Grab it hard

We appealed to the High Court to order the release of land seized by the IDF almost 40 years ago, which it makes no use of12250796_10153423524214118_2135121104_o

Two weeks ago, the council chiefs of the West Bank villages of Jaloud, Douma and Qusra appealed to Israel’s High Court of Justice, demanding that the hundreds of dunams of land seized by the IDF in 1978 be returned to their rightful owners. The IDF built a military camp (Jaloud camp) on a small part of the land, yet it has been abandoned for many years. It’s time to revoke Seize Order T/5/78.

Readers of this blog are already familiar with the practice of land seizure by military order: we dealt with it in the case of the Dura Al Qara seizure (of which the Dreinoff houses affair is a descendent of): a seizure that was on its face illegal, as an IDF officer specifically wrote in the seizure order that it is to be hidden from the Palestinian residents. We also dealt with this very seizure practice when we managed to return the land taken from the residents of Burkeh for the purposes of building the settlement Homesh.

Military seizure have served, time after time, not to fulfill a military need but for settlement building. The government stopped using this procedure after the Elon Moreh ruling (the film “The Law in These Parts” has some interesting things to say on the ruling), despite holding a significant part of the land seized prior to that ruling.

What is a military seizure? First, we must differentiate it from confiscation. International law prohibits an occupying power – the West Bank, even according to the government of Israel, is under belligerent occupation – from confiscating property or equipment of the residents of the occupied territory. On the other hand, it demands that the military commander protect the property of protected persons. The High Court has maintained, time and again, this double duty: to refrain from harming — and protect — private property.

And yet, international law permits – as an exception to the above rule – the military commander to seize private property when there is a pressing need to do so. If you are contending with a counter-attack or an invasion, you may seize land to use it for defense. But the rights of the owner do not expire: when the emergency is over, the property is to be returned to its owners.

Does the case of Jaloud comply with the law? Not quite. True, originally the seizure order was used for military purposes – the construction of a military camp that only made use of a small part of the land, and which has not been active in years. There is a small communication installation there, but it is unclear whether it is a military or a civil one, and anyway it sits on a small portion of the land seized. If the IDF has a need for the land it seized, it doesn’t show.

To quote the appeal, “In practice, a military seizure intended for unknown purposes, and which is anyway not in use in the last few years, which no one denies harms the property of the persons and the communities represented by the appellants, has in practice become confiscation. This is contrary to law and contrary to the rulings of this honorable court.” The military commander, we note, has held on to the land for 37 years.

The State of Israel is not the habit of releasing land it seized, even when it does not use it. We have seen this in the Burkeh case: the state seized the land on which Homesh was built in 1978. The official pretext was the creation of a settlement for Nahal soldiers – officially a military use. But, as expected, within a short while the military settlement turned into the civilian settlement of Homesh.

The act of theft via the offices of the military commander has been completed: private land, through the designation of “military need,” has been transferred into the hands of the settlers. Had the Gaza Disengagement not taken four West Bank settlements, including Homesh, with it, the thieves would have still been holding on to the plunder.

But the Disengagement happened, and once Homesh was dismantled there was no longer any logic in maintaining the seizure order. And yet, the state adamantly refused to cancel it and allow for a legal struggle against the cancellation until 2013. Why were so many resources directed toward this struggle? Perhaps one day we will know.

The suspicion regarding Seizure Order T/5/78 is that most of the land seized under it was never used for a military purpose. History shows that this scenario leads to – as in the case of the Dreinoff houses – the creation of a semi-wildcat settlement, which the government and the prosecution later attempt to legalize. There is no military need? Obey the law and return the land to its rightful owners.

We’ll keep you posted.

Providing terrorism with a tailwind

The police request to postpone the demolishing of an illegal structure due to fears of right-wing reprisal attacks is a clear surrender to threats of violence

The case of the Givat Ze’ev synagogue combines almost all of the ills of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Last week we witnessed a new low, when the High Court of Justice dealt with a request that has sadly become all-too-common: to rescind, through postponement, its own verdict. This was a cowardly and audacious request by the police, to which the court acceded. How did we get here?

Let’s begin with the legal picture. On July 31st, 2014 the High Court ruled that an illegally-built synagogue in Givat Ze’ev is to be demolished, as it was built on private Palestinian land belonging to Rabah Abdallatif. In plain words: Israeli civilians stole and built a synagogue on it.

The sharp-eyed among you may notice that the original demolition date, July 31st, 2015 is more than three months behind us. Due to a series of empty motions, the demolition was postponed time after time. First to August 10th and then to October 13th – after the prime minister himself asked to postpone the demolition until after the Jewish High Holidays. A day before the demolition date, a new empty motion was served to the court, which was quashed with prejudice.

The new demolition order was set for October 20th. Two days earlier, the government asked for a new postponement, claiming the security situation does not permit it to allocate the forces required for the demolition. You would be surprised to hear, then, that a day after that request was served, Israeli Police actually found the necessary forces to evacuate two Palestinian families from a house in the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem, enforcing a court ruling in favor the far-right Ateret Kohanim organization. Turns out that finding the “adequate forces” is a matter of will. The government sought to postpone the demolition of the synagogue to December 1st; the High Court allotted it a shorter period of time – until November 5th.

