked many of the goods needed for rebuilding the Gazan economy and infrastructure from going into the enclave.

As with the violence of 2014, Israelis are not known for proportionality. As I look at the pictures from Friday, I am reminded that rocks are no match for rifles; burning tires are no match for tear gas; and protest signs are never a match for tanks.

International human rights organizations have condemned the attack on the protesters. Amnesty International called on Israel to immediately end its “heavy handed, and often lethal suppressions of Palestinian demonstrations.” Peace Now said that the casualties are “an intolerable result of trigger-happy policy.”

The Palestinians plan to continue their Friday protests until Nakba Day – May 15. Nakba means catastrophe. It is the day that commemorates their expulsion from their homes and their lands 70 years ago. It is also the day when Palestinians remember that under international law they are guaranteed the right to return to what is rightfully theirs.

The Palestinians have a right to protest and good reason. They are among the world’s most desperate people. Over 70 years ago, the Nakba occurred, Zionist forces used terrorist tactics to drive 750,000 Palestinians off the land where their ancestors had lived for thousands of years. Over 50 years ago, the state of Israel began its occupation of the rest of Palestine. Unemployment rates in Gaza are over 40%. There is not enough safe water to drink and the sewage system is in ruins. Families are limited to a few hours of electricity a week. At least the Roman occupiers provided safer water and waste disposal for the people they conquered.

The International Court of Justice, the UN Security Council and General Assembly have ruled that Israel is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international Human Rights and Humanitarian laws. Israel responds by attacking the UN and claiming it is the victim.

Netanyahu seems emboldened by Trump and now more than ever treats Palestinians and their land as the Romans treated those who they conquered in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago.

As I think about the coming weeks and how the protests that will continue each Friday, I hope and pray that peace and justice might prevail. But, I am preparing for more death and devastation. I believe that until the last protest occurs on Nakba Day that Good Friday will continue for the people of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and like 2,000 years ago the skies will continue to darken as more innocent men, women and children die at the hands of the ongoing occupiers.


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Ralph Goodale: Canadian Minister of Public Security Offers a Slap in the Face to Palestinians and a Pat on the Back to Netanyahu

Dear Minister Goodale,

I am writing to you on behalf of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel. We are a network composed of members and friends of the United Church of Canada.

The installation of Gov. General Julie Payette reminded us of the importance of signs and symbols. Remembrance Day reminds us of Canada’s history of support for peace and justice internationally.

Recently you attended a meeting in occupied East Jerusalem. This was a symbolic pat on the back for the Netanyahu government and a slap in the face to the Palestinian people.

As you are aware, in December, the UN Security Council passed SC 2334 that chastised Israel for its ongoing violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention in relation to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and further incursions of the wall beyond the Green Line.

Your meeting occurred shortly after the Israelis demolished four elementary schools in Palestine. In response, the Belgian deputy Prime Minister condemned this action, “By undermining such humanitarian projects, Israel contravenes its international obligations as an occupying power.”

These actions by the Israelis are tantamount to collective punishment targeting vulnerable Palestinian children and will inflame tensions for generations to come and represent a further violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

As a former human rights observer in the West Bank, I witnessed on a daily basis Israeli violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws. It was especially disturbing to witness the intimidation tactics of the Israeli military against Palestinian children including arresting and putting on trial children as young as 12 in Military Courts.


– Would you please explain why you breeched diplomatic protocol by meeting in East Jerusalem? After all, would you have met with Russian officials in the Russian occupied sections of Georgia?

– Alternatively, does your government reject the concerns of the Security Council outlined in SC 2334?

– Further, do you as Minister of Public Safety, believe we actually have anything to learn with respect to public security from the only nation in the world that prosecutes 12 year old children before Military Courts?

This Canadian government needs to stand up for human rights around the world – especially for the rights of children.

Peace, Paix, Salaam, Shalom,

Rev. Steve Berube

Chair: United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel



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Letter to Chrystia Freeland Re Khan Al Ahmar and Susiya

Sept. 23, 2017

The Hon. Chrystia Freeland,

Minister: Foreign Affairs – Canada

Dear Minister Freeland,

I am writing to you as chair of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI), a network of members and friends of the United Church of Canada, to ask you to urgently apply diplomatic and public pressure to stop the imminent demolition of the Palestinian villages of Khan Al Ahmar and Susiya in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that all 42 homes and businesses in Khan Al Ahmar received demolition orders on February 19, 2017. The village has taken their case before Israeli courts. Final court hearings for the communities are due on September 25 (for Khan Al Ahmar) and October 1 (for Susiya) during which the judges are expected to authorise the demolitions, which could take place as soon as the next day.

In 2013, I served as a human rights observer in Palestine and Israel on behalf of the World Council of Churches. On one of my visits to Khan Al Ahmar in 2013, I was privileged to take the First Secretary at our embassy in Tel Aviv, to meet some of the people in the village.


Khan Al Ahmar survives without water, electricity and other basic infrastructure in “third world” conditions. Meanwhile water, gas and electrical lines for a nearby illegal Israeli settlement living in “first world” conditions are immediately adjacent to the village as shown in my photo below.


Demolitions and forcible displacement of Khan Al Ahmar, Susiya and similar communities are a gross violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention:

– This forced relocation is a form of collective punishment in violation of Article 33.

– Article 49 prohibits all forcible transfers of civilian populations by an occupying power.

– Article 50 obligates the occupying power to ensure the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children. The demolition orders also target schools in these villages. For your information, beyond these villages, Israel has recently demolished three other schools in the occupied Palestinian territory.

