Omar Shakir, J.D., M.A. works as the Israel and Palestine Director for Human Rights Watch. He investigates a variety of human rights abuses within the occupied Palestinian territories/Occupied Palestinian Territories or oPt/OPT (Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem) and Israel. He earned a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University, an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Affairs, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. He is bilingual in Arabic and English. Previously, he was a Bertha Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights with a focus on U.S. counterterrorism policies, which included legal representation of Guantanamo detainees. He was the Arthur R. and Barbara D. Finberg Fellow (2013-2014) for Human Rights Watch with investigations, during this time, into the human rights violations in Egypt, e.g., the Rab’a massacre, which is one of the largest killings of protestors in a single day ever. Also, he was a Fulbright Scholar in Syria.
Language of the oPt/OPT is recognized in the work of the OHCHR, Amnesty International, Oxfam International, United Nations, World Health Organization, International Labor Organization, UNRWA, UNCTAD, and so on. Some see the Israeli-Palestinian issue as purely about religion. Thus, this matters to freethought. These ongoing interviews explore this issue in more depth.
Here we continue with the 10th part in our series of conversations with coverage in the middle of middle of July, 2020, to the middle of September, 2020, for the Israeli-Palestinian issue. With the deportation of Shakir, this follows in line with state actions against others, including Amnesty International staff member Laith Abu Zeyad when attempting to see his mother dying from cancer (Amnesty International, 2019; Zeyad, 2019; Amnesty International, 2020), United States Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and United States Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who were subject to being barred from entry (Romo, 2019), Professor Noam Chomsky who was denied entry (Hass, 2010), and Dr. Norman Finkelstein who was deported in the past (Silverstein, 2008). Shakir commented in an opinion piece:
Over the past decade, authorities have barred from entry MIT professor Noam Chomsky, U.N. special rapporteurs Richard Falk and Michael Lynk, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, U.S. human rights lawyers Vincent Warren and Katherine Franke, a delegation of European Parliament members, and leaders of 20 advocacy groups, among others, all over their advocacy around Israeli rights abuses. Israeli and Palestinian rights defenders have not been spared. Israeli officials have smeared, obstructed and sometimes even brought criminal charges against them. (Shakir, 2019)
Now, based on the decision of the Israeli Supreme Court and the actions of the Member State of the United Nations, Israel, he, for this session and some prior sessions, works from Amman, Jordan. Originally, he worked from Tel Aviv, Israel.
*Interview conducted on September 25, 2020. The previous interview conducted on July 23, 2020.*
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: With regard to some of the activists, there were some issues regarding arbitrary arrests by the Hamas Authority in the use of the freedom of expression rights (Rasgon, 2020). What is the current status of the case? How did it escalate over time?
Omar Shakir: In early April, a group of Gaza activists engaged in a Zoom chat with Israeli citizens (United Nations Human Rights Council, 2020). They were speaking about the situation in Gaza and some of the challenges they face. A few days after when news of this event became public in Gaza, there was some pushback on social media. Hamas authorities detained seven of the activists, who participated in that Zoom chat (Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 2020). Several of the activists were released in a matter of days. Two have remained detained for over five months, as of this recording. The men were being held largely in this period in pre-trial detention facing interrogations. Last week, in around mid-September, Hamas authorities charged the two activists who were detained, as well as one who was released on bail, with a charge under the PLO’s revolution code, military law, for weakening the revolutionary spirit. This is a charge that Hamas authorities have used before as a way of detaining critics and opponents over their peaceful expression. The arrests of these activists and the ongoing detention of two of them is a part of Hamas’ practice of systematic detaining of individuals based on their peaceful free expression (Human Rights Watch, 2016; Human Rights Watch, 2018a; Harkov, 2011).
Jacobsen: Other larger news had to do with the Israel-United Arab Emirates normalization agreement (Keleman, 2020) or the Abraham Accords (Goldberg, 2020) peace agreement. How did this come about? How is this being discussed in some of the areas you’re covering?
