Hebrew soldier, Hebrew looter

10529498_886045758091427_2024756357_nDuring Operation Brother’s Keeper, Palestinians reported numerous incidents of looting by IDF soldiers. Here’s the first case we documented

During Operation Brother’s Keeper, IDF soldiers invaded thousands of houses in the West Bank, on the pretext of looking for the kidnapped teenagers. These raids allow us to get a quick picture of the differences between Palestinians living under Israeli control and Israeli citizens.

For instance, were someone to be kidnapped in Petah Tikva, no one would imagine placing the city under curfew, prevent its denizens from traveling abroad, and carry out “searches” in random apartments, without the need to show the residents a legal search warrant.

Yet that is precisely what happened to Wasafia Sadeq Othman Salah Khater, a senior citizen living in the village of Aqraba, on June 22nd, 2014. Around 02:30 AM, about a dozen soldiers knocked on her door, entering without explanation, and as she noted, without showing her any warrant. The soldiers found nothing, as there was nothing to be found; but for an hour they wreaked havoc in Khater’s house. Aside from her, the house was home to her pensioner husband and their eight sons.

The soldiers were not satisfied with ripping off the covering of the sofas and spreading out their contents, nor with the breaking of a closet door (one wonders what the hell the purpose of that was, aside from sadistic enjoyment): they did what the army will not speak of, and it seems they looted the house. At first, the soldiers stole an expensive wrist watch, worth some 700 NIS (some 200 USD). Then, they looted an envelope that Khater held on her body – a very reasonable thing to do, when strangers invade your home – which contained 15,000 NIS (some 4,400 USD) and 1,700 Jordanian dinars (about 2,400 USD).

Even if this had been a legal confiscation, and as the soldiers did not leave Khater any receipt it wasn’t, Khater has no reasonable way of getting the money back: as we’ve seen, in order to do so she would have to appeal to the Israeli HCJ. But as she didn’t receive any written confirmation, this wasn’t a confiscation. Later on, looking through the house, Khater found out that the soldiers went off with her purse, containing 400 NIS. Looting, we’ll remind you, is a war crime, and while the Israeli military law does not recognize war crimes, it does punish looting with up to 10 years imprisonment.

Khater’s husband is a pensioner; she herself is a housewife. The money they have comes from their children. It was several soldiers who looted them; they were commanded by an officer who either did not know what took place, in which case he is unfit for command, or knew and turned a blind eye, in which case he is unfit for command and should spend time in prison with his looting soldiers; either way, he has command responsibility for their actions.

But the chances that he will be prosecuted are practically nil. The rate of indictment of soldiers is near zero. And after all, this incident took place as the national brain was suffused with blood.

Israelis have grown accustomed to excusing away everything done by IDF soldiers, up to and including the killing of children. The only things they can’t explain away yet are intentional attacks on animals and looting. Nobody can claim that looting makes any operational sense; no one can claim it is not a crime – and one of the most serious in the Israeli military law. Therefore, the IDF and the Israeli media, which has grown very good at not challenging the Israeli way of thinking, simply don’t speak about it.

So if you still have any expectations of war ethics from the IDF, promote this post. Because the mainstream media will not mention this case of looting – or the other cases we will document.

Kafka on duty at Allenby Bridge Checkpoint

10442513_880437961985540_7092210030740489377_nThe IDF confiscates money from a blind Palestinian woman, forcing her to appeal to the HCJ in an attempt to get it back

About two weeks ago, we filed a petition to the HCJ, which is unusual even given the cases we regularly deal with; it deals with Kafkaesque behavior by the security forces. We are petitioning on behalf of Akhlas Sayel Mustafa A-Shatiyeh and her sister, Suhad Sayel Mustafa A-Shatiye.

The story of the sisters is unique. Akhlas was born blind, and their father – Sayel Jabara A-Shatiye – was killed in 2004 by a settler, Yehoshua Elizur, a resident of the settlement of Itamar. He was convicted of homicide, but – lo and behold – managed to escape Israel before he began serving his sentence.

Despite this background, Akhlas managed to finish a master’s degree in English and literature, and served as a counselor for female students suffering from disabilities, in the University of Beir Zeit. Presently she works as an investigator for the Stars of Hope Society, a Palestinian NGO promoting the rights of disabled women. She is often sent on behalf of the Society to conferences abroad; her sister Suhad accompanies her and aids her.

Last December, the sisters arrived at Allenby Checkpoint, after Akhlas represented the Society at a UN conference promoting the political rights of disabled women in Jordan. Arriving at the checkpoint, they found themselves under interrogation, which lasted eight hours. At the end of it, the army confiscated all of the money held by the sisters, refusing to leave them even enough money to return home, forcing them to spend the night outside, in the cold. In total, the army seized a sum of some 5,000 NIS. The sisters presented the soldiers with receipts, showing some of the money was travel expenditure they received, and that the rest was given to them by their mother in order to purchase gifts in Amman; but the army claims the money is of “an unallowed association,” and issued a confiscation order.

And here another problem came up. Until recently, a Palestinian whose property was confiscated by our troops, could turn to the military courts in the West Bank and demand it back. Since 2013, Amendment nr. 36 to the Order Regarding Security Provisions is in force, and it reads: “The decision of the Military Commander, according to Article 61, or the decision of the Military Commander to seize, sell or confiscate property, according to the Defense (Emergency) Regulations – 1945, cannot be appealed before the military court, and is final.” In other words, if the army decides to seize your property, there’s nothing you can do.

Hence, the A-Shatiye sisters had no choice but to petition the HCJ, demanding inter alia the cancellation of the draconian Amendment nr. 36. It’s important to note that in many cases, the cost of an appeal to the HCJ is greater than that of the confiscated sum, so this route is also Kafkaesque; you have to lose money to get yours. Furthermore, an appeal to the HCJ requires either an Israeli advocate, or an entrance permit into Israel. This is one more factor which may cause the prospective claimant to give up his property, where formerly he might just have appealed to the military court. Our petition against Amendment nr. 36, it should be mentioned, follows two previous petitions on this issue by the Center for the Defense of the Individual, also demanding its repeal.

When the A-Shatiye sisters tried to understand why their money was confiscated, the Legal Advisor to the territories of Judea and Samaria (LAJS) replied that it did so “in light of reliable, double-checked intelligence presented to him, which shows that these are funds belonging to an association that is not allowed,” and hence the confiscation was appropriate. This information, needless to say, was not presented to the A-Shatiye sisters.

As our petition states, “it was also noted that even when the petitioners were allegedly given the right to present their arguments in writing before the bureau of the LAJS, they were forced to do so without having any knowledge of what charges were alleged against them, and therefore could not defend themselves. The petitioners were not informed of any relevant information on which the intent to confiscate was based, a fact that fatally harmed their right to argue, and in fact, to this day they do not know why the respondent reached the conclusion that their money belongs to an unallowed association. […] the petitioners were asked to defend themselves against vague accusations, the nature of which was not detailed, and based on documents they were not allowed to review.”

If the government of Israel wants to confiscate the A-Shatiye sisters’ money, it should act as a civilized country, not as the heir to Kafka’s court: let it stand in open court and present its evidence. A person’s right to know what crime he is being punished for, and his right to defend himself against an accusation, is a fundamental right, without which you cannot speak of a trial, but at most of a kangaroo court. The same goes for Amendment nr. 36, which allows the Military Commander to confiscate property without being accountable to anyone.

