The Unseen Criminals

Most cases of attacks on Palestinians are closed after under the “unknown perpetrator” clause. The police have wondrous ways of unseeing criminals.rashlanut-_comics2_eng

At the center of our new report, Mock Enforcement, dealing with the continued failure of Israel to enforce the law on Israeli civilians in the West Bank who harm Palestinians, stands a depressing piece of data: the police’s failure rate in investigating these crimes stands at 85.3 percent. The report examined 996 cases closed by the police, and found that the main clause for closing them is UP – “unknown perpetrator.” 593 of the cases examined were closed for that reason, which means the police did not manage to find suspects who committed the crime.

The clause is the official reason given by the police for the decision to close the case. The Israeli Police Command notes nine clauses for closing an investigative case, among them lack of guilt, lack of sufficient evidence, the fact that the suspect is a minor and, of course, unknown perpetrator.

The question that keeps surfacing when a case is closed due to UP asks just how extensive was the police’s search for the criminals. An examination of a series of cases shows that all too often that search was partial at best. At worse, it is farcical. Let’s deal with some examples, since there are some facts that simply cannot be conveyed by numbers.

On September 3rd 2009, three Israeli civilians – two of them wearing a hood, one with his face visible who was holding a stick and was walking a dog – attacked Ibrahim Tawil, a resident of the village of Faratha, on his land. The three attackers were joined by three others, all of them wearing hoods, and together they removed Ibarhim’s belt and assaulted him with it. They then undressed him, stole his wallet and watch and left him in his underwear.

In his police interrogation, Tawil identified the clear-faced attacker in the police album. However, an inner police memo claimed that according to intelligence, the person had no connection to the region or the incident. Had the police bothered to make the minimal effort and examined the suspect’s criminal record, it would have found that the attacker had a rich past of violence against Palestinians, including a conviction for using firearms. But this basic action was not undertaken, the suspect was not summoned for an interrogation and the case was closed under the UP clause.

Let’s recap: even when the Palestinian victim identified an attacker known to the police — who attacked him with his face exposed — the police managed to avoid interrogating the suspect. We appealed, and the suspect was summoned for interrogation (a year after the incident) and denied his alleged involvement. The interrogator did not ask him for an alibi, and the case was closed – again – under the UP clause.

Tawil, who lives near the Havat Gilad settlement outpost, isn’t very lucky. Two months after the first incident, on November 26th 2009, he was attacked by four hooded people who came from the direction of the outpost — two of them arriving on the scene with dogs. He was beaten with a stone on his head and a stick on his back. The timely arrival of other village residents probably prevented more serious damage. Tawil lodged a complaint with the police, describing the clothes they wore noting that he was also attacked two months earlier.

The police closed the file a month later, again claiming the unknown perpetrator clause. Even though at the time the number of people residing in Havat Gilad was 20 at most, the police declined to use the simple method of checking who among them owns dogs fitting the description given by Tawil.

Tawil, of course, is not the only victim whose attacker was never to be found. On March 17th 2011, a group of hooded Israeli civilians assaulted Sami Snoubar, a Palestinian working at construction in the settlement of Shiloh, striking his head with a metal bar and attacking him with pepper spray. The identification was partial in the extreme, relying on the testimony of a medic who identified two of them, but qualified his statement by saying he may have seen them at other incidents in the area.

The police interrogated three suspects; all of them refused to cooperate with the  investigation. Two of the suspects gave an alibi, which the Samaria Judea Police Department, displaying its usual diligence, failed to check. The case of the third suspect is more shocking: he refused to cooperate with the investigation, declining to give an alibi, and in response the investigator offered him an alibi (!) by saying that the police will allow him to call his boss so that the latter could provide him with an alibi. The case was closed under the unknown perpetrator clause.

One of the most appalling cases is that of Yassin Rifa’i. On March 14th, 2011 a Civil Administration officer informed Rifa’I, a resident of the Palestinian village Anata, that the residents of the settlement of Talmon uprooted dozens of trees from his land – allegedly as vengeance for a murder. The management of the settlement accepted responsibility for the incident and compensated Rifa’I for the damage.

The police interrogated the settlement’s security officer, who was asked whether he knew who committed the crime. The officer responded that he “preferred to keep the information to himself.” This, allegedly, is obstruction of justice, but the police did not pressure the security officer in any way, and he did not face any disciplinary action. Nor did the police try to find the Civil Administration officer who contacted Rifa’i. After all, it is much easier to scrawl “unknown perpetrator” on the case than try and find who the perpetrator really was.

The picture that arises from these cases (and many others), backed up by data, is as gloomy as it is simple: the investigators are not really trying to find the suspects. It’s unclear whether this stems from a fear that success will lead to hostility toward them from the Jewish population; whether this is the spirit of command, saying “don’t succeed too much in this realm”; whether this is laziness or a quiet sympathy with the attackers. What is clear is that there is something beyond incompetence, something near-systematic.

And when it becomes systematic, how can you blame the Palestinians who decided not to bother with lodging a complaint?

When the judge is your enemy, to whom shall you complain?

One of the most problematic phenomena in Israel’s law enforcement failure in the West Bank is the evaporation of a large number of criminal complaints, simply because there is no point in complainingi_imon-comics1_eng

The spectrum of possible reasons for the lack of complaints may range from acceptance of the fact and a natural inclination not to complain, to disinclination to come in contact with the authorities, to fear resulting from a threat or concern of retribution, to reaching the conclusions from the lack of results in earlier complaints to the police, or the refusal of the police to deal with complaints”.

These words were spot-on when they were written in the Karp Report, which was presented to the Attorney General in May 1982 and broke new ground on the issue of the lack of law enforcement in the West Bank, and are even truer today, after 30 more years of distrust of the Israeli law enforcement system.

We have recently published our new report Mock Enforcement, describing the state of law enforcement in the West Bank, based on the data we collected over the ten years of Yesh Din’s activity. Among the phenomena which ought to worry the decision-makers, the increasing refusal of Palestinians to complain to the Israel Police about offenses against them should have a prominent place.

Yesh Din began focusing on documenting this phenomenon in 2013, so as to get a better explanation of the circumstances in which victims refuse to complain to the police. We decided to do so after a long series of meetings with victims, who made it clear to us that they would not complain. The phrase the victims kept repeating was an Arab proverb: “When the judge is your enemy, to whom shall you complain?”

Between January 2013 and November 2014, Yesh Din documented 282 violations against Palestinians. In 66 cases, i.e. 23%, we were told by the victims expressly that they did not wish to lodge a complaint with the police.