Shakir: Israel has long had long relations with a number of Arab states, particularly in the Gulf. This agreement with the UAE makes the more secretive relationship public. It was marketed as a step in normalized relations in return for freezing annexation (U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Near East Affairs; Bowen, 2020; Fishere, 2020; Al-Jazeera, 2020a; Al-Jazeera, 2020b; Holland, & Spetalnick, 2020). Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately made clear that the deal is only a temporary pause on plans for annexing additional parts of the West Bank (Krauss, 2020). Of course, the UAE as well as Bahrain, who signed their own agreement with Israel, have had de facto relations with Israel, but, of course, much of their region – with the exception of Jordan and Egypt – had been part of a consensus to hold off on formally normalizing relations with Israel until there was an end to the occupation and a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obviously, this agreement broke that consensus. Of course, there are reports of additional agreements. On the ground, the impact has been limited. Annexation has been frequently raised by the Israeli government, but we have a reality where the Israeli government has been in control for over 50 years across the oPt, de facto annexing these areas, and exerting control (Human Rights Watch, 2017). Formal annexation would likely have meant little change on the ground, at least in the short-run. But for the Israeli government, it is a diplomatic achievement; in the sense, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his supporters can say, as opposed to previous agreements, that we were able to reach an agreement with an Arab state in the absence of having made any sorts of concessions or changes to their practices with regards to Palestinians on the ground.
Jacobsen: There is a Palestinian doctoral student in engineering who needs to leave from the Gaza Strip to Tel Aviv to receive a visa for a European state where he is meant to conduct research (Hass, 2020). The research would begin on October 1st. What are some of the difficulties around the case?
Shakir: Israel, for decades now, have kept sharp restrictions for travel on Palestinians in Gaza (Human Rights Watch, 2020a). For 13 years now, the Israeli government has maintained a closure on the Gaza Strip (Ibid.). The closure entails a generalized travel ban, which means, presumptively, Palestinians cannot leave Gaza through the Erez Crossing, their main crossing to the other point of the oPt, the West Bank, and abroad, unless they fall with a list of narrow humanitarian exceptions (Ibid.). Egypt has contributed to the closure with its own restrictions on its border crossing with Gaza. There is no formal exemption for students that are seeking to travel abroad. Sometimes, students manage with, say interventions of European embassies, to secure rarely issued permits. Sometimes, Palestinians leave by Egypt, who sometimes opens its crossing with Gaza (Human Rights Watch, 2017). But there are many instances where Palestinians are unable to leave and are delayed in starting semesters or missing it altogether. Human Rights Watch has documented cases of this sort. Israeli authorities bar Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank from using Ben Gurion Airport without a rarely issued permit from the Israeli army. The primary outlet for Palestinians to travel abroad is via Jordan. But to get there from Gaza, you need a permit to exit, as well as a Jordanian “No Objection” letter, which states that Jordan does not object to using their territory for transit. Of course, the closure has become even more restrictive with the pandemic. Whereas in 2019, travel via Erez was a small fraction, 1% to 3%, of what it was before the June 2007 tightening of the closure, we’ve seen, since March 2020, that fraction of a number reduced to a further fraction, 1% or 2% of before March 2020, which itself was 1% or 2% of 2000 (Gisha 2021a; Human Rights Watch, 2018b; Gisha, 2021b). The few that are being permitted to exit are those in need of urgent medical care and their companions, largely to go to East Jerusalem or to Ramallah, but almost none outside of that. This case is part of these larger restrictions on movement.
Jacobsen: What is the progress on the annexations as well as the building of further illegal settlements?