As a human rights organization, we find ourselves in an unusual position: petitioning the Israeli Supreme Court so it might restore to the military courts, which are not known for doing justice to say the least, authorities stripped away from them. And yet, this new situation is considerably worse than its predecessor, and leaves us no choice.

Without a Single Day of Freedom

YD_EN_18.06 (1)By: Atty. Michael Sfard, Yesh Din’s legal advisor

A baby boy or girl born on June 5, 1967 in Ramallah, Nablus, Yata, or Bil’in, celebrated their 47th birthday recently. Their birthday party was probably attended by their children, and perhaps even by a few grandchildren. These adults have not known a single day of freedom since they were born.

They learned from an early age that any decision in their lives, however petty, is subject to the decisions of a military regime before which they enjoy no status. They discovered, for example, that the geographical boundaries of their lives are dictated by a collection of bureaucratic permits, granted or (more commonly) denied by military officials: A permit to visit their family in Gaza and to return to the West Bank (or vice versa); a permit to cross a checkpoint; a permit to pray in Jerusalem; a permit to access their land trapped in a security zone created around a neighboring settlement; a permit to work in a settlement; a permit to farm their own fields beyond the separation barrier (with or without a vehicle, during daylight only, for the duration of the olive harvest, with or without additional workers); a permit to work in Israel; and even a permit to travel abroad and return home.

The children of the summer of 1967 have watched helplessly as their land has been usurped for the criminal and unlawful settlement enterprise and as the natural treasures of their community have been stolen by Israeli and foreign corporations enjoying the perks of occupation. As they stood in line at the checkpoint, they saw their settler neighbors speeding by in the fast track reserved for the masters of the land. When a relative was arrested they learned in the military courts that they are subject to a separate and tough legal system totally different from the modern, respectful system applied to Israeli settlers.

When they grew up, married, and sought a home, they realized that while their homeland is the site of a building boom, with modern new neighborhoods, advanced industrial zones, and even an institution that claims to be a university – none of it is intended for them. When they started a family, they discovered that they cannot protect their children against nighttime arrest and violent interrogation, and that even schools are not safe from the occupation forces.

The children of the summer of 1967 are already well into middle age. But their freedom to choose from the various options the world offers; the extent of their influence over their immediate and more distance future; and the measure of independence they receive are all less than those enjoyed by the average high school student in Herzliya.

“If tyranny, even progressive, continues for more than one generation,” wrote the French philosopher, author, and journalist Albert Camus, “its meaning for millions of humans is a life of slavery and no more than that. When the temporary coincides with a human lifespan, then for that human it is final.” A realistic appraisal of the situation suggests that, in all probability, the children of the summer of 1967 will also celebrate their 48th birthday under occupation. To be honest, their 49th birthday faces the same risk, and the prospects are hardly optimistic for that which will follow. Will they pass away without experiencing even a single day of freedom?

In human rights terms, occupation is a mass disaster in which every victim suffers from multi-trauma and multiple injuries. What is unique about occupation is not that it violates any particular human liberty, or even the liberty of an entire community. What is unique about it is that the entire fabric of civil liberties (to vote and to be elected, to be a partner in public activity, and to exert an influence) is suspended. This suspension leads almost automatically to the removal of the protection that should be enjoyed by the full range of rights and liberties to which humans per se are entitled.

When a Palestinian seeks to build a home on his land, his request will be determined by planning committees in which his community has no representation. The record of these bodies shows that their actual function is to prevent Palestinian development. When settlers invade his land and build or plant crops on it, he is forced to rely on policemen – all of whom are Israelis, and some of whom are settlers – to work on his behalf against their lawbreaking brothers. When he seeks to protest the situation, he encounters draconian laws prohibiting demonstrations that were not enacted by himself or his people.

International law recognizes that wars may lead to a situation of occupation and regulates the system of regime of such occupation. Due to the severe violation of human rights that occupation causes to the occupied subjects, international law assumes that it will be a temporary reality. When Beit El was established on stolen land, the victims of the theft argued that this act was illegal, among other reasons since the establishment of a settlement is not temporary. The Supreme Court justices accepted the state’s disingenuous claim that even a long period of time is temporary. However, as Albert Camus – who knew a thing or two about occupations and undemocratic regimes – wrote, since life itself is temporary, certain periods constitute eternity for the individual human. Welcome to the forty-eighth year.

This op-ed was originally published in Haaretz (Hebrew)

It’s not about the graffiti

 10446402_867030173326319_269605854_nIn an attempt to downplay the severity of nationalist crimes by Israeli citizens, the media refers to the offenses as “graffiti.” Here are the facts – and it’s not graffiti

In recent weeks the “Hilltop Youth,” Israeli citizens in general, and their lobby in the Knesset and the media have been experiencing a sense of crisis. The events surrounding Yitzhar and the comments by a resident of the settlement justifying attacks on soldiers have put them on the defensive. In their responses in online comments and in sympathetic articles, they have presented the argument that “Price Tag” violence is about nothing more than some scribbled graffiti.

This claim is a propaganda lie for several reasons. Firstly, the media classifies nationalist violence by Israeli citizens – settlers and others – under the catch-all term “Price Tag.” In reality, Price Tag attacks account for just a small proportion of the overall phenomenon of attacks on Palestinians by Israeli civilians. “Price Tag” or “mutual liability” are code words for such acts of violence directed against the IDF, the police, or – above all – against Palestinians – in response to actions by the Israeli security forces, such as the eviction of an outpost. These actions have quite a colorful style, and it is true that in many cases, the perpetrators leave behind their hallmark graffiti.

However, ideological crime by Israeli civilians against Palestinians does not end with Price Tag attacks. Such crime occurs on an almost-daily basis. In order to illustrate this point, I asked Noah Cohen, Yesh Din’s Information Coordinator, to collate details of attacks on Palestinians which we have documented over the past year – from May 2013 through the end of April 2014. I will provide brief details below about these incidents.

Before beginning the catalog of events, however, two important comments. Firstly, Yesh Din is essentially a legal organization. We collect testimonies as a foundation for legal action. In some cases, Palestinians refuse to submit a complaint to the police, usually due to their lack of trust in the institution. In such cases, there was no legal response to the incident. In other cases, legal action was transferred to another attorney or organization; the result is that we have no information regarding the police processing of those files. Such cases are classified as “not processed by Yesh Din.”

Secondly, the 132 incidents detailed in this post are only those that came to Yesh Din’s attention. The list certainly does not include all the relevant incidents. Neither does it include minor incidents (such as cursing) or non-violent attacks (such as “merely” invading Palestinian land or dumping garbage in it). Nobody has any idea how many incidents involving attacks on Palestinians occurred in the relevant period. We attempted to obtain this information from the Israel Police, but were informed that no comprehensive figures exist on this subject. Accordingly, we must assume that the actual number of incidents is higher – though we cannot determine how much higher. If an incident was already featured in the blog, I provide a link to the relevant post.

So what can we learn from this list? We have 132 incidents of ideological crime committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians over the period of May 2013 through April 2014. Only in 13 cases did the perpetrators write slogans in the area – less than 10 percent of the incidents. Moreover, in nine of these 13 cases, the slogans appeared alongside the torching of vehicles or buildings. In another case, the slogans appeared on a home in the village of Sinjil, which had been set on fire two months earlier.

