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Despite video evidence, officer who shot Israeli demonstrator won't be charged

The Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem received notification from the military prosecution recently, informing it that charges will not be filed against an officer who shot an Israeli activist during a 2008 demonstration in Bil’in. B’Tselem intends to appeal the decision.

The incident took place during the weekly demonstration against the separation fence in Bil’in on March15, 2008. At the time, demonstrations used to reach the old route of the fence – which has since been found illegal by the Israeli High Court of Justice but not yet dismantled – and the army would cross the gate in the fence and chase demonstrators back into the village. A video recording of the shooting shows the soldiers marching back towards the fence, and one of them pushing away a photographer standing nearby. At this point, Israeli activist Eran Cohen, standing less than five meters away from the road, is heard shouting, “What are you doing, soldier?! Don’t touch the journalists.” At this point, one of the soldiers, apparently an officer, slightly raises his gun and shoots Cohen in the leg with a rubber-coated bullet, even though it is clear that Cohen was in no way a threat to the soldiers, and that no fighting is taking place elsewhere in the area. The bullet penetrated Cohen’s knee, which was later removed in surgery after Cohen was rushed to the hospital.

At the request of B’Tselem, a military police investigation was launched by the end of that month, and the video was submitted for military inspection. Now, almost four years later, the army says the case is closed and no charges are to be filed. The military prosecution did not elaborate on the reasons for its decision.

A silent approval for unjustified violence

This is in no way a unique case in the history of the popular and joint struggle. According to B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli, it is safe to say that on the whole, soldiers and border policemen are not charged with the wounding or even the killing of demonstrators. “While we have countless reports of injuries and more than twenty deaths in demonstrations, and while many incidents are documented with footage, you almost never see investigations ending with indictments,” says Michaeli.

In the past, army regulations required that every death caused by soldiers prompt an investigation by the military police. With the start of the Second Intifada in October 2000, the army openly canceled these regulations, which were put back to force last April. This is why most deaths of demonstrators, peaceful and stone-throwing alike, have not led to investigations, except for two very rare ones: the killing of Bassem Abu-Rahme in Bil’in (caused by a tear gas canister shot directly to his chest), and that of 10-year-old Ahmad Musa in Nil’in  shot in the head with a rubber bullet by a border policeman after a demonstration). Even here, the former has yet to turn into an indictment (investigation was only launched following a long legal struggle on  the family’s part), and in the latter case, the charge is negligent manslaughter. The only demonstration-related conviction activists remember in the many years of the popular struggle was that of the two soldiers who shot the cuffed and blindfolded Ashraf Abu-Rahme in the foot.

While Palestinian and Israeli activists keep documenting attacks on demonstrations, and while NGOs keep filing complaints against the use of force, the army on the whole seems untouched. In December, B’Tselem wrote the army with great concern, reporting what seems to be a constant policy of soldiers and officers on the ground to ignore the army’s own regulations, which forbid shooting tear gas canisters at a direct angle. B’Tselem have backed up this claim with extensive footage of soldiers shooting tear gas canisters in the same illegal fashion that caused the deaths of Bassem Abu-Rahme and Mustafa Tamimi. However, just last Thursday the military authorities replied, saying that “security forces use tear gas canisters only to disperse violent rioters, and only in an arched angle.”

“They are not even willing to admit that soldiers are disobeying their own regulations”, says Michaeli, “what kind of a message do you think that gives the soldiers?”

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    1. Palestinian

      How many soldiers have been charged since 1948 ?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Anonymous

      I don’t know, “Palestinian,” how many of your terrorist friends have been charged since 1948?

      Oh that’s right:


      Reply to Comment
    3. Apa

      Anonymous – if I understand you correctly, terrorists not being charged in Palestinian courts (no matter if this is true or not) justifies the Israeli army shooting innocent people?

      If you flip that argument, Israeli courts not charging Irgun and Lehi terrorists – not to mention IDF soldiers committing crimes – justifies Palestinian violence on innocent Israelis?

      What is good for the goose, is good for the gander, or you can not have your cake and eat it to. Naturally, violence on innocent civilians is always wrong, but this is the logical extension of your argument.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Lalilu

      What is your point Anonymous? Cheap demagogic. at least get the facts straight: The Israeli jails are full with so-called “Palestinian terrorists”; not about time to persecute Israeli terrorists?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Anonymous


      The purpose of my comment was not to make a judgment on the story. 972 and the Israeli left exists to criticize the Israeli government and army for the purposes of making them better.

      They do not exist so that self-righteous Palestinians can mince their way onto the discussion boards and waggle their fingers down on Israel from their collective high horses.

      What annoys me is Palestinians who come on these sites and sit in judgement of Israelis, while at the same time not only do they live under governments that are 100 times worse, but they don’t seem to have an interest in doing a darn thing about it! Where’s the Palestinian Peace Now, or B’Tselem, or 972mag? They don’t exist! But Palestinians can come on here and say that Israelis aren’t doing enough for peace and human rights, and they never even realize how hypocritical they are. This I find annoying, and will not hesitate to criticize when I see it.

      Reply to Comment
    6. aristeides

      Seems to me, anonymous, that you’re here to deflect attention from Israeli malfeasance by pointing in some other direction. When your house is robbed, I assume you’ll let the robber off free because someone else, elsewhere, stole more.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Anonymous

      It seems to me, Aristeides, that you are seeing what you want to see instead of what is actually in front of you. I explained my position multiple times in my last comment and see no reason to do so again. If you still have trouble understanding what I am saying, I suggest you enlist in a reading comprehension course.

      Reply to Comment
    8. aristeides

      I know what you’re saying, anon. “Tu quoque.”