There are several reasons for this. The first is that the victims are right: it’s a waste of their time. According to our latest data, the chances of the police getting someone indicted as a result of a complaint by a Palestinian – that the police will both find the suspect and gather sufficient evidence against him – is only 7.4%. But even if the police succeeded in doing its job, and a suspect was indicted, the chances of a conviction would be slim. Ultimately, the chance that a complaint by a Palestinian victim to the police will result in a conviction is only 1.8%, i.e. a chance of less than 1:50.

In order to even shake the dice and bet on this trifling chance, the complainant has to come to a police station and lodge a complaint. This is always time-consuming, and sometimes the complainant requires a police escort, as the police station is inside a settlement. Even if he made it to the station, in many cases he would find out that his testimony could be taken, as there was no Arabic-speaking policeman present. Then he would be required to repeat the whole process some other time.

Secondly, in a series of documented cases, the police investigators humiliated the complainants, mocked them, made it clear to them there was no point in the process (“Do you think a complaint will restore your rights?“),or even hinted that they were in fact responsible for the violations they complained about.

And if this weren’t enough, about a quarter of the victims who refused to lodge complaints pointed to a more serious problem: they had already been victimized before, lodged complaints, and felt that the complaints changed nothing. At least one person, Farrah Abad of Jaloud, told us that following the complaints he made, violence against him only intensified. “Now our little children live under mental duress”, he told Yesh Din. “I have no faith in the Israeli system. I reached this conclusion after many complaints which yielded no results”.

The feeling that there is no point in complaining is very prevalent, and the Israeli authorities do not do enough to combat it. It should be noted that according to our latest data, despite all the talk of an uncompromising fight against ideological crime, at the end of the day 25% of the ideological criminals – of the minority that is brought to court at all – are not convicted. The court finds them guilty without conviction. That is, refrains from putting them under the onus of a criminal conviction. This is a relatively rare procedure, intended to prevent a person who misstep from paying the full price. In the Israeli magistrate courts the rate of finding a person guilty without conviction is 5.3%; in the district courts, just 1.2%. That is, when it comes to ideological criminals, the justice system is not exactly Justitia, the goddess of justice, armed with the sword, as it would like us to imagine; it is more like an angel of mercy from 19th century art.

The Israeli justice system – from its inaccessible police stations through its lenient prosecutors, from its negligent investigators to its judges who won’t convict – makes it clear to the Palestinians that there is simply no point. That all the efforts and the risk they take on themselves leave them with a laughable chance at justice.

The result of the Palestinian lack of trust in the system is a whole wave of ideological criminality the system is unaware of. If it cared about its duty, one would assume that it would be concerned about the  23% of unreported attacks. However, more than 30 years after the Karp Report, it’s very hard to believe it actually cares.

“The investigation was smothered for years”

MPCID and the Military Prosecution refuse to do the bare minimum required in the investigation of the death of a protester: find out where the shooters stood11203006_10153247662962604_4404462379478352606_n

This blog has dealt more than once with cases in which MPCID negligence and intentional delaying seemed so exceptional, that you had to wonder whether they involved negligence or a calculated attempt to disrupt the investigation. The case before us, that of Palestinian protester Bassem Abu Rahmeh, moves in the same trajectory.

The Abu Rahmeh case, discussed here previously, is really quite simple. On April 17th, 2009, Abu Rahmeh protested near the separation wall in his village, Bil’in, in the West Bank. (We note that at the time, the wall followed a route that in 2007 the HCJ ruled to change, but the IDF was in no hurry and changed it only in 2011.) Abu Rahmeh was unarmed, and did not employ any violence, and yet, at the moment he protested the security forces shooting another demonstrator, an Israeli security forces personnel in uniform fired an extended-range tear gas grenade (a grenade used to disperse demonstrators from a distance) directly at him. The grenade hit Abu Rahmeh in the chest, and quickly led to his death.

Note and this is important: these facts are not being disputed. Even so, six years and counting after Abu Rahmeh’s death, the IDF – through MPCID and the Military Prosecution – is still doing its best to avoid trying the man who shot him. To quote the appeal we submitted to the HCJ with B’Tselem in April 2015, “From the chain of events, it is evident that this is (at best) a case of severe negligence on part of the respondents, and contempt of a most severe case of killing an unarmed protester, who was protesting peacefully. Military and civil law enforcement entities have allowed the case of a killing of an innocent man to fall through the cracks time and again, requiring the court to intervene repeatedly… Abu Rahmeh was killed by IDF soldiers who – at best – shot him negligently, and the investigation of the responsibility for his death was smothered for years by the investigative and prosecutorial bodies’ inexcusable red-tape behavior”.

Here is the chain of events, in chronological order:

17.4.2009 – An Israeli security forces personnel in uniform shoots Abu Rahmeh. The shooting is documented by three separate video cameras.

Due to the investigation policy at the time – which was changed only in 2011 – MPCID does not automatically investigate in case of death, unless explicitly ordered to by the Military Prosecution. The latter refuses to order an investigation of this case.

28.3.10 – Ten months after Abu Rahmeh’s death, the Military Prosecution provides an unusual argument for its refusal to order an MPCID investigation: the possibility that the grenade hit the fence and then ricocheted at Abu Rahmeh; the chance that the fact that Abu Rahmeh was standing on a rock when he was shot caused him “to converge” with the grenade’s course.

A reasonable person might think this is precisely what an investigation is supposed to find, since an unarmed demonstrator was shot during a non-violent demonstration, but apparently reasonable persons need not apply for work at the Military Prosecution.

3.6.10 – In response to the Military Prosecution’s peculiar  statement, human rights organizations Yesh Din and B’Tselem do their work for them, and send the prosecution an expert opinion based on forensic architecture. As noted, Abu Rahmeh’s death was documented by three separate cameras, and the experts used the three videos to build a simulation showing where the shooter stood. According to this expert opinion, we don’t know the shooter’s identity, but we know where he was standing.

11.7.10 – Based on the expert opinion – new evidence obtained 15 months after the shooting – the Prosecution orders an MPCID investigation.

28.6.11 – Nearly a year after an MPCID investigation it initiated and 26 months after the killing, the Chief of the IDF Ballistics Department informs MPCID that “the only way such ordnance reached the target is if it was fired directly”, rather than above or below the target. That is, MPCID’s expert contradicts the Military Prosecution’s position from March 2010. We learned this bit only after the investigation was closed.

3.2.13 – Chief of the IDF’s Photo Reconnaissance Department informs MPCID that IDF orders forbid shooting directly at persons with this ordnance, and recommends the MPCID reconstruct the scene to establish where each of the shooters stood at the time of the shooting. MPCID refrained from conducting this elementary investigation. The Chief’s opinion came almost four years after the killing of Abu Rahmeh and almost 20 months after the Chief of the IDF’s Ballistics Department rules that the tear gas canister was indisputably fired directly at Abu Rahmeh.