So when discussing ideological crime by Israelis, we should recall the following facts:

  1. In the vast majority of cases, the incident is far more serious than graffiti and involves damage to property or physical assault.
  2. In cases that do involve graffiti, this often accompanies an act of arson, and in many instances the target of the torching is an inhabited home. Such attacks fall very close to the definition of terrorism, if not within it.
  3. In most incidents of torching – which we have documented 28 of, including the torching of a chicken coop in which thousands of chicks were burned alive – as well as attempted arson, no graffiti was left alongside the torched building.
  4. The vast majority of incidents of ideological crime committed by Israelis falls under the category of agricultural terrorism: Attacks on farmers, farm property, and trees. We documented 77 such attacks. The purpose of these attacks is not to convey a message to the IDF but to persuade Palestinian farmers that continuing to farm their land is dangerous and unsustainable and that they should relinquish their land. As we demonstrated in a previous post, this tactic works.
  5. In 41 cases, i.e. more than a quarter of the incidents, the offense was a physical attack on a Palestinian person, sometimes accompanied by an attempted attack on property.
  6. The main reason for the closure of cases is investigative failure: 47 of the cases have been closed, and in the vast majority (39) this was on the grounds of “offender unknown” (OU in the table below): in other words, the police was unable to locate suspects. In four additional cases the reason was “insufficient evidence” (IE in the table below). Accordingly, in 88 percent of cases closed, the reason was the incompetence of the S&J District Police. Anyone who is familiar with Yesh Din’s statistics, particularly regarding agricultural attacks, will not be surprised by this statistic.

That said, let’s devote a few words to the topic of graffiti. When slogans are daubed abroad, for example on a synagogue or Jewish cemetery, the Israeli media does not regard the incident as mere graffiti, but as a hate crime, and in many cases this is indeed the case. The objective of a hate crime is to terrorize the attacked group and to convey the message that just as they reached them in order to write the graffiti, so they can be reached with a firebomb. In the case of ideological crimes committed by Israeli civilians, when the graffiti accompanies arson attacks, the message is particularly clear. A distinction should be made between graffiti and most of the other actions, which are designed to dispossess Palestinians from their land.

This is our data. The US State Department recently found that Israeli civilians committed 399 hate crimes against Palestinians in 2013; some of which occurred within the boundaries of the State of Israel. Again, it is more than possible that these figures do not represent all incidents.

So let’s stop this talk about graffiti. Comments of the sort are no more than an excuse and an attempt by those who support these crimes to downplay the gravity of the offenses and divert attention from the actual crimes. This excuse is spread thanks to the lazy thoughtlessness of journalists.

And now – the complete list for your review.

No. Date Description of Incident Location Graffiti? Outcome Reason for closure
1 May 1, 2013 Israeli civilians coming from Yitzhar torch 17 trees Burin No Case closed OU
2 May 1, 2013 Israeli civilians coming from Yitzhar torch 16 trees and prevent fire engines from approaching Burin No Case closed OU
3 May 2, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down approx. 40 olive trees Dir Jarir No Not processed by Yesh Din
4 May 2, 2013 Masked Israeli civilians attack Palestinian drivers with stones Hawara No Case closed OU
5 May 2, 2013 Israeli civilians attack Palestinians with stones; soldiers stand by and later assist by firing gas Ras Karkar No Case open
6 May 5, 2013 Israeli civilians throw Molotov cocktails at Palestinian family home, close to IDF observation point Jalud No Not processed by Yesh Din
7 May 6, 2013 Israeli civilians flood Palestinian plot of land with sewage A-Samu’a No Case closed Processed by Civil Admin.
8 May 9, 2013 Israeli civilians ambush and throw stones at Palestinian family in a car; army fails to intervene Close to Yitzhar No Case closed OU
9 May 10, 2013 Masked Israeli civilians torch a barley field Yata No Case closed OU
10 May 12, 2013 Israeli civilians uproot hundreds of saplings, puncture tires, and daub graffiti on graves A-Sawiya Yes! Case closed OU
11 May 13, 2013 Approx. 150 olive trees cut down and vandalized Yatma No Case closed OU
12 May 16, 2013 Security coordinator threatens youth, shooting in the air; medical treatment of youth delayed Karyut No Case closed IE
13 May 17, 2013 Israeli civilians coming from Yitzhar attack eastern neighborhood of Urif; IDF provides protection for the attack Urif No Not processed by Yesh Din
14 May 23, 2013 Israeli civilians poison 70 olive trees in plot adjacent to Yitzhar Burin No Case closed OU
15 May 25, 2013 Israeli civilians stone Palestinian home Beitillu No Not processed by Yesh Din
16 May 27, 2013 Israeli civilians set dog on goats; dog kills two goats Kafr Thulth No Case closed Absence of culpability
17 May 28, 2013 Israeli civilians torch stack of wheat Zif No Case closed IE
18 May 29, 2013 Israeli civilians damage trees; IDF denies Palestinians access to plot Awartha Unknown Not processed by Yesh Din
19 May 29, 2013 Israeli civilians torch vehicles; IDF delays arrival of fire engine A-Zubeidat Yes! Case open
20 June 2, 2013 Israeli civilian known to victim attacks Palestinian worker with rifle butt and threatens to murder him Roi No Case closed IE
21 June 3, 2013 Israeli civilians torch approx. 60 olive trees Burin No Not processed by Yesh Din
22 June 3, 2013 Israeli civilians torch approx. 300 olive trees Burin No Case closed OU
23 June 7, 2013 Israeli civilians lead herd to graze in a field or crops, causing damage Rujib No Not processed by Yesh Din
24 June 9, 2013 Israeli civilian invades field allowing flock of sheep to graze, causing damage Burin No Case closed OU
25 June 11, 2013 Israeli civilians steal five goats from a Palestinian Sha’ar Binyamin No Case closed OU
26 June 15, 2013 Israeli civilians burn approx. 75 olive trees and throw stones at Palestinians Imatin No Case closed OU
27 June 15, 2013 Israeli civilians stone home in Furata; army fires tear gas at home Furata No Case closed OU
28 June 15, 2013 Israeli civilians uproot five olive trees, and knock down wall of an agricultural building Kusra No Not processed by Yesh Din
29 June 22, 2013 Israeli civilians assault Palestinian, throw stones at herd; army fires tear gas at Palestinians Burin No Case closed OU
30 June 24, 2013 Israeli civilians torch Palestinian home after they were evicted from it Burin No Case closed OU
31 June 27, 2013 Israeli civilians throw stones at moving Palestinian car Yata No Not processed by Yesh Din
32 July 3, 2013 Israeli civilians puncture tires of two vehicles Furata No Not processed by Yesh Din
33 July 6, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down 65 olive trees Jit No Not processed by Yesh Din
34 July 6, 2013 Israeli civilians assault Palestinians, damage vehicles; army stands idly by Hawarta No Case closed
35 July 11, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down 14 olive trees Burin No Not processed by Yesh Din
36 July 13, 2013 Israeli civilians assault Palestinian woman and stone her home Khalat al-Baluta No

