New Report: Arab Human Rights Association says Israeli Arab civilians put in harms way in Second Lebanon War

A new report published yesterday by the Arab Human Rights Association in Israel, based in Nazareth, say that Israeli Arab civilians in northern Israel were deliberately exposed to Hizbollah military strikes during what Israel is now calling the “Second Lebanon War” in July and August 2006.

“This report focuses on one claim – one that was also raised during the war, particularly by Arab public figures in Israel, but which has not been the subject of detailed attention. This claim is that military installations were positioned by the Israeli army in proximity to Arab civilian locales. The report is based on the testimonies of 80 Arab residents interviewed by the HRA, documenting 20 Arab communities that were hit by an estimated total of some 660 rockets, killing 14 civilians directly. On the basis of the investigation undertaken by the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA), it emerges that temporary military installations from which missiles were fired into Lebanon during the war were indeed positioned in very close proximity to the Arab locales that suffered the gravest attacks during the war. This is in addition to permanent military installations in existence prior to the war. In some cases, the military installations were established inside the Arab locales. It is reasonable to assume that these installations were targets for Hizbullah rocket attacks; that their placement in the locale exposed Arab civilians to a grave risk that rockets would strike their locales; and that this risk indeed materialized in practice. Equally, the investigation found that Arab locales that were not surrounded by military installations were not damaged during the war, or were damaged to a lesser extent, despite their proximity to the Israeli-Lebanese border. The investigation found that the Arab towns and villages that suffered the most intensive attacks during the war were ones that were surrounded by military installations, either on a permanent basis or temporarily during the course of the war. These installations are located at a distance of just 0.5 – 2 kilometers by air from the civilian community; in some cases, the installations are located inside the town or village. Such short distances are within the margin of error of the rockets fired by Hizbullah. During the war, artillery fire was launched at Lebanon from many of these installations, and particularly from the temporary installations … During the war, Hizbullah declared on several occasions that it was targeting its rockets primarily at military installations inside Israel. Given the findings of the investigation undertaken by the HRA, there is no reason to doubt that the Arab towns and villages were hit due to their proximity to the adjacent military installations. At the very least, it may be assumed that the fact that Israel located certain military installations in or close to Arab civilian centers significantly increased the danger to which the residents of these communities were exposed… By locating military installations in or close to civilian centers, Israel violated the specific obligation imposed by international humanitarian law to refrain from locating military installations within or close to civilian centers. This violation applies even if there was no intention to use the civilian centers as human shields … The HRA investigation found also that not only did the government not present any such request or demand to the residents or the local authorities to evacuate the residents, but it actually asked them to remain in their homes despite the numerous rockets that fell in these communities”.

The Arab Human Rights Association’s just-released report can be seen here.

During the Second Lebanon War, according to the Arab Human Rights Association, “a total of 1,191 Lebanese civilians were killed and over 4,400 were wounded. On the Israeli side, 44 Israeli civilians were killed and 4,262 were injured”.

The report, Civilians in Danger: The Location of Temporary and Permanent Military Installations Close to Arab Communities during the Second Lebanon War , was released at a press conference in Nazareth addressed by Muhammed Zeidan, Director of the Arab Human Rights Association.

Arab HRA press conference in Nazareth

The report comes as Israelis are awaiting further damaging conclusions from the Winograd Commission which is investigating the Government’s conduct of the Second Lebanon War.

Also, prominent Israeli-Arab member of Israel’s Knesset, Azmi Bishara, fled the country last spring after security investigations of his phone conversations with people in Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War. From reports, it appears that Bishara is accused by Israeli security of helping target some of the Hizbollah missiles that landed in northern Israel — an accusation that his supporters have rejected.

And, almost at the same time as the report was published, the Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ra’anan Dinur, told the annual Galilee Conference meeting in Upper Nazareth (a Jewish quarter, or city, adjacent to– and above — the Arab city of Nazaretz) that “The Government of Israel is prepared for the continuation of the plan to strengthen Haifa and the north in 2008-2010 at an overall cost of NIS 1.5 billion”, according to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office. The cost of the plan has been approximately NIS 2.7 billion up until now. “The Government plan is designed to develop and strengthen the north by reducing gaps between residents of the north and residents of the center. The supplement to the plan will be submitted for Cabinet approval in the first quarter of 2008; it will focus on employment, education and housing”.

Last year, the Arab Human Rights Association issued an important report entitled Suspected Citizens: Racial Profiling against Arab Passengers by Israeli Airports and Airlines, which, the AHRA says, detailed the manner in which discriminatory inspection is imposed upon Arab citizens as a national group all of whose members are spuriously perceived as a “security threat” to the state. A majority of Israeli Arabs airlines passengers have been subjected to what Electronic Intifada called “a distinctive and discriminatory approach on the basis of their national origin –They are collectively, and almost automatically, subject to a security inspection that is not imposed on Jewish passengers, and is based on a security perception that persistently views them as a threat”.

This happens not only in Israel, but also in other countries prior to boarding flights of Israeli airlines, the report found: “An examination by the investigating organizations regarding the source of authority for the use of Israeli security personnel on the territory of foreign countries showed that the inspections undertaken by the Israeli companies are in addition to the local security arrangements. It also emerged that the countries in which these inspections take place do not supervise them, and prefer to ignore their discriminatory nature and the human rights violations committed on their own soil. The demand to reveal the nature of these arrangements was rejected on the grounds that this is confidential information”.

Palestinians — from the occupied West Bank (or Gaza) and holding Palestinian documents — are not allowed to fly out of Ben Gurion at all, but must cross into Jordan through the Allenby Bridge and fly from Amman. Even Arab-Americans were barred from flying into and out of Ben Gurion if they also had Palestinian documents — or if their destination was to the West Bank and Gaza.

People who merely had Arab names are also routinely subject to all these special procedures.

Israeli security procedures rely on such ethnic profiling — which is belived in Israel to be a legitimate security procedure.