+972 Magazine » yesh din http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 26 Jun 2016 12:02:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 And on the Sabbath, the police rested http://972mag.com/and-on-the-sabbath-the-police-rested/120115/ http://972mag.com/and-on-the-sabbath-the-police-rested/120115/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 17:12:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=120115 An Israeli civilian admits to destroying a Palestinian’s fence, erected in order to prevent settlers from stealing wood for burning on the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba’Omer. The police close the case anyway.

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

An Israeli police officer inspects damage done Palestinian-owned olive trees by suspected Israeli settlers, October 20, 2013. (File photo by Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of an Israeli police officer and soldier inspecting vandalism committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinian-owned property. (File photo by Activestills.org)

On October 18, 2014, dozens of Israeli civilians coming from the direction of Hebron trespassed on land belonging to Muhammad Sadeq Muhammad Rashid Qanibi and began demolishing a fence he had built there. As in many other cases of assaults by Israeli civilians in the West Bank, the 18th was a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath and day of rest. This day, as we have seen before, possesses near-mystical powers, as it often deters Israel’s security forces from arresting people. Or at least Jews, at any rate. The forces who arrived on the scene decided not to carry out any arrests, instead choosing to summon the suspects for interrogation the following day.

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The police had a suspect, H.B., who actually confessed to the act: he told the policeman who arrived on the scene that he was responsible for the damage to Qanibi’s fence. According to H.B., Qanibi’s fence was blocking the Israelis’ route from Hebron to some local springs in the area.

The police began their investigation. They queried the Civil Administration over whether Qanibi was in fact authorized to build a fence on his land. A Civil Administration official responded in the affirmative. The investigative file given to Yesh Din by the police as part of our appeal is woefully incomplete, contrary to the regulations that require the police to provide us with all non-confidential material. The files do indicate that the Civil Administration official said that the fence was built with the permission of the Hebron Brigade Commander, as Israeli civilians had made it a habit to come to Qanibi’s land (where he grows olives), and take some wood for the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba’Omer, in which it is customary to build bonfires.

Qanibi gave his statement to the police along with CDs containing photos of the incident, which were taken by his neighbor. He noted that although Israelis regularly invade his land and steal his property, he was forced to pay for the fence himself.

The police summoned H.B. for interrogation under caution. Again, the information police provided about the interrogation is very fragmentary; aside from what he told the policeman during the incident itself – his confession about destroying the fence – he merely says something about “anarchists and extreme left organizations” being “regularly on the scene.” This may be seen as a justification or motive for the act he had already admitted to carrying out.

The police interrogated another central suspect, H.N., He denied any involvement in the destruction of the fence, but said it was constructed illegally and without permits; when the interrogator confronted him with the fact that the fence was actually built legally, H.N. replied: “This gives extra weight to what I have said, that sometimes more robust resistance than mere letter-writing is needed.”

Despite H.B.’s confession, the police closed the case. Why? It didn’t bother to tell us, even though it is obligated to provide this information to the representatives of a victim of a felony. We are trying to find out, and in the meantime Adv. Moria Shlomot of Yesh Din’s legal team appealed the closing of the case, citing the existence of a suspect who admitted to the crime.

Keep this in mind the next time the Israeli government tries to speak about the “rule of law” in the territories. This is what it looks like: a gang of hooligans raiding private property to steal lumber for a bonfire, an army that does not detain them because it’s Saturday, and a police force that closes the case — just because.

Two years after the incident, the fence around Qanibi’s land is still broken. He did not rebuild it, and why would he, considering goons can simply tear it down again — and even be caught red-handed — and get away scot-free. And there you have the essence of Israeli control of the West Bank.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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Show me the evidence, just not the incriminating photos http://972mag.com/show-me-the-evidence-just-not-the-incriminating-photos/119904/ http://972mag.com/show-me-the-evidence-just-not-the-incriminating-photos/119904/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 16:17:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119904 Police internal affairs diligently investigates a complaint about police brutality, omitting one minor detail: the incriminating photos provided by the complainant.

By Yossi Gurvitz

Illustrative photo of an Israeli Border Police officer confronting a Palestinian protester. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of an Israeli Border Police officer confronting a Palestinian protester. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In December 2014 a demonstration was held on Route 60 in the West Bank, near the Tunnels Checkpoint separating Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Palestinians were protesting the death of Minister Ziad Abu Ein, who died three days earlier — on International Human Rights Day — a short while after he was photographed being choked by an Israeli Border Police officer during a demonstration against the illegal outpost of Adei Ad.

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During the protest, Youssef Abu Maria was approached by a Border Policeman who, without any provocation on Abu Maria’s part, hit him forcefully in the chest. Abu Maria lost consciousness and was evacuated to a nearby hospital.

Three weeks later Abu Maria lodged a complaint with the Department of Internal Police Investigations (Internal Affairs) against the policemen who assaulted him. He attached to the complaint the medical documents indicating the treatment he received. Along with his complaint, Abu Maria noted that he had photos in his possession identifying the suspect who had assaulted him.

While it took the investigation four months to summon Abu Maria and take his statement, from that point Internal Affairs acted quickly and almost efficiently. The investigator sent a memo to the person in charge of the security cameras at the checkpoint on May 27, two days after taking Abu Maria’s statement. However, the latter replied that, unfortunately, the data on the cameras is only kept for two weeks and at that point, six months had passed since the assault. A shame. It could have been useful.

After that the investigator diligently interviewed a series of witnesses: policemen who saw nothing, a cop who claimed that Abu Maria was “pretending,” a civilian who also saw nothing and another civilian who testified that Abu Maria was indeed assaulted without any reason. Following the investigation – the very existence of which is remarkable given that Internal Affairs closes a third of its cases without any investigative action (Hebrew) – the investigator reached the conclusion that he was unable to identify a suspect. He closed the case on grounds all too known to readers of my blog posts for Yesh Din: “unknown perpetrator”.

Hold it!

Let’s rewind to the original complaint Abu Maria lodged in January 2015. He expressly said he had pictures of the policeman who assaulted him. He is also convinced that he noted their existence during the testimony he gave the investigator in May of that year. The investigator did not bother looking at them.

