FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEST BANK VICTIMS GIVE TESTIMONY
Renowned historian testifies on systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians
KUALA LUMPUR, 22 November 2013 – The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal (KLWCT) went into the third day of the hearing on genocide and war crimes charges against the State of Israel and Amos Yaron, a retired Israeli army general.
The tribunal heard informative testimony from Dr Ang Swee Chai, a consultant at the Royal London Hospital, England. In mid-August 1982, she came to Beirut as a Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon as part of a British Medical Team sent by British Charity Christian Aid to Lebanon. The tribunal also heard the testimony of renowned historian and socialist activist, Prof Ilan Pappe, who informed the tribunal about the systematic ethnic cleansing via expulsion and killing of the Palestinians from their homeland since 1948. Three witnesses from West Bank also gave an account of their trials and tribulations under the Israelis.
Dr Ang learnt of the sad plight of the displaced Palestinians since 1948, at the Gaza Hospital in August 1982. In her testimony, she gave a clear picture of the tension-filled atmosphere as well as the horrific and shocking events that took place during the Sabra and Shatilla massacre. She informed the tribunal that the agreement was for the PLO fighters to evacuate in exchange for a ceasefire, and that, the remaining civilians, would be protected by the Multinational Peace Keeping Force. However, well ahead of the Israeli land invasion, the Multinational Peace Keeping Force withdrew and the remaining civilians were mercilessly massacred.
She gave a day-to-day account of her experiences from 15 to 22 September 1982. She informed the tribunal of flights of Israeli planes flying from the sea towards the direction of the camps. The sounds of explosives and shelling all around the area surrounding the Gaza Hospital, the wounded casualties, mostly women and children, pouring into the hospital in increasingly large numbers, the hostile environment when she and the other foreign medical personnel were escorted from the Gaza Hospital, their political affiliations and papers questioned and checked.
She further testified that continuous gunfire as well as horrific screams of women and children could be heard from the direction of the camp and that when the members of the team finally returned to the Sabra and Shatilla camps in the morning of 19 September, there were dead bodies piled up everywhere, in some cases even whole families wiped out. By afternoon, the camps were sealed off to all medical teams by the Lebanese tanks and troops. She also witnessed 10-15 Israeli tanks driving away from the scene.
She testified that her medical colleagues who finally managed to get back into the camp were escorted by Israelis and given a Hebrew pass and that the Palestinians survivors revealed to them that they could not escape as the Israelis had sealed off the camps. She further added that the death toll as enumerated by the Lebanese Red Cross was 2,400 on 22 September 1982.
She said, “I have read recent declassified release from the British National Archives, which put the death toll of the massacre as 3,500.”
She concluded that according to sources (such as the United Nations) the Palestinian population in 1982 was 350,000 and in 2012 it was 250,000 so it had in fact decreased over the past 31 years and this was because the means of subsistence for the Palestinians in Lebanon were destroyed and never rebuilt in 1982.
When cross-examined by Amicus Curiae Larissa Cadd, the witness confirmed she did not see the killing but she had treated numerous wounded casualties from gunshot wounds in Gaza Hospital in September 1982. The witness had seen Israeli soldiers but did not know if the Israeli soldiers had carried out the attack directly. She had treated children, women and men including old men from 16 September 1982.
During re-examination by Prof Gurdial, Dr Ang confirmed that it was the Israeli army that escorted the medical team from the hospital and that the Norwegian Ambassador who came to evacuate the Norwegian medics had to get the Israeli authorities approval.
Meanwhile, the witness from Bethlehem, West Bank, 22-year-old Nabil Al-Issawi testified on his sufferings after being shot in the stomach by an Israeli sniper with a Dum Dum bullet (a bullet which expands on impact). Nabil, a student of the Ahliya University in Bethlehem was part of a peaceful student demonstration expressing their dissatisfaction over the attacks launched by the Israeli troops against Gaza City during the previous weeks. As he lay bleeding on the street, the Israeli soldiers refused to give him immediate aid instead took pictures of him and made fun of him.
The use of Dum Dum bullets during a military occupation is a war crime and Nabil confirmed that the usage of Dum Dum bullets were a norm in the Palestine-Israeli conflict.
He was informed by the doctors that the Dum Dum bullet once penetrated in his body had broken into 3 pieces going into 3 different directions: 2 went out of his body through the back and his rectum while the third stayed inside his bladder near the lower spine. He was hospitalised for almost 6 1/2 months and underwent four operations.
“As a result I missed my last semester in the school (namely, from January to Jun 2008). This affected my academic performance, and I scored poorly in the CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average). As a result, I was precluded from pursuing the university course of my choice, namely law,” said Nabil.