Shakir: In terms of annexation, as part of an agreement with the UAE, the Israeli government has put plans to formally annex additional parts of the West Bank on hold (al-Mughrabi & Williams, 2020; Miller, 2020). There have been media reports as to how long that hold will take place that vary from a few months to a few years (Landau & Reuters, 2020; Kaplan, 2020). But as of now, annexation doesn’t appear imminent. Certainly, we will wait until U.S. elections and potentially another round of Israeli elections. In terms of settlement expansion, that is, of course, a trend that has continued in 2020 (Shapiro, 2020). We saw in early 2020, in January and February, the government issue plans, issue tenders, as well as announce plans for a range of different settlements (ACAPS, 2020). The figures from the first two months of 2020 almost reached – in fact, exceeded in publishing tenders and advancing plans – all of the plans of 2019, according to the NGO Peace Now (Ibid.). Israel continues to entrench its illegal settlement enterprise. Those plans have not stopped during the pandemic.
Jacobsen: There was or is an academic who specializes in human rights named Dr. Valentina Azarova (Bard College Dublin, 2021). This is more close to home for me in terms of the University of Toronto or in Canada. One of the leading institutions of higher learning and research. There are some reports that she was denied a job. There are other reports that the job was there and then it was an offer that was rescinded. Those have different implications in terms of how they’re framed (CAUT, 2020; MEE Staff, 2020; B’nai Brith Canada, 2020). The controversy appears to centre around the fact that Azarova was documenting human rights abuses by Israel as a state (Deif, 2020; Page, 2020). As well, apparently, she has a strong human rights law background and reputation. What is the status of this particular case? What seems to be the fact of the matter?
Shakir: For full disclosure, one of my colleagues at Human Rights Watch is a partner of the person in question. What the press reports appear to indicate, the University of Toronto withdrew, rescinded, an offer that was made to a scholar to take over the position of heading their international human rights clinic. They apparently did so at the behest of a donor who objected to the candidate’s scholarship, which included work on the Israeli government’s violations of international law (Gessen, 2021). If this is true, it, certainly, goes to the heart of the university’s integrity and the space for academic freedom. Human Rights Watch has worked with this program before (Ibid.). We’ve had a number of interns that were, in fact, coming from the university. We have partnered together with them on a number of projects. Certainly, this is something of significant concern to all of us who care about academic freedom, including those of us at Human Rights Watch. There have been significant letters of support on behalf of this scholar, including a letter with 1,200 signatures including current and former special rapporteurs. It is concerning to all of us. It is important to see that this is handled transparently, that there is accountability and that the university conduct an independent external review and make its findings public. Universities should stand guard against attacks on academic freedom and should not take part in silencing scholars. No one should pay a price for exposing human rights violations by any country, including Israel.
Jacobsen: Ahmad Erekat was killed at a checkpoint (Najah, 2020; Human Rights Watch, 2020b; Masri, 2020; Adalah, 2020). What happened at the checkpoint? Why is the family not able to bury him?
Shakir: Israel has a long track record of using excessive force in policing situations (Human Rights Watch, 2019a). Human Rights Watch investigated a particular instance that took place in late June of this year in which a Palestinian vehicle at a checkpoint in the West Bank, as it approached, sharply swerved into a booth, where several Israeli soldiers stood (Human Rights Watch, 2020b). An individual emerged from the car, unarmed and, as soon as he did and apparently not approaching the officers, he was fatally shot and killed (Ibid.). The Israeli government has characterized this as a car ramming attack (Patel, 2020). The family has denied that account and said that it was likely caused by a malfunction of the car or an accident (Ibid.). Human Rights Watch investigated the killing (Human Rights Watch, 2020b). We determined that, when he emerged from the vehicle, he did not pose a significant threat to the life of the officers, making the killing apparently unlawful. The Israeli government has not indicated that it is investigating the case. In fact, now, since the killing for a period of three months, the Israeli government has held the body (Ibid.). The Israeli government has held the bodies of Palestinians killed in what they consider security incidents. There was a lawsuit filed on behalf of the family requesting the body be returned for burial. The Israeli government in return announced a decision that they will be withholding the bodies of all Palestinians killed in security incidents, as a form of leverage to secure the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who, apparently, have been held by the Hamas authorities in Gaza, since they were presumed to be killed in the 2014 hostilities (AFP, 2020). A Palestinian human rights group says that about 67 bodies of Palestinians are being held by the Israeli government (B’tselem, 2019). Of course, withholding bodies marks a serious violation of international law, both the bodies of Israeli soldiers held by Hamas and those held by the Israeli government of Palestinians, including those who had involvement in any armed group (Al-Haq, 2018).
