The State of Human Rights Defenders – Summer 2023 Newsletter

Newsletter Contents

  • Political Developments Round-Up
  • Outcomes of Military Court Trials: Sami Huraini, Nasser Nawajah, Issa Amro
  • Legal Win in SLAPP suit against former Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer
  • Arrests during the evictions of the Sub-Laban Family
  • The Wrongful Arrest of B’tselem Documenter Who Was Victim of Settler Attack
  • Arbitrary Detentions in the South Hebron Hills
  • Palestinian Girls Arrested After Extremist Settler Torments Young Boy in Khan Al Ahmar


Political Developments Round-up

Since our last newsletter, the new government has taken several steps to bring to fruition their vision of a homogenous theocratically-inclined ethnostate empty of political dissidents, empty of social minorities, and empty of Palestinians. As we wrote in our last newsletter, anyone who has paid attention to the intentions of coalition members can see that the judicial coup is only a means to an end, a crucial step in the path toward complete de jure annexation of the West Bank and forcible transfer of Palestinian communities in Area C – which the government has already begin to take concrete steps towards. Many analysts have already pointed out that the plot to neutralize the judiciary in order to achieve annexation has been explicitly in the making for a decade. Part and parcel of this vision is the decimation Palestinian national identity inside sovereign Israel, the elimination of political opponents, and complete Judaization of East Jerusalem.

In the past few months, we have also seen several legislative bills introduced which would deal severe blows to the human rights community – such as a bill to ban Palestinian flags from being flown on campus (which cleared the first Knesset reading), and a taxation bill proposed which threatened a 65% tax on all foreign-state donations to civil society organizations (though it was indefinitely postponed, a new draft of this bill has already been put forward). On July 24, the Knesset voted to pass its first set of legislation in the judicial coup, stripping the courts of the power to exercise the “reasonableness standard,” one of the courts’ key oversight tools on the government’s administrative activities. In his Knesset speech in favor of the legislation to revoke the reasonableness standard, each example cited by Justice Minister Yariv Levin had to do with entrenching control over Palestinians.

In response to the massive protests mobilized against the passing of this legislation, the Israeli police cracked down brutally on protestors with a violence that has not been seen since the start of the demonstrations. Reports of sadistic beatings, excessive force by mounted officers on horseback, and injuries leading to dozens of hospitalization characterized the demonstrations in Tel Aviv, especially on the Ayalon Highway. In Jerusalem, police indiscriminately shot water cannons at demonstrators outside of the Knesset and unleashed the infamous “skunk water” on protestors on Begin Road.

Of course, this is the same type of brutality that Palestinians and social minorities in Israel are intimately familiar with and have faced for years (see this video of police officers openly joking about beating demonstrators at the most recent demonstration against anti-Ethiopian racism in Tel Aviv last week). The recent horrific incident of 16 police officers branding a “Star of David” of burning metal into the flesh of a resident of Shu’afat refugee camp in East Jerusalem is but one of many of these kinds of incidents which are the norm against Palestinians.

It goes without saying: the judicial overhaul is only the tip of the iceberg. The judicial overhaul is one key attempt to accelerate processes that have long been in motion. It is a positive feedback loop: the settler movement has taken over the government and catalyzed a judicial coup that can return the favor and allow for the unfettered realization of the settler movement’s aspirations. In order to prevent these aims from reaching their fullest heights, we need human rights defenders on the front lines, actively resisting them.

The Israeli state knows how powerful the work of human rights defenders can be. Because of that, it does everything in its power to criminalize them. And we, at the Human Rights Defenders Fund, do everything in our power to allow them to continue their imperative human rights activities freely and without restriction.

In this newsletter, we report on a number of concerted and ongoing attempts by the Israeli state and state-sanctioned forces to target and criminalize these human rights defenders on the frontlines.

Outcomes of Key Military Court Trials

There have been significant developments over the summer in three of our ongoing military court cases against prominent Palestinian human rights defenders.

The military court system enables highly discriminatory prosecution of Palestinians under military law – it does not guarantee right to counsel, it requires a very low burden of proof to convict, and holds most Palestinians in detention until the end of proceedings. Between 2018-2021, 96% of cases that went through the military courts ended in conviction and 99.6% of those cases were the result of plea bargains; only 0.3% of cases that went though the military courts were exonerated. The military court system is one of the main mechanisms used by the Israeli state and the occupation regime to criminalize Palestinian human rights defenders and inhibit their activities.

