Israel: several attacks against anti-occupation groups

Urgent Appeal
Nasser Nawaja

ISR 001 / 0918 / OBS 110
Arbitrary detention / Harassment /
Physical assault /
Restrictions to freedom of expression
September 6, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Israel.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about several recent incidents targeting anti occupation groups, including the arbitrary detention of Mr. Avner Gvaryahu, Executive Director of the Israeli anti-occupation organisation Breaking the Silence [1], and Mr. Achiya Schatz, Communications Director of the organisation, as well as Mr. Michael Sfard, human rights lawyer and legal advisor of Breaking the Silence; the assault of six members of Ta’ayush [2] and the restrictions to freedom of expression against the non-profit Barbur Gallery.

According to the information received, on August 31, 2018, Israeli Border Police arrested Messrs. Avner Gvaryahu, Achiya Schatz and Michael Sfard near the illegal outpost of Mitzpe Yair in the West Bank, and took them to Hebron police station.

Their detention took place while the three human rights defenders were leading an educational tour of South Hebron Hills to see the reality of the occupation and show their support to the six Ta’ayush activists that were violently attacked a few days before in the outpost of Mitzpe Yair. The delegation of about 120 people, coming from all over Israel, was cut short when security forces blocked them from their regular lookout point near Mitzpe Yair outpost.

Messrs. Avner Gvaryahu, Achiya Schatz and Michael Sfard were released from detention later the same day, after spending three hours in detention. They were summoned for questioning on October 14, 2018. The three were detained for entering a closed military area. The order closing the area was issued the morning of their arrest for the purpose of preventing the tour, and was shown to the delegation only after their arrival. The participants were not given the opportunity to leave the area before the arrest began. The order was not enforced against the settlers living in the Mitzpe Yair outpost. In the West Bank, under the current military regime, arbitrary or false arrest by the Israeli military forces targeting Palestinian civilians is common and routine.

Furthermore, on August 25, 2018, six members of Ta’ayush were documenting illegal construction in the unauthorized Jewish settlement of Mitzpe Yair in the South Hebron Hills when 10 settlers attacked them and broke their cameras. Four were evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva, suffering from bruised ribs, arms and ankles, and have since been released from the hospital.

Finally, on August 30, Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court ruled that the non-profit Barbur Gallery will have to vacate its premises by February 2019, after the gallery hosted a lecture by Breaking the Silence in February 2017. Since then, the municipality of Jerusalem, owner of the premises, was pushing to move out its legitimate occupants.

The Observatory emphasises that attacks and campaigns against human rights organisations have been ongoing for some time in Israel and the OPT and that the above incidents are just recent illustrations of the closing civil society space.

The Observatory urges the Israeli authorities to end any act of harassment against all human rights defenders in Israel and the OPT and to carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into all attacks targeting human rights defenders, including those described in this Urgent Appeal.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Israel asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory;

ii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Messrs. Avner Gvaryahu, Achiya Schatz and Michael Sfard, as well as against all human rights defenders in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into the physical attack against the six members of Ta’ayush in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iv. Guarantee in all circumstances the freedom of expression of all human rights defenders and human rights organisations in Israel and take action to ensure that no organisation faces reprisals for their legitimate human rights activities;

v. Comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Articles 1, 5(b), 6, 12.1 and 12.2 ;

vi. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in accordance with international human rights instruments.


Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel – Minister of Foreign Affairs; Fax: + 972 267 055 55 / 972-2-5303367; Email:,
Mr. Avigdor Liberman, Minister of Defense; Fax: +972 369 169 40; Email:
Ms. Ayelet Shaked; Minister of Justice; Fax: +972 262 886 18; E-mail:
Mr. Shai Nitzan, State Attorney; Email:
H.E. Ambassador Ms. Aviva Raz Shechter, Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 716 05 55. Emil:
H.E. Ambassador Simona Frankel; Embassy of Israel in Belgium and Luxembourg, Fax: +32 2 373.56.17; Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Israel in your respective countries.

Paris-Geneva, September 6, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] Breaking the Silence was established in 2004 by veterans of the Israel Defense Forces and intends to give serving and discharged Israeli personnel means to confidentially report on their experiences in the Occupied Territories, as well as educate the Israeli population on the living conditions in this area.
[2] Ta’ayush is an Israeli-Palestinian anti-occupation group. For more than 15 years, Ta’ayush activists have accompanied Palestinian farmers and shepherds in the South Hebron Hills when they go out to farm or herd their flocks, especially on Saturdays because of harassment and violence by settlers.

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