Case closed

37 July 14, 2014 Israeli civilians attack and seriously injure shepherd South Hebron Mountain No Not processed by Yesh Din
38 July 16, 2013 Settlement security personnel cut down trees and saplings belonging to a Palestinian Hebron No Not processed by Yesh Din
39 July 19, 2013 Israeli civilians torch hundreds of olive trees Close to Bat Ayin No Case closed Absence of culpability
40 July 25, 2013 Israeli civilians shoot at Palestinian home Hebron No Case closed OU
41 July 30, 2013 Israeli civilians shoot at Palestinian man, killing three goats Aqraba No Not processed by Yesh Din
42 Aug. 12, 2013 Masked Israeli civilians attack Palestinian home with stones, torch field Jalud No Not processed by Yesh Din
43 Aug. 14, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down trees A-Tawani No Case closed OU
44 Aug. 15, 2013 Israeli civilians break olive trees Burin No Not processed by Yesh Din
45 Aug. 18, 2013 Six masked Israeli civilians attack and seriously injure Palestinian shepherd Mikhmas No Not processed by Yesh Din
46 Aug. 26, 2013 Israeli civilians break olive trees Burin No Case closed OU
47 Aug. 29, 2013 Israeli civilians attack and damage tractor; soldiers disappear from the scene Kusra No Case closed OU
48 Aug. 31, 2013 Masked Israeli civilians attack Palestinians with stones Burin No Case closed OU
49 Sept. 10, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down olive trees A-Tawani No Case closed OU
50 Sept. 12, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down olive trees Beitar Illit No Case closed Absence of culpability
51 Sept. 15, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down olive trees Lakif No Case closed OU
52 Sept. 15, 2013 Israeli civilians torch warehouse full of produce; IDF jeep seen near site of incident Madama No Case closed OU
53 Sept. 17, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down olive trees Lakif No Case closed OU
54 Sept. 20, 2013 Israeli civilians break and burn olive trees and saplings Qaddum No Not processed by Yesh Din
55 Sept. 23, 2013 Israeli civilian assaults Palestinian with pepper spray Hawara No Case closed OU
56 Oct. 1, 2013 Israeli civilians torch Palestinian vehicle Burin No Case closed OU
57 Oct. 2, 2013 Israeli civilians attack Palestinian vehicle with metal object; Palestinian injured and his vehicle damaged Marda No Not processed by Yesh Din
58 Oct. 3, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down young olive trees Zif No Case closed OU
59 Oct. 3, 2013 Israeli civilians vandalize 50-year-old olive trees Dir Sharf No Case closed OU
60 Oct. 4, 2013 Israeli civilians steal sacks of olives Jit No Not processed by Yesh Din
61 Oct. 7, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down olive trees Enclave in Ganei Shomron No Case closed OU
62 Oct. 7, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down 20 olive trees, steal olives, and vandalize approx. 180 additional trees Furata No Case open
63 Oct. 9, 2013 Israeli civilians attack school with stones Jalud No Case open
64 Oct. 10, 2013 Israeli civilians torch olive trees Husan No Not processed by Yesh Din
65 Oct. 12, 2013 Israeli civilians break olive branches and steal olives Imatin No Case open
66 Oct. 12, 2013 Israeli civilians break and saw olive trees Imatin No Not processed by Yesh Din
67 Oct. 12, 2013 Israeli civilians break into warehouse, steal tools worth thousands of shekels, and torch warehouse Husan No Not processed by Yesh Din
68 Oct. 16, 2013 Israeli civilians move their flocks onto private agricultural land, causing damage Yata No Case open
69 Oct. 19, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down dozens of olive trees Karyut No Case open
70 Oct. 20, 2013 Israeli civilians attack Palestinian man with stones Hebron No Case open
71 Oct. 23, 2013 Israeli civilians attack Palestinian during olive harvest Burin No Not processed by Yesh Din
72 Oct. 25, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down trees Hawara No Not processed by Yesh Din
73 Oct. 26, 2013 Masked Israeli civilians attack Palestinians with batons, break camera, steal sacks of olives Al-Mughayer No Referred by B’Tselem
74 Oct. 26, 2013 Israeli civilians attack Palestinians during olive harvest and steal sacks of olives Sinjil No Case open
75 Oct. 29, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down olive trees Inbus No Not processed by Yesh Din
76 Oct. 29, 2013 Israeli civilians steal olives off dozens of trees A-Rihiya No Case open
77 Oct. 31, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down 60 olive trees Izun No Not processed by Yesh Din
78 Nov. 1, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down 13 olive trees Al-Jaba’ No Case closed OU
79 Nov. 7, 2013 Israeli civilians torch two cars Hebron Yes! Case closed IE
80 No. 9, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down approx. 100 olive trees Jit No Not processed by Yesh Din
81 Nov. 14, 2013 Israeli civilians torch home while family is asleep inside Sinjil Yes Case open
82 Nov. 15, 2013 Israeli civilians uproot dozens of olive trees Turmusaya No Not processed by Yesh Din
83 Nov. 17, 2013 Israeli civilians vandalize more than 100 olive trees Yata No Case closed OU
84 Nov. 18, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down dozens of ancient olive trees Al-Jaba’ Yes Not processed by Yesh Din
85 Nov. 19, 2913 Israeli civilians vandalize warehouse, steal produce, and attempt to torch the building Madama Yes Not processed by Yesh Din
86 Nov. 19, 2013 Israeli civilians torch a truck and another vehicle Furata Yes Case open
87 Nov. 19, 2013 Israeli civilians cut down three olive trees Karyut No Not processed by Yesh Din
88 Nov. 25, 2013 Israeli civilians attack home with Molotov cocktails as family sleeps inside Burin No Case closed OU
89 Dec. 2, 2013 Israeli civilians destroy traditional oven Umm al-Kheir No Case closed OU
90 Dec. 6, 2013 Israeli civilians torch vehicle Jalud Yes Not processed by Yesh Din
91 Dec. 28, 2013 Israeli civilians assault Palestinian man in field as he farms A-Tawani No Case open
92 Dec. 31, 2013 Israeli civilians torch three vehicles Dura al-Qara Yes Case open
93 Jan. 1, 2014 Israeli civilians cut down trees and damage equipment Madama No Case open
94 Jan. 7, 2014 Israeli civilians assault Palestinians, beat one with baton, and destroy property Kusra No Case open
95 Jan. 9, 2014 “Death to Arabs” daubed on the that was home torched in November Sinjil Yes Case open
96 Jan. 15, 2014 Israeli civilians torch mosque Dir Istiya Yes Case open
97 Jan. 19, 2014 Israeli civilians uproot 30 olive saplings Burin No Case open
98 Jan. 20, 2014 Israeli civilians assault Palestinian man with stones and crowbar Bet Furiq No Not processed by Yesh Din
99 Jan. 21, 2014 Israeli civilians puncture tires on 18 vehicles Qablan Yes Case closed OU
100 Jan. 22, 2014 Israeli civilians uproot thousands of saplings; military position “saw nothing” Sinjil No Case closed OU
101 Jan. 24, 2014 Israeli civilians assault flock of sheep with batons and stones and attack Palestinian defending the flock Umm al-Kheir No Case open
102 April 27, 2014 Israeli civilians uproot and break 14 olive saplings Burin No Case open
103 Feb. 1, 2014 Israeli civilians cut 50 olive trees Beitillu No Case closed OU
104 Feb. 4, 2014 Israeli civilians cut down approx. 100 ancient olive trees Yanun No Case closed OU
105 Feb. 9, 2014 Israeli civilians steal 425 olive saplings and vandalize other trees Turmusaya No Case open
106 Feb. 9, 2014 Israeli civilians steal approx. 500 olive saplings Sinjil No Not processed by Yesh Din
107 Feb. 11, 2014 Israeli civilians cut down almond tree, and assault its owner – a pregnant woman Hebron No Case open
108 Feb. 18, 2014 Israeli civilians attempt to destroy agricultural structure, uproot trees, and steal equipment Al-Khader No Case open
109 Feb. 18, 2014 Israeli civilians uproot and steal approx. 500 olive saplings Turmusaya No Case open
110 Feb. 22, 2014 Israeli civilians assault Palestinians with stones and damage vehicles Jit No Case open
111 Feb. 27, 2014 Israeli civilians torch home of elderly Palestinian woman Silwad Yes Case open
112 Feb. 28, 2014 Israeli civilians assault and seriously injure Palestinians harvesting olives; IDF soldiers stand idly by Hawara No Case open
113 Mar. 1, 2014 Israeli civilians uproot and slash hundreds of olive saplings Qaddum No Case open
114 Mar. 6, 2014 Israeli civilians bearing sticks assault and injure two Palestinians Al-Mughayer No Case closed OU
115 Mar. 9, 2014 Israeli civilian breaks into plot and drives in it, damaging 60 saplings Nabi Samuil No Case open
116 Mar. 10, 2014 Israeli civilian attempts to steal horse, is apprehended and handed over to the police A-Luban a-Sharqiya No Case open
117 Mar. 11, 2014 Israeli civilians destroy olive trees, assault Palestinians; IDF removes them but does not undertake arrests Burin No Case open
118 Mar. 14, 2014 Israeli civilians cut down approx. 30 olive trees and two almond trees Zif No Case open
119 Mar. 14, 2014 Israeli civilians poison approx. 55 olive trees Jalud No Case open
120 Mar. 24, 2014 Israeli civilians assault Palestinian children with sticks and attempt to kidnap a boy Bet Furiq No Not processed by Yesh Din
121 Mar. 23, 2014 Israeli civilians assault Palestinians with stones, including a Yesh Din researcher; army stands idly by Burin No Case open
122 Mar. 26, 2014 Israeli civilians uproot approx. 1,000 olive saplings Turmusaya No Case open
123 Apr. 2, 2014 Israeli civilians throw stones at moving Palestinian vehicle causing damage Kusra No Not processed by Yesh Din
124 Apr. 3, 2014 Israeli civilians torch 10 olive trees Karyut No Case open
125 Apr. 5, 2014 Israeli civilians cut down approx. 50 olive trees Burin No Case open
126 Apr. 16, 2014 Israeli civilians invade home and trample on produce in yard; police arrests the owner of the house Luban No Not processed by Yesh Din
127 Apr. 18, 2014 Israeli civilians torch henhouse, thousands of chicks burned alive Madama No Not processed by Yesh Din
128 Apr. 19, 2014 Israeli civilians vandalize approx. 80 olive trees Ras Karkar No Case open
129 Apr. 19, 2014 Israeli civilian sets dog on shepherdess and flock, attacks her with stones, and threatens her with a weapon Kisan No Case open
130 Apr. 25, 2014 Israeli civilians steal mule Al-Janiya No Not processed by Yesh Din
131 Apr. 25, 2014 Israeli civilian assaults flock of sheep with stones Nabi Samwil No Case open
132 Apr. 27, 2014 Israeli civilians systematically vandalize approx. 200 olive saplings Hawara No Case open