“The course of my life has been altered dramatically. As of now, I have an abdominal scar for life and discomfort in sitting upright. I cannot swim competitively as I used to. Apart from this, my family members and I have been prohibited from going to Israel. Further, whenever I go through the Israeli military checkpoints, I am always harassed. I have been traumatised by the incident. Whenever I am about to go through numerous military checkpoints in West Bank, I am in the constant state of anxiety and fear,” said Nabil who also informed the tribunal that he and his family is blacklisted from travelling to the nearby Jerusalem since he was shot.
He demands freedom in his country, stressing that it is the basic right of human beings not to be harassed by forces that have been placed there illegally.
The other witness from Nablus, West Bank, Taghreed Nimat, told the tribunal of her sufferings under the the Israeli forces, who often targeted her, accusing her for promoting hatred against the Israeli government because her father was imprisoned for singing nationalistic Palestinian songs. In 2004, the Israeli soldiers attacked the Dr Sayed Kamal Mental Hospital in Bethlehem where she was staying and working as a psychologist. The 47-year-old Palestinian’s experiences during the hospital attack caused her to suffer a breakdown causing her to take ASVL sedatives twice and other medication for five months.
She testified that she was often harassed unnecessarily by the Israeli military soldiers whenever she went through checkpoints and that the soldiers would detain her at these checkpoints for one or two hours or several hours before allowing her through or sometimes refusing entry.
She concluded, “Many of my countrymen face a similar experience that I have gone through. I want more people to know about what has happened to us.”
The testimony of Israeli historian and socialist activist Ilan Pappe was an interesting and revealing account of the Zionists’ leadership strategy to rid the Palestinians from their homeland since the 1940s. He testified that the expulsions were not decided on an ad hoc basis, as other historians have argued, but constituted the ethnic cleansing of Palestine , in accordance with Plan Dalet drawn up in 1947 by Israel’s leaders then.
He testified that the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 constituted ethnic cleansing, as the Zionists movement was not concerned with the native people. He revealed that it was as early as in the 1940s when the Zionists began deliberating the fate of the indigenous people of Palestine and that they wanted to take over Palestine with as little Palestinians in it by having them leave voluntarily or be forced out.
He further revealed that from 1948 until 1949, the plan was enforced by Zionist forces to cleanse villages and towns of Palestinians by encircling the villages/towns from three flanks to intimidate the residents into leaving by leaving one flank open. Some 530 villages were wiped out physically. Under the partition plan, 56% of the land was to be handed to Israel wherein the 2/3 of the population was Palestinians. In the end, 93% of the land came under the control of Israel and 750,000 Palestinians were left out as refugees in neighbouring countries, in Gaza and West Bank. After the 1967 war, Gaza and West Bank were occupied.
He added that having taken over most of Palestine territories, the Zionist policy changed from expelling to destroying the Palestinians. Hence, the Sabra & Shatilla massacre was an attempt to destroy Palestinians in Lebanon.
He told the tribunal that the use of military action against Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank was considered genocidal against people who cannot defend themselves. Military operations such as Summer Rains, Autumn Clouds, and Cast Lead were just to kill the Palestinians and destroy the economy, culture and their spirit.
In cross-examination by Amicus Curiae Jason Kay, Prof Pappe agreed that his view of history is a minority view and that while he is grateful that the Zionist movement had saved his parents from the Nazi holocaust for which he is grateful however the moral way, is to live together with the Palestinians, not expel and kill them.
Dr. Walid Elkhatib, another witness from West Bank, is a qualified medical doctor, with a Masters in Public Health, and Higher Diploma in Health Management. He testified on the effects of Israeli occupation on Palestinians, especially children.
He told the tribunal that from 1988 until 1996, he worked at an emergency clinic during the 1st intifada and saw many patients who were brought in with different kinds of injuries as a result of Israeli violence – people with gun shot wounds, people who had been exposed to tear gas and people who were physically abused by Israeli soldiers.
“I looked at particularly Palestinian children health, not only from the physical point of view but how much Israeli occupation has affected Palestinian children health beyond physical health. It is not merely absence of disease and disability. What I perceived as equally important was emotional, social, mental and environmental health, nutrition and behaviour,” said the 52-year-old doctor who developed hearing problems due to constant exposure to explosions and has himself come close to being killed several times by the Israeli soldiers.
He revealed that according to a survey conducted in Palestine in 2010 in cooperation with the World Health Organisation, which he personally oversaw, 24% of schoolchildren in Palestine have suicidal tendencies.