Lo and behold: in what became a routine procedure for a government that dares not enforce the law when it comes to its political supporters, the police informed the High Court on the eve of November 2nd that due to the security situation, it once more wants to postpone the demolition.

This time, the police came up with an even more audacious and dangerous claim, according to which the security situation and terror attacks are “causing bitterness, frustration and restlessness with the current situation. These feelings are a platform among extreme right wing for ‘price tag’ actions.” Thus, the police asked for a postponement.

This is what the police is telling us: :Listen, there are some hooligans here. If we try to enforce the law, they will harm people and we can do nothing to do about it.” In the classic blackmail scenario, there is a goon and the person who kindly explains to you that you’d better do as the goon says. Threatening you? Not at all! He’d be insulted at the suggestion. He merely suggests you do the logical thing, security-wise. It would be such a shame if a fire broke out here, no?

And if the lawbreakers are the hooligan in this story, then the police plays the part of the person convincing you to give in to the threats. The police. You know, the people supposed to protect you from lawbreakers.

In case the justices of the High Court didn’t get the hint, on Wednesday morning (a day before the planned demolition) — in a step that was no less than a threat toward them — a protest slogan was spray painted on the walls of the court. The message is clear: we can get to you, just as we can get to the houses of Palestinians in the West Bank.

And if the High Court folds before the threats presented by the police, one thing is certain: these threats will repeat themselves. The government of Israel is happy to give in to the threats of these fearless, uncontrolled zealots. And if it could convince the court that there is no choice but to do so, the threats will continue. Because when all is said and done, these threats work.

The government came out of the courtroom with some success: the demolition was postponed – again – to November 17th, with the justices unable to hide their own impatience.

And one more thing: the people barricading in the synagogue call the structure a “minor temple.” Let them learn that a temple is not built on robbery, that it is not built on blood, and that virtue is not supported by sin. Let them learn that King David bought the thrashing floor of Aruanah the Jebusite by paying its full worth, not seizing it by force. Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and her repentant ones with righteousness.

A Chronicle of a Failure Foretold

gurvitz_2015_C_002_trees2Yesh Din data shows that police just cannot seem to prevent Israeli felons from ruining the Palestinian olive harvest.

We recently published our yearly datasheet following the lack in law enforcement in the West Bank when it comes to Israeli civilians harming Palestinians and damaging their property. The 2015 datasheet looks rather familiar to the 2014 one, which in turns looks all too similar to the 2013 one. All in all, a chronicle of a failure foretold.

Between 2005-2015, Yesh Din followed 1,104 ideologically-motivated crimes in the West Bank. The rate of failure in solving the cases stands at 84.9%; that rate climbs to 90.5% when it comes to felonies against Palestinians’ property, and goes down to about 80% when it comes to violence against Palestinians themselves.

The most popular clause for closing cases is UP (Unknown Perpetrator), meaning the police have no suspects in mind; 624 cases have been closed using this clause. We have shown here time and again that the police have a tendency to close cases under the UP clause even when the felon is known to them. The second clause is lack of sufficient evidence, which as led to the closure of 208 cases.

There are two prominent findings in the current datasheet. The first is a follow-up of 104 ideological crimes that took place inside Palestinian villages. Most of the cases we document take place outside the towns and villages, many of them on agricultural land belonging to Palestinians. But in the last two years, we have seen more and more felonies taking place inside the towns and villages themselves, and here a spike is noted.

Between early 2013 and August 2014, Yesh Din recorded 45 incidents of assault or property damage within Palestinian towns; between August 2014 and August 2015, 44 such incidents were recording – a rise of almost 98%. Attacks within the towns, of course, carry with them significant psychological implications: the Palestinians learn they are not safe anywhere — not even in their own homes.

The most familiar incident is the murder of three members of the Dawabshe family in Duma on July 31st. But aside from the unusually grave outcome, the Duma attack is certainly not the only case of its kind. In fact, that very night at Duma, the killers attacked two houses. Fortunately, one of them was empty.

Aside from that, before the Duma attack Yesh Din recorded 15 cases of arson against Palestinian houses (another case was documented after the Duma attack). The Israeli media generally refers to these “price tag” attacks as if they were mere acts of graffiti. In practice, however, price tag graffiti almost always follows an arson attack.

A significant number of the attacks on Palestinian towns take place in Area B, which are under Israeli military control. In practice, the IDF does not fulfill its obligation under either international law or the decisions of Israel’s High Court of Justice, and does not protect the Palestinian residents. When the Palestinians attempt to organize civil defense groups, the Shin Bet promptly disbands them.

Needless to say, the Palestinian police are prevented from dealing with Israeli lawbreakers. The result is that many Palestinian towns are offered no protection from Israeli felons and arsonists — despite being under Israeli control. Not something to be particularly proud of, I guess.

The second point, especially in these days as Palestinians take part in the annual olive harvest, is that the Israeli police particularly fails when it comes to cracking cases of attacks on Palestinian trees and harvests. The positive news is that whereas the 2013 failure rate was 97.4%, this year it’s “merely” 95.6%. I doubt this is of any consolation to the victims.

Israeli criminal activity expressed in damaging trees and harvests is ideological crime par excellence for two reasons. The first is the strategic goal of agricultural terrorism: remove Palestinians from their land. You can cultivate the land and mock the criminals, but you will bring home no harvest. Take our word for it. It will be burned down or stolen. Is it worth it, all this effort, just to see it all burn away or be uprooted? Forget about it, whispers the smoke, go away. Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house.

