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Four years, one dead Palestinian and a closed investigation

What does an Israeli military investigation of the killing of a Palestinian look like? An utter waste of time.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

An Israeli soldier fires tear gas toward Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists during a demonstration in Hebron, March 1, 2013. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

File photo of an Israeli soldier firing tear gas toward Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists during a demonstration in Hebron, March 1, 2013. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

On Friday, January 16, 2009, stormy demonstrations took place throughout the West Bank, as Operation Cast Lead was in full force in Gaza. The Israeli media did not report the many civilian casualties caused by IDF fire in the Gaza Strip. The Arab media, however, reported on it extensively.

Yesh Din wrote about a failed investigation by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID) about a shooting that day in Bil’in here. That same day at a demonstration in Hebron, someone in an Israeli uniform – probably an IDF sharpshooter – fired one bullet at Musab Badwan Ashak Dan’a, 17, and killed him. We’ll never know who the shooter was. Whether the shooting was justified will remain unanswered; and the reason for that, as usual, is the the MPCID’s scandalously incompetent investigation.

In order to view the depth of the MPCID’s negligence, let’s look at the events in chronological order, as seen from the files of our attorney, Attorney Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, with the brisk aid of Attorney Assnat Bartor.

March 3, 2009 – Yesh Din calls MPCID-Jerusalem in order to present them with a statement about the case; we are told to submit the statement (the equivalent of a police complaint) to MPCID-Be’er Sheva, which we do on the same day.

May 18, 2009 – The father of the deceased, Nasser Badwan Dan’a, gives a statement to Hebron DCO. He complains that the authorities needed a long time to reach him. He describes his son’s death as murder, and provided the investigator with the following items:

a) A medical report from the Ahali Hospital in Hebron describing the cause of death (one bullet to the head).

b) A death certificate.

c) Eight still photos of the deceased during the demonstration after he was shot, as well as in the hospital.

d) A still photo showing two Border Police officers pointing their weapons at the demonstration.

October 25, 2009 – More than five months after Nasser Badwan Dan’a’s testimony – and more than nine months since the incident – the MPCID holds its first investigation (aside from taking Dan’a’s testimony). It interrogates one of the Border Police company commanders under warning. The officer says he made certain none of his troops used live fire, that he does not recognize the officers in the photo provided by Dan’a, that the photo may have been taken at any demonstration in Hebron and that he heard live fire from the area in which IDF forces (rather than the Border Police) were active.

November 24, 2009 – One month later, and more than 10 months since the Musab’s death. The MPCID investigates. It interrogates a second Border Police company commander under caution. The officer recognizes the two cops in the picture and confirms they were his men; he says that by the color of their magazines, they seem to be using rubber bullets – adding that he heard live fire from the direction of the IDF soldiers rather than from his own company.

It should be noted that the two Border Police officers emphasized that the use of live fire by the IDF is the result of the army lacking the proficiency needed to use non-lethal weapons. The second officer took pride in the fact that Border Police cops never fired live fire during a demonstration in Hebron.

February 18, 2010 – Three months after their last investigation and more than a year since the killing of Dan’a, MPCID investigators leaf through the operational logs of the Yehuda Regional Brigade. They find initial reports of the killing – but the logs do not show which specific unit was involved.

February 22, 2010 – Four days later (and 13 months after the killing), the MPCID manages to pin down the IDF battalion involved: the 96th Battalion (although the Border Police officers were under the impression it was the 94th Battalion). Hallelujah! The MPCID, enthusiastic about this breakthrough, decides to strike while the iron is frozen and takes a methodical eight-month break.

October 10. 2010 – The MPCID leafs through the Yehuda Regional Brigade’s morning reports, where it finds a report by a journalist claiming that a Palestinian was killed by live fire.

November 18, 2010 – Some six weeks later, and more than 22 months since the killing, the MPCID interrogates a company commander from the 96th Battalion under caution. He says his troops certainly didn’t use live fire, since there was no reason for it. Furthermore, he claims to not have even heard live fire – unlike the Border Police officers who testified. At this point the MPCID takes a beauty sleep for another two months.

January 16, 2011 – Two years to the day since the killing of Dan’a, the MPCID investigators leisurely leaf through the morning reports of the 96th Battalion. They find nothing new and decide to make a phone call to Barak, the radioman of the company commander interrogated at the end of November 2010. Barak agrees to come and give his testimony two days later.