When the IDF and the settlers celebrate independence

10312469_846239355405401_5948028862684548032_nWith whom did the Shomron Regiment Commander celebrate Israeli Independence Day? And what does it say about the IDF’s attitude towards the population it is supposed to protect?

As Haim Levinson showed in his article in Haaretz (Hebrew), on Independence Day, the Samaria Central Brigade was to hold an event together with the Shomron Regional Council; the event was to be held in the base of the Central Brigade and was sponsored, inter alia, by “Amana.” Among the festivities the crowd was invited to (there’s a magician!), there was also the inauguration of a new neighborhood in the settlement of Har Bracha. The IDF told Haaretz that: “the event of inaugurating the new neighbourhood is under the authority of the Shomron Regional Council and the IDF is not a partner in it.”

The innocent reader may think that this non-denial means that IDF officers will not participate in the inauguration. Yours truly tried to check with the IDF Spokesman whether or not the IDF would participate, and received the usual we’ll-get-back-to-you-as-soon-as-hell-freezes-over. Speaking with the Shomron youth activity center, however, I was explicitly told that the brigade commander, as well as other senior officers, was expected to be there. This wouldn’t be the first time: in July 2013, the commander of the Binyamin Central Brigade participated, in the 10th anniversary celebrations of the illegal outpost (!) of Qida.

This begs several observations. To begin with, it’s sad, that while Israel is angry with the Secretary of State for saying that he fears Israel is slipping towards Apartheid, the IDF breaks ranks so blatantly. After all, nobody thinks the brigade commander might participate, say, in the celebrations of a new neighborhood in the up-and-coming Palestinian city of Rawabi. His presence in the inauguration of a neighborhood in a settlement, however, is a given.

Another example: the idea that the Shomron brigade commander would participate in a Palestinian celebration is a wild fantasy. A writer coming up with a plot in which the Shomron Brigade holds Eid Al Fitr ceremonies, with the traditional slaughtering of lambs taking place in its parking lot under the loving gaze of its chaplain, would be politely asked by fantasy magazines to re-check the dosage of his medication. What would happen if the Palestinian local residents would try to join the Independence Day celebrations is easy to imagine.

It’s clear, therefore, that the IDF treats the two populations under its control in a radically different manner. One is a population which it defends, even when it behaves in extreme ways; a population whose values it shares. The other is an occupied population. Ironically, however, the population the IDF considers as the one it is supposed to occupy, is the one which is defined, according to international law as the protected population; the one which it defends, however, is defined as a population that is being illegally transferred to an occupied territory. And yes, it is occupied: the IDF controls it on the basis of belligerent occupation, and dozens of HCJ rulings consider it to be an occupied territory.

And here is the crux of the problem. The IDF is supposed to protect the Palestinians – but it teaches its soldiers that the Palestinians are the enemy, which to a significant extent they are; they’re an occupied population. The status of a “normal” occupation may have been reasonable, were it short – but it isn’t short and it is not normal. The territories now hold hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians, transferred there contrary to international law and treaties signed by Israel.

You cannot expect, given this situation, that a soldier may be able to enforce the law on settlers, i.e. those who are on “his side”, when they are surrounded by “them.” And indeed, the security forces – the IDF, police and Border Police, who operate in the West Bank because the IDF empowered them to do so – fail at this task time after time. It’s hard to blame them: the mission is implausible, verging on the impossible. You cannot be both an occupying power and the defender of an invading population, without creating an apartheid scenario on the one hand and general outlawry on the other.

In less that a month, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank will be 47 years old. Israelis tend to excuse it on security grounds. Nonsense. Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany were occupied for security reasons; and though both were of the worst regimes in history, they both regained their independence within seven years. The settlements are the reason for the occupation. Their dispersal – Ariel is a perhaps the best example – was intended to make certain the occupation could not be brought to an end. As such, they are a stunning success. The joint celebrations of the IDF and the settlement establishment are logical; they are full partners in the same joint venture, “the settlement movement,” which makes certain that with each Independence Day, Israel grows a bit further from independence, sliding more into the enslavement of another people – and enslavement always consumes the enslaver.

It is time for freedom and independence. May the joint celebration of the Shomron Brigade and the Shomron Regional Council be the last; may we see in three years – the jubilee year of the occupation, the year of freeing the slaves – the Palestinians celebrating there alone. May we then be able to once more read the ancient passage: “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”

When a Legal Committee Tries to Make a Case for Theft

After performing a vanishing trick on the occupation, the Levy Report attempts to do the same regarding the theft of Palestinian land

Our last post discussed the main problem of the Levy Report: the fact that it insists on arguing. Contrary to the universally-held position, it claims that what Israel is doing in the West Bank is not an occupation. The claim that there is “no occupation” is an ideological act of Hasbara, an argument to be pulled out of the hat in the heat of the debate in order to throw the opponent off course. At the same time, however, it is meaningless, since the government is not stupid enough to adopt the report. The second part of the report is more dangerous, since it has practical ramifications. This part concerns the theft of Palestinian land.