Jacobsen: What is the status of lockdowns with regards to Covid within Israel?
Shakir: The Israeli government had an initial lockdown that took place from about late March until May (Ayyub, 2020). The government, for most of the summer, largely opened up things inside Israel. They maintained, of course, restrictions on travel into the country, but the number of cases within Israel has been on the rise (Goldenberg & Heller, 2020). So, over the last week and going forward, the Israeli government, in the context of a number of Jewish holidays, they have instituted a lockdown, which includes a variety of restrictions in terms of venues that are open (BBC News, 2020a). Obviously, there are exceptions to those restrictions, but a number of businesses are closed (BBC News, 2020b). There are some restrictions, as well, in terms of activities that can place (Heller, 2020). There are now also cases of community transmission of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip with the first cases of community transmission emerging in August (MacLeod, 2020). We have seen Hamas authorities institute a lockdown as well—broad-based at first, but more targeted of late (Akram, 2020). In the West Bank, Palestinians have been dealing with the community transmission of the coronavirus (Al-Jazeera, 2020c). The PA has taken a series of measures focused on more localized restrictions and lockdowns (OCHA, 2020).
Jacobsen: The United High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, made a statement about the lifting of the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel, “The blockade, which contravenes international law, has conclusively failed to deliver security or peace for Israelis and Palestinians, and should urgently be lifted” (OHCHR, 2020). Although, this is helpful and noteworthy and adds to the many, many years of speaking out against the blockade. Does this form of public statement, by even the U.N. High Commissioner, make any inroads or impact on how the discussion proceeds?
Shakir: Absolutely, I think statements are quite important. I think it is easy for folks to forget that Israel has, essentially, reduced Gaza to an open-air prison exacerbated by Egyptian restrictions (Amnesty International, n.d.). It is easy, years later, to accept that as normal. Every time there are armed hostilities, people forget about the context of closure, in which the majority of the population are barred from traveling unless they fit within a range of narrow exemptions, for example, if they manage to get a permit for urgent medical treatment. I think statements are important, because it is easy to forget in the day-to-day, with the annexation or escalation of particular hostilities, about the context of closure, which is really at the heart of the violations of the rights of Palestinians, not just to freedom of movement, but also to access to health (Human Rights Watch, 2019b; Human Rights Watch, 2021). Also when it comes to restrictions in terms of goods entering the country, they underly the economic woes of the population, where 80% of Gaza’s two million residents rely on humanitarian aid (UNRWA, n.d.). At the end of the day, the keys are in Israel’s hands. Egypt has some ability to help alleviate the situation with its crossing, but Israel, as the one that controls the movement of people and goods, the airspace, and access to the territorial waters, blocks the building of an airport and seaport for those in Gaza, continues to manage the population registry responsible for issuing I.D. cards, controls even the VAT, controls the no-go zone between Gaza and Israel, has effective control (Middle East Policy Council, n.d.; Al-Jazeera, 2021; The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021). It is important that statements continue to be issued and that countries prioritize this in their bilateral relations with Israel and push for ending the closure. Because until these unlawful and sweeping restrictions are lifted, we are going to continue to see tensions and hostilities there. The closure is really the central fact that accounts for the core of the misery of people in Gaza, effectively caged in an open-air prison.
Jacobsen: How has Israel, recently, in September halted some projects for Palestinians (Agence-France Presse, 2020)?