January 18, 2011 – He doesn’t show up. The MPCID’s investigator spends the next year trying (but not too hard) to get Barak on the phone. CUT!

Let’s take another look at what happened here: the MPCID interrogated an officer in November 2010 before trying to interrogate one of his men, letting a year go by without any other investigatory actions. That officer said he had eight or nine men with him. MPCID made no effort to find out who they were, nor did it try and take the testimony of other officers in his company. The MPCID’s investigator simply made a few phone calls to Barak. An entire year went by in an investigation of the death of a minor from live fire, and the MPCID did squat. This shows us how seriously it takes its role.

January 10, 2012 – Almost three years since the shooting incident, and a year after the first phone call, the MPCID manages to interrogate Barak under caution. Note that since three years have passed, and since a soldier can only be indicted one year after discharge, and since mandatory service lasts three years, the odds that MPCID has the ability to indict Barak (except under highly unusual circumstances) are rather small. Assuming Barak was a suspect, he had: a) year to get his story straight, and; b) a clear understanding he was in no real danger. Barak tells the investigators he is certain that no one fired live bullets, and that the squad he was with had only non-lethal rounds in their magazines.

March 20, 2012 – Two years after interrogating Barak, the MPCID speaks to his officer again. The latter says that since more than three years have passed, and since this wasn’t the Battle of Iwo Jima, he cannot recall which weapons were used by his men.

And frankly, I believe him. Neither would I.

April 17, 2012 – The MPCID holds what it calls “an addendum to the investigation,” which sounds like it is chasing its own tail. It’s trying to get Lt. Na’ama, an operations officer in the Yehuda Regional Brigade, to see if she can find which journalist reported that Dan’a was wounded on January 16. Na’ama cannot recall. Would you recall a phone conversation made three years earlier?

April 30, 2012 – Only two weeks later, a wonder of alacrity given its sluggishness so far, the MPCID turns to human rights organization B’Tselem and asks for the medical documents relating to Dan’a’s death. The frustrated investigator writes that B’Tselem didn’t get back to him.

Wait, what?

As noted earlier, Dan’a’s father gave these exact documents to an investigator at the Hebron DCO on May, 18, 2009 – almost three years earlier. Either the MPCID was unaware of that or it managed to lose the documents. This, admittedly, would no longer surprise me.

That same day, the MPCID’s investigator makes two phone calls. One is to the operations officer of the 96th Battalion, asking for more details about the incident. There are no such details. The second phone call is to the Hebron DCO, trying to find out whether there were Palestinian policemen on the scene at the time of the incident, and whether they fired live bullets.

Which is interesting, since the MPCID has two testimonies of Border Police officers saying they heard live fire coming from the direction of the IDF soldiers. And since the MPCID did not investigate the 96th Battalion properly, it looks like a desperate attempt to blame someone else.

May 6, 2012 – In internal memos, the MPCID complains that it cannot find the medical documents turned over to it on May 18, 2009.

June 24, 2013 – More than a year later, and more than four years since the killing of 17-year-old Musab Badwan Ashak Dan’a, the Military Prosecution closes the case. There is no evidence, it says. Really.

To sum up: two Border Police officers said they heard live fire from the direction of the IDF force; the only IDF officer that the MPCID bothered to interrogate said there was no live fire and that there was no reason for it. And when the investigation ends, we have the body of a 17-year-old with a bullet through his head. Not the legs — the head. Remember this incident; next time, the Military Prosecution will surely tell you the IDF can investigate itself. This is what it — assuming you can call this disgrace an investigation — looks like.

Correction:
The original version of this article inadvertently omitted the March 3, 2009 item in the chronology.

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.