And the abandoned land becomes after a time, of course, land taken over by the felons.

And that, too, I guess is not something to be overly proud of.

How to get away with a crime

When the Israeli government announces it will legalize an outpost responsible for violence against Palestinians, it dog-whistles to the law breakers: All is well, nothing will happen to you. YD_Eng-1

During the second Sukkot holiday and the weekend preceding it, Yesh Din investigators documented 29 incidents of assault on Palestinians and their property by Israeli civilians (note that these are only the incidents known to us). The majority of the Israeli media did not report on the incidents, which included an attempt to set the home of a Palestinian family on fire using a firebomb, as well as an assault on an ambulance near the village of Burin. In a series of cases, IDF soldiers reportedly stood idly by and did not prevent attacks on the innocent or their property, despite their legal obligation to do so.

People unfamiliar with the events in the West Bank may think that ideological violence by Israeli civilians only appears as a response to terror attacks. In reality, such attacks take place on ordinary days as well. The response of those responsible for law enforcement in the West Bank – the Israeli government and the IDF – is the same: to ignore Israeli law breakers as much as possible. Israeli civilians know that when they go on the prowl, not only (despite the claims of the Minister of Defense) will IDF troops treat them less harshly when they throw stones or set fields ablaze. The security forces will also aid them by using crowd-dispersal weapons against Palestinian landowners, not the trespassers – who often walk into the very center of Palestinian villages. They also know that no one else will do anything to them. The chance that the complaint lodged by a Palestinian will lead to the conviction of an Israeli who commits an ideological crime is only 1.9%.

And they know something else too: that the government of Israel, forced to pretend to be shocked, absolutely shocked by their attacks, is not all that perturbed. Two days before the recent wave of violence erupted, the prosecution informed the High Court of Justice, in response to our petition, that not only does it have no intention of removing the outpost of Adei Ad, it actually intends to legalize it.

Adei Ad, which was highlighted in our “The Road to Dispossession” report, is wholly illegal. The prosecution does not deny it; it actually admits there are demolition orders against all structures in it; it is clear that over the years, 150 cases of illegal construction were opened against it, of which 97 are still open; it further admits that according to government, the Nationalistic Crime Section of the police opened 36 cases in 2014, with an emphasis on the Shiloh Valley area, where Adei Ad is located. None of this deters the government: it intends to begin legalizing the outpost.

A hearing on the fate of Adei Ad was held this week in the High Court, which gave the court 180 days to come up with a good answer for why it does not want to remove it. According to Yesh Din files, and as reported to the High Court, between 2005 and 2013, 96 criminal offenses were carried out by Israeli civilians in the vicinity of Adei Ad, many of them violent. In the whole of Shiloh Valley we found 146 cases, only six of which went to court; all the rest of the cases were closed, vast majority of them due to police negligence. And these are only the cases in which the Palestinian victim decided to lodge a complaint with the police; there are quite a few cases in which the victim decided not to — they didn’t see a point.

Adei Ad is a microcosm of the occupation: it represents the settlement policy of the Israeli government, which incentivizes felons to invade land and take it over. It then rushes to provide them with IDF protection and basic utilities. Then the outpost expands. At first, the Palestinians are prohibited from entering the outpost itself; then, they are barred from entering its security perimeter; following that they are forbidden to enter nearby land, unless the army allows it and in coordination with it. And after all that come the threats and attacks on farmers who did not yet get the hint and continued working their land near the outpost.

Almost all of none cases are ever solved. Agricultural settlements that lose access to their land also lose their ability to make a living. Palestinian villages whose land was stolen by the Israeli government and outlaws, like those of Adei Ad, suffer from high rates of emigration.

And then comes the reward. After 17 years of invading land, abusing Palestinians and ignoring the law, the government announces it will turn the impure into. Its agents may now collect their reward.

The Unmentioned Attacks

During the month of July, Israeli Jews set fire to and cut down olive trees in a West Bank village. This kind of violence is routine near Adei Ad. YD_Burn_EN

On the noon of July 13th, Aamer Abd Al-Rahman, a farmer from the West Bank village Turmusia, was urgently summoned to his land. A neighbor informed him that Israeli civilians, who he said came down from the nearby settlement outpost of Adei Ad were raiding his field. Al-Rahman drove quickly to the place, and managed to see Israeli civilians steal his wheat and load it onto donkeys. When he reached the scene, the Israeli civilians fled. He called the Israeli District Coordination Office (DCO), which arrived shortly thereafter along with representatives of the army and the police. The Israeli civilians were watching them from afar. Al-Rahman asked the police to advance toward the donkeys; as they reached them, about a dozen more settlers showed up and began swearing at them. A DCO man wrote a report, yet no one was arrested.

Al-Rahman finished loading up some of his stolen wheat, while the group headed down back to Turmusia. But when the cops left the scene, a group of Israeli civilians struck at another bale of wheat – stolen earlier and taken to a more remote area – and set it ablaze. At this point, a group of Samaria and Judea Police Deparment policemen reached the scene – Al-Rahman was under the impression these were people from the Nationalist Crime Deptartment – and the DCO man promised him solemnly that the attackers would be caught.

The Israeli media did not report on this case of theft and arson.