Let’s start with the facts. In 1995, the Israeli government promised not to establish any more settlements. In order to establish a settlement a government decision is needed, and such a decision would create an international diplomatic crisis. Since then, no Israeli government has chosen to take this risk. So what happens instead? Firstly, the settlers “expand construction.” Secondly – and this is a trick that has become fashionable in recent years – they forge purchase documents. And thirdly – and most productive – they establish outposts.

Outposts are illegal by definition and in everyone’s opinion. In many cases they are built on private Palestinian land. Demolition orders have been issued against almost all of the outposts, but the Civil Administration fails to implement the orders due to political pressure from the settlers. When the issue comes before the courts the government faces a problem and employs one trick after another in order to postpone the decision. In some cases, the court finds the state itself in contempt of court.

The Levy Committee found a solution to this problem, based on the time-honored tactic of first firing off arrows, and then drawing a target where they land. The committee began by claiming, contrary to global opinion, that Israel has the right to transfer its citizens into the West Bank. It then went on to claim that since the government promised the settlers in the outposts that it would establish an outpost, it cannot take back this promise.

First of all – BS. The government can certainly retract promises it makes, although in some cases it may be obliged to compensate those the promises were made to. Secondly, the government never made any such promise. Senior civil servants, such as the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Minister’s Assistant for Settlement Affairs, made promises, but they do not constitute “the government.” Thirdly, even if a minister had made a promise, it would be worthless. As already stated, a government decision is required in order to establish a settlement. Fourthly, even if the government decided to approve the outposts, the legality of this decision would be questionable. The courts have already ruled that the government cannot commit to break the law. In this instance the Levy Report effectively adopts the position of the land thieves – the settlers, contrary to the position of all the other legal experts involved in the issue.

Worse still, the report shows total disregard for Palestinian property rights. It argues that if a Jew receives any kind of vague promise, or even merely claims to have received some vague promise, this overrules the recognized right of a Palestinian to his land. The Levy Report appears to have feared that the settlers might be subjected to an epithet that already troubled the Jewish Biblical commentator Rashi in the eleventh century: what if “the other nations of the world say that the Israelites are robbers, having conquered the lands of seven nations?” Accordingly, it declares, the government should compensate the Palestinians, particularly – it adds – “when the settlers in that place acted in good faith.” Seriously?! The forceful seizure of private land, with illegal assistance from the army, without the necessary documents, and without the owners’ consent – what “good faith” can there be here, exactly?

All euphemisms aside, what is actually proposed here is confiscation, which is utterly prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention. And this is precisely why the Levy Report tries so hard to claim that there is actually no occupation. The Levy Committee effectively argues that Palestinian property rights – which its report does everything possible to ignore – are inherently inferior to the property “rights” of Israeli trespassers, even when the Palestinian rights are well documented and the intruders have no case. So what need was there for a whole convoluted report? The committee could have just said “What is mine is mine and what is yours is mine” and called it a day. Although I suppose it might have been harder to market that under the guise of a “legal report.”

This brings us to the real danger of the text concocted by the Levy Committee. It is packaged like a report. It looks like a report. And the State Attorney’s Office treats it as if it were a report, even if the government has not done so. It is sometimes quoted in Supreme Court petitions in hearings relating to demands to evict outposts. When no other excuse can be found for the theft of land, even a flimsy bundle of straw can be called to service. Maybe we’ll be able to stall for a while and gain a few months of peace, before we have to come up with the next excuse.

The settlements and the occupation have played a dominant role in the corruption of the Israeli legal system. But it is doubtful if there has ever been such a glaring act of corruption as the Levy Report.

To read the full report: “Unprecedented: A Legal Analysis of the Report of the Committee to Examine the Status of Construction in Judea and Samaria (“the Levy Committee”)”, click here.

To read the previous post –  An empty hat, with no more rabbits, click here.

An Empty Hat with No More Rabbits

The Levy Report claims that there is no occupation and goes back to the Balfour Declaration to support its case. So where does that leave us? 

Yesh Din has just published a new report entitled “Unprecedented,” written by Attorneys Anu Deuel-Lusky and Keren Michaeli. The report was prepared jointly by Yesh Din and the Emile Zola Chair for Human Rights at Tel Aviv University. The report discusses – or rather dissects – one of the strangest documents that have been published in Israel in recent years: The Levy Report.

As some may remember, the Netanyahu government commissioned the report of the Levy Committee in a desperate attempt to find a modicum of legal justification for the ongoing presence of the illegal outposts in the West Bank. The head of the committee, the late Justice Edmond Levy, who passed away recently, is perhaps best remembered as the only justice in Israel’s Supreme Court who took the position that Israel’s Disengagement Plan was unlawful. Let’s see what Minister Silvan Shalom had to say about Justice Levy: “I’ll tell you the secret: Edmond Levy was the deputy mayor of Ramle on behalf of the Likud. A Likud supporter, a resident of Ramle, deputy mayor of the city for the Likud. A legal genius. Minister Meir Sheetrit appointed Levy to the Supreme Court as part of a series of deals with Aharon Barak. He did not fit into the atmosphere in the Supreme Court and didn’t show up for any of the ceremonies. He was a lone wolf. So when the prime minister appointed him, do you think he didn’t realize who he was appointing?” And Shalom continues to make his point. Netanyahu was quick to declare his full confidence in Justice Levy, but the government never adopted his report.

Why not? Because the Levy Report is a bit like the reports commissioned by the major tobacco companies in the 1960s and 1970s that claimed that smoking was not dangerous, or at least that no risks had been proven. It later emerged that these reports were thrifty with the truth at best, and completely fabricated at worst. As Lusky and Michaeli show, the Levy Report is so negligent in legal terms that had the Netanyahu government adopted it, it would have run the risk of becoming a laughing stock.

What is Levy report’s basic argument? Firstly, it claims that there is no occupation: the territories seized by Israel in 1967 are not occupied territories. This claim is highly problematic, since the status of the territories is determined not by those who hold the area but by international law – a fact that even the Levy Committee did not attempt to deny. As our report explains (p. 7): “The status of any area in general, and of the West Bank in particular, is regulated not by the domestic laws of states, but in accordance with the rules of international public law. Thus, for example, a state cannot declare its sovereignty over the open sea or over outer space, since both domains have been recognized (separately) as belonging to humankind as a whole in accordance with conventions and international customary law. The vast majority of the means by which a state may acquire a territory, or is prevented from so doing, are regulated in accordance with international law […] Similarly, the status of the areas of the West Bank can also not be determined solely in accordance with Israeli law. Even the Levy Committee concurred on this point. In the relevant framework of international law, the question of Israeli sovereignty in this area depends on the circumstances in which Israel assumed control of the area; the manner in which it regulated its control therein over the years; and the agreements it has reached with the representatives of the Palestinian population of this area.”

International law is unequivocal on this matter. Security Council Resolution 446, adopted in 1979, establishes that the Territories are indeed occupied and the settlements illegal. We should recall that the Security Council resolution was adopted unanimously – the United States did not object (though it abstained). Security Council Resolution 465, adopted in 1980, states that the settlements constitute an attempt to change the demography of the West Bank, and condemns this policy. The Levy Report failed to mention this resolution, along with dozens of other resolutions of the UN General Assembly, as if they had simply evaporated into thin air.