One of the least expected jobs human rights organizations have performed over the last decade has been supplying Israeli authorities with evidence. We and the good people in the other human rights organizations do this time after time; we are always happy to provide the authorities with the evidence they did not manage to collect themselves (without having to make any special effort to obtain it ourselves). So we did that this time as well. In April 2016, Adv. Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man of our legal team appealed Internal Affairs’ decision to close the case without looking at the photos. She attached them to the appeal, for their convenience.

Now we hope the police investigators will understand that there is a fundamental problem with saying a suspect cannot be fingered when there are photos of said suspect. We hope they will act swiftly to identify and locate the suspect (the diligent investigator already identified the Border Police units present during the protest), and then carry out the investigative steps necessary to bring about justice.

The pictures are on us. The ball is now in your court.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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Settler violence aims to dispossess, and it works http://972mag.com/settler-violence-aims-to-dispossess-and-it-works/119705/ http://972mag.com/settler-violence-aims-to-dispossess-and-it-works/119705/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 19:16:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119705 When A saw Israeli civilians approach, he did the sensible thing and fled. This is what quiet terrorism looks like.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

File photo of masked Israeli settlers threatening Palestinians while soldiers look on. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

File photo of masked Israeli settlers threatening Palestinians while soldiers look on. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A. is a resident of the village Faratha in the West Bank. He declined to have his name published, as he has become a regular target for attacks by Israeli civilians. He owns two plots of land; the illegal settlement outpost of Havat Gilad is built next to one of them. The establishment of the outpost led to the familiar pattern of dispossession in the West Bank: in order to protect the safety of the Israeli civilians who illegally took over land and settled, the army only allows A. to work his land during the olive harvest season, and only after coordination in advance with Israeli security forces.

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But the military commander refuses to allow him to work his land, arguing that the plot contains no olive trees and that coordination is reserved for olive growers alone. And so, seven dunams of land were taken from A.’s possession and practically turned over to Israeli squatters as a reward. Once settlers seize land, it is almost impossible to liberate it.

A., who is 80 years old, was left with another plot of land, closer to Faratha itself. But the proximity to the village was not enough to protect it: for years he grew wheat there, and year after year his crops were set ablaze. Out of desperation, A. decided that this year he would grow sesame. After all, it’s less flammable.

Several weeks ago, A. went to his plot of land with a donkey and began plowing and preparing it for planting. Suddenly, he noticed three young men coming from the direction of Havat Gilad. A. feared for his safety, and fled along with the donkey. He left behind some clothes, his shovel and the donkey’s blanket. His sense terror was not baseless: A. remembered that a year ago his neighbor was working his land when suddenly Israeli civilians appeared and beat him severely. “It was only with difficulty that he was evacuated to the hospital,” he recalls.

After some 90 minutes, A. returned to the land. He found the clothes and the blanket, but not the shovel. Perhaps someone took a shine to it; perhaps he simply lost it while fleeing. The following day A. went back working his plot, planting sesame. Perhaps they will burn it, maybe not. Either way the land must be planted.

All of which, dear reader, takes place under the nose and with the tacit agreement of the strongest army in the Middle East — the ultimate sovereign in the West Bank. When the army demands that Palestinians coordinate their arrival to their own land, it does so by claiming that without such coordination it is unable to protect them from Israeli civilians. The High Court of Justice had some sharp words to say about this practice in the Murar decision (Hebrew): “A policy preventing Palestinian residents from reaching land belonging to them, for the purpose of protecting them from attacks directed at them, is as a policy ordering a man not to enter his house in order to protect him from a robber ambushing him there.”

And yet an army unfamiliar with its legal duty to defend protected persons, which is unaware that it has not only the obligation but also the authority to protect them from Israeli civilians, does precisely that.

Yesh Din has documented 21 cases over the last decade in which Israeli civilians were suspected of damaging agricultural property belonging to the residents of Faratha. In a series of cases, the witnesses describe the marauders as arriving from the direction of Havat Gilad; the incidents include burning fields and wheat, killing animals, and cutting down trees. These do not include the cases in which Israeli civilians attacked residents of Faratha — incidents which sometimes took place in the presence of IDF soldiers. If the army is aware of these incidents and does nothing, it is a passive partner in crime; if it is unaware of them, it is failing at its duty to protect the populace.

The incidents keep piling up. Palestinian residents do not believe the IDF is trying to protect them from the marauders. It appears that as far as the army is concerned, this is a tolerable situation – and, one suspects, even desirable. Terrorizing farmers paves the way for their dispossession. The Israeli civilians do their part, the army does its part, and A.’s land is set ablaze time after time.

After a while the fear works on its own. There is no need for physical attacks or direct threats. The mere appearance of some young men — the knowledge that the attackers have no inhibitions, that there is no reason for them to have any since no one will arrest them. No one will demand compensation for your pain and indignation – dammit, the attack against you won’t even be a newsflash. Self defense, of course, is out of the question.

A. does not intend to report the incident to the Israeli police, as he sees no point in doing so.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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Leading Israeli rights group to stop cooperating with the IDF http://972mag.com/leading-israeli-rights-group-to-stop-cooperating-with-the-idf/119570/ http://972mag.com/leading-israeli-rights-group-to-stop-cooperating-with-the-idf/119570/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 03:00:40 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119570 The Israeli military justice system acts only to ‘cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators,’ B’Tselem says, citing 25 years of experience working with the military. Palestinian rights expert welcomes the move.

A Palestinian B'Tselem volunteer documenting a protest in the south Hebron Hills, June 14, 2008. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

A Palestinian B’Tselem volunteer documents a protest in the South Hebron Hills, June 14, 2008. (Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Israel’s best known human rights organization, B’Tselem, has lost all faith in the Israeli military justice system and will stop cooperating with it on behalf of Palestinian victims, the organization announced Wednesday.

A quarter century of experience working with the army “has brought us to the realization that there is no longer any point in pursuing justice and defending human rights by working with a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators,” the organization wrote in an 80-page report that accompanied the announcement.