We move on to four days later. It is now July 17th, and Bahah Muhammad Sliman Faqaha – a resident of Sinjil who owns land in Turmusia – is woken up at 3 a.m. by a phone call. The day is the eve of the Eid al Fither, a major Muslim holiday, and the urgent phone call comes from Turmusia: your field has been set afire, he is told. When Faqaha reaches the scene, the residents have already doused the fire as best they could – although around 210 kilograms of wheat were destroyed in the fire. The residents who fought the fire tell him they saw figures making their way up to Adei Ad. Faqaha doesn’t bother to complain to the SJPD: he realized long ago that there is no point.

The Israeli media did not report on this case of arson.

On July 20th, Mahmoud Ahmed Muhammad Hazme reaches his olive grove in Turmusia, in a plot adjacent to Adei Ad, and finds that the 170 new olive saplings he planted were uprooted and broken. Judging by their dryness, Hazme estimates they were uprooted during the Eid Al Fither holiday. The Israeli DCO shows up, takes pictures, and expresses his shock; Hazme is not consoled. He tells the police that this is the sixth attack on his land in recent weeks by Israeli civilians, often from Adei Ad, and that he expects the police to do something with his complaints.

The Israeli media did not on report this attack.

We now jump 10 days forward. It is July 28th, and Aamer Abd Al Galil Yasef Juda, a resident of Turmusia, is urgently summoned by phone by the other residents: come quickly, your field is on fire. He reaches the scene and finds his harvested wheat, which he put in bales several days ago, ablaze. A witness tells him he saw Israeli civilians coming down from the Adei Ad mountain to his field, and then saw the smoke begin to rise. Juda complained to the police.

The Israeli media did not rep… well, you already got the gist.

What happens here is quite simple. Faqaha, who lost all will to complain to the police, described it succinctly. “Their method is to cause a mess so we won’t reach our land. They want it to themselves. Down the slope from Adei Ad to our land is a cave where the hilltop youth stay. I think these are the ones who harass us. The army pushes them away every time, but they keep coming back. The army and the police know them well but make no effort to detain them and put them on trial.” The cave, by the way, is known to Juda as well. It seems the only ones not to know of it are the people at the Nationalist Crime Department.

We described this method – violence intended to cause Palestinians to despair and leave their land – two years ago in a report focusing on Adei Ad titled “The Road to Dispossession.” Adei Ad, an illegal outpost that the Binyamin Local Council boasts about publicly (Hebrew), has been invading Palestinian land for over a decade. Last December, we appealed to the HCJ, demanding it be removed based on the fact that it continuously violates the human rights of Palestinian.

This method of dispossession through violence has not disappeared since that report. The number of incidents – four in the span of around two weeks near Adei Ad – may be exceptional, but the method itself is a fixture. This post deals with the July attacks, but there are many more attacks on Turmusia. One attack in January, for instance, destroyed 5,000 olive saplings.

These are quiet attacks, taking place on a near-daily basis — their goal is sow fear and despair. They are not fancy, they’re not followed by a colorful slogan, they “merely” intend to convince agricultural communities that there is no point in trying to keep their land. Even if you manage to raise crops in the impossible conditions near an outpost, even if the army allows you access to your land, someone will steal the fruit of your labor. And if he can’t steal it, he’ll torch it. Neither you nor me shall have it.

The Israeli media woke up in terror a month ago after the Duma terror attack, and (finally) realized that we are dealing with Jewish terrorists. Wake up and smell the coffee. They have been here for many years now. The Israeli media simply felt it is better to ignore them, or worse, to label their attacks “graffiti.”

So, once more: this isn’t about graffiti. This is an intentional campaign to terrorize farmers through the use of violence, whose goal is dispossession. These gangs may be less organized than the one that torched the house in Duma. But the negligence of the authorities is the same.

And this must end.

We don’t like investigating. Whatcha gonna do about it?

After Israeli civilians cut down trees; a Palestinian identifies them. But the police close the case, claiming they have no idea who the perpetrator is. YD_Eng-2

I am considering demanding the Treasury repay me for the portion of my taxes they spent on the Samaria and Judea Police Deparment, since it is clearly a superfluous expense. This blog is not, to say the least, an admirer of the SJPD, but this time special forces would be required to help it find its missing jaw.

The case goes as follows. Our client, Abd Al Latif Dar Samkhan, who resides in the village of Ras Karkar, heard on April 19, 2014 from his neighbors that settlers are on his land, damaging his olive trees. He hurried to the scene along with members of his family, where he found a group of Israeli civilians (accompanied by two dogs) who were busily cutting down his trees. The Israelis retreated to a nearby pond, where they mocked the angry landowner and told him they were not scared of the SJPD, using the opportunity to curse the name of the Propher Muhammad. The Israelis climbed into a white car and – according to the witnesses – vanished in the direction of the settlement Neriya. They left behind some 60 cut-down olive trees.

IDF and SJPD forces reached the scene, where the police immediately took early statements – with which it did nothing. Alongside our client was a witness, Azmi Samkhan. A month after the incident, on May 19, 2014 19.5.14, Azmi was summoned for a second testimony; he was asked to provide evidence that the land was indeed his. The police summoned him again the next day, and this time asked him to partake in a photo identification.

