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A letter to the minister of defense

A letter to the minister of defense

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It is important to stress that even a demonstration threatening to cross the borders of the state is still a legitimate protest, and the danger to national security does not turn it into an act of war. In this case, the rules for use of force are still the rules of enforcing law and order, under which it is legitimate to act in order to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the border, but even then only in the framework of using non-lethal and crowd dispersal means.
It is important to stress that even a demonstration threatening to cross the borders of the state is still a legitimate protest, and the danger to national security does not turn it into an act of war. In this case, the rules for use of force are still the rules of enforcing law and order, under which it is legitimate to act in order to prevent the demonstrators from crossing the border, but even then only in the framework of using non-lethal and crowd dispersal means.

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8 August 2011Our ref.No. D1003Attention:Defense Minister Ehud Barak Fax: 03-6976218Dear Sir,
Re: Preparing security forcesto deal withanticipateddemonstrations in the occupied territories in September2011
We are writing to you, the minister of defense, to request thatyou createanappropriate policy and issue relevant instructions to the security forces fordealing with demonstrationsin the occupied territories and on the bordersof theState of Israel. Having served as prime minister during the events of October2000, you understand the complexity of these situations and are aware thatpreparation is essential.Introduction
1.Themedia has reported thatgrassrootsorganizers are planningnon-violentmarches and demonstrations intheoccupied territories andIsrael, includingmarches toward the Israeli border, to coincide with the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations. Palestinian residents of the occupied territories,Israeli citizens, foreign nationalsand international activists will participate inthese demonstrations.2.We haveheardreports that the security forcesare preparing to handle variousscenariosthat might take place in September. For example, the media has reportedthat the security forces are training to use
non-lethalmeans and physical obstaclesto disperseand preventtheanticipateddemonstrations.
3.It is essential that the securityforces prepare to handle anticipatedevents. Giventhe army’s history of flawedconductindealing with Palestinian demonstrations intheoccupiedterritories
, and given the loss of life that resulted from the handlingof the May-June demonstration atthe Syrianborder, which involved unarmed
In this matter, see our letter to the commander of the Border Police in Judea and Samaria concerningthe mishandling of events by security forces which employed excessive violence and riot-dispersionmeans during a nonviolent demonstration in the village of A-Nabi Salah -see this link: [[
foreign nationals
, we are deeplyconcerned bythe policy dictated and instructionsissued thusfar.4.Our concern increasedupon reading recently publishedstatements by seniomilitary officers. These statements givethe impression that the officersfailcompletely to acknowledge the right of the Palestiniansintheoccupiedterritoriesto exercise their right to freedom of expressionvia protests and unarmeddemonstrations
.5.The purpose of this letter isto ensure that security forces obeyinternational andIsraeli law. We request that theyincorporate the lessons learned from previousevents -particularly the recommendations ofthe Orr Committee, whichinvestigatedthe October 2000 events, whensecurity forcesshot andkilled 13Israeli civilians during Land Day demonstrations in the Galilee.6.Poor preparation for events similar to those expected in September 2011 led tograve consequences, including loss of life. We hope that the policyarticulatedand instructions issued will this timecorrespond with Israel's obligationsto thecivilianpopulation of the territories. This responsibility includes appropriatehandling of attempts by foreign nationals to enter Israel's territory, as discussed below.
The right to demonstrate and protest in the occupied territories
7.The right to demonstrate is inextricably linked to theright to freedom oexpression, whichisa fundamental right according to both international andIsraeli law. Itmust be protected. Restricting that rightleads to further violations of human rights, and this must be avoided.8.Itis the duty of the State of Israel and the security forces operating on its behalf tohonor and defend the right to freedom of expression of the Palestinians in theoccupied territories. This includes the right to demonstrate.9.
Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
, towhich the State of Israel is a signatory, anchors the freedom of demonstration inthe law, banning its restriction with the exception of "…
the interests of nationalsecurity or public safety, public order, the protection of public health ormorals,or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others
."10.The Israeli authorities do not acknowledge that the Palestinians in the occupiedterritories have the right to freedom of expression. In fact, they actively deny it.Militarylawinthe West Ban
andthe conduct of the security forces when
See article by Anschil Pfepper on Haaretz Online, "Fatalities in Clashes along Syria's and Lebanon'sBorders; Demonstrators entered Israeli Territory" (15 May, 2011)[
]; and another article by the same reporter inthe same media: "Hundreds of Palestinians Try to Cross the Border; Syrian Reports: 22 Killed" (5 June,2011) [
In this matter, net reported that, speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and DefenseCommittee, Chief of Staff Gantz referred to potential demonstrations as "a new arch of threats." See at:
Order No. 101 bans incitement and hostile propaganda; see:
dealing with demonstrations and protest activities by Palestinians in the territoriessuppress freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate.11.By denying Palestinians in the occupied territories theright to demonstrate, Israelis violating international law, which requires governments to honor and defend theright to freedom of expression and protest, including the right to demonstrate, aswell as the right to personal safety and physical integrity.12.
This attitude must change. Israel, as an occupying force, must allow the fullrealizationof freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate. It must notrestrict or harm those rights, except when the expected harm these acts mightcause to the state's security interests areserious and realand almost certain.
The proper application of this rule is particularly important in the occupiedterritories, where Palestinian civilians have no access to theoccupying force'scentersof government, and where staging a demonstration is their primarymeansof makingthemselves heard.Forceful dispersion of protests -the legal framework
14.The security forcesshould allow civil protest in the occupied territories, grantingasmuch leewayas possible to the freedom of expression.15.Force may be used to disperse demonstrations that have crossed the boundaries of what is permitted by international law, but the use of force should
follow the law-enforcement rules
--which areto distinguish between regulations for dispersingdemonstrations and those pertaining to the use of force in the framework of anarmed conflict. Civil protest is neithera war nor an armed conflict and theindividuals partaking in it must notbe consideredeitherwarriorsor civilians whotakepart in warfare
.16.According to the law, lethal force may be used only inorder to prevent
a real andimmediate threat to human lives, and only after all other less aggressive
options have been exhausted. It should beclear that firing at unarmeddemonstrators is absolutelyforbidden.
This rule applies even when dealingwith acts that challenge Israel's security interests (e.g., when attempts are made tocross or damage the separation barrier; when flotillas challenge the naval blockageof Gaza; when African refugees cross the border; and atprotest marches).17.These rules applyto the enforcement of law and order; they have been legislatedaccording toboth international law and Israeli law.
In this matter, see an article by Prof. Yuval Shani, "Order Disturbance -Not War" at
Art. 9 of the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement OfficialsAdopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba, 27 August to 7 September 1990,

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