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The report details the exact failings of the military investigative system — read it here.

B’Tselem’s decision is particularly significant because Palestinian victims of violence by Israelis security forces largely rely on Israeli human rights groups to file complaints on their behalf. On a most basic, logistical level, the IDF’s Military Police Investigations Unit (MPIU, sometimes referred to as MPCID) does not have any bases in the West Bank where Palestinians can physically go to file complaints, and the army does not issue them entry permits for the purposes of filing complaints against its own soldiers.

But it is the army’s utter ineffectiveness at investigating its own that is most striking. Out of 739 cases in which B’Tselem demanded that the IDF investigate soldiers killing, injuring, beating or using Palestinians as human shields since the year 2000, only 25 (3 percent) resulted in indictments. At least 70 percent of those cases ended without military investigators taking any action whatsoever, the organization reported, describing the process as riddled by “systemic failures which are neither random, nor case specific.”

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth, who shows signs of being beaten, following a demonstration against the occupation and in support of Palestinian prisoners the West Bank city of Hebron, March 1, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth, who shows signs of being beaten, following a demonstration against the occupation, Hebron, March 1, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Data compiled by Yesh Din, another Israeli human rights group that represents Palestinian victims of crimes by security forces, is even more troubling. According to Yesh Din, in 2014 military prosecutors filed indictments as a result of only 3.5 percent of criminal investigations into offenses committed by soldiers against Palestinians. The indictment rate presented by B’Tselem is relative to all complaints filed, while Yesh Din’s refers only to criminal investigations initiated by the army. (Full disclosure: my wife serves as a legal advisor to Yesh Din, and is the coordinator of its “criminal accountability of Israeli security forces project.”)

None of this, however, is new. Nearly two years ago B’Tselem declared the military law enforcement system “a complete failure,” and announced that it would refuse to assist the IDF in investigating suspected crimes committed by its soldiers during the 2014 Gaza war.

“Based on past experience, we can only regretfully say that Israeli law enforcement authorities are unable and unwilling to investigate allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law committed during fighting in Gaza,” the organization wrote at the time, noting that if Israel were to establish an independent investigative body it would gladly cooperate.

Wednesday’s announcement broadens that move and applies it to all military investigations.

Palestinians inspect damage to a destroyed ambulance in Shujaiyeh, a neighborhood in eastern Gaza City that was the site of some of the war’s heaviest fighting, July 27, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians inspect damage to a destroyed ambulance in Shujaiyeh, a neighborhood in eastern Gaza City that was the site of some of the 2014 war’s heaviest fighting, July 27, 2014. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The other major factor behind B’Tselem’s announcement is what the organization describes as the military law enforcement system’s role in undermining the chances of any real accountability of the upper echelons of the military and its political command structure, and creating a sense of legitimacy for and ultimately propping up the occupation itself.

“The semblance of a functioning justice system allows Israeli officials to deny claims made both in Israel and abroad that Israel does not enforce the law on soldiers who harm Palestinians,” the B’Tselem report released Wednesday argued. “These appearances also help grant legitimacy – both in Israel and abroad – to the continuation of the occupation.”

B’Tselem says its move is not meant to shift efforts for holding Israeli security forces accountable into external bodies like the International Criminal Court (ICC). “We don’t think that the current international situation provides other, better avenues for [promoting accountability],” spokesperson Sarit Michaeli told +972. “We’re not going to go to other bodies, but we assume our decision will resonate internationally, and in Palestinian society.”

Which is to say that B’Tselem’s decision may very well affect processes already in place in bodies like the ICC. One of the key factors that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda must determine when deciding whether to open a full-fledged investigation into war crimes in Palestine is whether Israel is willing and able to investigate and hold its own security forces accountable, and whether it does so in good faith — known as the principle of complementarity. If it does, then the court has no jurisdiction.

But if the ICC determines that Israel is unwilling or incapable of investigating itself, then it may indeed have jurisdiction over war crimes committed by Israeli citizens, ranging from individual soldiers to generals and politicians. Bensouda will certainly take notice of B’Tselem’s message that it has lost so much faith in the Israeli military’s investigative mechanisms that it no longer believes it is worth engaging with.

An Israeli soldier shoots tear gas into a crowd of Palestinian protesters in Hebron. March 31, 2013 (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier shoots tear gas into a crowd of Palestinian protesters in Hebron. March 31, 2013 (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Shawan Jabarin, director of Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq, congratulated B’Tselem for its decision to disengage from the military justice system, and told +972 he believes B’Tselem’s decision could help the ICC conclude, directly or indirectly, that complementarity does not pose an obstacle to the international prosecution of Israelis. “I think it will help show that there is no will, that [the military investigation system] is not effective, and that it is not an independent mechanism.”

Jabarin, whose organization long ago stopped cooperating with the Israeli military in order to seek justice for Palestinian victims, said he believes it is important for other organizations to follow in B’Tselem’s footsteps. Working with the Israeli Military Advocate General, he said, “doesn’t accomplish anything except [to allow Israeli] officials to create an illusion that there is a democratic, just system in place.”

Yesh Din, along with Adalah, another human rights legal organization based in Israel, expressed criticisms of IDF investigatory mechanisms that are nearly identical to those put forward by B’Tselem. But both organizations told +972 they will continue to file complaints with Israeli authorities, each citing their obligations to seek legal redress on behalf of Palestinian victims.

“[Although] the inherently flawed structures of Israel’s mechanisms make it nearly impossible to obtain criminal investigations, prosecutions, and punishment of perpetrators of serious violations of international law,” explained Nadeem Shehadeh, an attorney in the civil and political rights unit at Adalah, his organization will continue to file legal interventions with Israeli authorities in order to seek individual redress, exhaust all domestic remedies, and to establish and maintain formal documentation for purposes of local and international advocacy.

B’Tselem, however, is not shutting its doors anytime soon. The human rights clearinghouse, best known for distributing video cameras to Palestinians in the West Bank and publishing the video documentation of Israeli crimes and rights violations they capture, will continue carrying out those investigatory and advocacy activities. The organization’s main emphasis, however, will shift away from legal work and move toward the loftier political goal of ending the occupation itself.