3.3.13 – Some three years after the beginning of the MPCID investigation, we petition (with B’Tselem) the HCJ, demanding the Military Prosecution conclude the unending investigation and serve indictments – at the very least for negligent manslaughter.

September 2013 – The Military Prosecution closes the investigation, claiming it is unable to determine who shot Abu Rahmeh.

29.10.13 – Given the Prosecution’s decision to close the case, the HCJ rules that our petition is no longer relevant, but rules that “we are of the opinion that if there is an appeal, it must be dealt with speedily, so as not to delay proceedings further”.

4.11.13 – We request the investigative materials for preparation of an appeal.

27.3.14 – Five months pass before we receive part of the materials – not all of it.

7.4.14 – We request the missing material. Ten days before the fifth anniversary of Abu Rahmeh’s death.

27.5.14 – The missing material arrives.

24.7.14 – We appeal, with B’Tselem, including an expert opinion responding to the IDF’s opinion.

Our demands in the appeal were fairly simple: there are three suspects who admitted to firing extended-range tear gas grenades, and we wanted MPCID to carry out a complimentary investigation and implement the Chief of the Photo Reconnaissance Department’s recommendation to reconstruct the scene of the shooting to determine where each suspect stood. According to the data we gave MPCID, this would be enough to determine the identity of the shooter who killed Bassem Abu Rahmeh.

Furthermore, during the investigation of one of the three soldiers, he said that he not only fired tear gas grenade but he also took photos of the incident, and since MPCID did not bother to locate those photos, we wanted them to make an effort to. Let’s consider this for a moment: the Military Police’s Criminal Investigative Division heard, during an investigation of a killing, about the existence of evidence – and made no effort to obtain it.

A third point made in the appeal is the commanders’ responsibility for Abu Rahmeh’s death. An extended-range gas grenade is to be used at range of 200 meters or more; the demonstrators were much closer. From the investigation files we received we learned that most of the soldiers suspected of firing tear gas grenades during the demonstration complained during the investigation that they did not receive proper training on using the weapons they used, and furthermore, that they complained about this to their commanders previously. MPCID did not bother to investigate the commanders about this matter. Given that the investigation meandered on for more than three years, it’s will to be difficult to claim it was for lack of time.

Although the HCJ ordered that in the event of an appeal against the decision to close the case “it must be dealt with speedily,” and although our appeal included rather simple and clear demands, eight months have passed without any response from the prosecution.

Therefore, at the end of March, 2015 – nearly six years after Bassem Abu Rahmeh was killed – we were forced to petition the HCJ again, this time demanding a decision on the appeal.

During these six years, the Military Prosecution did its best not to investigate a relatively simple case of a man killed; six years in which human rights organizations had to provide the Prosecution with the evidence it itself did not bother to collect. During these six years, against the recommendation of IDF officers, MPCID did not reconstruct the scene of the crime to determine who stood where. In these six years, the IDF’s official investigative bodies did their negligent best to prevent the trial of a man who killed a non-violent protestor.

But when MPCID and the Prosecution carry out an investigation so unwillingly and so negligently it can barely be called an investigation, they put the soldiers at risk. To avoid a situation in which soldiers are tried outside their country, the investigation of the crime they carried out must be thorough and swift. No reasonable person would call the farce carried out by MPCID and the prosecution in the Abu Rahmeh case thorough or swift. If this is how they handle an investigation of a death, how do they investigate lesser offenses?

In the photo: Abu Rahmah family, Bil’in, West Bank, 7.4.2010. Photo by Activestills.

When the police act like a gang

A journalist learns that if you photograph Border Policemen committing a felony, you’ll probably end up paying for it. YD_EN-2

Near the end of January 2015, Amin Hassan Raneh Alawiya left his home in East Jerusalem’s Al-Azariya neighborhood and made his way to a wedding. As he later described it in his police complaint, upon leaving the house, lawiya – a photojournalist by profession – noticed a demonstration taking place nearby. Naturally, he picked up his camera and went over to document it. A Border Policeman, whom Alawiya recognized, ordered him to move away. In fact, he gave Alawiya the choice of either moving away, getting arrested or getting shot. Alawiya went back home and photographed from there.

Two policemen then came to the house and called Alawiya to come out. When he did the two cops jumped him. They continued hitting him as he was led to their vehicle, and from what they said on the two-way radio, Alawiya understood that he was to blame for disregarding their instructions. Inside the vehicle, the policemen kept hitting him, one of them shouting “this is for our friend” and “our friend will shoot you,” using the name of a third policeman. One of them also used the opportunity to curse the founder of Islam, Muhammad, until the other one told him to stop.

Who is the third cop? Ah! This is the core of the story. In May 2014, as part of his job, Alawiya documented Border Policemen assaulting a hooded child in East Jerusalem, after he was suspected of throwing stones. The policemen also took photos of themselves with the wounded child. The “friend” is one of those documented in Alawiya’s video, which enjoyed widespread distribution on Al Jazeera and other networks. Ever since, he says, he became a target for the Border Police in East Jerusalem, which he claims prevent him from filming in the city and even broke one of his cameras.

Alawiya’s detention in January was part of the Border Police’s quest for vengeance. One of the problems with police forces, particularly forces that are not subject to serious oversight, is that they tend to become a kind of gang: the permeation of a culture of violence and lies becomes common. We have seen the violence, now let’s deal with the deceitfulness.

After his detention, Alawiya was held, handcuffed and blindfolded, in the Abu Dis Border Police base for some two hours. He was then transferred to the police station in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Edumim. There he requested to file a complaint of assault against the cops, but the officer present refused to receive the complaint, and told him he should turn to Israel’s Internal Affairs Division. As we will see, this was a hollow demand that reflected the police’s negligence. Alawiya was immediately informed that he was charged with assaulting and obstructing an officer. The police then demanded Alawiya sign a document saying he was not attacked by the police. He did so, but added in Arabic that it was he who was assaulted. Soon afterward, Alawiya was led to an interrogation room, where he was informed by the interrogator that he was suspected of obstructing an officer.

Did you get what, according to the complaint, just happened? Prior to signing a document saying he was not assaulted by the police, Alawiya was accused of assaulting an officer. After he signed the document, the charge of assaulting an officer simply evaporated. There is a method here, well-known to veterans of demonstrations in Israel and East Jerusalem: as soon as you complain about police brutality, you are automatically charged with assaulting an officer.

When a police force fabricates a complaint against a civilian, especially after he complains of being assaulted by a cop, there is, to put it mildly, a gross misunderstanding of the function of the police. Its duty is to maintain law and order, not to protect itself. When it distorts reality, it lies to itself, to the public that pays its salary and to the courts. When it pins false charges on a person, it is conspiring to damage his good name, his livelihood, and in the worst case scenario, deprives him of his liberty. It then ceases to be the servant of the public and becomes its enemy; it ceases being a vehicle for safeguarding human rights and becomes a tool for their denial.

