MIFTAH holds virtual reality tour of Israeli violations in Jerusalem, Hebron and Gaza
July 18, 2021

Ramallah – 12/7/2021 – MIFTAH recently completed its EU-funded “Youth as Human Rights Defenders” project, which it implemented over three and a half years, documenting Israeli human rights violations in three areas: Jerusalem, Hebron and the Gaza Strip.

A virtual reality tour of Israeli violations, including the role of Palestinian youth in documenting these violations, was held at the Mahmoud Darwish Museum in Ramallah. MIFTAH Executive Director, Dr. Tahreer Araj opened the event, explaining how the human rights defenders project focused on the monitoring and documentation of Israeli occupation violations in the three areas. In Hebron, she said, the focus was on the right to freedom of movement, education and religious rights; in occupied Jerusalem, it was on house demolitions, the right to education and religious and cultural rights. As for the Gaza Strip, the VR tour focused on violations against the rights of farmers and fishermen.

Araj continued that in the project’s second year, MIFTAH developed the first detailed analytical report on these violations, which was presented for discussion with local and international rights institutions. Specialized reports and factsheets were also written and discussed with the relevant parties.

After thanking the EU for supporting the project and the grassroots institutions that supported the defenders, Araj concluded by saying: “The importance of this project within the Palestinian context is that it is a crucial tool for monitoring and documenting Israeli violations. It could be used to promote the efforts of civil society and rights institutions in disseminating and exposing the occupation and holding it accountable for its crimes and violations against the Palestinians on international platforms.”

Meanwhile, MIFTAH project coordinator Waad Qannam said the project summarizes the efforts and work over three and a half years by human rights defenders through virtual tours of the three areas. He commended the role of the defenders in occupied Jerusalem, the old city of Hebron and in the Gaza Strip who monitored and documented Israeli violations and were able to convey the message of the Palestinian people to the world in spite of the many obstacles.

Attorney Dr. Mahmoud Abu Swai then presented the results of the second analytical report on the human rights violations, applying international human rights law, international humanitarian law and international criminal law to their specificity but also stressing that these were only a small part of the ongoing violations. The report covers the period between 2020 to mid-2021 and cites basic rights such as education, health, freedom of movement, freedom of worship, freedom to access religious sites, the right to live in Jerusalem and Hebron and rights of farmers and fishermen in the Gaza Strip, violated by occupation authorities.

While presenting the report’s recommendations, Abu Swei called for the need to provide concrete support and a strategic plan backed by material means and budgets in Jerusalem and Hebron. He also called for internationalizing attacks on places of worship, on the rights of farmers and fishermen and for doubling efforts to support the Gaza Strip, lift the siege and end the division in addition to exploring the possible legal tools to hold it accountable.

Furthermore, MIFTAH’s Policy Dialogue and Good Governance Program Director, Lamis Shuaibi said the institution wanted to present something different, with new and more advanced tools used by Palestinian youths to communicate and connect at the local and international levels. It also wanted to ensure that the presentation was in harmony with the youth defenders’ work over the past three and a half years.

“The highlighted issues focused on the specific areas and the violations committed there,” Shuaibi said. “The VR tour takes the viewer on a journey of the violations against Palestinians and makes them feel as if they were on the receiving end of these violations. It is a simulation of reality and contributes to disseminating the Palestinian narrative globally from the perspective of Palestinian youth. The project also covers a considerable range of human rights violations including the right to movement, the right to housing and worship along with other denied human rights Palestinians endure, including the right to protection.”

Shuaibi said the project included three campaigns entitled: “Our Protection is our Right” in Gaza; “100 Checkpoints” in Hebron and “We are the Origin” in Jerusalem and were managed by youth activists in these areas who were trained on means of documentation based on the Universal Human Rights Index, international law and international human rights.