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Rampaging settlers use fake gun to sow panic among Palestinian commuters http://972mag.com/rampaging-settlers-use-fake-gun-to-sow-panic-among-palestinian-commuters/119408/ http://972mag.com/rampaging-settlers-use-fake-gun-to-sow-panic-among-palestinian-commuters/119408/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 18:19:16 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119408 Two Israeli settlers use a fake gun to threaten a bus full of Palestinian workers. The police make a quick arrest, yet the media totally ignores the story.

Two acts of political violence committed by Jewish residents of the West Bank against Palestinians went almost completely unreported by the Israeli Hebrew media last week, even as the police responded with remarkable alacrity.

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According to Israeli police, last Wednesday two residents of Efrat, a settlement near Jerusalem, began circling a Palestinian vehicle on their motorcycles on a road near the settlement. One of the settlers then forced the vehicle to the side of the road at gunpoint and pulled the driver out.

A few minutes later the settlers stopped a bus carrying Palestinian workers on the same road. According to the police, the settlers threatened the passengers and removed them one by one at gunpoint. After all the Palestinian passengers were standing on the side of the road, one of the settlers put his gun to the head of one of the workers, allegedly telling him to “pray for your life.” The settlers then fled the scene.

Earlier this week one of the Palestinians filed a complaint with Hebron police, who promptly arrested two suspects from Efrat. The two admitted to the crime during their interrogation and handed over the gun, which turned out to be made out of plastic.

The police’s quick response to the incident is praiseworthy. According to Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, the majority of complaints filed by Palestinians with the police in the West Bank are closed, many of them because of “perpetrator unknown.” Other times Israeli forces stand idly by as settlers commit violent attacks against Palestinians, usually with the aim of forcing them off their land. Just last night, a former IDF soldier recalled to Channel 2′s Ohad Hemo how during her army service, she witnessed firsthand how soldiers backed settler vigilantism — whether tacitly or explicitly.

Unlike the police, the Hebrew-language media ignored the story entirely. Try imagining a situation in which a group of armed Palestinians overruns a bus full of Israeli settlers and threatens to shoot them in the head. My guess is that the story would find its way to the top headline for the vast majority of Israeli media outlets, would likely refer to the Palestinians as terrorists, and would provide up to the minute coverage of the developing story.

The quick action of the Israeli police is a welcome development. Yet one has to wonder why the story was not reported.

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Being beaten by settlers can get you arrested — if you’re Palestinian http://972mag.com/being-beaten-by-settlers-can-get-you-arrested-if-youre-palestinian/119234/ http://972mag.com/being-beaten-by-settlers-can-get-you-arrested-if-youre-palestinian/119234/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 13:45:20 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=119234 IDF soldiers find Palestinians beaten by settlers yet do not ask the right questions. An incident that will, inevitably, go completely under the radar.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Israeli soldiers block the main, unpaved access road to the West Bank village of Khirbet Tana after military forces demolished a number of structures in the village, April 7, 2016. (Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers blocking an access road to a Palestinian village in the West Bank, April 7, 2016. (Ahmad al-Bazz / Activestills.org)

On November 21, 2015 B., a Palestinian youth, went with his friend H., from his village of A-Dik in the West Bank, to bring food to H.’s father, who was busy working the land.

At about 14:00, they found H.’s father and gave him the food. Then they went to another part of the same plot of land to gather “white fragrant flowers named ‘Jargas,’” as B. would later recount. They were about a kilometer away from the Israeli settlement of Bruchin when they noticed three horsemen approaching them. Only when they were very close did the Palestinians realize they were Israeli civilians.

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Two of the riders were armed: one with a rifle, the other with a handgun. At gunpoint, they forced the two boys to stand still. The third rider, armed with a club, began beating them while the two others pointed their guns at them. The beating went on for a long while — B. thought it continued for a full ten minutes. The two didn’t dare to attempt an escape, since they believed they would be shot.

After that the Israeli civilians forced the two boys to take off their coats and shoes, and led them barefoot toward a guard tower near Bruchin. B. estimated they walked for about a kilometer, and said the guns were pointed at them the whole way. The tower wasn’t manned, and the settlers began hitting them again. As they beat the boys, a military jeep arrived.

What did the IDF soldiers, the representatives of the sovereign power, do when they saw two young men standing barefoot, guns pointed at them, and a man beating them with a club? Did they detain the attackers, as any reasonable person would do?

Of course not. They didn’t even speak to the Israeli civilians, who now exit our story. The soldiers tied the young Palestinians’ eyes with cloths and kept them in the jeep for several hours. Later, described B., the soldiers would drive the detainees without any stated reason to Bruchin, where they were turned over to the police. A policeman named Shlomi used B.’s cellphone to call his father: come and pick your son up from the entrance to the settlement. The father did not understand what the call was about, thinking at first that it was a prank. In the meantime, B. asked another policeman to bring him some water; in response, he says, one of the policemen beat him.

IDF stands by masked settlers in Burin (Photo: Munir Kadus, Yesh Din)

File photo of IDF soldiers standing by masked settlers near Burin (Photo: Munir Kadus, Yesh Din)

To summarize: Israeli civilians lacking any legal authority detained two boys, beat them at gunpoint and partially undressed them. Israeli soldiers took them without making a fuss, asking any questions or detaining the attackers. One policeman beat a detainee, and another turned them over to their parents.

Wait a minute. What was this detention all about? Was it even legal? If there was a valid reason for the detention, why were the detainees discharged? If there was no reason, why weren’t the people who detained them without cause arrested? Why, for that matter, weren’t they arrested on the spot by the soldiers? The soldiers, you will recall, reached the tower when the second assault on B. was still in progress. What sort of law enforcement officer sees this kind of behavior and moves on?

The answer, of course, is an Israeli soldier in the West Bank — as long as the victim is Palestinian.