The case of Sami Huraini

On August 22, the trial against prominent HRD and Masafer Yatta-resident Sami Huraini reached verdict. The judge ruled to convict Sami of two out of the three charges: assault of a soldier and obstruction of a soldier during duty.

Sami Huraini is the eldest son in a prominent human rights defender family in A-Tuwani in Masafer Yatta, and co-founded the grassroots organization Youth of Sumud with his sister Sameeha, a group that mobilizes the youth of the area around the principles and practice of civil disobedience. The entire family is often targeted because of their powerful presence as community leaders. You can read about the multi-generational family, their decades-long commitment to peaceful resistance, and the founding of Youth of Sumud, in this Ha’aretz article.

On January 8, 2021, Sami Huraini participated in a peaceful protest (comprised of Palestinian, Israeli, and international solidarity activists) in the wake of the shooting of Masafer Yatta-resident Haroun Abu Aram, who was trying to prevent the IDF from confiscating an electricity generator from his neighbor when the military shot him at close range. (Abu Aram passed away from his wounds in February of this year). The night after the protest, Sami Huraini was arrested from his bed in his home during a military night raid, and was held in the Etzion detention facility for six days. He was the only one from the entire demonstration who was targeted for arrest, and was indicted with assault of a soldier, obstruction of a soldier during duty, and violation of a closed military zone order.

Prosecution brought no substantial evidence to back up their allegations of assault. Despite the fact that the Israeli soldiers present during the demonstration were wearing body cameras, none of them could bring forward body camera footage or medical records to indicate Sami had committed assault. The only evidence was that of three soldiers who testified on the stand – although for one of them, the witness testimony was contradictory. Although testifying on the stand that Sami had assaulted him, this soldier had made no such claim in his affidavit to the interrogator during the initial investigation a year earlier.

By contrast, over the course of the evidence hearings, Sami’s HRDF-funded legal defense brought forward five witness testimonies, and 117 pieces of video footage documenting every single moment of the demonstration from start to finish – and in her concluding statements, HRDF-funded attorney Riham Nassra painstakingly analyzed and appraised each specific time stamp during which the assault was alleged to occur, to demonstrate to the judge that in fact no assault had occurred at any of the moments that the soldiers alleged.

In her verdict explanation, however, the judge explicitly stated that she decided to disregard the 117 pieces of video evidence, choosing to believe instead the contradictory testimonies of the soldiers, on the grounds that “it is impossible to deduce from the existing what does not exist” (clause 133). In other words, just because the extensive video evidence showed that an assault did not occur at any of the moments in which the assault was alleged to occur does not mean, according to the judge, that the assault did not happen. This questionable logic is nothing short of mental gymnastics that make the bottom line here crystal clear: to acquit Sami on the basis of the strength of the evidence would have meant to admit that the soldiers who testified against him did not testify truthfully on the stand. And in a military court that exists only to serve a military regime of which soldiers are the lifeblood, the IDF judge was not willing to call this institution into question.

The judge also convicted Sami of obstruction of a soldier during duty. She claimed that the protest was not a “peaceful demonstration” due to the fact that demonstrators “shouted chants loudly, sometimes from the defendant himself, requiring de-escalation,” (clause 166) and that they blocked a road during their march from Tuwani to Al-Arakeez. In her verdict, she described Sami as “behaving violently throughout the incident and for this he was convicted” (clause 168). She based her evaluation of Sami’s “violent behavior” on her previous decision to convict him of assault, but again did not refer to any actual evidence that would account for a characterization of Sami Huraini as someone who exhibits “violent behavior.”

It goes without saying: shouting slogans and blocking roads are the hallmarks of nonviolent civil disobedience. They are the bread and butter of peaceful resistance movements. To describe these actions as violent is to endanger and delegitimize the actions of all people who exercises their right to protest, their right to freedom of expression, and their right to freedom of assembly.