Azmi’s response was unequivocal: he positively identified three suspects. “This is the man who threw stones at me,” he says, “that is the one who was cutting down the trees,” and “this one climbed on top of a sapling in order to break it down.” The names of the suspects are known to us, but we are forbidden from publish them; the SJPD has the names. Azmi also described, once more, the dogs who followed the attackers: a black dog and one colored brown and white.

One might have expected — were we not dealing with the SJPD — that after the three suspects were identified to the investigators, althoughthough it was a month after the incident, they would summon them for an interrogation. One might have also expected the investigators to make an effort to find out the owner of the dogs.

Keyword: might.

The photos held for Samkhan on May 20, 2014 was the last investigative action that can be found in the file. On April 28, 2015, nearly a year after the incident took place, and 11 months after Azmi identified three attackers, the police closed the case. The clause justifying the act was UP — “unknown perpetrator.” That’s when my jaw dropped.

Let me explain. UP is one of nine clauses under which the police may close a case. It means that the police acknowledge that a crime took place, but that it has no clue as to the identity of the suspects. This is the most common clause used by the SJPD to close cases.

But how can you say, for crying out loud, that you have no suspects when a witness fingered three of them? How, for crying out loud, can you not summon them for an interrogation? Where, for crying out loud, do you find the chutzpah to then close the case under the unknown perpetrator clause? You were told who they were! You know the names! They are written down in your reports!

After we dealt with an investigator who decided not to check whether there are security cameras at the scene of a child’s attempted kidnapping — since he didn’t think they would cover the scene — we now have investigators who, even when told the names of suspects, are incapable of interrogating them.

And, of course, this screw-up is attended by the usual failure to inform the victims of the crime. The police closed the case on April 28, 2015 but only bothered to inform us – the attorneys of the victim – on June 25. Only on July 12 did we manage to get a copy of the half-empty case file. Our attorneys, Noa Amrami and Michal Pasovsky, sent an appeal in early August demanding the reopening of the case and the interrogation of the suspects, noting that “the fact the suspects were not summoned [for interrogation] is to be construed as negligence and raises serious questions about the way the police handles criminality against Palestinians residing in the Territories.”

However, the chance that the criminals will be indicted after more than a year of a police failure is so small, that if it does happen we will probably be invited to a gala performance of the Flying Pigs Wing. So, again, I want the money I spent on the SJPD back, please.

Evidence? Evidence is for the weak

When Israeli civilians try to kidnap a Palestinian child, the police does its best not to investigate 11903492_1127753200587347_1955670190_n

The date is December 19, 2014. The Place: the AM/PM convenience store outside the West Bank village of Hawara. Majed Musa AbdAziz As’ous parks his vehicle across the road from the store, making certain the windows are open, and goes in for a quick purchase. In the front seat on his right sits five-and-a-half year old N.; two other children sit in the back seat.

As the father crosses the road, an Israeli vehicle — As’ous would later remember it being a red Subaru Justy, along with a few numbers from the license plate – with four young, Israeli men swerves into the scene. The Subaru parks near As’ous, with its back window adjacent to the windshieldof As’ous’ car. The Israeli in the back seat of the Subaru leans across the window, seizes N., and tries to pull him into the Israeli vehicle.

Hearing N.’s terrified screams, As’ous runs back. He manages to see the Israeli vehicle escaping, only to catch a glimpse of the man who almost kidnapped his son. As’ous lodges a complaint with the Palestinian police the following day, which transfers it to the Israeli DCO.

In February 2015, two months after the incident, the complaint makes it to the Israeli police, which then pretend to investigate the case. They take As’ous’ testimony, who tells the cops he knows of another witness whom he can locate. In a second interview four days later, police investigator A.A. asks As’ous whether there are security cameras in the area — he says he thinks there are.

At this point, a reasonable man would assume A.A. would turn to the AM/PM shift manager, identify himself as a policeman, and ask for the relevant tapes. A.A. assumed that the chance that there is little chance these tapes exist (personally, I believe that his assumption was sound — too much time had indeed passed). Furthermore, wrote A.A. in a memo, it is not at all likely that the cameras actually covered the road area; from his rich experience, he believes they mainly cover the cash registers. Thus, A.A. decided not to look into the issue at all.

Rewind, slow motion: the crime – the attempted kidnapping of a child; the response of investigator A.A. – not to bother to even check whether evidence exists, or whether the cameras cover the road. He just assumes they don’t and closes the case under the ever-popular clause of Unknown Perpetrator.

Perhaps the cameras caught what had happened; perhaps they didn’t. Perhaps they did, but too much time had passed and the tapes were deleted. Or maybe, due to the whole mess of the kidnapping, the owners decided to keep the tapes for evidence. We’ll never know, because A.A. never bothered checking. He preferred to guess.

The negligence doesn’t end here. Leaving the tapes aside – the chance they still existed was indeed low – there were other, stronger leads. As’ous gave A.A. a fairly accurate description of the Israeli vehicle – but A.A. didn’t bother to cross that information with similar vehicles registered in the nearby outposts and settlements.

As’ous told him he knows of another witness – the police didn’t bother to summon him or take his statement. It’s just a Palestinian child, after all. As’ous says he thinks he may identify the kidnapper – but A.A., the SJPD’s Sherlock Holmes, doesn’t bother to ask him to look at the police felon photo book. In fact, A.A. doesn’t take any investigative action whatsoever; the entire case file is three pages long. When it comes to excuses, however, he’s a master.