What is the purpose of all this? The usual one: intimidating the Palestinians in order to condition them not reach their land adjacent to settlements, so that this land can be easily taken over by Israeli settlers. Since the incident B. has become afraid of going to his father’s land. The latter says that “It’s clear they want to scare us, so that we won’t get on our land.” In this case, he said, “they succeeded.”

B. does not intend to lodge a complaint with the police — he does not trust them, and rightly so. He repeats the phrase we keep hearing from Palestinians: “When the judge is your enemy, to whom should you complain?”

Who knows, maybe in a few years we will hear the story from the other side: that of the soldier who saw the beaten Palestinians and wanted to do something about it, but knew there was no point — whose very participation in this minor crime would eat him up inside for years to come. The people who profit from this crime will, naturally, demand he shut up.

So it goes.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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Highway robbery at the Hizme checkpoint http://972mag.com/highway-robbery-at-the-hizme-checkpoint/118563/ http://972mag.com/highway-robbery-at-the-hizme-checkpoint/118563/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 12:56:08 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118563 How a drive to the bank can turn into a nightmare, all under the aegis of the Israeli investigative system.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Israeli soldiers inspect a vehicle at the Enav checkpoint separating the West Bank Palestinian cities of Nablus and Tulkarem, January 11, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers inspecting a Palestinian-owned vehicle at a checkpoint in the West Bank, January 11, 2016. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

It all began with a normal car ride in early January 2016. Zahada Fahdi Awani Tawfiq and his friend, Janem Naal Gamal Harbi Tayb, were driving from East Jerusalem to a-Ram, where Tawfiq withdrew money from his bank account. On their way back, they were stopped at the Israeli army’s Hizma checkpoint. Present were some IDF Military Police officers, Border Police officers, and private security contractors.

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A military policeman checked Tawfiq’s ID before allowing him to continue driving. Seconds later, the soldier shouted at him to stop. Tawfiq stopped the car and the soldier walked over to him, demanding to know, “why did you look at the girl?” in reference to one of the female soldiers present. Tawfiq denied looking at her, but the soldier ordered him to pull his car over to the side.

Freeze the frame. An Israeli soldier detains a Palestinian merchant at a checkpoint because, in his opinion, the latter insulted a female soldier – not by deed, not by word, but by a glance. Even were we to accept the ridiculous claim that a glance is enough to permit detention, the one who complained was not the female soldier, but rather a male soldier who apparently felt himself victimized by the alleged insult to her modesty.

A short while after Tawfiq and Tayb were detained, a Border Police officer arrived, took their ID cards and left. He returned several minutes later, ordered Tawfiq to leave the car, and tore a paper document attached to Tayb’s ID’s card. Tawfiq demanded he identify himself but the policeman refused.

Tawfiq asked the policeman what was he doing, and was answered: “you’ll find out soon.” The policeman announced he had to “tear apart the vehicle,” and began throwing its content on the ground – including two Korans, some paperwork, and a booster seat. At this point Tayb tried to call the police, but the Border Police officer snatched the phone out of his hand.

The policeman then ordered the two Palestinians to return the equipment to the car. When they did, the policeman fabricated – or pretended to fabricate – a traffic report against them: he called the regular police, gave the car’s license plate number, and told the officer on the other end of the line to issue them a fine of NIS 500, saying, “the driver confessed.” However, as far as we know no such fine was ever actually issued.

Unexpectedly, at the same time, two of Tawfiq’s nieces stepped off a bus at the checkpoint. He went to talk to them, and according to his testimony, the policeman then jumped on him and began beating him, including with the butt of his rifle. The policeman dragged Tawfiq to the cargo inspection facility, where there are no security cameras, and continued beating him. Then, according to the testimony, the policeman took the bundle of cash Tawfiq withdrew from the bank earlier. He told Tawfiq: If I ever see you again at this checkpoint, I will kill you.

And Tawfiq believed him.

Why did a Border Policeman allow himself to act as a common highwayman? Because he knew nothing would happen to him. We have a legal system, we have courts. Both the cop-turned-highwayman and Tawfiq both know that when it comes to Palestinians, the system exists on paper — nowhere else.

Several days after the incident, Yesh Din lodged a complaint on behalf of Tawfiq and Tayb with Israel’s Department of Internal Police Investigations (Internal Affairs). Let’s just say that if it turns into an indictment, it would be a major surprise. The policeman was not acting alone: there were other policemen present, as well as military police and private security contractors. None of them interfered, even though Tayb spoke to one of the private guards. Tayb called the police as the event unfolded, yet received the vapid response familiar to every Israeli, “come to the station and file a complaint.” He did, actually, but at the precinct they recommended that he contact Internal Affairs.

The Internal Affairs department, housed in Israel’s Justice Ministry, knows, and has known for years, that there is a culture of lies among Israeli police. The former head of Internal Affairs, Herzl Shviro, said so himself (Hebrew). Nor was he the first: the Orr Commission wrote that “the police has a culture of lying and cover-ups” (Hebrew) when it investigated the killing of 13 Palestinians by the Israeli police in October 2000.

Now we are asked by well wishers: why won’t you go Internal Affairs? They forget that Internal Affairs closes some two thirds of its cases without any investigation (Hebrew), and that the success rate of the cases it does investigate is nothing to write home about.

But, Israeli readers, please note: you are the ones paying the policeman’s salary. He is your responsibility. When PID closes his case, it will do so with your complicity. You are the citizens; you own this house. Does this incident shock you? Then act. Flood the PID’s mailbox with letters inquiring about the case. You could also contact a Knesset member from the party you voted for and ask him if he feels safe when a policeman who carried out what is for all intents and purposes a highway robbery still wears the uniform. If something deters Internal Affairs, it’s public exposure.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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The only way to ensure Palestinian lives matter http://972mag.com/the-only-way-to-ensure-palestinian-lives-matter/118284/ http://972mag.com/the-only-way-to-ensure-palestinian-lives-matter/118284/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 17:16:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=118284 The IDF’s decision not to charge Abed Fatah al-Sharif’s killer with murder should not surprise anybody — it is entirely consistent with the impunity Israeli security personnel have enjoyed for decades when it comes to killing Palestinians.

