Why trust the military to investigate itself when soldiers who kill unarmed Palestinians are let off the hook time and time again?
By Alma Biblash
In January 2013, an Israeli soldier shot a 16-year-old Palestinian who posed absolutely no threat in his back. Samir Awad, from the village Budrus, didn’t survive the valiant military operation, and was killed. Last December, the High Court of Justice harshly criticized the Military Advocate General’s (MAG) handling of the case calling on it to finish its investigation.
On Tuesday, the State announced that it would charge the soldier reckless and negligent use of a firearm. Had the incident not ended with the death of a teenager, it could have come off as no more than a silly act of mischief.
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which accompanied the Awad family throughout the legal process, called the decision a “new low in Israeli authorities’ disregard for the lives of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The State Attorney’s Office has sent security forces in the Occupied Territories a clear message: if you kill an unarmed Palestinian who poses no threat, we will do everything to cover it up and ensure impunity.” According to Yesh Din, an Israeli organization that provides legal assistance to Palestinians in the occupied territories that has researched this issue in the past few years, 97.8 percent of the Criminal Investigation Division’s (CID) investigations vis-a-vis harm caused to Palestinians have ended without indictments.
This situation persists even when incidents are documented from every possible angle, as was the case when Bassem Abu Rahmah was shot and killed during a nonviolent demonstration in Bil’in almost exactly five years ago. Abu Rahme’s case was also closed for lack of evidence.
So perhaps those who still put their faith in a military court system will be happy about the decision regarding Samir Awad, even if the decision to indict the soldier for “reckless and negligent use of a firearm,” borders on grotesque cynicism—a desecration of the honor of the deceased and his family.
A different, necessary conclusion could go as follows: the CID and the MAG have nothing to do with justice or good faith. Both Palestinian deaths and lives are entirely forsaken under Israel’s military rule. Even if they are children who pose no threat. Perhaps the time has come to stop relying on the internal mechanisms of the occupation army, stop cooperating with their charade and begin thinking about alternative mechanisms. The kind that will be able to say, unabashedly, that the Israeli army murdered Samir Awad.
Alma Biblash is a feminist and human rights activist based in Jaffa and blogger on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, where this article was first published.