The Levy Report also ignores the explicit ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Discussing the Separation Barrier, the ICJ ruled that the Occupied Territories and the settlements are unlawful. The Israeli Supreme Court has declared that it will not discuss the ICJ’s decision regarding the settlements, but it at least acknowledged that it exists. The Levy Committee chose to do not even that much.

In fact, the Levy Report essentially ignores the entire history of the Israeli occupation in the Territories. The IDF and the Israeli government regarded the Territories as occupied almost from the first day of the occupation. Communiqué No. 3, which established the provisions of the Order concerning Security Provisions in the Territories, explicitly established that the courts would observe the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, “and where there is a contradiction between this Order and the said Convention, the provisions of the Convention take precedence” (this clause was, however, nullified shortly thereafter). As early as 1967 an Israeli jurist established that the settlements were unlawful, and the Supreme Court related to the Territories as occupied in dozens of rulings. The Levy Committee should have been well aware of this – after all, its chairperson served for many years as a justice in the Supreme Court.

None of these basic facts are reflected in the Levy Report. But as we mentioned, even the Levy Report acknowledged that an international legal framework is essential as a basis for Israel’s conduct in the Territories. So what can serve as this framework? The Levy Committee’s imaginative solution was to take us back to the days of the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo Declaration.

There are two central problems with this approach. The first is that it placed Levy and his colleagues in a position similar to that of climate change deniers: so far away from the broad consensus of thought that they can no longer be seen with the naked eye. But that’s the lesser of the two problems.

The second problem has much graver ramifications for the State of Israel. The truth is that neither the Balfour Declaration nor the San Remo Declaration even mention a “state.” They speak of a “political home.” I can assure you that the diplomats of the time were well acquainted with the word “state” and more than capable of using it where they saw fit. The Levy Report claimed that “they thereby recognized […] the right of the Jewish people to establish its home in the Land of Israel, its historical homeland, and to establish its state therein.” This assertion is frugal with the truth, to put it mildly. By rejecting the UN resolutions relating to Israel, the Levy Report undermines Israel’s very right of existence.

If there is no occupation, what is the status of the Palestinians in the Territories? Once again, the Levy Report prefers to ignore this issue. Allow me to quote a phrase in the San Remo Declaration that the report chose to omit: “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” If there is no occupation, then the Levy Report should recommend following San Remo and granting Palestinians full “civil and religious rights.” Otherwise the outcome will be a system known as Apartheid.

It is safe to assume that this dilemma is one of the reasons that the Netanyahu government has declined to adopt the Levy Report. But it is still out there, quoted in other reports as it attempts to pretend that this is an issue on which there are two reasonable positions. Well, there are still people who believe the earth is flat.

To read the full report: “Unprecedented: A Legal Analysis of the Report of the Committee to Examine the Status of Construction in Judea and Samaria (“the Levy Committee”)”, click here.

To read the next blogpost, “When a legal committee tries to make a case for theft”, click here.

And time marches on

10154079_841932449169425_7247629458585373183_nAbusive soldiers evade justice under the aegis of the slow procedures of the MPCID (Military Police Criminal Investigation Department) and the Military Prosecution, as well as some creative excuses

Several weeks ago, our attorney Emily Schaeffer received answers from the Military Advocate for Operational Affairs Unit (MAOA) regarding two appeals she submitted years ago on behalf of a Palestinian complainant, Ayman Abd AlMaqtsur Tabieh. In both cases, surprise surprise, the appeals were rejected. Both cases merit discussion, as they shed light on the way abusive soldiers evade punishment.

The first incident took place on November 3rd, 2008, when Tabieh reached the Azoun Atma checkpoint, where he was attacked by a group of soldiers, led according to him by a Sergeant First Class Shay. The soldiers handcuffed him, blindfolded him with a gun cloth, and kept beating him. Tabieh’s testimony about the assault received a surprising supporting testimony – a soldier named Sivan also gave testimony about the soldiers attacking a Palestinian.

Despite that, the MAOA decided not to prosecute Shay. The MPCID’s investigation was completed on August 17th, 2009; the prosecution closed the case on April 19th, 2010. We asked for the investigative material in order to appeal the decision, which took until May 24th, 2011. In other words, from the date the case was closed by the prosecution to the time we received the case file, more than a year had passed – a year in which the clock kept ticking. Studying the investigative material took some time, and we appealed in July 2011, i.e. almost three years after the incident. Three weeks ago, that is two years and nine months after the appeal, we received the answer of the prosecution.

So why wasn’t Shay prosecuted? First, there was the somewhat audacious claim that Tabieh failed to identify his attackers – even though he did not even receive a proper lineup, but only a photo lineup, and also despite the prosecution itself logically noting that since the soldiers blindfolded him, he may have found it somewhat difficult to identify them. The prosecution found, however, that Shay probably broke the law, first by unnecessarily blindfolding Tabieh and secondly by holding him in custody far longer than permitted. It should be further noted that even though Shay was the checkpoint commander, and therefore responsible for the soldiers under him, and even though the prosecution agreed someone in the checkpoint assaulted Tabieh, it refused to prosecute Shay due to his command responsibility. We note that the Turkel Commission Report, as well as our own Lacuna report, call upon the IDF to impose command responsibility on its troops.

So why wasn’t Shay prosecuted? Well, said the prosecution, he is already out of the reach of the Military Justice Act. The Act applies for one year after the soldier is discharged. The incident took place in November 2008; the prosecution needed 18 months to initially close it and another four years to finally close it. This behavior was enough to ensure that Shay would not face trial.

The second incident took place six months later. On 26th April, 2009, Tabieh arrived with his wife and baby boy to a checkpoint near Qalqiliya. There he was physically assaulted by a soldier named Netanel, and detained for several hours. Tabieh later made a formal complaint to the MPCID against both Netanel and the checkpoint commander, an officer named Kfir. Suspiciously, the detainment is missing from the checkpoint operational log. Another officer, also named Kfir, a DCL (District Coordination and Liaison) officer, arrived shortly after the incident at the checkpoint; at first the soldiers told him it was the police who decided to detain Tabieh, but later he was told by the soldiers that Tabieh was detained for “talking back and threatening to make complaints about them.” Surprisingly, the Military Prosecution agreed that that sounds like a sufficient cause for detainment.

The case against Netanel was closed because, according to the prosecution, even though the soldiers at the checkpoint claimed they didn’t remember the incident at all, they were adamant that it is inconceivable for Netanel to beat up Tabieh. The presence of two Palestinian witnesses – the complainant and his wife – is of no consequence, since they were the victims; and MPCID also thought their testimonies contained inconsistencies. Even without such a claim, our experience shows that MPCID grants excessive importance to the testimonies of soldiers when they contradict with the testimonies of Palestinians. Be that as it may, the prosecution summed contentedly, Netanel and Kfir both were no longer under the jurisdiction of the Military Justice Law.

Tabieh’s complaint was made immediately after the incident. The prosecution closed the case on June 20th, 2011, more than two years after the incident. Here, too, MPCID took its sweet time allowing us to photocopy the investigative material; the appeal was submitted in July 2012, and was rejected three weeks ago. The Military Justice Act is enforced on a soldier for only one year after his discharge; when the prosecution drags its feet this way, it allows soldiers, time after time, to avoid justice.