The soldier accused of shooting killing an unarmed, incapacitated Palestinian man is led into court military court, Kiryat Malachi, March 29, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The soldier accused of shooting and killing an incapacitated Palestinian man in Hebron is seen being led into court military court for a hearing, Kiryat Malachi, March 29, 2016. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The Israeli army’s Military Advocate General on Thursday announced that it will not seek murder charges against a soldier who was videotaped executing Abed Fatah al-Sharif, an incapacitated, wounded Palestinian man suspected of stabbing a soldier in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron last week. (The soldier’s identity is widely known but cannot be published here due to a court-imposed gag order.)

The decision surprised some, although it is not quite clear why. To the best of my knowledge no Israeli soldier has ever been charged with murder for killing a Palestinian.

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According to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, in the period between 2003 and 2013 (excluding 2010, for which the IDF refused to provide data, possibly because that data would cover the Mavi Marmara incident), military police opened criminal investigations into the killing of 179 Palestinians. Of those investigations, only 16 led to indictments. None of the indictments carried murder charges.

When Israeli soldiers are charged with illegally killing a Palestinian or a foreign national, the charges range from nominal lesser crimes like illegal, reckless or negligent use of a weapon, to more slightly-more-serious ones like negligent manslaughter or manslaughter.

Even the most egregious and seemingly clear-cut cases of intentional, unjustified killings of Palestinians — both by Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers — have resulted in minimal charges or none at all.

One case from 2010, which is breathtakingly similar to the execution of Abed Fatah al-Sharif, resulted in no charges at all. Border Police officer Maxim Vinogradov fatally shot Ziad Jilani, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, directly in the head at close range while the latter lay wounded in the middle of the street. No charges at all.

Just a day before the army announced that Abed Fatah al-Sharif’s killer will face manslaughter rather than murder charges, the IDF prosecutor announced it was closing its investigation into another high-profile, video-taped shooting death: the killing of Mohammed Abu Taher, an unarmed Palestinian teenager who was shot by a sharpshooter at a protest in 2014. The army concluded that Abu Taher was not hit by IDF fire.

Screenshot of CNN footage showing what appears to be a Border Police officer shooting at demonstrators in Beitunia on Nakba Day, May 15, 2014. In the video, a puff of smoke and shell can be seen coming from the third-to-left officer’s weapon.

Screenshot of CNN footage showing what appears to be a Border Police officer shooting at demonstrators in Beitunia on Nakba Day, May 15, 2014. In the video, a puff of smoke and shell can be seen coming from the third-to-left officer’s weapon.

A Border Police officer was charged with manslaughter for the death of a second unarmed teen, Nadim Nawara, at that same 2014 Nakba Day protest — but not for killing Abu Taher. The two, whose deaths were captured by CCTV cameras, were shot in the back with live fire from a distance while posing no threat to anybody.

In another case, the soldiers who fatally shot 16-year-old Samir Awad in the back near the West Bank village of Budrus in 2013 were charged with a negligible crime of little legal consequence considering what they did: reckless and negligent use of a firearm.

Likewise, no soldiers were charged in the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Yousef Shawamra, whose only crime was crossing Israel’s separation barrier in order to forage for edible plants. The army initially justified killing the 14 year old by saying he was trying to damage the barrier, as if attempted vandalism is a capital offense for Palestinians.

One of the most shocking cases, which received widespread media attention in Israel and abroad, was the IDF captain who admitted to fatally shooting a 13-year-old girl, Iman al-Hams, at close range in the Gaza Strip in 2004. He was acquitted of all charges, the most serious of which were illegal use of a weapon and conduct unbecoming of an officer.

Inside the Green Line, not a single Israeli police officer was charged in the October 2000 shooting deaths of 13 Palestinians (12 of them Israeli citizens) in northern Israel. Most of the dead were killed by Israeli snipers who police commanders deployed, inexplicably, for a crowd control mission.

Palestinian citizens of Israel march to commemorate the killing of 13 protesters by Israeli police in October 2000, Sakhnin, October 1, 2015. (Omar Sameer/Activestills.org)

Palestinian citizens of Israel march to commemorate the killing of 13 protesters by Israeli police in October 2000, Sakhnin, October 1, 2015. (Omar Sameer/Activestills.org)

The list goes on. And on.

Even in the rare cases when Israeli security forces were charged and convicted with murder, like the 1956 Border Police massacre of 48 Palestinian citizens of Israel in Kafr Qasim, the convicted security personnel were quickly pardoned and released from prison. The commander responsible for the Kafr Qasim massacre was handed down nothing more than a symbolic fine of several cents.

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With that historical context in mind, it is no wonder the Israeli public is rallying around the soldier accused of executing Abed Fatah al-Sharif. Why is his case any different than the bullets Israeli soldiers and officers put in the heads of Iman al-Hams or Ziad Jilani, or in the backs of Muhammad Abu Taher, Nadim Nawara, and Samir Awad?

Following the October 2000 killings, a special government commission put much of the blame for the killings on the police’s pervasive view of Arab citizens as an enemy population. In the West Bank where combat soldiers are charged with policing an “enemy” civilian population, such attitudes are not just prevalent — they are policy.

And those attitudes are not limited to the security forces. A poll late last year found that the majority of Jewish Israelis support the extra-judicial killing of Palestinians suspected of perpetrating attacks against Jews, “even if [they have] been apprehended and no longer pose a threat.”

The devaluation of Palestinian lives and disregard for rule of law demonstrated in that poll, the public support being expressed for Abed Fatah al-Sharif’s killer, the authorities’ unwillingness to seriously prosecute security personnel who murder Palestinians — perhaps all that is inevitable in a society that has kept Palestinians under military rule for 67 out of its 68-year existence.

The devaluation of Palestinian lives by Israelis will remain inevitable as long as Palestinians are denied the same civil and human rights afforded to the Israeli civilian population living in their midst. The devaluation of Palestinian lives will remain inevitable as long the Palestinian civilian population is ruled by a foreign army instead of security forces accountable to a government it elects.

There is only one way to ensure that Palestinian lives matter, and that is to end the occupation.