Related:
Israel’s military prosecution presents: How to whittle away an investigation
License to Kill, part 1: Shot to death while in custody

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      Of course, the shooter could have been a Palestinian. In the Palestinian Intrafada the Palestinians killed almost as many Palestinians as were killed in clashes with Israelis.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Mikesailor

      Pedro: I would suggest you return any monies paid to you by the Israeli government for your exceptionally weak hasbara. You are going to seriously tell us that there were Palestinian policemen interspersed with IDF? I suppose next you will tell us that the overwhelming incompetence of all investigators connected with this “investigation” was “accidental”? Tell me Pedro, if a Jewish settler had been killed, and the investigation took four years and was done in a manner which would make Inspector Clouseau look like Sherlock Holmes, would that be acceptable to you? If not, what should happen to all these clowns?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jan

      Every time I hear that the IDF will “investigate” one of their many kliegs of Palestinians I have to laugh. Anyone with even half a brain knows from the start that the “investigation” will be a farce from start to finish.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bryan

      The incompetence / indifference of Israeli military investigations strongly argues for the involvement of the ICC in investigation of Israeli war crimes. Note perhaps I should have said “potential” or “alleged” war crimes but surely the shooting in the head of an unarmed teenage civilian during a heavily policed demonstration amounts at least to a very serious human rights abuse. The duty of occupying forces pending a peace settlement is to protect the occupied population)

      Reply to Comment
      • ICat

        http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/time-to-properly-investigate-uk-war-crimes-in-iraq-9065023.html

        Read and tell us why you are not interested in the war crimes committed by your own country and ranting on British websites and blogs about them? Tell us why your sense of “truth and justice” are awoken ONLY when you hear the words “Jews” and/or “Israel”. Tell us if your own country has conducted any inquiries into the illegal wars it has fought overseas on foreign soils killing thousands of men, women and children in acts of crimes against humanity and Genocide, why the absences of those inquires are of no interest to you and why Israel is ALL you care about, even though Israel has conducted a vigorous and aggressive inquiry after every war of self-defense Israel has fought from within her own borders? When it comes to democracy and rule of law, your country Britain, is not a match for Israel. Start seeking “truth and justice” first in your own country, you old hypocrite!

        Reply to Comment
        • Bryan

          Surely, Ica,t the thing about war crimes is that they are wrong whoever commits them. How could I possibly be consistent in my moral principles without condemning British, American, Syrian, Russian or Israeli war crimes. You however are an entirely different creature (and creature is the operative word) – either you have absolutely no moral principles or you do not value consistency. Which one is it – please inform us.

          Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            Blah, blah, blah. Where have you ever condemned anyone but Israel and Jews? Tell us, on which British blogs are you condemning Britain, demanding the prosecution of the members of British Armed Forces and elected Officials? How can you even condemn what you don’t even know exists? Here: http://972mag.com/its-always-915-in-the-west-bank-military-court/101272/, you falsely claimed that “Britain makes limited use of administrative measures today, called control orders, but these stop short of DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL, and are used to restrict movement and association by suspects without imprisoning them”! Ginger Eis ultimately demolished you and devastated your false claims, but you did not have the courage and decency to acknowledge your mistakes and apologize for your rants. In Syria, over 270.000 men, women and children have been murdered. Tell us, on which website are you ranting about their human rights and demanding the prosecution of their murders? None! Israel at the very least provides free medical care to Syrians who manage to make to the Israel-Syria border and protect Syrian villages close to her border with a de facto ‘no fly zone’! Daily Israeli social worker cross into Jordan to aid Syrian refugees with food and medicine and clothing donated by ordinary Israelis. You on the other hand can only but claim: ‘oh, I condemn what is happening to the Syrians’ – only AFTER you are challenged on your deranged fixation on- and obsession with Jews and Israel. Indeed, your rotten anti-Semitic mind becomes ferociously lucid and awakens your odd sense of “truth and justice” ONLY when you hear the word “Jew” and/or “Israel”.

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            Blah, blah, blah. Where have you ever condemned anyone but Israel and Jews? Tell us, on which British blogs are you condemning Britain, demanding the prosecution of the members of British Armed Forces and elected Officials? How can you even condemn what you don’t even know that exist? Here: http://972mag.com/its-always-915-in-the-west-bank-military-court/101272/, you falsely claimed that “Britain makes limited use of administrative measures today, called control orders, but these stop short of DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL, and are used to restrict movement and association by suspects without imprisoning them”! Ginger Eis ultimately demolished you and devastated you false claims, but you did not have the courage and decency to acknowledge your mistakes and apologize for your rants. In Syria, over 270.000 men, women and children have been murdered. Tell us, on which website are you ranting about their human rights and demanding the prosecution of their murders? None! Israel at the very least provides free medical care to Syrians who manage to make to the Israel-Syria border. Daily Israeli social worker cross into Jordan to aid Syrian refugees with food and medicine and clothing donated by ordinary Israelis. You on the other hand can only but claim: ‘oh, I condemn what is happening to the Syrians’ – only AFTER you are challenged on your deranged fixation on- and obsession with Jews and Israel. Indeed, your rotten anti-Semitic mind becomes ferociously lucid and awakens your odd sense of “truth and justice” ONLY when you hear the word “Jew” and/or “Israel”.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Mikesailor