Shakir: Israel controls the entry and exit of people and goods to Gaza. Israel is able to control everything from how much fuel enters to how power plants run and how far fishermen can fish in the sea. Israel, for example, restricts entry of what it calls “dual-entry goods,” which are goods that, essentially, could be used for military purpose (International Trade Administration, 2020). But, under the Israeli definition, that includes x-ray technology, communications technology, gas tanks, construction material, which are essential for the everyday functioning of society. Israel sometimes decides to accelerate those restrictions (Gisha, 2020). For example, in August after some Palestinians launching incendiary balloons into Israel, Israel punitively restricted access for fishermen off the sea and reduced the entry of many goods, food and medicines (Shehada & Mahmoud, 2020). They have long been limiting the exports of those, including fuel important for the operation of Gaza’s one power plant, whose capacity has been significantly reduced by Israeli bombardment (Khoury & Zikri, 2020). The already limited quantity of electricity was further reduced amid these measures that were taken for a period of several weeks in August (Ibid.). As such, international projects all effectively require Israel’s approval. Egypt also plays a role, particularly on movement, but, even there, Israel plays the central role, for example controlling movement between Gaza and the West Bank, which are part of a single territory, as even the Israeli government has recognized.
Jacobsen: If we take a step back on Israel and Palestine, what are some of the more positive progressions since July towards resolution of parts of the conflict?
Shakir: It is difficult, in the circumstances we’re facing–not only the closure of Gaza, but the daily reality of entrenching a separate and unequal reality for Palestinians, a system of discrimination across the entire area Israel controls–it is difficult on the ground to see much, in terms of the situation and in the midst of the pandemic, to see signs of the situation improving. Certainly, one recent development that bears importance is Hamas and the Fatah-led PA have been in negotiations around some sort of reconciliation, but, again, those of us have seen these reports periodically (Al-Jazeera, 2020d). They have not led to changes on the ground. But certainly, any agreement between the two rival leading Palestinian factions could spell a significant step in reducing separation between the West Bank and Gaza. They also underlying tensions and arbitrary arrests between both authorities (Human Rights Watch, 2019c). While formal annexation would not likely have changed things on the ground, at least, initially, the fact that that is, at least, temporarily off the table helps protect against some of what that move could have meant. But I don’t see these as necessarily signs of hope. I think the hope that one might take is more looking at the ways in which human rights activists on the ground continue to do documentation and the way everyday people continue to challenge the deep oppression, especially by the Israeli government of Palestinians. But those are processes not likely to lead to changes in the short-term, but, one would hope, maybe in the medium to long run.
Jacobsen: From the U.S., there were sanctions against the International Criminal Court. How does this make the context of prosecuting international crimes more difficult and reduces capacity in which to call out violations and prosecute them properly, to enact justice in other words?
Shakir: I think the International Criminal Court, since its creation and establishment in 2002, has played a critical role as a court of last resort. It’s there particularly for situations where there are longstanding, serious abuses taking place and where the outlets for justice in-country have been blocked. Certainly, that’s the case with Israel and Palestine. There has been serial impunity for serious crimes by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities. When you look at the expansion of illegal settlements, when you look at use of force, excessive force, indiscriminate force at times by both Israelis and Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, when you look at policies in the West Bank, e.g., home demolitions, or the discrimination that underlies everyday life for Palestinians, it is quite clear that there are very serious crimes. The Israeli government has, at the highest level, sanctioned these policies. There is a whitewash machinery when it comes to investigating these crimes in Israel. It is the exact situation the International Criminal Court was created to combat. Of course, in response to the Court’s initial steps towards investigations in Palestine, by both Israelis and Palestinians, and in Afghanistan by the U.S., the U.S. has taken steps to attack and even sanction the prosecutor herself, as well as other members of the team of the International Criminal Court (United Nations, 2020). These are very dangerous moves. It highlights the contempt for the rule of law by the Trump Administration. We have seen many statements of support by other countries for the Court, highlighting the importance of the independence of the prosecutor and the ICC’s role as a court of last resort. With cases like this, involving abuses by strong states, they go to the heart of the credibility of an institution like the court. If the ICC can’t pursue these cases, every country that doesn’t want to face accountability at the International Criminal Court or bodies, will have a good argument. They can say, “If you’re making a special rule for powerful states, why should I have to play along with this institution?” I think it is important the Court continues to do its job and states concerned about the rule of law internationally should support the Court.