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Shhhhhh, we’re annexing http://972mag.com/shhhhhh-were-annexing/117421/ http://972mag.com/shhhhhh-were-annexing/117421/#comments Sat, 27 Feb 2016 10:16:40 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=117421 A new position paper by human rights organization Yesh Din looks at steps being taken by the Israeli government toward the de facto annexation of the West Bank.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Israeli settlers attempt to establish a new outpost in response to the killing of two settlers the night before, near the settlement of Itamar, West Bank, October 2, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli settlers attempt to establish a new outpost in response to the killing of two settlers the night before, near the settlement of Itamar, West Bank, October 2, 2015. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Last week Yesh Din published its position paper, “From Occupation to Annexation,” which deals with the way the Israeli government is implementing the conclusions of the Levy Commission Report without any public debate or even an official government decision — a process which is dragging Israel into de facto annexation of the West Bank, without granting the annexed people their rights.

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First, we must distinguish between annexation and occupation. International law recognizes the legitimacy of an occupation, i.e. a state in which one power occupies a territory where a local population lives. But the assumption of international law is that occupation is a temporary affair; the occupier is considered to be a trustee who maintains what he has conquered until the conflict is over. Furthermore, the occupier is not allowed to make long-term changes in the region. Annexation is a unilateral takeover by a state of a territory by use of force or threats of it, and is impermissible under international law — a result of lessons from the Second World War on which so much of international law is built.

The new position paper does not deal with the Levy Report itself (to which we dedicated a whole report of its own) but rather with its implementation. Nevertheless, we must say a word about the report itself: it is nothing less than a revolution in the how the State of Israel has come to regard the occupied Palestinian territories. According to the report, the state’s legal position is that the occupied Palestinian territories are not occupied, since they were promised to the Jewish people by the British Mandate.

The Israeli government never officially adopted the Levy Report. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Levy (former minister Silvan Shalom noted the prime minister knew precisely why he was appointing him) but never dared to officially adopt his document. Why? To begin with, the present situation of occupation is actually good for Israel. It confers partial legal legitimacy to its military presence (not its civilian presence) in the West Bank. If the West Bank is not occupied, then the situation looks suspiciously like annexation. And as we noted earlier, annexation is prohibited.

Secondly, no one in the world would accept the legitimacy of Israeli control that leaves Palestinians devoid of rights. Officially adopting the Levy Report would be a hasbara catastrophe; no one in the world would accept the Israeli claim that nearly 50 years of military control does not constitute occupation.

But even though the government never officially adopted the report, it effectively began implementing it. On the legal front, the Foreign Ministry published a document in late 2015 that adopts the spirit of the Levy Report. According to the document, Israel has a right to build settlements, based on the British Mandate charter. This claim became part of the Foreign Office Cadet Training Program and was distributed to every Israeli delegation in the world, accompanied by a directive saying this is the Israeli position and that it should be translated and published on the website of every delegation.

The Justice Ministry also adopted the spirit of the Levy Report and its position vis-à-vis the legality of illegal construction in the settlements and outposts, particularly when it relates to the possibility of future legalization.

At the same time, on the more practical (if long-term) side, the Justice Ministry began carrying out one of the report’s recommendations: it began creating a new court to deal exclusively with issues related to land in the West Bank. This court will only include Israeli judges, as it will likely be a military court. The meaning for a Palestinian who wants to protect his property will be clear: don’t waste your time. Palestinian trust in the Israeli military courts is already low and is in decline.

But the more immediate aspect of the Levy Report, which was also noted by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, is the retroactive legalization (in Hebrew, “kosherization” — turning something impure into something kosher) of the illegal outposts in the West Bank. Some 80 out of around 100 outposts are built, at least partially, on private Palestinian land. As such they are illegal intruders, and in addition most of the buildings have been served with demolition orders due to illegal construction. Until recent years the government did not bother to enforce its own orders, telling the courts that the buildings are in fact illegal and that they would be demolished at some future date, and according to its own preferences. This happened only in the relatively few cases in which an appeal was filed against the illegal construction. As for illegal construction that did not make it to the courts?  The government had no plan of doing anything about it.

The government has changed its position since the report was published: now it tells the courts, time and again, that those same outposts are intended for legalization. True, even in the past the government delayed the evacuation until the arrival of the messiah, but at least it stated its intent to evacuate them. Not any more.

In order to legalize the outposts, the Netanyahu government has taken two main steps. In July 2015, Netanyahu ordered the creation of a “re-organizing committee” — a governmental team whose goal is the purification of the impure through “re-organizing” the legal situation vis-à-vis land, thus granting a legal cover for the outposts. This team is supposed to finish its work in the coming weeks. Needless to say, changing the rules in order to create settlements in the West Bank is a violation of international law. But international law is for the gentiles — we have the Balfour Declaration.

The second tool used by the Netanyahu government is the “re-ordering law.” This law is supposed to force the Palestinian owners of land to accept compensation for giving up their legal rights to the land they own, so as to prevent the evacuation of outposts and illegal structures. The Netanyahu government believes in private property, unless the person in question is Palestinian. The “re-organizing” law is an attempt to turn the Levy Report into legislation. The bill, as presented by MK Yoav Kish, specifically names four settlements and outposts whose evacuation or partial evacuation was ordered by the High Court of Justice. Such a law, were it to pass, would lead to land confiscation not intended for pressing military needs — an act prohibited by international law. In addition, the law itself is a declaration by the Knesset that it has the right to pass legislation regarding the West Bank — a sign of annexation. It is an acceptance of the Levy Report’s position that the laws of occupation are invalid in the West Bank, and that the territory is under the sovereignty of the Knesset.

Beyond all these tricks, the purpose of which is to prevent the evacuation of Israeli land invaders, the government is busily working on enlarging the pool of state land, in a way that will permit the enlargement and legalization of outposts. This is done under the so-called “blue line team” – a team whose duty is to examine and fine-tune the boundaries of land that had previously been turned into “state land.” Between 2012 and 2015, state land in the West Bank grew by 63,771 dunams; state land is not allocated to the Palestinian communities in the occupied territory, as might be expected of an occupying force that obeys its legal obligations. Instead, most of it goes to the settlements and outposts. According to the data supplied by the government, the Civil Administration allocated only 7 percent of state land for Palestinian use.

