Attacks on disabled people in occupied Palestine continue, this time on a rehabilitation facility in the town of Husan near Bethlehem, south of the West Bank. On March 21, heavily armed Israeli military forces stormed into the Husan Vocational Center for Children with Disabilities, destroying property and causing substantial damage to the facility.
Neighbours commented that the occupation forces knew well that this was a centre for young people with disabilities and was a safe space for them and their families, but this, as it seems, did not hold them back:
“Despite their knowledge that this center is for adolescents with disabilities, a big number of heavily armed Israeli soldiers using big hammers destroyed the doors of the center”. Palestinians in general, including those with disabled children have lost hope because there is no protection whatsoever, neither for them nor for their children
Palestinians in general, including those with disabled children have lost hope because there is no protection whatsoever, neither for them nor for their children
The Center coordinator reported that three doors were forcefully opened and the soldiers stayed inside the center for a while, damaging the vocational training workshop.
This incident follows several attacks and violations of the human rights of disabled people. Around 5 have been reported from the Bethlehem and Hebron districts alone, the latest case being an attack on a person with an intellectual impairment. Many other incidents, including raids go undocumented:
“There is no real documentation of such cases in Palestine. Israeli forces regularly invade the premises of media agencies, ministries, human rights and other organisations, confiscating equipment and stealing documentation”, commented Rima Canawati, Director of Program Development at the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation.
Commenting further on the motivation of these attacks, Ms. Canawati expressed how these attacks are often backed by broader views of Palestinians as terrorists and dangerous, with the implication that all are a threat and must be indiscriminately targeted:
“Before starting their service, Israeli soldiers joining the army in the West Bank are totally brainwashed and inculcated with false beliefs that all Palestinians are terrorists who want to kill all Israelis. As a result, many behave brutally with Palestinian civilians including those with disabilities, beating them, injuring them badly and killing them in some instances; and the excuse is always that they are defending themselves”
Ms. Canawati went on to comment that even a 5 year old child is constructed as a threat, and instead of arresting Palestinians who the forces claim to be a threat, they instead resort to violence and even killings, leaving people on the ground bleeding to death.
While all Palestinians are targeted, disabled people are those most vulnerable and who suffer the most the consequences of these brutal attacks along with their families:
“Disabled people are those most disadvantaged in cases of clashes or armed attacks, because it is more difficult for them to discern the danger and escape from the area. Many persons with hearing impairment or intellectual disability were shot dead by the Israeli soldiers because they couldn’t hear the soldiers shouting at them or they could not understand what they were saying”, Ms. Canawati explained.
The situation remains grim, and Ms. Canawati claims, most have lost hope because protection is not forthcoming and rights obligations are not upheld:
“Palestinians in general, including those with disabled children have lost hope because there is no protection whatsoever, neither for them nor for their children. Neither the UN nor the international community nor any human rights organizations are able to protect their lives and rights. Israel is not held accountable for killing innocent people, including children and those with disabilities”.