Jacobsen: Omar, as always, thank you so much.
Shakir: Take care, Scott, talk soon.
Previous Sessions (Chronological Order)
Ask HRW (Israel and Palestine) 8 (w/ Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967) – Annexation, International Law, Occupation, Rights, and Settlements
Other Resources Internal to Canadian Atheist
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Adalah. (2020, September 2). Israeli cabinet declares: We won’t return bodies of Palestinians to their families for burial. Retrieved from https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/10109.
AFP. (2020, September 2). Israel to withhold bodies of all Palestinian militants. Retrieved from https://www.arabnews.com/node/1728671/middle-east.
Agence-France Presse. (2020, August 13). Israel agrees to halt further annexation of Palestine under ‘historic’ US-brokered deal with UAE. Retrieved from https://www.firstpost.com/world/israel-agrees-to-halt-further-annexation-of-palestine-under-historic-us-brokered-deal-with-uae-8705811.html.
Akram, F. (2020, August 26). Hamas extends Gaza lockdown for 72 hours as virus spreads. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/hamas-extends-gaza-lockdown-72-hours-virus-spreads-72632011.
Al-Haq. (2018, March 14). Newly Adopted Law to Withhold the Bodies of Palestinians Killed Breaches International Law, Must be Repealed. Retrieved from https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/6261.html.
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Amnesty International. (2020, May 15). Israel/OPT: Court sets hearing seeking to lift travel ban on Amnesty campaigner. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/05/israelopt-court-sets-hearing-seeking-to-lift-travel-ban-on-amnesty-campaigner/.
Amnesty International. (n.d.). Tell Israel to lift the 11-year blockade on Gaza. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/lift-the-blockade-on-gaza/.
Ayyub, R. (2020, September 18). Israel returns to lockdown as COVID-19 cases mount. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-israel-lockdown-int-idUSKBN26911A.
B’nai Brith Canada. (2020, September 25). U of T Must Resist Pressure Campaign. Retrieved from https://www.bnaibrith.ca/u_of_t_must_resist_pressure_campaign/.
B’Tselem. (2019, October 22). Israeli High Court greenlights holding Palestinian bodies as bargaining chips. Retrieved from https://www.btselem.org/routine_founded_on_violence/20191022_hcj_greenlights_holding_palestinian_bodies_as_bargaining_chips.
Bard College Berlin. (2021). Valentina Azarova. Retrieved from https://berlin.bard.edu/people/profiles/valentina-azarova.
BBC News. (2020a, September 18). Coronavirus: Israel marks Jewish New Year with second lockdown. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-54201834.
BBC News. (2020b, September 25). Coronavirus: Israel tightens second lockdown amid acrimony. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-54278293.
Bowen, J. (2020, September 15). Five reasons why Israel’s peace deals with the UAE and Bahrain matter. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-54151712.
CAUT. (2020, September 21). U of T facing scrutiny over academic freedom controversy. Retrieved from https://www.caut.ca/latest/2020/09/u-t-facing-scrutiny-over-academic-freedom-controversy.
Deif, F. (2020, September 29). A Human Rights Controversy at the University of Toronto. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/09/29/human-rights-controversy-university-toronto.
Fishere, E.C. (2020, September 21). Opinion: The UAE-Bahrain-Israel accords are a big step — in the wrong direction. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/09/21/uae-bahrain-israel-accords-are-big-step-wrong-direction/.