All this information comes to us directly from the investigative files. Recently our attorneys, Noa Amrami and Michal Pasovsky, appealed the decision to close the case. Their demands are simple: carry out the aforementioned, minimalistic investigative actions, so that the life of a Palestinian child won’t be deemed negligible.

Our last post showed the Nationalistic Crime Section at its insufficient best; this time we show you the SJPD at its worst. It’s important to remember these days, when the SJPD and the Shin Bet tell you they’re doing everything they can to stop Jewish terrorists, that “all we can do” looks all too often like A.A.

Never enough evidence to convict price tag attackers

It’s hard to avoid the feeling that the police’s nationalist crime unit is incapable, even at its best, of obtaining a conviction. Daharia

The deplorable murder of Ali Dawabshe led to a wave of far-reaching, anti-democratic proposals allegedly meant to augment fighting nationalist crimes against Palestinians. As we see it, the problem lies somewhere else entirely: the quality of police work. The final week of July — which began with a stunning acquittal and ended with a terrible tragedy — provided us with a good example.

At the end of July, the Be’er Sheva District Court acquitted Aharon Sadigorsky, Nethanel Klarman, and Yehiel Lex over  the burning of Mahmoud Arnan’s car in the West Bank village of Al Asja near Hebron. They were also charged for spray-painting the words “price tag” and “congratulations Effi” on a nearby wall. The three were acquitted after the court ruled that the nationalist crime unity of the Samaria and Judea Police Department failed to provide evidence connecting them to the arson.

Acquittals happen, but this one is particularly galling. One of the accused was arrested while wearing a ski mask; all three were in a car that did not belong to them; the vehicle contained a plastic bottle containing fuel, stones in a sack, a crowbar, gloves, a can of black spray paint, a bag of nails, and a realistic, plastic replica of an M-16 assault rifle. The court stated that it “does not trust the testimonies of the accused, which aside from being late [i.e. provided only in the court court, not to police – YZG] seem to be coordinated and make no sense.” None of this was not enough to convict them.

Some background. The verdict states that Sadigorsky and Klarman met on the night of the arson in Hebron, where they arrived, they claimed, in order to visit a fourth friend. Together with Lex they enter a red Subaru belonging to Sadigorsky. Unbeknownst to them, the police has received intelligence that the car is used for price tag attacks, is being tracked by the police, The three drive to the settlement of Ma’on, where they change cars and – so they claim – pick up a hitchhiker who wants to go to the nearby settlement of Beit Hagai. None of the three would later be able to identify him. At around 2 a.m., they decide to drive to Samoa, where there is an ancient synagogue. The hitchhiker, they state in retrospect, asked them to drop him off in Beit Haggai on their way back, but continued on with them.

The three don’t know it, but they are being followed. The police know they are up to something, and that the are in a vehicle that doesn’t belong to them, but somehow lose track of them for a critical half hour. When they identify the three again the cops move quickly and detain them. During the arrest, Klarman is wearing a ski mask. The fourth man manages to escape to the outpost of Mitzpe Eshtamoa; the indictment notes he attacked a pathfinder who tried to detain him.

The police detained the trio at around 2 a.m.; the price tag attack in Al Asja took place between 1:45 and 2:10. No one witnessed the attack itself. The residents of the house woke up soon after the attack, and naturally were busy putting it out.

The judge was unimpressed by the tale told by the three defendants, ruling that their testimony was unreliable. He also wrote that it is perfectly possible that the three did carry out the arson – but that “perfectly possible” is not the standard for conviction — “beyond reasonable doubt” is. And since testimonies and evidence about the critical events – the arson itself – are lacking, he had no choice but to acquit them.

It is very hard to shake the feeling that had the defendant been Palestinian, he would be convicted, and rather speedily. One also finds it hard to ignore the feeling that were the defendant a Jew caught with a locksmith kit (and not with fuel, immediately follwoing an arson in a Palestinian village), he, too, would face a speedy conviction. It is hard to believe a defendant who was not charged with a nationalistic crime would be acquitted. The Israeli rate of acquittal is not high – unless the victim is a Palestinian.

But when all is said and done, there was an acquittal, which the prosecution will not appeal; one has to face the unpleasant fact that the case lacked critical evidence. One must say, while gritting teeth, that the judge was right: I wish more people against whom the level of evidence was so low would be acquitted.

But something else must also be said. This was a flag case for the nationalist crime unit, mockingly nicknamed FASHLA (acronym for nationalistic crime, which also means “screw up”). The police had suspects in its sights; it had a car under surveillance; it bugged the car; it knew which car the suspects switched to. And yet, after all this effort and investment, the police was unable to obtain the necessary evidence to secure a conviction.

These are the optimal circumstances. The police had intel, and it was accurate. When the trio entered the car, the cops identified them. They knew those guys; they knew the car well enough to identify the sounds of the Subaru’s moribund engine. And after all the efforts, investment in time and money, proven ability – nothing.

The “Yapanit Aduma” (“Red Japanese”) case, as the police called it, was a flag case – and it dropped the ball. You have to give it points for effort, but it dropped the ball. The message “Yapanit Aduma” sends price tag attackers is simple: Keep your mouth shut and say nothing under interrogation. If you have the misfortune of actually appearing before a judge, sell him a half-baked fairy tale. It will be enough, since the police are incapable of obtaining evidence. If you won’t convict yourself, you won’t be convicted by them.