The results of this verdict, and the logic and language used to justify it, lays bare the very fabrics of inequity and injustice embedded in the sham military court system. It violates the basic human right to a “fair and public hearing by and independent and impartial tribunal,” as enshrined in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. In Sami’s case, there was no presumption of innocence, disturbingly unsound logic on the side of the judge, clear and explicit bias, and a shockingly low burden of proof required to convict. Prosecution brought forward absolutely no evidence of assault – no medical records, no video footage (despite the fact that soldiers wore body cameras), and no objective witness testimony (besides that of the soldiers who alleged the assault themselves). In the case of one of the soldiers, his testimony was unreliable and contradictory – as he made claims on the witness stand which were never even referred to during the investigation a year earlier. But because of the inherently biased nature of the military court system, which will always prefer the upholding of occupation over truth every day, Sami can now face up to seven years in prison, the penalty carried by a conviction of assault of a soldier.

We call upon the international community to leverage your power and your diplomatic relationships with the Israeli government to make it known that the baseless and obvious targeting and criminalization of human rights defenders will not be tolerated.

Members of the diplomatic community show up in support of Sami Huraini during his verdict hearing on August 22. (Sami stands fourth from right, Adv. Riham Nassra fifth from right.) Photo credit: HRDF.

Plea Bargain in the Sham Trial of Nasser Nawajah

Nasser Nawajah is a longtime human rights defender who has worked as field researcher at the eminent human rights organization B’Tselem for 15 years. He is a resident of the Palestinian village of Susiya in Masafer Yatta (the site of several successive expulsion and land expropriation attempts by the Israeli state and military since the 1980s), and is one of the main reasons human rights organization have so much data and documentation around the human rights violations occurring in the South Hebron hills. He puts himself at risk on a daily basis to document demolitions, settler violence, and military abuses, and pays the price for this by being consistently harassed, intimidated, and targeted by the military. (Read about one such 14-hour ordeal of arbitrary detention and psychological torture, for the sole purposes of threatening Nawajah, which occurred in the summer of 2022, here).

In May of 2022, Nawajah was indicted with assaulting a soldier during an incident that occurred in September 2021. Read about the background to this case here. This charge was completely baseless – Nawajah was never even arrested during the event in which the incident supposedly occurred and was only summoned for interrogation three weeks later. Prosecution did not bring forward any substantial evidence beside the witness testimony from the border police officer who alleged the assault. According to his testimony, the officer received a blow to the right side of his torso while he was assisting another officer in “neutralizing” a Palestinian village resident. He claims that he then turned around, “made eye contact” with Nasser, and watched as Nasser ran away in the other direction. When asked on the stand how he knew it was Nasser who punched him, the officer simply responded: “I know him!” without providing any more specific details as to how it was that he could identify Nasser as the alleged assailant. Prosecution did not bring forward any medical records, video footage, or photographic documentation to substantiate the claim the Nawajah committed this assault, let alone that this officer was even punched at all.

Throughout the testimony, the officer repeated again and again that Nasser Nawajah is one of the most well known figures in the south Hebron hills, and that “everyone — police officers, soldiers, commanders — everyone” knows Nasser. He intended this to disparage Nasser’s relentless documentation work as a thorn in the side of soldiers and those serving the Israeli Occupation Forces (stating explicitly that because of Nasser’s documentation work they are unable to carry out their missions without local resistance). For instance, he mentioned that when they go to demolish a house, if Nasser is there filming, “the residents of the home will resist the demolition by not evacuating the premises quietly…” as if the problem is Nasser’s documentation, and not the demolition itself. Of course, this is exactly the point… But it also points to how successful Nasser is in documenting human rights violations all throughout the south Hebron hills. It is not a huge leap to make to understand why Nasser would then be targeted in this way to put a stop to his documentation work.

It is undeniable that this case was a sham trial, based on baseless charges, with the clear intent of targeting and criminalizing Nasser to force him to cease his work. Despite all of this, Nasser chose in the end to secure a plea bargain with prosecution in July 2023, because he understood the harsh reality of the military court system and did not want to risk conviction despite his innocence. This plea deal reduced the charges from assault of a soldier to obstruction of a soldier, with a suspended prison sentence of 1.5 months and a suspended fine of 3,000 shekels if he is to be convicted of either assault or obstruction again over the next 1.5 years.