Alawiya couldn’t file a complaint with Internal Affairs Division, since he lives in East Jerusalem, specifically in a neighborhood that lies east of the separation wall. Despite the fact that Israeli Police (which includes the Border Police) has been active in East Jerusalem since it was occupied in 1967, there is no Internal Affiars Division station there. In order to lodge a complaint, Alawiya either needs a permit to enter Israel, or use mediators such as human rights organizations. He says that ever since he documented the young boy being abused in May 2014, his permit has been denied.

And if you thought that was bad, the story doesn’t end there: a relative of Alawiya paid NIS 2,000 for his release on bail, since being assaulted by police and and then being wrongfully detained means you need to post bail. The relative, however, did not receive a receipt for the money. What happens to money given to a policeman when no receipt is given? Your guess is as good as mine.

In March 2014, Yesh Din Attorney Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, sent a complaint to the Internal Affairs Division, demanding an immediate investigation on suspicion of, inter alia, false arrest, assault, abuse of the power of office and conduct unbecoming.

Given that in 93 percent of the complaints submitted in 2011-2014, the Internal Affairs Division closed the case without any investigation (!); that of the 11,282 complaints in the years 2011-2013, only 2.7 percent turned into indictments; and that the former chief of the division is on record (Hebrew) saying that the police suffers from a “culture of lies” and that policemen cover for each other, one cannot hope too much that a journalist who exposed the face of the police will see justice. And these, we note, are the results for all complaints to the Internal Affairs Division, not just those by Palestinians. We’ll keep you posted.

This is what “lack of evidence” looks like

We see how seriously the prosecution takes its role when we realize it closed a file for lack of evidence — without so much as noticing the evidence.YD_EN-1

The location was Qusra, a village in the Shiloh Valley; the date, September 16, 2011. Fathallah Mahmoud Muhammad Abu Rhoda went out with his three sons to pick figs. A short while after reaching their land, they noticed about 10 Israeli civilians standing around their water hole. The Palestinians demanded the Israelis leave the place; the interlopers refused. The residents of Qusra — a village that has already proven it can defend itself against marauders — began heading to the area. An argument ensued, and according to Abu Rhoda’s testimony to the police, three of the settlers (who were armed) opened fire on the Palestinians. One bullet hit Abu Rhoda in the thigh.

Of the three, two were armed with rifles and the other with a handgun. From the police testimony, we see that the handgun’s owner also sicced a dog on the Palestinians. The complainants managed to photograph some of their attackers, among them the handgun owner.

Four days after the incident, Abu Rhoda filed a complaint with the police. Almost three years later, on August 6, 2014, the prosecution informed us that it closed the case for lack of evidence. After a series of 14 phone calls, we managed to photocopy the case file on December 15 2014 — more than four months after the case was closed. However, it was immediately apparent some of the material was missing. We continued requesting it until February 2015.

From the evidence we finally received, it turns out that there is more than enough evidence to indict the handgun owner, E. As previously mentioned, E. was identified by the Palestinians victims, and they even supplied the police with photos of him at the scene, which clearly show him holding a handgun in one hand and the dog in the other. The police picked up cartridges from the scene, and a ballistic fingerprinting – which took place on September 27, 2011 – found that one of the cartridges came from a 9mm Glock pistol (the others were fired from rifles.) E. was summoned for an investigation, invoked his right to remain silent, but admitted he owned a Glock. The gun was duly turned over to the police, which sent it to a ballistic fingerprinting. In February 2012 the police expert reached the conclusion that there is a match between the cartridges fired from E.’s handgun and the those that were examined on September 27.

In total, the following evidence was marshalled against E.:

A. He was identified and photographed by the complainants.

B. His handgun was identified as a the one fired during the incident.

Despite the evidence, the police recommended that the case against E. be closed due to — get this — lack of evidence. The recommendation was accepted by the prosecution. Embarrassingly, the prosecution admitted this to us only in January 2015 — 10 months after it closed the case for lack of evidence. Only as a result of our request for more case files did the prosecution learn about the September 2011 memorandum, which identified the type of handgun owned by E. That is, when the prosecution decided to close the case for lack of evidence, it was lacking a major piece of evidence.

What about the two other shooters? I’m glad you asked. The police chased one of the suspects into the Esh Kodesh outpost, even so much as detaining him after he fled. However, despite the fact that the suspect fled arrest and refused to identify himself, there is no indication in the material we received from the police that any investigative action was taken against him. There is, for instance, no sign that he was even interrogated or gave testimony; he was detained, and immediately released.

The third suspect managed to flee in a vehicle and reach Esh Kodesh. The police identified the owner the vehicle as well as another person who was with him in the car during the chase. But, lo and behold, the police neither bothered to interrogate them nor attempt to identify the third shooter.

This is how the police and the prosecution treat a violent incident, in which three Israeli civilians open fire on Palestinians who are on their own land. In a case that contains such clear forensic evidence, they managed, with extraordinary negligence, not to notice it. And in the other cases? They simply do not investigate.

In the beginning of March, our attorney Anu Deuel Lusky (briskly aided by Moriyah Shlomot) appealed the decision, asking the prosecution to bring E. to trial and conduct further investigations that would lead to the capture of the other two suspects. To quote the appeal:

“This appeal, in both its parts, raises a harsh and heavy feeling that both the police and the prosecution betrayed their duties as bodies entrusted with maintaining law and order. The current situation – in which the lives, bodies and property of Palestinians, considered protected persons by international law, can be harmed with impunity, both as a result of settler violence and as a result of law enforcement entities standing aside, not making the minimal effort to bring lawbreakers to justice – is intolerable, and undermines the rule of law.”

One wonders what is left of the rule of law after it has been so brazenly undermined.

West Bank outposts: A whole system of dispossession

At the core of the outpost system lies the systemic violation of Palestinian human rights. YD_29.03

If we had to look for a good example of the meaning of the outpost system – the unofficial settlements Israel builds in the West Bank – we could hardly expect a better one than the one supplied by the minister of defense. Recently, commenting on an appeal that — contrary to publications — we have nothing to do with, and demands the removal of the Mizpe Kramim outpost, Defense Minister Moseh Ya’alon said (Hebrew) that: “This point was built legally, with the support of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense. True, later someone appealed, an Israeli organization of course, a leftist organization that found some Arab who claims ownership.” Much as it painful that this is the level of understanding of a senior Israeli minister, the interesting part here is actually the part where Ya’alon talks about “some Arab claims ownership.”

