|Fourth Report on Educational Rights and Academic Freedoms in Palestine (1-1-2009_31-12-2009)|
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS) Issues the Fourth Annual Report on the State of Tolerance in the Palestinian Territories in 2009
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS) issued the fourth annual report on the state of tolerance in the Palestinian Territories which contains three sections: The first is a theoretical introduction on the concepts and domains of tolerance, the second cites realities and figures on the state of tolerance in the areas of the Palestinian Territories, and the third draws conclusions and makes recommendations.
The report states that there are several internal factors that have a significant impact on the decline in tolerance within Palestinian society. These factors include the political divisions, the inciting media discourse, the increasing rejection of the religious, political and cultural "Other", the cases of killing and belligerence that are being "marketed" religiously, socially and politically, and the intensive instrumentalisation of religion by different parties in an attempt to depict their point of view as "sacred" and therefore indisputable.
In the domain of religious tolerance, the report cites incidents and statements made by religious figures inciting violence against the different "Others" trying to impose their religion on the entire society. The report also says that the religious discourse in Palestinian society can take on different forms; some of which still present a one-sided and fragmentary reading of religion that feeds hatred and grudge and that offers unrealistic, unjust and inhuman visions for the future. This religious discourse is against society since this society, in different aspects, disagrees with it. The society, therefore, as this religious discourse sees it, is astray and needs to be righted and redirected towards the true path of righteousness. Within the period that the report covers, no aggressions were reported against individuals, institutions, public or private properties on religious grounds with the exception of one incident in which aggression against two Christian graveyards in the village of Jeffna near Ramallah were observed.
Within the context of religion, the Palestinian Islamist movements continued to employ the inciting religious discourse as a tool to achieve their political, social, cultural and other objectives. They were also able to convince leftist and secular movements of the Palestinian political system - that have not made Islam part of their party's ideology - to adopt, if only partially, their discourse and its terminology.
As for political tolerance, the report says that despite of the existence of constitutional texts which in their totality push for political tolerance, the language of discourse that was mainly used during the period covered by this report does not correspond to the principles of political tolerance. The two main movements, Fateh and Hamas, continue to exchange accusations. Fateh calls the Hamas government in Gaza the "resigned" government, the "coup government", the "gangs", the "militia coup" or the "benighted". On the other side, the "resigned" government in Gaza labels the government in Ramallah as the "illegitimate government", "Dayton's gangs", the "conspirators" and the "collaborators".
Among the features of political intolerance is the violation of the right to peaceful gathering which increased remarkably during the period that the report covers. The West Bank witnessed 8 cases of prevention of or aggression against peaceful gatherings and the Gaza Strip witnessed 10 cases. As for aggression against and violation of the right to form unions, societies, and networks, the report cites 4 cases in the West Bank and 14 in the Gaza Strip. Aggression against freedom of expression continued: the two newspapers, Al-Ayyam and Al-Haya, are still censored in the Gaza Strip as well as the forms of media that the "resigned" government in Gaza considers affiliated with Fateh or with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. On the other side, the two newspapers Falastine and Al-Risala are censored in the West Bank. Further the report cites 8 cases of aggression against journalists, media institutions, and printing houses in the Gaza Strip; 13 cases are cited in the West Bank.
As for the violation of the right of free movement, the suffering of Palestinian citizens continued in the Gaza Strip due to the imposed blockade and the closing of the crossings by the Israeli Occupation. The internal hindrances exemplified in the inability of inhabitants of Gaza to obtain passports from the Ministry of the Interior in Ramallah also continued. In some cases, security bodies that belong to the "resigned" government confiscated the travel documents of some citizens or prevented them from leaving the Strip. About 120 cases of travel prevention are cited in addition to preventing hundreds of Fateh members from leaving the Strip to the West Bank for the Fateh Convention in Bethlehem. One case is cited in the West Bank where Palestinian security forces prevented six citizens, PLC members of the Change and Reform Bloc, from entering the city of Qaliqilia.