      Regurgitated Hairball (ICat): You seem to have skipped lessons at hasbara school. The first lesson is denial. No matter the facts or evidence, deny, deny. deny. Instead you moved to Number #2, If the facts are against you and too obvious, attack the messenger. Attempt to paint him as “antisemitic” or obsessed with “Jews”. This is a distraction technique closely related to Number #3: Distract be attempting to show someone else is either as bad or worse than Israel. Again using distraction which never refutes the original facts nor evidence offered by the original critic. Funny how you keep using the same playbook and are then frustrated and angry when it is pointed out that you have absolutely no credibility. Frankly, I would welcome an ICC investigation into the war in Iraq and the ongoing drone assassinations both of which are war crimes. Perhaps if there were independent investigations instead of constant stonewalling, the world might get this stupid idea of “might makes right” out of the lexicon and begin creating a world with far less corruption and killing. Everyone complying with the rule of law would make the world a far better place, don’t you agree?

      Reply to Comment
      • ICat

        “I would welcome an ICC investigation into the war in Iraq and the ongoing drone assassinations both of which are war crimes.”

        Oh, pls. get on with it then and A LOT MORE. Now! Do not forget your kind: the PLO, Hamas, ISIS, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Quaida, etc. Maybe the world will become a better place if you and your kind quit your irrational fixation on- and clinical obsession with Jews, virulent anti-Semitism and the imaginary crimes of Israel and focus on the problems that are really destroying humanity. And of course, when you and your ilk are told exactly that and called out on your irrational obsession with Jews and Israel, you start hallucinating, rambling and ranting “hasbara-technique-this, hasbara-that-mumbo-jumbo”. You are not ever deserving of my spit!

        Reply to Comment
      • ICat

        “I would welcome an ICC investigation into the war in Iraq and the ongoing drone assassinations both of which are war crimes.”

        Pls. get on with it then and A LOT MORE! Maybe the world will become a better place if you and your kind quit your irrational fixation on- and clinical obsession with Jews and virulent anti-Semitism, and focus on the problems that are really destroying humanity. Do not forget your kind: the PLO, ISIS, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaida, etc. And of course, when you and your ilk are told exactly that and called out your anti-Semitism, you start hallucinating, rambling and ranting your usual “hasbara-technique-this, hasbara-technique-that-mumbo-jumbo”. You are not ever deserving of my spit!

        Reply to Comment
    6. MIkesailor

      Poor Regurgitated Hairball: Just can’t give up with the BS can you? I don’t mind Jews, I don’t like Zionists. Is that allowed? Or have you, like most of your morally degenerate ilk, failed to acknowledge the difference?

      Reply to Comment
      • ICat

        Of course you don’t hate Jews. Of course you hate ONLY Zionists. Who have we said that before? Let’s see: David Duke (Ku Klux Klan), David Icke (a known anti-Semite) and their fellow modern day anti-Semites. And of course you, “Mikesaisailor”, Bryan, Bruce Gould, etc., who wallow in the vilest forms of anti-Semitism as your father lectured here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpRewsrcmBE. Of course you have no idea that Larry Derfner, Noam Sheizaf, etc., the entire Meretz party (the most extreme Left Jewish Party in Israel) are ALL Zionist. Of course you have no idea that 99.9% of the Jewish people is Zionist except some of the Religious (Neturei Karta) who on religious ground find that the time has not yet come for Jews to return to Israel. You are not even original in your posts … talking about “regurgitated” and “degenerate”. Those are expressions others have used to describe you on this site and you borrow that, idiot? As said, you are not even worth a spit on the face.