      Reply to Comment
    9. Jazzy

      This is a really foolish waste of time. Btselem should be focusing on bigger issues.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Palestinian

      @Anonymous Thousands of Palestinians who you refer to as terrorists were charged and are/were spending decades in Israeli jails ?(and I am not talking about those who were released),again how many Israelis were charged ?At least the Palestinian president isnt an ex-member of a terrorist militia called the Pigun or Paganah….

      Reply to Comment
    11. Anonymous

      Don’t be conveniently dense, “Palestinian.” You know very well that I meant how many Palestinian murderers of Israelis (and others) have been charged by the Palestinian government. Until you start enforcing a rule of law among yourselves, you have absolutely zero right to criticize anyone else.

      Oh, and by the way, the current Palestinian Prime Minister (Abbas) was a mastermind behind the murder of Olympic athletes. Let me know when he was ever charged by your friends in the Palestinian government.

      Reply to Comment
    12. directrob

      “… foolish waste of time …”, the total breakdown of the rule of law, in normal states, not many issues are bigger.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Apa

      And PMs Shamir, Begin and Sharon were all cold blooded murderers and terrorists too! Why don’t you take your own advice and start cleaning up your own house first?

      Reply to Comment
    14. Palestinian

      @ Anonymous so Palestinians can capture Israeli terrorists,send them to court and imprison them ?and what rule of law ..you mean murdering people and stealing their land ?
      Abbas wasnt a mastermind …… .Do you think Israel would allow it to happen or even leave him alive if they have proofs ?!

      Reply to Comment
    15. Anonymous

      APA: That’s exactly what I am saying. The Israelis should keep a clean house, and so should the Palestinians. Until the Palestinians have a society that isn’t one of the worst on the planet, they have no right to criticize anyone else.

      “Palestinian:” Your people need to enforce the rule of law among your own people. The fact that you seem unwilling to do this probably indicates a problem among Palestinian society in general, though perhaps you’d be willing to provide more information.

      Just for the record, here’s Abbas admitting his complicity in violence:


      I wait earnestly upon your next excuse not to punish him.

      Reply to Comment
    16. directrob

      It is beyond me that the people who are occupied cannot criticize the application of the so called “rule of law” by the occupiers.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Anonymous

      Rob: Oh, they can criticize to their hearts content. But until they muck out their own shed, they’ll be hypocrites who are in no moral position to be criticizing anyone.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Yehuda

      Anonymous: I think your defensiveness on this issue is very telling. Are you saying that I as an Israeli have no right to criticize anyone else’s actions because my society is committing wrongs? So if Jews living in some other country are being persecuted by the government I shouldn’t complain because Israel is persecuting Palestinians? I can’t criticize China’s occupation of Tibet because Israel occupies the Palestinians? We both know this is nonsense, just like you criticizing the Palestinians for doing the very same things Israel is doing.
      I am not saying the Palestinians are perfect, far from it, as Israel is imperfect. And as far as I can tell you have no qualms about criticizing the Palestinians, so do they not have the right to do the same and criticize Israel?
      Beyond this, the conflict as it stand now is symmetrical. If you want to start exploring the history you will find faults on both sides, that does not however strip Palestinians of the right to criticize their occupiers. Spend your energy criticizing those who have lost touch with the basic liberal democratic values on which Israel was founded, rather than combating individual people who criticize this obviously immoral and unjust system.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Yehuda

      * Asymmetrical

      Reply to Comment
    20. Palestinian

      @ your people need to enforce humanity among themselves which they lost decades ago ,and again you havent replied to my question , how many Israelis have been charged ? you claim to be a state of law but obviously its ok to murder Palestinians and steal their properties under your law.Btw the video doesnt say anything about the Olympic atheletes,and notice he used the word resistance ,the pronoun “we” not “I” .Dont Israeli institutions encourage and force all Israelis to join the ITF (Israeli terror forces)?and the only case where they go to jail is when they refuse to serve.Dont act as if you are the peaceful pigeons among those horrible Arabs ,a thief and a murderer in a gucci suit is a thief and a murderer.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Piotr Berman

      There is a certain tradition of making sloppy investigations. The event:

      “The Qibya massacre, also known as the Qibya incident, occurred in October 1953 when Israeli troops under Ariel Sharon attacked the village of Qibya in the West Bank. Sixty-nine Palestinian Arabs, two thirds of them women and children were killed. Forty-five houses, a school, and a mosque were destroyed.”

      Results of the investigation:

      “None deplores it more than the Government of Israel, if … innocent blood was spilled … The Government of Israel rejects with all vigor the absurd and fantastic allegation that 600 men of the IDF took part in the action … We have carried out a searching investigation and it is clear beyond doubt that not a single army unit was absent from its base on the night of the attack on Qibya. (Statement by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, ISA FM 2435/5)”

      Reply to Comment
    22. Yousef

      ANON. Your hate and disgust for Palestinians is pretty sad. I hope you don’t live your whole life completely brainwashed by enemy creation tactics. Stereotype an entire group of people based on ethnicity into being so bad that they do not deserve human rights, voices, or lives at all. What do you meannnnn you people?!?!? Just like white Americans dehumanized black people post slavery, just like Europeans dehumanized native Americans before they wiped them out, just like the Pharaohs dehumanized the Jews, you my friend, suffer from enemy creation tactics which have been indirectly and directly intentionally driven into your concious by your government. It feels good to be better than everyone else. Don’t let that feeling stop you from seeing that we are all human, and all have the same flesh, organs, emotions and feelings in the inside.

      Reply to Comment
    23. FILIPINO

      I dont understand why you people are fighting, why dont you just help each other for the good of your country? there is sooo much hatred in your country. I believe each one of you want peace?

      Reply to Comment
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