Because of this suspended sentence, ​​Nawajah now has a target on his back even more than before. Soldiers and border police who are perturbed by Nawajah’s documentation work will have even more reason to target and harass him and look for any reason they can to arrest him again in order to increase the likelihood of imprisoning him. However, for the time being, Nasser does not risk prison time, and he has avoided being convicted of a violent charge.


Partial Legal Victory – Issa Amro

In June, the seven-year long military court trial of Issa Amro concluded, with our appeal successfully overturning two out of six of the original convictions. The judge also reduced the original suspended prison sentence, with the suspended sentence time frame already expired, ensuring that Amro does not face imprisonment.

Issa Amro leads the Youth Against Settlements organization in Hebron, and has campaigned for years against the settler and military takeover of Hebron, and against the creation of “sterile streets” and the massive proliferation of checkpoints that deny Palestinians freedom of movement within the city. In 2016 he was indicted on 18 charges over five different incidents, all of which were intended to curb his right to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of protest.

We are happy that the appeal was partially successful – we ultimately secured acquittals for 14 out of 18 counts throughout the course of the entire trial, 2 of which were during the appeal, and secured a reduced sentence that ensured Amro will not face any prison time. For this we can only thank our incredible lawyers, Adv. Riham Nassra and Adv. Michal Pomeranz, who led the case during the appeal trial, and formerly HRDF-funded lawyer Adv. Gaby Lasky, who helmed the case with Nassra during the initial trial proceedings. On the other hand, however, we were disappointed to see that the judge took no principled stance against the violations in freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly that are part and parcel of upholding the remaining charges. Under military rule in the occupied Palestinian territories, no assembly of over 10 people is considered a legal assembly, unless with the explicit permission of the Military Commander, thus criminalizing all forms of political protest in the occupied West Bank.

We find it absurd to demand that Palestinians “ask permission” of their oppressors to protest their oppression, and we reject the legitimacy of this ordinance in all of its forms. We would also like to note that acquittals of this level are very rare. Palestinians who undergo criminal proceedings in military court are often convicted for far less, and serve much longer prison sentences, due to the nature of the military court systems which exists only to uphold military occupation, and operates under a “guilty, guilty, and guilty even if innocent” mentality. Read more about the specifics of Issa Amro’s case and trial in our recent update here.


In the cases of all three of these human rights defenders — Sami Huraini, Nasser Nawajah, and Issa Amro – we see the way the military court system operates to criminalize human rights defenders that comprise the front lines of defense against systemic human rights violations in the West Bank.

The chilling effect of political persecution under a military regime is powerful, and even the most highly-supported human rights defenders with the most expert legal representation are not immune to the consequences of this criminalization. By eviscerating local hotbeds of community leadership and civil disobedience, the Israeli state and military is able to reach their ultimate goals of complete depopulation of Area C and forcible transfer of Palestinians that much more easily.

You do not need to look far to see what life looks like under a regime in which there is no independent judiciary, and the courts only exist to serve the forces in control.


Legal Win

Settlement Win in the SLAPP suit against former Peace Now Director

In March 2023, a four-year long politically-motivated lawsuit against former Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer concluded (represented by HRDF-funded lawyer Adv. Shlomi Zachary), reaching an extremely desirable settlement, in which Oppenheimer did not have to pay any financial sum to the plaintiff Mor Altshuler.

The background to the case began in 2012, when plaintiff Mor Altshuler slapped Oppenheimer in the backstage of a live news television program they were appearing on. Altshuler was charged and ultimately found guilty of assault. When Altshuler (a right-wing religious scholar who has been very vocal about her outgoing support for Donal Trump) decided to run for political office in 2019 with the now-dissolved Telem party (a Likud offshoot), Oppenheimer spoke publicly about the incident that had occurred seven years earlier, stating that it was an indicator of the fact that Altshuler was not fit for public office. In turn, Altshuler sued him for defamation.

The case is now concluded, with Oppenheimer not having had to pay a single penny to Altshuler or for his legal representation, provided by attorney Adv. Shlomi Zachary and funded by HRDF. This was an extremely successful outcome in the fight against shrinking civic space in Israel and the fight against targeting human rights organizations and their leaders.