        Reply to Comment
      • ICat

        Of course you don’t hate Jews. Of course you hate ONLY Zionists. Who have we said that before? Let’s see: David Duke (Ku Klux Klan), David Icke (a known anti-Semite) and their fellow modern day anti-Semites. And of course you, “Mikesaisailor”, Bryan, Bruce Gould, etc., who wallow in the vilest forms of anti-Semitism as your viper-father teaches us here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpRewsrcmBE. Of course you have no idea that Larry Derfner, Noam Sheizaf, Mairav Zonszein, Dahlia Scheindlin, etc., the entire Meretz party (the most extreme Left Jewish Party in Israel) are ALL Zionist. Of course you have no idea that 99.9% of the Jewish people is Zionist except some of the Religious (Neturei Karta) who on religious ground find that the time has not yet come for Jews to return to Israel. You are not even original in your posts … talking about “regurgitated” and “degenerate”. Those are expressions others have used to describe you on this site and you borrow that, idiot? As said, you are not even worth a spit on the face.

        Reply to Comment
    7. Brian

      Investigate them all. I’ve got nothing at all against Haniyeh and Meshal and their kleptocratic high command sitting in cells in the Hague next to Ya’alon, Bennett and Bibi and their high command. I welcome it. Grab each of these delinquents by the ear, march them off the playground and into the principal’s office and start procedures to expel them from school.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Mikesailor

      Hairball: Derfner, Scheindlin, Sheizaf etc. are really post-Zionist. I have never heard any of them advocating for an ethnically pure “Jewish” state. In fact, they are more concerned with the future and how both Jews and Palestinians can co-exist within that area of the Middle East. I find that all of them, with the possible exception of Zonszein have been very circumspect over the history of the mess. Mairav I respect the most because she, unlike the others, does not seem to care at all about the “tribe” but more about the universality of both ethics and justice. There are many Jews I respect, both living and dead. From Spinoza to Einstein to Magnes and Arendt and Shahak. And friends who I dearly love. I have no respect for you, however. Does that make me “antisemitic”? Or merely someone who evinces good taste?

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        As of late 2011 this was Derfner’s position. (He may have modified it since, I don’t know.) “Honest liberal Zionist.” You might take issue with some of his account of who started what, but I think Derfner by his own account belongs in the “(honest) liberal Zionist” camp:

        http://972mag.com/response-to-joseph-dana-a-case-for-liberal-zionism/28549/

        Reply to Comment
    9. Mikesailor

      Only if you have drunk the Zionist Kool-Aid can you be a “liberal” Zionist because it truly is a contradiction in terms. I also notice how Derfner, in his article, also disparages any “right of return” and studiously ignores any idea of compensation or other justice. I asked Derfner years ago whether he thought antisemitism was contributed to by the actions of some Jews. Not that they are solely responsible, or perhaps even share major responsibility for the problem, but whether they contributed to the concept in some small way. Not to condone or excuse antisemitism (as Islamophobia, racism or other bigotry and racism) but to help explain it. After all, the Mennonites and other groups “dwell apart” and feel they are somehow “chosen”, and they haven’t engendered the same antipathy among their neighbors. So, what makes Judaism different? The funniest thing I’ve recently heard was the Zionists accusing Palestinians of antisemitism after brutalizing, killing and stealing from them the past 90 something years. Sort of like claiming pity for being an orphan after killing your parents. Derfner never did answer. Perhaps now I know why. By the way, I side with Dana. I believe that a Palestinian state of all its citizenry, with no special privilege for anyone but equal rights and responsibilities for all is much to be preferred over a racist state, Jewish or otherwise. If he is still stuck in tribalism and the faulty premise of Zionism, than I oppose his vision for the future. It is unworkable for once you accept the premise of a “Jewish” state, then you have to decide “who is eligible to be called a Jew”. And once you have gotten to that point, of differentiating the privileged from the unprivileged, you keep down the path Israel is already experiencing. I would think that Derfner, schooled in the US would know better.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Brian

      Anyone with a Haaretz subscription, this on-topic article is compelling:

      http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.637747

      Otherwise Occupied / Fighting for Bruce Lee at The Hague

      A word of advice to the International Criminal Court: Law enforcement officers who don’t put settlers on trial for attacking Palestinians must also be considered suspects.

      By Amira Hass
      Published 19.01.15

      Reply to Comment
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