Because here, with some brutality, Ya’alon touches on the main problem of the outpost movement: its violation of Palestinian human rights in the West Bank. Yesh Din’s research over the years, and particularly its report, “The Road to Dispossession,” which uses the outpost Adei-Ad as a microcosm, finds that the creation of an outpost is a steady source for unceasing violation of the rights of the Palestinian residents in the nearby villages. This violation is inherent in existence of the outpost.

Let me explain. When an outpost is created, it grabs territory, which later becomes the core of the outpost. This territory often includes private Palestinian land. Around the core there is what is known as the SSA – “special security area” – which Palestinians may not enter except on special occasions, since it serves as the perimeter of the outpost. Outside the SSA there is Palestinian land that becomes a source of friction.

Why is it a source of friction? Because the goal of outposts is to expand. Adei-Ad, our test case, now includes territory nearly 30 times its original size. How do outposts expand? Israeli civilians arrive in the vicinity and either attack Palestinian farmers or damage their crops. This is done in order to terrorize them and force them to abandon their land. When the land is abandoned, it is taken over. In order to do so, of course, the outposts require assistance from their main partner, the government of Israel: soldiers who do not prevent violations such as settler riots; policemen who do not properly investigate attacks on Palestinians; attorneys who close cases without due cause; a Civil Administration that does not enforce its own demolition orders; government offices that hurry to provide services for an illegal settlement; and at the end of the line – the state attorneys, who time after time appear in court to defend these massive violations of the law, not to mention postpone bringing an end to them for long as possible. Time after time, the state suggests legalizing these outposts as a gift to the lawbreakers.

The first violation of Palestinian rights is that of their right to property — in other words, the land that is lost when Israeli civilians take it over. A short while after that comes the violation of their right to life and security: if you go to work your land, note that there is a chance you will not return home in one piece. Palestinian freedom of movement is also violated: with the creation of an outpost and the declaration of an SSA, there are territories that keep expanding, and forbid Palestinians from entering.

All this ultimately leads to the violation of Palestinians’ right and ability to make a living. Two of the villages near Adei-Ad have already been emptied of many of their residents. An agricultural settlement, after all, cannot exist if its land is taken away by force.

We are not dealing with just one case: there are about 100 outposts. Every time one of them is legalized, it creates a precedent for the legalizing the next outpost, and creates incentives for Israeli civilians to seize more land and terrorize more Palestinians.

This isn’t an accident, it’s a system. The outposts are approved, as Ya’alon admitted, by the minister of defense and the prime minister. This is the system, as we have shown in our earlier post about the “Under the Radar” position paper, in which all government offices complicit; this is the system whose existence is now out in the open, without blushing, by the minister of defense. This system means the systemic, intentional, violation of Palestinian human rights, and it must stop.

The secret life of settlement outposts

The Israeli government’s policy proves that the outposts are effectively settlements – only you’ll never hear them being called that. YD-Radar

“The outposts are not ‘hilltop youth.’ It is a carefully planned seizure of strategic points, the outposts have been coordinated with the Prime Minister.” – Adi Minz, former Yesha Council Chairman, 2004.

Since 1996 Israel no longer officially creates new settlements. This is an international guarantee of the government. Creating a new settlement requires a government decision, and with three exceptions (the legalization of the outposts Bruchin and Rechalim, together with Nofei Nechemia, and Sansana in 2013), there has been no such decision. Effectively, however, there are about 100 unofficial settlements in the West Bank. Officially, they are illegal. Officially, there are demolition orders against all the structures within these unofficial settlements. Practically, however they get unceasing support from the government and could not exist without it.

These settlements are euphemistically (and innocently) given the title “outposts.” Their history begins two years after that government decision, when Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon called upon the settlers to storm the hills and take them over. What you’ll seize, we’ll keep, he told them. And thus the outpost movement was born.

In 2005, the Sasson Report on this outposts was presented  to the government; in its honor, we recently published a new position paper titled “Under the Radar.” Sasson already noticed the method back then: the entire Israeli establishment more or less aids and abets the creation of outposts. After the land grab by Israeli civilians, the IDF promptly provides them with protection. Then, other authorities make sure water and electricity are provided. A short while after that, we have “facts on the ground,” which require legal procedures to change (procedures that can take years in the court system). Even when it is clear that construction there is illegal, no one is tried – there is no single Israeli unit in charge of enforcing construction in the West Bank. Recently, the High Court of Justice accepted the position of the State’s Attorney, according to which those in charge of the illegal construction of Ulpana Hill in Beit El should not be tried. The government used the stunning excuse: since it never indicted anyone for this offense, it may be that the suspects will attempt to claim “abuse of process.” If we take this logic further – and not much further – there will simply never be any point in attempting to try someone for taking over land in the West Bank. He or she will always be able to claim abuse of process.

Looking at the court statements by the state on issue of the outposts, we see how its position slowly changes. In 2008, the state took the position that it intends to remove many of the outposts, but that it shall do so at its own pace and by its own reasons. The state did not tell the truth; it did not remove even a single outpost without a clear order by a court. This, of course, was able to buy it some time.

In 2011 there was a change in the state’s position, when it told the courts that intends to pursue a course of partial enforcement. It would remove outposts built on private land, but will examine the possibility of legalizing those built on public land (which it prefers to call “state land” in order to create the impression that it owns them).

But this position also changes. In 2012, the government ordered the formation of the Levi Commission (for more on that commission, see here, here and here.) It ruled that the outposts are to be legalized, while rejecting the Partition Decision of 1947 and returning to the Balfour Declaration. In 2013, the state therefore changed its position once more: it tells the court that unless there is a concrete appellant who is an owner of land and prove that the land upon which the outpost is built belongs to him, then “political considerations” take precedence over law enforcement. That is, the state, represented by the state’s attorneys – tasked with enforcing the law – is telling the court something astonishing: political will can override the acute need of any civilized state to enforce its laws; that political will can force back the old precept that “one should pray for the welfare of the realm, for without fear of it, man will eat man alive.” It should be noted that in one of his latest rulings, ordering the removal of the illegal outpost of Amona, Chief Justice Grunis ruled that in the case of illegal construction, there is no need for a concrete appellant; the very illegality of the construction requires demolition.

During 2013 and 2014, we see another change in the state’s position: now it tells the court that while legally, the outposts mentioned in the petition ought to be removed, “special circumstances” prevent this removal.

Following the state’s behavior, we see the following deplorable pattern: historically, the government of Israel decided to mislead both the world and its own court system. The government created some 100 new settlements contrary to international law and its own obligations; it provides these settlements with every sort of aid, beginning with military protection and ending with legal cover. These days, it is trying to legalize about a quarter of the outposts – some are declared settlements, some are called “neighborhoods” inside already-existing settlements. In order to protect these settlements, it is willing to shake the foundations of the rule of law — one of the foundations of the modern state — and it is willing to quietly ally itself with felons. Those felons, in effect, become its emissaries, the people over whom the state spreads its aegis. It promises them that it will reward them with the land they grabbed by force for the felonies they commit in its secret service.

