Most of us think of our home as a place of safety. As night falls, we shut the door and gather inside with our family, safe in the knowledge that we are protected from the outside world within our walls. The knowledge that when our door is closed, no one can invade our private space without our permission enables the peace of mind and comfort we feel at home.
Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank, however, are constantly vulnerable to arbitrary invasion of their homes by Israeli security forces and the severe, resulting harm. Invasions by the Israeli military into Palestinian homes in the West Bank are part and parcel to the routine of occupation and the system of control over the Palestinian population. Among the variety of practices that characterize Israel’s military control over the West Bank, the harm caused by home invasions is particularly severe as it robs individuals, families and communities of the fundamental certainty that their home is their castle.
A home gives its dwellers a sense of identity and security. Controlling what goes on inside it is a fundamental condition of personal liberty, perhaps second only to control over one’s body. Forced intrusion by agents of the regime into the home is a severe violation of a person’s dignity, liberty and privacy. For this reason, all legal systems that respect human rights place strict limitations on governmental authorities, designed to reduce the use of such actions as much as possible and protect individuals from harm.
Palestinians in the West Bank do not enjoy similar protections. Israel does not limit invasion into their homes to exceptional cases, where there are concrete suspicions against an individual and invading their home is critical to averting the threat they pose. Military law in the West Bank does not require a judicial warrant confirming the necessity of the intrusion in order to invade the private domain. As such, it leaves Palestinians constantly vulnerable to arbitrary invasions into their homes.
Almost every night, armed Israeli soldiers raid homes, wake women, men and children, and carry out different actions inside the homes of Palestinian residents. According to UN figures, these invasions occur more than 200 times each month. Beyond the harm suffered by individuals and families as a result of the intrusion into their homes, this practice effectively serves as a means to oppress and intimidate the Palestinian population and increase control over it.
This report, A Life Exposed, is the product of a joint project launched by Yesh Din, Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) and Breaking the Silence in 2018. It presents the practice of raiding Palestinian homes in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) and its impacts and offers an outline of the provisions within military legislation that regulate and enable it. This legal outline provides the basis for an analysis of home invasions in light of international law, which defines Israel’s obligations as the occupying power in the West Bank, and helps expose how this practice brazenly violate these legal provisions.
The main features of these home invasions were gleaned from 158 testimonies collected by Yesh Din from Palestinian men and women who experienced such invasions. Forty-five interviews (a sample selected from 80 interviews) conducted by Breaking the Silence with Israeli soldiers and officers substantiated and supplemented knowledge of how these invasions unfold and provided insight on their goals and on the directives given to the soldiers who carry them out. Thirty-one interviews PHRI conducted with Palestinians whose homes were invaded by soldiers helped assess the serious impact invasions have on the mental health of individuals, families and communities.