– Article 53 prohibits the destruction of personal property by an occupying power unless it is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

Further, this action can be construed as an act of systematic oppression by the Israeli government committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one ethnic group over a different ethnic group. This is prohibited under the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid: Article II (d).

Beyond the legalities, demolitions of entire villages leave hundreds of children, like the ones in the pictures from Khan Al Ahmar, and their families homeless.



According to Haaretz, Israeli authorities have confirmed that this widespread issuance of demolition orders is unprecedented, and is a declaration of intention in advance of an attempt to evacuate the entire village.


Morally and ethically, this action by the state of Israel is reprehensible, repulsive and repugnant. Our government, as a High Contracting party to the Fourth Geneva Convention is obligated to do all in its power to prevent this violation of international law. Further, this action flies in the face of SC 2334 by the Israeli government. This represents yet another major obstacle to the peace process .

As Minister of Foreign Affairs, you speak eloquently and frequently about the need to protect and defend human rights. Based on our treaty obligations and as a nation that supports international peace, I believe you are duty bound to publicly support the human rights of Palestinians in this instance.


I urge you to send representatives of the Canadian diplomatic missions in Palestine and Israel to visit Khan Al Ahmar and Susiya immediately. It is worth noting that in 2015, European Union representatives visited the Palestinian village of Susiya, which was threatened with demolition. International publicity and diplomatic pressure from this visit was vital in halting the planned demolitions at that time.

Please take urgent action to stop this imminent violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and to uphold Canada’s tradition of supporting human rights. On behalf of especially the children who welcomed me in Khan Al Ahmar and members of UNJPPI, I look forward to your response.




Rev. Steve Berube: UNJPPI Chair

404 Cleveland Ave.

Riverview, NB

E1B 1Y2



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What Leads to a Hunger Strike?

I am worried for the 1,500 of 6,500 Palestinian prisoners held by Israelis who have been on a hunger strike for over a month. I am also worried about what might happen.

Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail.

I witnessed a sampling of how volatile the situation can be while I was an Ecumenical Accompanier. In Feb. 2013, Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old Palestinian father of two died in an Israeli prison; there were reports his death was caused by torture and inadequate medical attention. Protests broke out across Palestine. The Israeli military responded harshly and quickly. Tear gas swept across the West Bank, stun grenades and rubber bullets were used on protestors. After a few days, the protests calmed down but the story continued.

Unsurprisingly, the Israeli autopsy found Jaradat died of natural causes. But, a noted Turkish pathology expert, Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, stated in her expert opinion, “the injuries on Jaradat’s body are indicative of “blunt trauma with a long and thick object” and are not consistent with resuscitation efforts. She also noted, beatings by blunt objects during detention is classified as “torture.” She concluded the cause of death was as a result of, “blunt trauma on the chest” resulting with “lung contusion” and “acute respiratory distress syndrome” (suffocation).”(i)

This situation is typical of what many human rights observers encounter, the Israeli government claims to be blameless for any anything that causes Palestinians to protest. Simultaneously, the Israeli military brutally crackdown on protestors. Meanwhile, NGO’s document the protests being rooted in Israeli military violence and/or unjust treatment of Palestinians before Israeli military courts.

Just before my term ended, another disturbing event occurred in Hebron. The picture shows the scene described to me by a colleague; Israeli soldiers detained a group of seven boys all under the age of 12. Again, outrage filled the streets. Again, the Israeli military cracked down.

I still cannot imagine the fear in each of these little boys. Nor, can I fully imagine how the indelible mark left on each of them will play out in the future.

Last year, Defense for Children International – Palestine collected affidavits from 161 West Bank children detained by Israeli forces and prosecuted under Israeli military courts. 25 were held in solitary confinement for interrogation purposes for an average of 16 days, a 23% increase over the previous year. The longest documented period of isolation for a child in 2016 was 29 days. (ii) Currently, there are about 300 children held by the Israeli military.

Ever since leaving, I have asked myself, “What kind of government treats children like this?”

Marwon Barghouti, the hunger strike leader, writing in the New York Times, points out that amoung the 6,500 Palestinians currently imprisoned by Israel are some, “who hold the dubious distinction of holding world records for the longest period in detention of political prisoners.”(iii)

These examples just begin to scratch the surface of the plight of Palestinian prisoners and the outrage felt by Palestinians around just this single issue.
The situation has deteriorated since I was there – for the prisoners and Palestinians as a whole. For example, there are almost 2,000 more Palestinian prisoners than four years ago.

Conditions have reached a crisis point. On April 17, Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike.

Hunger strikes are a desperate act by desperate people. They are an ancient, non-violent protest. Ghandi held several. The World Medical Association (WMA) Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikes states, “(Hunger strikes) are often a form of protest by people who lack other ways of making their demands known. . . . Genuine and prolonged fasting risks death or permanent damage for hunger strikers.(iv)

The prisoner’s demands are simple. They are merely asking for rights guaranteed under international treaties; family visits, proper medical care, an end to Israel’s practice of detaining Palestinians without charge in so-called administrative detention and stopping the use of isolation.

Several NGO’s have documented Israel’s violations of the 4th Geneva Convention in its treatment of Palestinian prisoners. Amnesty International states, ”Israel’s decades-long policy of detaining Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza in prisons inside Israel and depriving them of regular family visits is not only cruel but also a blatant violation of international law.”(v)

It is time to pressure our governments as Signatories to the 4th Geneva Convention to stop turning a blind eye to the Israeli treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including children. Governments need to demand that Israel live up to its obligations under international law and that Israel acquiesce to the demands of the Palestinian prisoners. Supporters of human rights and the rule of international law need to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners – their lives depend on us.



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