He further added that there were also increased incidents of disability among Palestinians. From 2001-2011, there were 2282 cases of disability (93.9% male, 6.1% female). Most of the men were involved in the intifada. 65.6% of them suffered disability as a result of live ammunition, shrapnel, rubber bullets and explosions. As a result it also meant that these persons had less opportunity for work and ended up in poverty.
He told the tribunal that poverty is rife in the West Bank and Gaza and that during the Intifada, children’s growth was stunted because they did not have enough protein. During the 2nd intifada, the rate of children with low weight (less than 5 years old) increased from 2.5% to 3.2%, the rate of low height increased from 7.5% to 7.9%, and wasting (severe loss of weight) increased from 1.4% to 1.7%.
He added that according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), there was a 40% increase of prematurity and miscarriages in pregnant women during the 2nd intifada.
He said, “Israeli forces attack hospitals and ambulances on the pretext that there are Palestinian fighters hiding there. Which is not true. I have never seen such a situation. It is my opinion that the Israeli forces allege such incidents but do so to merely justify their inhuman actions of attacking hospitals.”
He stressed that it is a slow and certain destruction of a society mentally, physically and socially, “Israel does not believe Palestinian territory belongs to Palestinians. They believe that it is historically Israeli and they are taking it back. Israeli actions amount to the extermination of a whole state. Israel believes that eventually Palestinians will leave their lands beyond the walls. Israeli strategy is to deprive the Palestinians of their basic needs to make them leave.”
The judges of the Tribunal are headed by retired Malaysian Federal Court judge Tan Sri Dato Lamin bin Haji Mohd Yunus Lamin, who also served as an ad litem judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Republic of Yugoslavia. The other judges in the Tribunal include notable names such as Tunku Sofiah Jewa, practising lawyer and author of numerous publications on International Law, Prof Salleh Buang, former Federal Counsel in the Attorney-General Chambers and prominent author, and Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, prominent academic and professor of law, Dato’ Saari Yusof, former Appeal Court judge, Mr John Philpot, a senior litigation lawyer from Canada and Tunku Intan Mainura from the Faculty of Law, UiTM and a specialist in international law.
The Tribunal will adjudicate and evaluate the evidence presented as in any court of law. The judges of the Tribunal must be satisfied that the charges are proven beyond reasonable doubt and deliver a reasoned judgement.
In the event the tribunal convicts any of the accused, the only sanction is that the name of the guilty will be entered in the Commission’s Register of War Criminals and publicised worldwide. The tribunal is a tribunal of conscience and a peoples’ initiative.
The prosecution for the trial is led by Prof Gurdial S Nijar, prominent law professor and author of several law publications and Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman, senior barrister, and assisted by a team of lawyers.
The trial, which is open to the public, is being held from November 20 to 25, 2013 at the premises of the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW) at 88, Jalan Perdana, Kuala Lumpur. Live feed of the tribunal hearing is also available on www.criminalisewar.org at Malaysian time GMT +8.
For further information, please contact
Dato’ Dr. Yaacob Hussain Merican
Secretary General of the KLWCC Secretariat
Tel: +6012-227 8680
Ms Malkeet Kaur
Media Representative of KLWCC
About Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC)
The KLFCW established the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (The Commission), to investigate cases of war crimes that have been neglected by established institutions such as the International Criminal Court. The Commission seeks to influence world opinion on the illegality of wars and occupation undertaken by major Western powers.
The aim of The Commission is thereby to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable for their actions especially when relevant international judicial organs fail to do so.
The commission’s function is to:
i) receive complaints from any victim(s) of any conflict on:
(a) Crimes against peace
(b) Crimes against humanity
(c) Crimes of genocide
(d) War crimes
ii) investigate the same and prepare a report of its findings. To further call for more evidence or where The Commission is satisfied to recommend prosecution
The Legal Team
The legal team’s aim is to present the complaints of victim(s) of any conflict and to act on the recommendation of The Commission’s report and to frame charges and prosecute accused person(s).
The Tribunal shall adjudicate on the charges filed against the accused person(s) The applicable standard of proof shall be beyond reasonable doubt.
About the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW)
Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad founded the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW), a non-governmental organisation established under the laws of Malaysia on 12 March 2007.
The main objectives of the Foundation, as stated in its Statutes are, inter alia:
1. To undertake all necessary measures and initiatives to criminalise war and energise peace;
2. To provide relief, assistance and support to individuals and communities who are suffering from the effects of war and armed conflict wherever occurring and without discrimination on the grounds of nationality, racial origin, religion, belief, age, gender or other forms of impermissible differentiations;
3. To promote the education of individuals and communities suffering from the effects of war or armed conflict;
4. To foster schemes for the relief of human suffering occasioned by war or armed conflict;
5. To provide for mechanisms or procedures in attainment of the above purposes.