“Nora in a Hunted House.” June 13, 2023. Nora Ghaith-Sub Laban in her home in the weeks before eviction. Photo by Yahel Gazit.


East Jeruslem

The Ethnic Cleansing of East Jerusalem – 12 arrested during the Eviction of Ghaith-Sub Laban Family

In the early hours of the morning on July 11th, between 5:00 and 6:00 am, Israeli police forces broke into the home of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family in Jerusalem’s Old City quarters, and evicted by force the multi-generational family who had lived there for 70 years since 1953. Shortly thereafter, settlers entered the apartment, escorted by Israeli police, and seized the home for themselves, as part of the explicit state-sanctioned effort of settler groups to establish ethnic hegemony over East Jerusalem and expel Palestinians living there.

The state had taken advantage of the fact that that very same day, the anti-government protest movement had planned massive demonstrations and disruption events across the country, in response to the Knesset passing the first reading of the legislation revoking the “reasonableness standard.” While the entire country was focusing their attention elsewhere, Israeli police decided to seize the moment to conduct the eviction. (Read about the background of the eviction here, and the unjust fine they are forced to pay to cover the cost of their eviction here.)

During an immediate emergency action conducted by activists to protect the family’s home this morning, 12 human rights defenders (most from the Jerusalem-based solidarity collective Free Jerusalem) were arrested at Jaffa Gate and brought to the Kishleh Police Station in the Old City for interrogation. They were questioned on charges of: participating in a riot, participating in a riot after a warning to disperse, obstructing a police officer on duty, and participating in an illegal assembly. One was released after interrogation without release conditions, and the other eleven HRDs were transferred to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, so that the police could request more stringent release conditions than permitted at the station. The requested release conditions were not only exaggerated and overly repressive, but were intended specifically to prohibit these HRDs from conducting any sort of human rights work around the eviction of Palestinians in East Jerusalem in the coming months. Read further about the specifics of the arrest of these 12 activists after the Sub Laban eviction in our recent update here.

Read also about the arrest of prominent HRD Gil Hammerschlag for wearing a hat, while he was on his way to a protective shift at the Ghaith-Sub Laban home in the weeks prior to the eviction here.

Police Brutality and Palestinian Flags

Since January of 2023, HRDF has provided legal aid to 25 HRDs across 11 discrete cases who were targeted for arrest because they were waving Palestinian flags.

Between May and August of 2023, we have had nine different cases in which excessive brute force was used during arrests. In 6 of those instances, the police brutality was directed against protestors holding Palestinian flags.

Most recently, during a weekly Sheikh Jarrah protest on August 25, 2023, prominent HRDs Muhammad Abu Hummus and Itai Feitelson were arrested with excessive use of force due to waving a Palestinian flag during the demonstration. The arrest of Abu Hummus was so violent that he required ambulance transportation to Al-Mukasad Hospital after the arrest, where medics conducted X-rays. View the violent arrest of Feitelson and Abu Hummus here.

After the arrest, Abu Hummus was banned from Sheikh Jarrah for 15 days, while Itai Feitelson refused to sign any ban order. Feitelson was brought to the Magistrate’s Court, where police requested the judge grant a 15-day ban, but the court rejected their request. The police appealed to the District Court, but their appeal to ban Feitelson was rejected by the court there as well, thanks to the diligent representation of HRDF-funded lawyer Nasser Odeh. The refusal of the court to grant the police a restrictive ban on Feitelson’s activities in Sheikh Jarrah represents a small victory for human rights defenders in East Jerusalem, and gives important legitimacy to the practice of refusing to sign “ban orders” that are punitive and only meant to restrict the activities of HRDs.

Moments during the arrest of Muhammad Abu Hummus and Itai Feitelson in Sheikh Jarrah, August 25, 2023. (Click to watch)


Military + Settler Violence go hand in hand in Area C

Wrongful Arrest and Denial of Medical Treatment – Jameel Abu Sa’ifan

Jamil Abu Sa’ifan is a volunteer photographer for B’tselem, who documents human rights violations in Hebron. On June 30, 2023, during the al-Adha holiday, the home of Jamil Abu Sa’ifan in Hebron was attacked by three settlers, who threw stones at his windows and destroyed his fence and trees, and assaulted him and his family once they arrived at the scene. Although the military and border police were present, they did nothing to intervene. During the course of the attack, Abu Sa’ifan sustained an injury to his shoulder after a settler threw a stone at him.