Gessen, G. (2021, May 8). Did a University of Toronto Donor Block the Hiring of a Scholar for Her Writing on Palestine?. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/did-a-university-of-toronto-donor-block-the-hiring-of-a-scholar-for-her-writing-on-palestine
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Harkov, L. (2011, April 6). HRW: PA, Hamas abuse Palestinian journalists. Retrieved from https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/hrw-pa-hamas-abuse-palestinian-journalists.
Hass, A. (2010, May 16). Noam Chomsky Denied Entry Into Israel and West Bank. Retrieved from https://www.haaretz.com/1.5121279.
Hass, A. (2020, March 15). The Stubborn Ph.D. Student From the Gaza Strip. Retrieved from https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-the-stubborn-ph-d-student-from-the-gaza-strip-1.9619285.
Heller, J. (2020, September 3). Israel announces partial national lockdown after coronavirus surge. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-israel-idUSKBN25U2T1.
Holland, S. & Spetalnick, M. (2020, September 14). In break with past, UAE and Bahrain forge ties with Israel at White House. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-israel-gulf-usa-idUKKBN2660LB.
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Human Rights Watch. (2018b, February 13). Israel: Record-Low in Gaza Medical Permits. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/02/13/israel-record-low-gaza-medical-permits.
Human Rights Watch. (2020b, September 14). Israel: Release Body of Slain Palestinian. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/09/14/israel-release-body-slain-palestinian.
Human Rights Watch. (2019a). Israel Palestine: Events of 2019. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/israel/palestine.
Human Rights Watch. (2020a). Israel and Palestine Events of 2020. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/israel/palestine.
Human Rights Watch. (2016, August 29). Palestine: Crackdown on Journalists, Activists. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/08/30/palestine-crackdown-journalists-activists.
Human Rights Watch. (2019c, May 29). Palestine: No Letup in Arbitrary Arrests, Torture. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/05/29/palestine-no-letup-arbitrary-arrests-torture.
Human Rights Watch. (2019b, December 17). Q&A: Born Without Civil Rights. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/12/17/qa-born-without-civil-rights.
Human Rights Watch. (2018a, October 23). Two Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/10/23/two-authorities-one-way-zero-dissent/arbitrary-arrest-and-torture-under.
Human Rights Watch. (2017, April 2). Unwilling or Unable: Israeli Restrictions on Access to and from Gaza for Human Rights Workers. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/04/02/unwilling-or-unable/israeli-restrictions-access-and-gaza-human-rights-workers.
International Trade Administration. (2020, September 14). Israel – Country Commercial Guide. Retrieved from https://www.trade.gov/knowledge-product/israel-us-export-controls.
Kaplan, F. (2020, September 15). A Big Deal but Not a Peace Deal. Retrieved from https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/09/trump-israel-uae-bahrain-deal.html.
Keleman, M. (2020, September 15). Abraham Accords Fall Short Of Becoming ‘The Deal Of The Century’. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/09/15/913246520/abraham-accords-fall-short-of-becoming-the-deal-of-the-century.
Khoury, J. & Zikri, A.B. (2020, August 18). Gaza’s Only Power Plant Shuts Down After Israel Cuts Fuel Imports. Retrieved from https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-gaza-s-only-power-plant-shuts-down-after-israel-cuts-fuel-imports-1.9082294.
Krauss, J. (2020, August 14). Netanyahu insists Israeli annexation halt under diplomatic deal with UAE is only temporary. Retrieved from https://www.adn.com/nation-world/2020/08/14/netanyahu-insists-israeli-annexation-halt-under-diplomatic-deal-with-uae-is-only-temporary/.
Landau, N. & Reuters. (2020, August 13). Israel Suspends West Bank Annexation in Deal to Normalize Relations With the UAE. Retrieved from https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/with-trump-s-help-israel-and-the-uae-reach-historic-deal-to-normalize-relations-1.9070687.
