Gaza disability rights advocates speak to UN experts ahead of Israel review

In September Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) briefed the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ahead of their review of Israel’s progress in implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which it ratified in 2012. In two virtual session with members of the Committee, MAP outlined how Palestinians with disabilities in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) face serious violations to their human rights as a result of from Israel’s policies and practices as an occupying power.

MAP was joined in one of the meetings by three disability rights advocates from Gaza*, who shared their experiences of life in Gaza and the barriers to their rights that they face under occupation and illegal closure and blockade. One advocate underscored the UN’s warning back in 2012, that by this year, Gaza would be unliveable. He explained: “in Gaza 96% of water is undrinkable. We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, reaching 90% amongst people with disabilities. Children and young people don’t know what it means to travel.” He focused not only on the economic and humanitarian impact of the closure, but also the isolation caused to Gaza’s two million inhabitants, and how this has been exacerbated since the outbreak of COVID-19, particularly for people with disabilities.

The advocates also raised the difficulties of repairing assistive devices and accessing new ones, and how barriers to freedom of movement imposed by Israel prevent many disabled athletes in Gaza, including those with disabilities, from attending international competitions. One woman told the Committee members “I would probably be able to see if I lived somewhere else”, as she explained how Israel’s permit regime had prevented her from accessing potentially sight-saving eye surgery in East Jerusalem.

MAP also raised barriers to the rights of Palestinians with disabilities in the West Bank. Aseel Baidoun, MAP’s West Bank-based Advocacy and Communications Officer, raised Israel’s failure to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of Palestinians with disabilities in situations of risk including conflict. She shared the harrowing testimony provided to MAP by Warde Abu Hadid, who worked with and witnessed the killing of Eyad Hallaq, a young man with a learning disability, by Israeli police in East Jerusalem in May:

“I heard a number of soldiers shouting, and I looked behind and I saw Eyad running towards me and calling my name. The soldiers started shooting towards us. Eyad managed to reach me and he said “Ms Warde tell them I am with you” and then he was lying on his side and he was bleeding. I started screaming, in Arabic and in Hebrew “Stop he has a learning disability!”. A group of soldiers approached us and asked us “Where is the gun?”. I said he is with me and we have no gun. Then three bullets were fired at point blank towards Eyad, who was already bleeding on the floor.

“I was in full shock. Eyad came to seek my protection, but I could not protect him. At that moment, tens and tens of soldiers rushed towards us. Two female women started aggressively inspecting my body looking for a gun. I was speechless. We had no guns. I was dragged to an investigation room, I thought they were going to shoot me. They just killed Eyad for no reason, and I thought they would kill me next. I was terrified. They kept me until noon at the interrogation, I told them what happened, and they let me out.”

MAP’s Advocacy and Campaigns Officer in the UK, Roisin Jacklin, also delivered a statement which urged the Committee to:

  • Call on Israel, the occupying power, to adhere to its legal obligations and ensure the respect and fulfilment of the rights of Palestinians with disabilities under its effective control in the occupied Palestinian territory;
  • Demand Israel to cease all forms of collective punishment, including the unlawful closure of Gaza, with immediate effect; and
  • Urge Israel, the occupying power, to ensure the protection and fulfilment of the specific needs of people with disabilities in the occupied Palestinian territory to maintain their health, safety, dignity, and independence throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and related health emergencies

To read MAP’s statement in full, click here. You can also read MAP’s written submission to the Committee or more about MAP's participatory photography project with Palestinians with disabilities in Gaza here.


*We have removed names to protect the identities of these advocates

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