The checkpoints, as noted by author David Grossman as early as 1987, are a flashpoint between the army and the Palestinians. During the Second Intifada and afterwards, the army spoke of the “strategic corporal,” the soldier standing at a checkpoint whose careless decision could ignite the region. One might have expected, then, that the prosecution and MPCID would act speedily and with resolve when a complaint is made about an incident at a checkpoint; but as we see time after time, this isn’t the case. Time after time, investigative negligence and compulsive procrastination allow soldiers to avoid facing trial– most Palestinians don’t bother with formal complaints.

When you add to that the fact that MPCID is not equipped to properly interrogate Palestinians – its investigators often lack the necessary training – and the fact that the small number of its investigators prevent it from dealing with the burden, the message sent to the bored, angry soldier standing at the checkpoint and looking to vent his frustrations on an innocent who cannot defend himself is very clear: Do as you wish. No harm will come to you. They’re merely Palestinians.

Like thieves in the night

10264745_839170082778995_212896715_nIn a closed conversation, the head of the Beit El Yeshiva exposed that he received millions of NIS from the state of Israel in compensation for his yeshiva’s violations of the law – with the quiet assistance of a senior Knesset Member

Sometimes, it all comes out.

A few months ago, we wrote about the deceit allegedly carried out by the Beit El Yeshiva in Jabel Artis (“Givat HaUlpana”), where it sold and rented apartments on land it did not own, which it knew it had no right to sell. Recently, we petitioned (Hebrew) the HCJ, on behalf of the residents of Dura Al Qara, against the police decision to close the investigation of Yoel Tzur, the CEO of the Company for the Development of the Yeshiva Town in Beit El; who admitted during his interrogation that he began building in Jabel Artis knowing the land was not his to build on.

On April 13th, the news site News1 (Hebrew) exposed what the head of the yeshiva, Zalman Baruch Melamed, said in a closed discussion. From what Melamed said, it appears the Netanyahu government promised to compensate the yeshiva for the evacuation of Givat HaUlpana, and that the money is now reaching the yeshiva. Melamed, as quoted by News1, said that the government promised the yeshiva 30 apartments, building permits for 300 more apartments, and “another payment” for building the yeshiva a new school building. In return, Melamed promised that the evacuation would take place without violence.

The funds, said Melamed, were transferred recently – and hereby lies an interesting story. A few weeks back, MK David Rotem (Ha’Likud Be’itenu) pulled every trick in the book to prevent the Freedom of information Law from being applied to the Settlement Division. While Rotem was delaying, another settler – Nissan Slumianski of Ha’Bait Ha’Yehudi, chairing the Finance Committee – transferred the funds without the MKs knowing what the money was for. It now turns out both of them had something to hide: according to Melamed, of those 177 million, 23 million were earmarked for the Beit El Yeshiva.

This is what the rule of law looks like in the only Jewish State in the Middle East: criminals seize land unlawfully, sell apartments which do not belong to them, and when the theft is exposed in court, the government not only refrains from indicting the criminals – the police and the prosecution are, after all, a part of the executive branch of government – it even compensates them for their losses. And to ensure that the citizens won’t know what the government is doing with their taxes, it puts the money transfer under a sort of gag order. When the courts order its removal, MKs loyal to the government and the Beit El Yeshiva do everything possible to delay, using every dirty trick conceivable.

During the heated hearing in the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Rotem said explicitly that his goal is to prevent appeals to the HCJ against construction in the settlements. He also admitted that he represented the Settlement Division in the past, which raises the suspicion of a conflict of interest. Rotem refrained from mentioning the fact that he was the person who edited the contract which the settlers would later use to justify the land grab in Jabel Artis – a contract which was not actualized since the fictive seller had no right to sell the land. Rotem probably suspected something was not quite kosher, since he added an unusual clause to the contract, demanding the seller present himself within a week and prove his identity.

That’s how it works. The Yeshiva Town in Beit El enjoys collaborators in the highest levels. Is it any wonder the police preferred not to investigate this case too thoroughly?

How dismal it all is

10157059_826851147344222_1325295466_nSometimes the daily, petty nastiness of the occupation is encapsulated in the dismal theft of a few tools

Ryad, a resident of the Bethlehem region, has a small orchard with apricot, hazelnut, olive and fig trees. Near the orchard is an ancient agricultural structure, aged some one hundred years, which serves Ryad and his family as a tool shed, as well as a resting place in the far too many hot days.

One day, Ryad was asked by his nephew, Khader, to hold a family barbecue in the place. Ryad agreed. As Khader reached the place, however, he was shocked to see a few men, whom he would soon identify as Israeli civilians, attempting to damage the structure. Khader shouted at them and moved in their direction, and the three immediately fled.

When Ryad reached the place, after being summoned by Khader, he found that the Israeli civilians did not limit themselves to their attempt to destroy the structure: they also stole some agricultural tools and silverware that were in it. Why? Because.

We’ve already become pretty much inured to the daily violence against Palestinians, whether coming from the military or civilians. We’ve grown used to it. After all, it happens so often you could mumble the excuses in your sleep: The soldier felt in danger, they were near the fence, they were somewhere they shouldn’t be, and anyway, you-know-what-they-would-do-to-us-if-they-only-could. Violence towards a person can always be excused, if that’s your cup of tea. Just as rapists and their supporters can always find excuses for sexual violence towards women (she wanted it, why did she leave the house at such an hour, what kind of person walks around such places, why did dress like that). Such excuses are necessary for any injustice. You want to be able to look in the mirror afterwards, after all; furthermore, you should be ready for a situation where such actions are routine.

“To plunder, to butcher, to steal: these they falsely name empire: they make a desolation and they call it peace.” These are piercing words by the Roman historian Tacitus in the mouth of the warlord Calgacus, planning his final battle against the Roman invader. To the insurrection of people fighting for their freedom, we give the misnomer of “disturbances of order”; land stolen from them by the cunning of jurists, is called “public lands”; coated steel bullets, “rubber bullets”; shooting an unarmed man, “the force was acting in accordance with the rules of engagement.”

But while we’ve become accustomed to excusing violence towards persons, we still have a problem explaining away simple theft. Such incidents pierce the security veil of fog. Every IDF veteran can easily recite all the excuses for why it is proper to fire a lead bullet from an assault rifle through the body of an unarmed child; but he’d have a hard time justifying the looting of the body. And such incidents allow us to see what lies beyond the veil of excuses.

And what we see, when all is said and done, is theft. Theft on the part of people living in a well-to-do settlement, enjoying all the munificence the government of a high-tech superpower can throw at them. The theft, as we’ve seen in an earlier case, of a donkey and a few obsolete agricultural tools. Did the thieves who broke into Ryad’s shed need those tools and utensils? Not likely. But they took them because they knew they could take them, and nothing would happen. There would be no investigation, no indictment; they knew they were the lords of the land, and that they could express their lordship by carelessly harming the property of others.

Is there, or can there be, any excuse – a security excuse, a national excuse, a religious excuse – for damaging a shed used by farmers for shelter and stealing their tools, tools which will not make much of a difference to the thief,  but for the victim, cause real damage to his ability to make a living?

And, behind all the bright shining lies that the Israeli civilians in the West Bank tell themselves – the “security needs” lie, the “redemption of land” lie, the “land of our forefathers” lie – can’t we see the same urge, the urge to better yourself at the expense of someone whose condition are far worse than yours? The urge to show your lordship by harming the defenseless? Is there anything behind the big words, aside from a small, dismal robbery?