The message for Palestinian victims is quite different: don’t waste your time. If the police couldn’t obtain the evidence in this case — when the suspects were in sight and being tailed — what chance does it have when the attacker is unknown and not under surveillance? What are the chances that the police get a conviction for an assault taking place in a field, or in the outskirts of a village – attacks which lack the show-off element of a slogan (which isn’t the crime but rather its attendant) — but which are much more common, when it doesn’t have the benefit of pre-emptively positioning bugs and camera?

What are the chances? Unfortunately, we know the answer: 1.9 percent.

Photo by: Samaria and Judea Police spokesperson.

Law Enforcement? Don’t Look at Us

Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of the return of the Dreinoff case is the way law enforcers abjure their duty.1467522_10153216342924118_1278106413_o

We think we owe you an apology: about a month ago we informed you that the High Court of Justice has accepted our position regarding the Dreinoff Buildings. One could misconstrue that to mean that since Israel abides by the law, the decision was final and would finally be enforced. We are sorry for so misleading you — all we can say is that this wasn’t intentional or planned.

We regret to report that this was not the end of the case. Despite the fact that the High Court twice ruled that the Dreinoff Buildings were built on private Palestinian land seized by a military seizure order, and even though its last ruling made clear it was final and absolute, the government of Israel continued to do its best to avoid enforcing the law.

For that purpose, the Objections Subcommittee of the Civil Administration convened in mid-July, and after a speedy debate tabled the order to destroy the building in Beit El. This is the equivalent of a zoning plan — in an area seized by the military. The ruling paid lip service to the High Court ruling, saying that it, naturally, does not undermine it. Because, let’s face it, a planning committee annulling a decision of the land’s highest court might cause the mask that lets this country pretend it is a lawful one to slip. But the committee approved a plan, which means the approval of new buildings instead of the ones demolished. As this post is being written, the decision is supposed to be rubber-stamped by the Minister of Defense. [Update: it was.]

Perhaps the most infuriating article in the decision of the Objections Subcommittee is article 60, which refers to the objections of Attorney Shlomy Zachary of the Yesh Din legal team, who represents the land owner. Zachary noted that the criminals who illegally built the structures were never punished, and that approving the buildings is a form of rewarding criminality.

Article 60 replies: “In the case before us, indeed, the builders were not criminally charged for their actions; however, as was stated in High Court of Justice case 5528/12 […] the authorities are now acting to create an investigative unit for enforcing building and planning laws in the Judea and Samaria region, which doesn’t exist today. This issue impacts, as we see it, the very possibility of taking action against the criminals, who should not face a reckoning because the authorities did not act to create a relevant investigative body.”

In other words, since no one enforces planning and building laws in the West Bank, even those who are considered tp be criminals by the Objections Subcommittee should not be penalized for their crimes. Until a special law enforcement unit is created, the law will not be enforced.

Some explanation is in order. In fact, as demonstrated in our Mock Enforcement report (pg. 86 and onwards), the Israeli police is fully empowered to enforce the building laws — it simply doesn’t want to do so, and thus tries to throw this hot potato onto the lap of the Civil Administration, which doesn’t like the idea much either. Therefore both do nothing. The State Comptroller daintily admonished them in 2013 (Hebrew document); in May of that year, the State Attorney demanded that the defense minister create a body to enforce building laws. In May 2014 the Coordinator of Government Action in the Territories (COGAT), Brig. Yoav Mordechai, informed the Knesset’s Security and Foreign Affairs Committee that such a unit will soon be created.


Nothing has happened since, and as far as the Objections Subcommittee is concerned, the criminals can go on despoiling land. Yes, this theft may be deplorable, but it will not hinder them in any way from receiving building permits to create “facts on the ground.” Law enforcement? That’s so passé, and certainly not the concern of the Objections Subcommittee. Someone – don’t ask us who, there isn’t one – will handle this. Sometime. Maybe. Don’t count on it. Next!


The behavior of the Attorney General must be judged by his action. Weinstein may have sent a self-serving letter to the defense miniser two years ago, but his representatives supported the criminals time and again in the High Court, and are likely to do so soon. [Update: they did.]

It is reasonable to assume that once the felons appeal to the High Court for the third time, saying: “Here, we manufactured a building permit — what’s the point in demolishing the buildings? Isn’t it a shame?” The State Attorney representatives will support them. [Update: this is precisely what happened.]

Furthermore, Weinstein has a founder’s share in the concept that building offenses should not punished: last November, he closed the investigation against two Binyamin Council officials (Hebrew) who openly admitted to building the Ofra waste disposal facility on private Palestinian land. Weinstein’s argument was stunning: since no one had been previously prosecuted for similar offenses, the suspects may use the “abuse of process” defense. So Weinstein saved them the trouble, the time and the lawyers’ fees, and made the argument for them.

The paradoxical result of this decision may be that no one may ever be prosecuted for building offenses in West Bank: whomever has the unfortunate pleasure to become the first to be indicted will claim abuse of process and will rely on an august authority — the State Attorney himself. Building offenses may be still on the books, but Weinstein and the Objections Subcommittee did everything in their power to make them a dead letter.