And these, actually, are the minor offenses the state and the felons commit together. As for the more serious ones, they’ll be described in the next post.

The operational logic behind terrorizing Palestinians

A relatively minor incident exposes the IDF’s double order system – the one MP-CID wouldn’t dare touch.

The incident in question, given the daily routine of the occupation, is relatively minor. On December 3rd, 2007, ‘Adnan Abu Haniyeh, a resident of the West Bank village Yanoun, woke up from the sound of an explosion. Something blew up, the windows of his house shattered and the house became filled with smoke. His little girl screamed in terror, and for a time the family feared that her hearing was permanently damaged. The walls of the house were covered with soot. Abu Haniyeh then heard the sound of a military Hummer.

The rest of the incident will be described according to the investigative files of MP-CID. According to the files, the incident happened this way:

That night, four IDF soldiers arrived in a Hummer at the outskirts of Yanoun to carry out a routine procedure, which the IDF calls “showing our presence.” The four soldiers were:

Platoon Commander Shmulik

Sergeant First Rank Eliahu (the driver)

Seargent First Rank Rotem

Sergeant Nathan

Lt. Shmulik ordered the driver to park the vehicle near the village, and before ordering one of the soldiers to shoot a flare. There is a general agreement among the suspects that Eliahu threw a stun grenade in the direction of the house; according to some of the testimonies, Rotem asked the lieutenant for permission to also throw a smoke grenade. The suspects agree that due to the noise made by the Hummer, Shmulik did not hear Rotem’s request, and Rotem — who claimed he thought he heard confirmation — threw the smoke grenade. Eliahu and Rotem both denied they intended to throw the grenades at the house; they failed to explain to the investigators how the grenade nevertheless managed to hit the house.

In his interrogation, carried out by MP-CID with relative speed only 14 days after the incident, Lt. Shmulik admitted that he ordered the soldiers to fire a flare and throw a stun grenade. He told the interrogators that he did not hear Rotem asking to throw a smoke grenade, that he knew about it only after the event, and that he would not have approved the request, as it went against procedure. Nevertheless, the lieutenant was in charge, it was his duty to know of the goings on, and took full responsibility for what happened. He also said that following the incident, he was relieved of his command.

But hold on. All the soldiers interrogated testified that a short while before this incident, that very evening, they were all at the village Furiq, together with Deputy Company Commander Itsik. There, they carried out a very similar action: they threw stun grenades randomly, made a lot of noise, and then continued on (without DCC Itsik) to Yanoun. The IDF took no issue with the incident in Furiq.

What happened in Yanoun? It is worth exploring the testimonies of the soldiers themselves. According to Nathan, “it’s a known procedure, in order to deter and show presence and force, and this isn’t the first time we did it.” Eliahu, who threw the stun grenade, called it a “routine activity.” Unlike Rotem, however, he threw the grenade with the approval of the lieutenant, and that Rotem’s independent action was “improper.” Eliahu claimed that only later did he come to know that his grenade exploded inside a house; that this wasn’t his intent; that the entire incident was “a major mistake and I am sorry it happened.” He knows, he told his interrogators, that you may throw a stun grenade in the direction of Palestinian houses, but not inside them; he knows that, because an hour earlier he saw DCC Itsik doing precisely that.

Let’s leave for now the fine Jesuit distinction between the idea that throwing a grenade “in the direction” of a house is perfectly okay, while actually hitting a house is forbidden. Let’s try and look at the procedure behind the action. What did Eliahu’s commander think he was doing? Well, Platoon Commander Shmulik defined “showing presence” as “a mounted recon of the village; the use of sirens; throwing stun grenades in streets; roads and open spaces; and the use of flares.” According to Shmulik, while this an accepted, routine practice, the IDF lacks a written procedure on it, and that throwing stun grenades requires the approval of a company commander or deputy. This is the error Shmulik made, which led to his removal from command: he approved Eliahu’s use of a stun grenade without first clearing it with DCC Itsik.

Note that all of these aggressive actions are not directed at what the IDF calls “disturbers of order”: they are directed at a non-violent and peaceful village. DCC Itsik told the interrogators of MP-CID nearly the exact same tale. What he called “initiated activity” includes the firing of flares and throwing stun grenades, but only with the approval of the sector commander – in our case, Itsik himself. He was unfamiliar with the procedure of throwing smoke grenades and considers it to be a violation of the norm. Itsik told his interrogators that there while are no written procedures, there is an oral one: “these are the directions which came down from the brigade.”

Before speaking to Itsik, the interrogators spoke to his superior, Lt. Col. Oren, the commander of the Sabre Battalion, whose troops were also involved in the incident. The BC tells the interrogators that, as far as he is concerned, the problem was that Shmulik acted under his own authority, without prior approval of DCC Itsik. The action, he told the investigators, “was operationally legitimate, as long as it is approved by the proper authority,” adding that, “there is an operational logic to this activity.”

But when the investigators tried to find the incident in the operational logs of DCO Nablus, of the Sabre Battalion or of the Shomron Regional Brigade, they found nothing. The “initiated activity” in Yanoun goes completely unmentioned, and there is no mention of the previous one led by DCC Itsik in Furiq.

When the investigators turn to command to explain themselves, they get conflicting answers. The operations officer of the Shomron Brigade said that there is such a procedure and it is carried out with the approval of the  battalion commander (for reasons unknown, the MP-CID investigators do not ask Lt. Col. Oren whether he gave the order. I wonder why). The division, on the other hand, denied the existence of an “initiated activity” procedure vehemently: there is no such procedure, and anyone who acted on it was wrong. The Givati Brigade’s ops officer (Sabre is one of Givati’s battalions) is unfamiliar with the procedure.

Let’s focus and go up the rank ladder:

The gruntsThey are familiar with the “showing presence” procedure, and carried it out several times. They know it well enough to realize that throwing a stun grenade requires the approval of an officer, and that throwing a smoke grenade into a house is forbidden.

The platoon commanderKnows the procedure well, knows that throwing a smoke grenade is forbidden, knows he stepped out of bounds by not asking permission to throw a stun grenade from his deputy company commander.

The DCC – Knows the procedure, says basically the same thing as the platoon commander. Says the directions come from the regional brigade.

The Battalion CommanderLt. Col. Oren is familiar with the procedure, thinks it has an “operational logic,” thinks the problem with PC Shmulik is that he did not receive permission for throwing the grenade from his DCC.

The ops officer of the regional brigadeIs familiar with the procedure, even though he thinks the rank that is supposed to approve it is somewhat higher (battalion commander rather than the DCC).