And these are only a few of the examples presented in our position paper. When it comes to dispossessing Palestinians of their land, the Netanyahu government and its jurists are showing impressive creativity. The final result of all these processes is the creeping, de-facto annexation of large swaths of the West Bank. Beyond the fact that this is in direct contravention of international law, it is all happening without any public debate. After all, it’s taking place behind closed doors by committees whose work is anything but transparent, let alone open to public criticism. Most of the time we only hear of it after they have made their decision.

Contrary to what is often said, the Netanyahu government does have a policy in the West Bank. It simply prefers you don’t hear of it. So here it is.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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Just another arbitrary detention of a Palestinian child http://972mag.com/just-another-arbitrary-detention-of-a-palestinian-child/116972/ http://972mag.com/just-another-arbitrary-detention-of-a-palestinian-child/116972/#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 09:26:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116972 Soldiers detain a child in his pajamas and slippers, harshly interrogate him without a parent or attorney present, and then release him 12 hours later as if nothing ever happened. We can already tell you what the military’s investigation will look like.

By Yossi Gurvitz, written for Yesh Din

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers inside a Palestinian village. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers inside a Palestinian village. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

J., a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, lives in the West Bank village of Al-Janiya. One cold morning in the beginning of last December, wearing pajamas and slippers, J. left his house and went to collect items for his relative’s engagement party. A large carob tree stood nearby to where he went for the errand. J. was accompanied by A., a six-year-old child.

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As J. would later describe it, upon reaching the tree, several soldiers jumped on the children and began hitting them. The altercation attracted the attention of an adult, who arrived and began yelling at the soldiers. The soldiers released A. but held onto J.

J.’s mother rushed to the scene and tried to dislodge the child from their grasp. In response, one of the soldiers pressed his rifle barrel to her chest. The mother, who suffers from a medical condition, lost consciousness. In the ensuing chaos, the soldiers threw stun and tear gas grenades, taking off in a vehicle with J.

Meanwhile, at home, J.’s father heard the news from children who came to his door in tears. He and his relatives would spend the next few hours in desperate attempts to talk to the Palestinian District Coordination Office (DCO) to try and find out where his son was.

J. was first taken to a military base, where – as he later described – the soldiers blindfolded him with a gun cloth, and then tied his hands and beat him with their rifle butts. The soldiers demanded he admit to throwing stones. J. denied the allegation, pointing to the fact he was in pajamas and slippers. One of the soldiers threatened that he would not be released unless he confessed.

The tactic of taking children away and demanding they incriminate themselves, while isolating and denying them access to their parents is nothing new. In 2011, Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem published a report titled “No Minor Matter,” which documented this phenomenon. The report found that the children, isolated and often tortured (yes, the beating of defenseless children may in some cases amount to torture), are required time and again to agree to a Kafkaesque deal: confess and incriminate others and be released immediately; or, refuse and remain in detention. Since the children have no adult or lawyer to consult with, and because 13-year-olds are rarely human rights scholars, many believe what they are told.

The result is often coerced incrimination, of themselves and others. And there is almost no exit route from a confession in what we usually call the justice system: B’Tselem’s report found that out of 835 indictments of Palestinian juveniles, only one was acquitted. Note that in Israel, parents of a detained juvenile must be informed of the detention (their presence in an interrogation is mandatory), and the interrogator must be a trained juvenile interrogator, there are no such rights for Palestinians in the West Bank. Any soldier may thus serve as an interrogator.

Yet despite it all, J. refused to confess to the allegations against him and continued pleading his innocence. In turn, his captors increased the pressure. He says he was put in a cold room with the air conditioner fully on. He does not know how long he was left there – a blindfold will cause the loss of sense of time – but he was freezing. That didn’t work either, so the soldiers later took him out of the room, handcuffed him in a particularly painful way, trussed him in a car and drove to a different military base where they delivered him to the police. “There they did not beat me,” J. said.

The time was around 8:30 p.m., some 12 hours since J. was kidnapped by the IDF, at least as far as he and his family were concerned, since they had no idea where he was. He was then turned over to the Palestinian DCO and went home. J. was not summoned for a second interrogation; he simply left his home one cold morning in pajamas and slippers, ran into some IDF soldiers, was captured, beaten, and released. There is no discernable process here. Suspiciously, J. was released after precisely 12 hours – the maximum length of time soldiers may detain a juvenile without having to obtain authorization.

So here we have here an incident of disappearing a juvenile without informing his family — who is now looking for him in a panic — which ends suddenly after 12 hours. What was the point? It’s unclear. No one said anything.

In the beginning of January, Yesh Din filed a complaint on behalf of J.’s father with the IDF’s Operation Affairs Prosecutor. From previous experience, unfortunately, we can even chart the complaint’s future route and ultimate demise:

First, the prosecution will take a few months, perhaps even a year or more, to think it over. Was a crime committed? Is there truly a need for an investigation? After who-knows-how-many-months, when becomes clear to all that there is no chance of an actual investigation, the prosecution will either close the case without investigating it, or send it to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID), which will also take its time.

The passing time will allow the soldiers responsible for the act to be discharged, thereby avoiding military justice. It will also cloud the memory of everyone involved. You say we detained some kid in slippers two years ago? I really don’t remember, the soldier will say. And he truly won’t. But wait a minute – could the kid even identify those who beat him? He had a blindfold over his eyes, did he not?

So the military prosecution will decide in three or four years that something may have happened. And it may have been improper, possibly even lamentable. Perhaps we should even condemn it, and at one point there may have been a time for some judicial action, but there is nothing we can do about it now. And anyway, we haven’t the foggiest idea who was involved.

We have seen all of these excuses. When it comes to inaction, the military investigative system is brilliant. When it comes to indicting criminals who harm Palestinians – unless they harm the army’s own effectiveness – much less so.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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