On Sunday, July 26th 2015, we submitted an appeal to the High Court of Justice through Attorney Zachary, asking for an interim injunction, and interim order, and an order nisi against the guidance system. That day, the High Court issued an interim injunction ordering the government to explain why it insists on allowing what the court prohibited. So far, the court has refused to silently accept the fact that ideological criminality is rewarded by the government, time and again, since the law enforcers are in cahoots with the criminals. The court stood firm. We’ll keep you posted.

Update: As predicted (this post was written on July 22nd), Dreinoff did petition the High Court on July 28th, using the decision of the Objections SubCommittee as a pretext for the petition. The government supported the petition of the law-breakers. On July 29th the High Court issued its decision, dismissing the appeal with prejudice. That same day, all its options exhausted, the government demolished the buildings. To be continued.

The IDF presents: Looting under the guise of a search

IDF soldiers burst into a Palestinian house, wreak havoc, and disappear with money and the gold.11720499_1104269489602385_1409873871_n

And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. (Joshua 7:10)

The place: the West Bank village of Kalil. The time: 1:30 a.m., around the beginning of June 2015. Athmad Aziz Shakhada Mansour, a social activist and a member of the village council, wakes up from a noise she she has become accustomed to: violent slamming on the front door of the house. She instructs her husband to secure the money and gold the family holds for the wedding of their son M., who is supposed to marry in two days time.

The slams continue. Mansour goes to open the door. A large group of soldiers, all hooded, burst into the house. Somehow, the strange custom of IDF soldiers to hide their faces, as if they were not in charge of law enforcement but rather breaking it—as if they were thieves in the night—has become a fixture over the past few years, while the public remains silent. The soldiers, as usual, gather the residents of the house into one room and forbid them to leave it. When they enter the bedroom, they find Mansour’s husband trying to pack up the money and gold. The husband tells them loudly that he wants to protect the gold; some of the soldiers answer, in what Mansour would later remember as fluent Arabic, that soldiers are not thieves.

The soldiers conduct a search of the house; they are probably looking for arms. They detain Mansour’s husband and her son S. while shouting: “Tell us where the weapons are. You have weapons, surrender them and we’ll release the detainees. You have a wedding in two days, you wouldn’t want the father and one of the brothers to be held custody.”

Finally, the soldiers despair and leave, taking the son S. with them but releasing the father. They didn’t find any weapons. A week later S. is released without charge.

Once the family leaves the room where they were held, they find the usual trail of destruction — a hallmark of a visit by the IDF: the chicken feed has been spilled on the floor, all of the dishware was thrown from the cupboards, and the contents of the drawers have been thrown on the ground.

Among the missing objects is 30,000 NIS ($7,950) in cash, as well as 22 gold coins, purchased for M.’s wedding.

The soldiers, as we understand it, likely had a legitimate reason to break into the house at night. They may well have had a legitimate reason to detain S., as well, but we have no idea what that reason is. The disappearance of the money and gold after the search, however, indicates a case of looting. Again, IDF soldiers are allowed to confiscate property that may be suspected of being used, or possibly being used, in the committing of a crime. They must, however, supply the owners with a written confirmation of the confiscation. In the absence of a receipt, the assumption should be that we are dealing with looting. Mansour heard from her daughter-in-law, S.’s wife, that 8,000 NIS ($2,120) were also stolen from his house (on the lower floor of the building) during the very same search. However, we do not have a direct testimony regarding that claim.

Looting is a war crime. Although Israeli military law does not call it that by name, it nevertheless carries a punishment of 10 years in prison. This isn’t the first case of looting on part of the IDF that we know of. We documented one case in February 2013, in which soldiers vandalized a home and looted money from it. In September 2013 we documented a case in which soldiers burst into a house (the wrong one, as it turned out) and vanished with a woman’s life savings.

The very violent Operation Brother’s Keeper in the West Bank in 2014 included several cases of looting. One of them, a year ago, looks like a direct copy of Mansour’s story. Soldiers burst into a house to look for weapons, didn’t find them, and made off with gold. In another case, in which the soldiers acted as if they had come for the sole purpose of confiscating money (they left no receipt) one of the soldiers broke a child’s piggy bank and stole its contents. In yet another case, the soldiers came to a house, took the money – which turned out to be tax money paid by the townspeople – and told the owner he would receive a receipt from the police; the latter didn’t know what he was talking about. In another instance of looting, soldiers took an envelope full of money that had been hidden by the homeowner on her body, while also stealing hundreds of shekels from her purse. This is just a partial list of cases of looting, which also took place during Operation Protective Edge (for which the MAG ordered several indictments), and the looting of the Mavi Marmara detainees in 2010 (Hebrew). Earlier examples can be seen here.

Therefore when the soldiers of the most moral army in the world claim that they are not thieves, we cannot take them at their word.

Looting cannot be excused; and what we cannot excuse, we suppress. When we suppress, we become silent partners to a war crime.

So here it is, in full view. Do with it as you will; you can no longer say, however, that you did not know.

Our attorney, Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, sent a complaint in late June to the Operational Affairs Attorney, Lt. Col. Adoram Riegler, demanding an urgent investigation both of the soldiers and of their commanders (who have command responsibility, which MP-CID often ignores.) We will keep you posted on developments, although history cautions us not to expect too much from the military justice system.