The divisional ops officerNo such thing, no such procedure, I don’t know it, never saw it, never heard of it.

So what is the story? It’s actually quite simple.

The Shomron Regional Brigade has a procedure for terrorizing Palestinians. It includes the firing of flares, stun grenades and the general disruption of life. The goal, which is repeated time and again, is “to show presence” or “create deterrence.” In other words: let these villagers know we can make life harder for them.

But it is an un-declared procedure. Everyone is familiar with it, and everyone knows that its legality is, to put it mildly, questionable. Therefore it is given orally and not written down (“these are the directions which came down from the brigade”), and no one needs to be surprised when the MP-CID investigators find no record of it in the operational logs.

Just a minute. Is the division really unaware of this procedure? Has its ops officer previously served in the UN forces? No. It’s just that at the divisional level, they already know that when MP-CID comes knocking, it means trouble.

Note that the investigation ends at the battalion commander level, and the investigators never ask him whether he gave the order. They don’t interrogate the Shomron Brigade commander, even though his ops officer says he knows the procedure well. They do not, of course, interrogate the division commander. There is a limit to what MP-CID can do. Interrogate grunts? All in a day’s work. A DCC or platoon commander? Not a problem. Battalion commander? This is uncertain ground. A brigade commander? One hell of a headache. A division commander? Fuggetaboutit. Because, one step up from the division commander is the Commanding General. This is a good spot to remind you that during Operation Protective Edge, we demanded that the the MP-CID must not be able to be the investigatory body for precisely this reason: it cannot properly interrogate the senior officers, and has no authority to interrogate the politicians involved.

 

Is this procedure, of throwing stun grenades for the purpose of instilling fear, a local issue? Not quite. In the testimonies gathered by Breaking the Silence, we find a testimony by an lieutenant who served in the Bethlehem area in 2009. He states that his troops carried out “showing presence” actions where “we would throw stun [grenades] in the alleys.” Another officer, also a lieutenant., testifies about his time in the Nablus region in 2009, where he and his soldiers carried out “initiated actions,” which included throwing stun grenades, using sirens, and general harassment, “in order to show them who’s the man.” Stun grenades and sirens: the same procedure, very same words, used by Lt. Shmulik four years earlier. The procedure is alive and kicking.

Returning to an earlier appeal we made back in 2009, when we demanded then-Colonel Itay Virob be put on trial we found that Virob (while giving testimony for one of his troops, who assaulted Palestinians) spoke of a procedure called “livnat shibush.” Virob described the procedure in these words:

“The first is entering the village. Jeeps racing at the entrance of the village. Sometimes the very entry of the village will disrupt the way of the [terrorist]. Another way is using pressure: throwing stun grenades, breaking into several houses or institutions in the village, arresting residents, seizing roofs etc. There are occasions when the brigade commander can instruct how to disrupt, sometimes it is under the consideration of the commander in situ.” (emphasis mine)

The procedure as described by Virob is the same one known to Shmulik and Itsik as “showing presence.” Note that Virob says that sometimes the disruption (or, as our petition termed it, “a procedure dealing with an assault on a civilian community with means and ways intended to cause panic and fear, and with intent to disrupt normal life at that place”) is carried out according to the discretion of the local commander. “Livnat shibush” is another name, perhaps coined by another brigade (Kfir) for what Regional Brigade Shomron calls “showing presence.” Everyone knows it, and the Kfir Brigade Commander sees no problem with testifying about it.

It is important to note that our files document another case in which an officer threw a gas grenade into a house. In this case, IDF officers showed up to apologize in person, and the officer involved was quickly removed from command and jailed. The throwing of a smoke or gas grenade into a house, which may be deadly, is prohibited by the IDF in routine circumstances. Throwing the smoke grenade in Yanoun was clearly a violation of the procedure and further proof that the procedure is well known.

The IDF has a procedure which is used with the permission and direction of senior officers, silently and without documentation — its purpose is to terrorize innocent people. Israelis who follow the IDF know it has another such procedure, which comes to the surface everyone once in a while, when everyone pretends to be shocked: zubur, i.e. institutionalized, intra-unit violent hazing toward young soldiers. Time after time, soldiers are put on trial when violence spirals out of control, claim they were fall guys, since the officers knew of the procedure; the officers went through it themselves and accepted it as part of the unit culture. The public, which is routinely shocked by the violence shown by soldiers toward one another, ought to ask itself what sort of violence these soldiers allow themselves to use – with the knowledge and denied encouragement of their commanders – against transparent people whose lives are under their rule.

How does the army please settlers? By upping its violence against Palestinians

The settlers of Halamish told the IDF it isn’t being violent enough, a general  inform them that he knowingly uses unnecessary force. 10967814_1013498958679439_393266675_n

Near the Palestinian villages of Dir Nizam and Nabi Salah lies a settlement named Halamish, also known as Neve Tsuf.

About a month ago, after Palestinians threw stones at their vehicles, the settlers took the law into their own hands and began “securing” the road leading to the settlement. The IDF didn’t like the initiative, but – lo and behold – did not use their legal authority against  Israeli civilians carrying out military actions on their own initiative. Instead, they sent the commander of the AYOSH (Area of Judea and Samaria) Division, Brig. General Tamir Yade’I, to talk to the lawbreakers.

This conversation, published on the website of the Hebrew daily Makor Rishon (which includes recordings) is very interesting for several reasons. Take, for instance the comment by Gen. Yade’i after a short lecture about the differences between the military situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (listen at 4:37 in the first recording):

“I don’t want to say that we changed the rules of engagement, but we became a bit harsh with the people around here; in places where we’d fire [tear] gas or rubber [bullets] in the past, now we fire Ruger [bullets], and sometimes live [bullets]. If I remember the numbers correctly, we’ve had something like 25 people hurt here in the last three weeks.”

Hold it. If firing tear gas or rubber bullets was sufficient in the past, what necessitated the change? According to Yade’I, nothing changed and the threat level vis-à-vis the soldiers did not increase in any way. So what did change? Well, the atmosphere in the IDF, for one. The army decided to teach the Palestinians a lesson, and therefore increased the level of violence it uses towards them – regardless of the threat they represent. Yade’I's comments are not empty ones – they are mere attempts to boast. B’Tselem, which noticed Yade’I's comment, recorded a series of such shooting incidents (Hebrew).

The Ruger is a .22 caliber rifle, colloquially known in Hebrew as “Tutu,” whose bullet is a relatively weak live one. Rifles are, how shall I put it, deadly weapons. When Gen. Yade’I orders his troops to use a Ruger rifle or live bullets against demonstrators, he is using a deadly weapon that puts their lives at risk, especially when he knows such a risk is unwarranted. Prior to his new orders the IDF faced the same level of violence with rubber bullets (which may still be deadly, but the likelihood of death is smaller) and tear gas (which are not deadly except in rare cases – but may cause significant damage; and when the canister is fired using dead reckoning, i.e. directly at the victim, it may cause grievous bodily harm and even death).