As for arrests and aggression against people on the background of their political affiliation during the period which the report covers, 1879 cases of political arrest by the different political apparatuses in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are adduced in this document; 1246 cases in the West Bank and 633 in the Gaza Strip. The report here, however, notes that the cases of arrest on charges of political affiliation in the Gaza Strip cannot be accurately documented because some of the places used for detention or arrest are not official or well-known jails. In the same context the report cites several assaults that took place on the background of political affiliation which resulted in death; two of these cases occured in the West Bank and 7 in the Gaza Strip. The report also cites 298 cases of torture during arrest or detention by the security apparatuses in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; 166 in the West Bank and 132 in the Gaza Strip.
In the domain of social tolerance, the report cites 10 cases of killing committed on the background of what is called "family honor" feuds; 4 of which are cited in the West Bank and 6 in the Gaza Strip. The report also records 155 cases of death as a result of quarrels and cases of revenge; 100 in the Gaza Strip and 55 in the West Bank.
In the domain of legal tolerance, the report states that the Palestinian legislation generally preserves the international accords of human rights. There are, however, legal texts in the Palestinian statute that contradict the international accords - especially those related to capital punishment which is still enacted in the areas of the Palestinian Authority. The report cites 16 capital punishment verdicts issued by Palestinian courts; three in the West Bank and 13 in the Gaza Strip. Countering crime with crime under the guise of the law is not coherent with the principles of tolerance. The call for the prohibition of capital punishment does not mean practicing tolerance towards criminals who are charged with serious crimes.
Regarding the execution of court verdicts, the report says that some of the security apparatuses in the West Bank still refrain from executing several verdicts issued by Palestinian courts including those issued by the Supreme Court. This is especially the case with verdicts related to those detained on charges related to political affiliations and persons who are detained by the head of the Military Judiciary Committee.
During the 12 months period of this report the various regions of the Palestinian Authority witnessed several forms of intolerance, on the level of state institutions and also civil society. This phenomenon requires attention, the awareness of its dangers and the proposal of recommendations for fighting it and suppressing any attempts to widen its scope.
Based on the results of this report and its cumulative experience in the work on tolerance, the Ramallah Center for Human Rights calls for the following:
1. To start immediate serious action to root out all aspects of violence and intolerance on both the official and popular levels of society, we need to fight the reasons that produced these phenomena, be they political, economic, social, or cultural.
2. Since the essence of tolerance is the right to be different, it is necessary to emphasize this right and respect its implementation.
3. Achieving tolerance requires the enhancement of public freedoms, most importantly the right to freedom of belief - whether religious or other - and the freedom of expression, the right to organize unions, peaceful gathering. Therefore it is necessary to implement these rights on the legal and legislative levels, and practice them actively.
4. These demands cannot be achieved without revising the socialization processes and adopting programs that develop the culture of tolerance first inside the family and then in the school and university.
5. It is not possible to achieve the previous recommendation without developing a culture of tolerance in pupils, and improving the school curricula and ways of teaching in a way that corresponds to these aims.
6. The partisan education and indoctrination, and the prevailing political discourse are among the reasons that mainly contributed to the present political intolerance. It is essential to eradicate all forms of partisan fanaticism and incitement against the politically different in order to widen the spheres of tolerance.
7. The programs aiming at disseminating the culture of tolerance must be fair to women and must abolish all forms of discrimination against them, firstly because this is their inalienable right, and secondly because this will enable them to disseminate this culture and inculcate it on their children.
8. There must be an end to using the religious discourse against the culture and values of tolerance, through incitement against the politically, religiously, or culturally different.
9. The media should work in such a way as to develop a public opinion that opposes all forms of extremist trends.
10. Lastly we call for the dissemination of the language of dialogue and acceptance of difference; an increase of interest of civil society organizations in spreading the culture and values of tolerance; the fight against all forms of fanaticism, prejudice and discrimination; and criticizing the performance of authorities in order to protect human rights.