MacLeod, M. (2020, August 13). Massive outbreaks in Israeli schools a ‘cautionary tale’ for Canada. Retrieved from https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/massive-outbreaks-in-israeli-schools-a-cautionary-tale-for-canada-1.5062834.
Masri, D.A. (2020, August 3). Ahmad Erekat, Eyad al-Hallaq: The Latest Victims of Israel’s Shoot-to-Kill Policy. Retrieved from https://www.palestine-studies.org/en/node/1650427.
MEE Staff. (2020, September 17). University of Toronto rescinds job offer to academic over Israel criticism. Retrieved from https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/university-toronto–job-offer-academic-Israel-criticism.
Middle East Policy Council. (n.d.). Egypt Criticized for Gaza Blockade. Retrieved from https://mepc.org/commentary/egypt-criticized-gaza-blockade.
Miller, A.D. (2020, August 19). Opinion: Israel And UAE’s Accord Is A Big Win, But Don’t Overplay It. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/08/19/903887415/opinion-israel-and-uaes-accord-is-a-big-win-but-don-t-overplay-it.
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Zeyad, L.A. (2019, December 16). Why is Israel preventing me from accompanying my mother to chemotherapy?. Retrieved from https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/12/why-is-israel-preventing-me-from-accompanying-my-mother-to-chemotherapy/.
 “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967*” or A/HRC/44/60 stated:
21. Cases of arbitrary arrest and detention by the de-facto authorities in Gaza continued to be reported, particularly of journalist, human rights and political activists. On 9 April, a number of Palestinian activists were arrested and detained by the de-facto authorities after being accused of engaging in “normalization activities with Israel”. A small group of activists had organized a zoom call with young Israeli activists to discuss living conditions in Gaza.30 Many continue to be arrested because of their political affiliation and perceived opposition to the Hamas authorities. Serious restrictions on freedom of expression continue to be in place particularly in the context of reporting on the socio-economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic.31 In June, a number of persons were arrested by the de-facto authorities in Gaza, as they expressed opposing political views and attempted to organize events that were banned by security forces.
22. A number of arrests by Palestinian Security Forces continued to be reported in the West Bank. Many of those arrested were accused of using social media platforms to criticize the Palestinian authority or expressing opposing political views.32 Limitations on freedom of expression remain a concern for journalists. A number of allegations of ill-treatment of those arrested also continue to be received.
United Nations Human Rights Council. (2020).
 “State of Palestine: Annexation Plan of the West Bank” (2020) states:
According to OCHA (2020), around 250 Israeli settlements have been established in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) with some 633,000 Israeli settlers; over 400,000 reside in the West Bank and around 200,000 in East Jerusalem. According to the latest figures by NGO Peace Now, there are 132 settlements officially recognised by the Israeli Military of Interior (excluding East Jerusalem), and about 124 built by Israeli settlers without official authorisation — but with governmental support and assistance — known as “illegal outposts”. These settlements cover almost 10% of the West Bank.
 “In her global human rights update, Bachelet calls for urgent action to heighten resilience and protect people’s rights” (2020) states:
In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the escalating tragedy in Gaza is of particular concern. Although temporary truces are welcome — including the latest agreement to end hostilities between armed groups in Gaza and Israel — Gaza’s two million people desperately need long-term and sustainable solutions. The blockade by sea and land, which Israel has imposed for 13 years, has brought Gaza’s main economic and commercial activities to a complete halt. As a direct result, more than 38% of Gazans live in poverty; 50% are unemployed; and more than 90% of the water from aquifers is undrinkable. Last month’s decision to ban the entry of fuel into Gaza creates even deeper suffering and humanitarian burdens. With sharply rising COVID-19 cases in Gaza, the health sector now faces total collapse, unless aspects of the blockade are lifted. The blockade, which contravenes international law, has conclusively failed to deliver security or peace for Israelis and Palestinians, and should urgently be lifted.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal (ISSN 2369-6885). Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and the advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.
*Associates and resources listing last updated May 31, 2020.*
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
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