Yade’I doesn’t “want to say we changed the rules of engagement,” but in practice, he did. Why? Considering the time and place where he made his comment, we fear that the IDF changed its rules of engagement in order to pacify the settlers. Yade’I even boasted before them over the number of Palestinian wounded.

What we see here is Yade’I attempts to defend the IDF’s actions to the settlers after the latter took part in unauthorized activity. The Mateh Binyamin Regional Council’s website reported the events in these words:

“Following the escalation of security incidents on the roads surrounding Neve Tsuf, which did not receive an adequate response by the security forces, the residents of the Neve Tsuf began securing the roads independently. The residents emphasized the problematic areas, as well as the critical hours in which residents drive to work and return home. The residents’ local committee notes that the Arab rioters in the area throw stones at all hours, but often from the same points. Therefore, the residents decided to take these positions which control the road, including the hill of Dir Nizam, the hills of ‘Abud and the hills of Dir Abu Mash’al. The committee of Neve Tsuf reported that as long as the feeling of security is not restored to the roads and the region, the activities for the security of the residents will continue, and that they may even consider further action.”

Immediately following the incident, and prior to the meeting between Yade’I and the settlers of Halamish, our attorney, Adv. Rony Pelli, sent a strong letter to the Commander of the Central Command and the Legal Counsel of AYOSH. She wrote, inter alia:

“The expected dangers from such an act ought not to be discounted. This announcement of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council indicates an explicit intent to carry out violent offenses by the residents of the Neve Tsuf settlement on the roads near the settlement, contrary to law.”

Regarding our latest report about the civilian security coordinators, Pelli further noted that ” the privatization of law enforcement is taking another step forward. Not only Civilian Security Coordinators, but every resident of the settlement now considers themselves in charge of law and order enforcement.”

We were not yet aware of Yade’I's comments at the time Pelli’s comments were made . The IDF responded to her letter by writing that, “The IDF is using all the tools at its disposal, as required, in order to protect all the residents of the area, Palestinians and Israelis alike,” and that “along to speaking with the residents of the settlement, IDF forces carry out, together with the Israeli Police, actions to prevent this phenomenon.” According to the army, this includes “interrogating the participants in incidents where suspicion of law breaking arises.”

But the story doesn’t end here. At that very same event where Yade’I took pride in the fact that his forces shot about 25 people without due cause, sat a woman named Yael. Yael is described as a resident of the settlement for the past 31 years. According to the article, she says that the settlers, “learned in the past that only when they take matters into their own hands, is there some quiet for a long time. There was stone throwings – heaters were blown up in the village. There was stone throwing – some of their windows were broken. No one harmed anyone physically, everyone made certain only property was damaged. I believe in collective punishment and it’s a fact that following that we had six months of quiet.”

According to Yael, the residents asked her to relay a message that they do not want the IDF interfering with their activities. “You do your job, if you think you know how to do it, go for it. Don’t disturb us, we want to do our job and we know how to do our job. We think of every trip twice and think of scenarios – what happens if they throw stones or a Molotov cocktail, which kid do I pull out of the car first. Let us do our job. There will be some mess, so what?”

Yael, in other words, supports sowing fear among the Palestinian population, and even admits that she knows of these activities against “the village.” She demands that General Yade’I step aside and let her and her people act as they did in the past – harming the property of innocents in order to “get some quiet.”

And what does an IDF general do when he finds himself in the presence of an Israeli civilian who openly proclaims that she intends to harm the property of protected persons? Naturally, he does not detain her. Nor does he think of complaining to the police and turning over the information he received. Law? Justice? Yade’I isn’t there as senior law enforcement officer – he is there to present a report to people who can make his life very difficult.

So, again, a reminder: the duty of the IDF is to defend protected persons and their property. And now an IDF general tells us that he gave an order to increase the level of violence against them, which looks suspiciously like a peace offering to the settlers. This behavior isn’t new or unusual; our Road to Dispossession Report already noted that the army does not understand its duty to protect Palestinians. And the many incidents of “standing aside,” which means IDF soldiers do not stop settlers from attacking Palestinians (Hebrew) and sometimes even aiding them, is simply a manifestation of the IDF not understanding its legal functions.

The IDF claims, time and again, that it does not “choose its missions” – a claim that especially suits the army when faced with the argument that its very activity in the West Bank is political (this claim is often used against conscientious objectors). But General Yade’I shows us precisely how the IDF does choose its missions: it chooses not to use its legal authority against Jewish rioters, even when they are on the brink of rebellion, and it uses violence against Palestinians even when, by its own admission, it is unnecessary.

The IDF pretends to maintain the law in the West Bank; time and again, it uses the expression “illegal demonstration” or “disturbing the peace.” Listen to Yade’i: this is how the AYOSH Division Commander views the law – this is what he views as order.

This is what the IDF protects, but it has nothing to do with maintaining the law.

Four years, one dead Palestinian and a closed investigation

What does the investigation of the killing of a Palestinian by the MPCID look like? An utter waste of time.10935738_10152689554319001_246212021_o

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

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

In order to view the depth of the MPCID’s negligence, we shall cover the events in chronological order, as seen from the files of our attorney, Adv. Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man, with the brisk aid of Adv. Osnat Barthor.

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

May 8, 2009 – The father of the deceased, Nasser Badwan Dan’a, gives a statement to Hebron DCO. He complains that the authorities needed a long time to reach him. He describes his son’s death as murder, and provided the investigator with the following items:

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

B. A death certificate.

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

D. A still photo showing two Border Policemen (BP) pointing their weapons at the demonstration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 10, 2012 – Almost three years since the shooting incident, and a year after the first phone call, the MPCID manages to interrogate Barak under warning. Note that since three years have passed, and since a soldier can only be indicted one year after discharge, and since mandatory service lasts three years, the odds that MPCID has the ability to indict Barak (except under highly unusual circumstances) are rather small. Assuming Barak was a suspect, he had (1) a year to get his story straight and (2) a clear understanding he was in no real danger. Barak tells the investigators he is certain that no one fired live bullets, and that the squad he was with had only non-lethal rounds in their magazines.

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

And frankly, I believe him. Neither would I.

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

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

Wait, what?

As noted earlier, Dan’a's father gave these exact documents to an investigator at the Hebron DCO on May, 18, 2009 18.5.09 – almost three years earlier. Either the MPCID was unaware of that or it managed to lose the documents. This, admittedly, would no longer surprise me.

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

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

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

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

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