Monday, June 30, 2008

Islamic Charitable Society in Hebron

Briefing 27 June 2008

On 26 February, the Israeli Military issued 6 military orders declaring the confiscation and closures of facilities belonging to the Islamic Charitable Society (ICS) in Hebron.

Targeted facilities:
Two bakeries
One apartment building
One administrative building
A new shopping mall
A warehouse
Three schools
Two orphanages
Schools, kindergartens and other facilities in surrounding villages(Beit Ula & Shyukh)

As of 27 June Israeli Military has confiscated/shut:
The warehouse with over $300,000 worth of school supplies, clothing, and food
Two new school buses
The apartment building with thirty units
Two bakeries supplying 5,000 families with bread
Welded shut the gates of a school for 1200 students, scheduled to open on Sept. 2008 (Worth $2,000,000)
A sewing center where girls learned a craft and earned pocket money. (The sewing machines and bolts of cloth used by the students were thrown on the city dump as the soldiers left the city)
Schools, kindergartens and other facilities in surrounding villages(Beit Ula & Shyukh)
For further details, see the attached list of total costs to the Charities.

The Israeli measures in Hebron constitute a series of violations of International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law and International Law:
· The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, articles 6 and 7
· The Fourth Geneva Convention, article 39 of the;
· The Convention on the Rights of the Child, article. 38
· Article 50 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (which stipulates the duty of the Occupying Power to facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children)
· The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 26 (right to education of children), article 9 (guarantees protection against arbitrary arrest and detention)
· The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 9
· The Oslo Agreement
· The Hebron Agreement

New development:
These military orders also represents a new and worrying development as they refer to confiscation and transfer of ownership of private property in the H1 Area of Hebron (under Palestinian control) to the Israeli Army. The PA Minister of Social Affairs, Dr. Mahmud Al-Habbash, who visited ICS Hebron Wednesday, June 11, confirmed that "This is against all the agreements between the PA and them [the Israelis.]. It is a violation of all Human Rights Agreements. We have informed all internationals about these illegal actions''.

Affected beneficiaries:
A particularly vulnerable segment of the population, namely children from mostly impoverished families, is being deprived of specialized services that provide much needed support and fundamental coping mechanisms.

As of today:
The Israeli Army has yet to implement the remaining provisions of the orders, i.e. the eviction of the ICS and the orphans from the property and the transfer of ownership of the property.

While the world is watching the orphanages and schools, the Israeli Military is stripping the Charities of millions of dollars in assets, jeopardizing decades of work and investment by ICS to assure the support of the orphanages and other charitable services provided to the increasingly impoverished city of Hebron.

Charges against the Charities:
The Israeli Army claims that the Charities are a front or fund raiser for Hamas, and that some of the staff or board members are implicated in Hamas activities in one way or another. Yet, no proof has been presented to the Charities, the press or NGOs involved in protecting the orphans.
Charity accounts have always been open and are submitted to the PA as they were to the Jordanian Government before 1967. All sources and expenditures are fully documented and no one has raised any questions about the accounts.The only criteria for selection of orphans is that they are in need, there is no political agenda. The Israeli Military makes the generic charge that the Charity assists prisoner's families, and although the PA, most major UN groups and NGOs do provide such assistance, this Charity does not.

International support:
Due primarily to the efforts of the Christian Peacemakers in Hebron a wide variety of supporters, including Nobel Peace Laureates Mairead Maguire and Jimmy Carter, the Desmond Tutu Foundation, the UN Commission on Human Rights, Rabbis for Human Rights, and the YMCA's, have rallied to help, and internationals have been sleeping in the Orphanages to comfort the frightened children and to deter invasion when the risk seems high.

Mairead Maguire, Irish Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, recently visited the Orphanages of Hebron while on a visit to the Occupied Territories to support non violent resistance there. She said she was shocked and disheartened by the havoc and ruin being created by the Israeli Army in the lives of the poorest and weakest of Palestinian society, the orphans and the children of the poor. The orphanages, she said, are at the heart of programs run by the Islamic Charitable Institutions (ISC) in Hebron, who have served the needy of that city since 1962."

We ask that:
The Israeli Government be held accountable by the International Community for its abuse of the rights of the children to protection and education. As an occupying power Israel has legal obligations (under the Geneva Convention) to protect the population in the occupied territories, especially women and children.

Palestinian Authority and the Charities:
We are grateful for the steps taken by the United Nations (UNSCO) , and the information given it by the assistant to the PA Prime Minister, stating that “the PA has not received any information that benefits have stopped reaching beneficiaries and that they should let him know if they heard otherwise." We appreciate their support. We are now pointing out that, as our summary of the impact of Israeli confiscations to date has made clear, the infrastructure and fund raising mechanism that supports these children and their services has been badly and possibly permanently damaged. Services to the orphans and other needy groups, and staff salaries, have already been cut.

The PA Minister of the Interior has appointed nine board members who are not affiliated with any party. The board, however, refuses to take responsibility until it receives guarantees from the PA and the Israeli Authorities that they and the board will not be targeted, and that the Army will stop any further actions against the Charities. As a result of this lack of a functioning board, the Charities can no longer access their own bank accounts or reach their own funds.

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