When additional settlers began to join, the military decided to arrest Abu Sa’ifan without arresting any of the settler attackers, and interrogated him the following day on suspicions of throwing stones. HRDF-funded lawyer Lea Tsemel was only able to locate Abu Sa’ifan after the first 36 hours of his arrest. Within the day, Tsemel requested the immediate release of Abu Sa’ifan, which was rejected by Ofer military court.On July 4, five days after the initial arrest, the police communicated to the military court judge that since reviewing the case and examining the evidence, there was no cause to keep Abu Sai’fan in detention, and he was released by the judge more than 96 hours after his initial arrest. Later, HRDF learned that Abu Sa’ifan was not provided any medical treatment for his injured shoulder caused by the settler attack while in detention.

In other words: A well-known human rights defender was injured and beaten and his home was vandalized by vicious settlers – yet he himself was arrested despite being the victim of the attack, and interrogated as if he had been the one throwing stones. He was denied legal consultation for the first 36 hours of his arrest, and he sat in jail for five days without ever getting a proper detention hearing. Despite severe bodily injuries from the settler attack, he was denied any medical care while in detention. By the time his case was properly reviewed, the police themselves admitted that there was no actual cause for detention. This is a case in which settler violence, military violence, medical neglect, and police mishandling all conspired to target and torment a Palestinian human rights defender for no reason at all except because they can.


Arbitrary detention and Abduction in the South Hebron Hills

Between April and May, the IDF was responsible for dozens of incidents of abduction and arbitrary detention of residents and human rights defenders in the south Hebron hills. Freedom from arbitrary detention is a fundamental human right enshrined in Article 9 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the use of arbitrary detention as a tactic of coercion and control by military regimes is a violation of the right to liberty, a breach of due process, and is a form of psychological and physical violence.

During a two week period in the spring, HRDF counted a total of 28 individuals who were abducted with concealed whereabouts, most of which were ordered by the same military commander in the area. Read about the specifics of each incident in our update here.

In one instance, an HRD described that throughout the duration of his abduction, he was held in a military jeep and transferred to various locations over several hours, during which time he suffered verbal abuse and physiological mistreatment. He was forbidden from using the bathroom for hours on end and threatened with arrest and imprisonment if he relieved himself; was denied water or adequate covering to protect him from the night cold while held outdoors, and was subjected to consistent verbal and physical humiliation by soldiers during the entirety of the ordeal. At one point, just after he was released on the road near the village of Susiya without a phone, the soldiers chased after him on foot, pointed a rifle at him, and taunted him verbally, causing him to collapse into a thorn bed. In another instance, two shepherds (a father and son) were abducted by soldiers at the Masadot Yehuda checkpoint area while they were searching for stray sheep who had wandered away from their flock. Their whereabouts remained unknown for more than 48 hours. On the third day after their abduction, they were released home without any charges, registered investigation, or any other record of their detention.

In all of the instances of unlawful detentions and abductions, the following elements characterized each incident:

  1. All of the detentions were arbitrary – there was no given justification for the detentions or extensions of detention in any of the above cases.

  2. The actions of IDF were seemingly dictated by settler commands.

  3. None of the detained HRDs or shepherds were registered in any military base or police station following their abduction, and their whereabouts remained unknown for the entirety of their time in custody. Time length of abductions in each case ranges from 4 hours to up to 49 hours.

  4. The army intentionally endangered the lives of detainees – throwing them to the side of the road outside of a hostile settlement after abductions, often still cuffed and ziptied, without their personal belongings or phones to call for assistance.

  5. The army stole phones and I.D. from several detainees, despite the fact that they had no legal permission to access phones or personal items since none of the detainees were under arrest, and did not return these items at the time of release. This is clear theft and a violation of privacy rights.

  6. Testimonies from abducted detainees described physiological torment and verbal abuse at the hands of soldiers throughout the period of detention.

This blatant violation of human rights and international law was carried out for the sole purpose of accelerating ongoing processes of expulsion in Area C. It is also the direct result of incitements caused by settlers from unauthorized outposts in the area. We urge the international community to intervene in the case of these alarming occurrences.

Violent Settler Torments Young Boy in Khan Al Ahmar – Palestinian sisters arrested

On August 29, the flock of sheep of a family in the village of Khan al Ahmar escaped from their corral, and Muhammad, the young 10-year old son in the family, went out to return the flock to their enclosure.

While out herding the flock, Muhammad was detained by Kfar Adumim security coordinator Avihai Shorshan (a settler who is infamous for tormenting the residents of Khan Al Ahmar, and who founded the right-wing organization Ha’Emet Sheli whose purpose is to demonize testifiers from Breaking the Silence). Shorshan threatened the ten-year-old Muhammad, held him by force, and would not allow him to leave. It should be noted: the entire time, Muhammad remained on land that has been designated by the Civil Administration as land where Palestinians are allowed to graze – far away from the Kfar Adumim settlement and close to his own home in Khan Al-Ahmar. After the distressed child called out to his sister Nasreen nearby, she came to rescue her brother and return him home. Instead, Shorshan pushed her to the ground and began to shout that the sister had been throwing stones – which she absolutely did not do. (This tactic of settlers making wild accusations on video in order to accuse criminalize Palestinians later is common).

In this video, Shorshan can also be seen physically harassing the crying boy and pushing and grabbing his arms when his sister Nasreen reaches out to retrieve him. As Rogel Alpher writes in Ha’aretz: “This is a Jew with a rifle who terrorizes a small Arab child and uses violence against him with a sense of entitlement… He completely dehumanizes the [sister], forcibly preventing her from hugging him and reassuring him.”

When the border police arrived, they ziptied both the older sister Nasreen and her younger sister Iman and brought them to the police station, forcing them to abandon their flock of sheep in the field. Nasreen was then interrogated on suspicion of assault of a public servant and obstruction of a public servant.

Nasreen received legal consultation from HRDF-funded lawyer Riham Nassra, and was released from the station without conditions after interrogation. The Friends of Jahalin organization have also begun a fundraiser to collect funds for body cameras for the residents of Khan al-Ahmar, who encounter this type of harassment and violence on a daily basis.

Security coordinator Avihai Shorshan torments and coercively detains 10-year old boy Muhammad from Khan al-Ahmar in an area outside of the bounds of his jurisdiction. Photo: Friends of Jahalin.

This is a story that repeats itself again and again. You already know how the story goes. Palestinian children are the victims of settler harassment, and yet they are the ones arrested and punished. This story is common.

But it only continues because the international community is complicit in allowing settler violence to proliferate without limits, by allowing the Israeli state free reign in sanctioning and encouraging settler violence, and by deploying settler violence to achieve its own goals: to facilitate the expulsion of Palestinians from Area C, and in this case, from Khan Al-Ahmar.

This does not need to happen. This does not need to be this way. We implore you: Hold the Israeli state accountable. Force them to prosecute settler violence.

Leverage your power to demand that the Israeli state ceases the criminalization of Palestinian human rights defenders… whether it be Sami Huraini, or the brave 20-year-old sister of a young child who fell victim to the extreme settler harassment that occurs on a daily basis.

You can stop this. But first, there needs to be political will.



HRDF would like to thank its incredible team of lawyers for providing top-tier legal support in the cases recounted above and in other cases not reported here, so that our HRDs can continue to fight against human rights violations in Israel and the oPt. Special thanks are due to the following lawyers who provided legal support to HRDs between April 2023 – August 2023:

  • Adv. Riham Nassra
  • Adv. Nasser Odeh
  • Adv. Ahmed Khalefa
  • Adv. Lea Tsemel
  • Adv. Carmel Pomerantz
  • Adv. Karin Torn-Hibler
  • Adv. Shahde Ibn Bari
  • Adv. Khalil Zahar
  • Adv. Einat Fogel-Levin
  • Adv. Alon Sapir
  • Adv. Tamir Blank
  • Adv. Hadar Madnick

HRDF stands in solidarity with all HRDs targeted, harassed, persecuted, and prosecuted due to their activities. We will always support them and guarantee that they are able to continue their legitimate human rights work.

We welcome your interest and support. For questions or matters relating to HRDF’s work, please contact us at: [email protected]