365 Days a Year, deprived of rights

10846337_977036088992393_8860378040633181090_nWe appealed to the HCJ, demanding the removal of the Adei Ad outpost, whose very existence causes severe harm to its neighbours’ rights

Last Wednesday, December 10th, was the International Human Rights Day, and no day was more fitting for submitting a petition to the High Court of Justice. Alongside the council chiefs of the West Bank villages Jalud, Al Mughayer and Turmusaya, Yesh Din demanded on Tuesday the removal of the illegal outpost Adei Ad, which was the focus of our 2013 report, The Road to Dispossession.

Generally when we demand the removal of an outpost, we rely on planning and zoning laws. Those very laws are indeed relevant in the case of Adei Ad: every structure in the outpost was illegally constructed, and there is a demolition order against each of them – orders that the Commanding General, Central Command and the Civil Administration choose time and again not to enforce. But in the case of Adei Ad, our claim goes even deeper: the problem with the outpost is not merely the fact that it violates planning laws, but rather that the very existence of the outpost necessarily leads to human rights violations against the residents of the neighbouring villages.

To quote our petition:

“The illegality of the outpost and its structures isn’t just an offense against the principle of the rule of law and the principle of rightful government action – but its very existence, and the need to provide protection to its residents, necessarily lead to irreparable harm to the quality of life of the petitioners, and to their ability to exercise their enshrined basic rights. As a direct result, the existence of the outpost leads to conflict, to expressions of violence, to vandalism and to the enlargement of land expropriation, as the petitioners are not present to oversee and protect their private property.”

The outpost of Adei Ad sits on land belonging to the villages of Jalud, Al Mughayer, Qaryut and Turmusaya. Twenty-six percent of the constructed area of the outpost sits atop private Palestinian land, while the rest was built on “public land” allotted by the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization (Hebrew). The Palestinian agricultural land around the outpost is classified as private and unregistered.. As a direct result of the building of the outpost, residents of the four villages have systematically lost access to their land and found themselves victims of violence by Israeli civilians. Between 1998 and 2012 we managed to document 96 criminal incidents around the outpost. It is important to note that these are not all the criminal incidents that took place near the outpost, but merely those we managed to document (the actual number must be assumed to be significantly higher). Most of the incidents consisted of theft or vandalism, although 22 percent included physical assault or threats by use of a weapon. The Samaria and Judea Police Department (SJPD), as usual, proved incompetent: of the 56 cases in Yesh Din documented a complaint filed with the police, 46 – 80 percent – were closed due to the failure of the police investigation. We must further note that since April 2013, when our report was published, Yesh Din investigators documented 13 more incidents around Adei Ad, one of which included violence.

The violence surrounding Adei Ad has a clear, ideological reason: to strike fear in the heart of the Palestinians and dispossess them of their land. Israeli civilians have taken over this land rapidly: in 1998 the size of the outpost was 15,554 square meters; in 2010 it ballooned into 465,331 square meters, growing some 30 times in size. At the time our report was published, 26 families lived in Adei Ad.

Due to the presence of these 26 families, the situation of the villages whose land was taken over by Adei Ad has deteriorated greatly. The fear of working your land with the knowledge that you may be attacked by outlaws, that no one will protect you and that the area’s ruler will turn a blind eye, leads Palestinians to abandon their villages. While we do not have data on Al Mughayer and Turmusaya, we do know that 6,000 people have already left Qaryut, leaving only 2,800 residents. Of the 1,000 residents of Jalud, 400 have abandoned the village.

The very presence of Adei Ad harms the right of the Palestinians to their property with the support of the authorities (these are mostly agrarian communities who make their livelihood off of the land). As soon as the outpost was built, the army hastened to declare areas around it as closed off to Palestinians. Sometimes these took the form of undocumented, oral orders (which cannot be appealed), while other times these were official orders. But when the rights of the Palestinians to the land collided with the lack of rights of the squatters, the army stood (and continues to stand) by the latter time and time again. This harms not just the right of the Palestinians to their land, located in Area C and under full Israeli military and civil control, but also their right to freedom of movement and right to work.

And all this so that 26 families can lord over a territory of 465,321 square meters (not including a much larger region around the outpost, where Palestinians are routinely denied entry). The economic existence of four villages is endangered – leaving their residents defenseless in the face of ideological violence – in the name of 26 families of the chosen people, who are sentenced in one justice system while their neighbours are sentenced in another.

Yet Adei Ad is but one outpost. There are about 100 of them, and a 100 more proper settlements. The story of Adei Ad is important, and the petition for its removal is essential, as the outpost is a microcosm mirroring the macrocosm: it shines a light on the status of millions of Palestinians whose human rights are violated daily, both by Israeli civilians who break the law with impunity, as well as the authorities who protect those very criminals. Authorities who supply the outposts with their very livelihood, employ violence against the Palestinians on behalf of the outpost residents and deny Palestinians their right to demonstrate – all while glossing over this whole massive violation of rights under the pretense that they are defending themselves against “disorder.”

And what is this very order whose disruption the authorities fear so much? The order is ‘Adei ‘Ad: the systematic overtaking of land while terrorizing the residents in order to drive them to despair over their inability to maintain their property, their rights, their honor. Our Minister of the Economy calls it “the tranquilizing plan,” whose stated goal is the annexation of Area C. Twenty years earlier Rechavam Zeevi called it “the quiet population transfer,” which sought to make the lives of the Palestinians so unbearable to the point that they simply leave. In Qaryut and Jalud, the system has already proven itself.

The removal of Adei Ad, a bleeding boil, will not end the occupation. There are, as previously mentioned, many outposts and settlements. It will, however, make a statement: it will say that a quiet, tenacious, non-violent struggle has a chance. It will state that in the end, people can reclaim their rights. It will declare that sometimes committing a crime carries a price. One can barely conceive of a greater gift in honor of International Human Rights Day. Here is a test for the court the calls itself the High Court of Justice. Will it pass?

Read the full petition (Hebrew)

Everyone did as they saw fit

YD_04.11 (1) englishPolice investigation failure increases in ideological offenses against Palestinians despite new Nationalistic Crimes Unit in the Samaria & Judea District Police – many such crimes hit Palestinians at home

Imagine the following scenario: you’re in your courtyard, when a gang shows up, insulting you in what is supposed to be your safest place, beating in you in the presence of your children, stealing or destroying your belongings. Picking yourself up, you know there’s no point in calling the police – because in the vast majority of cases, the police won’t catch the offenders. Oh, by the way – the criminals are from a different ethnic group.

Do you think you could live this way? Because this is how many Palestinians in the West Bank have to live. We have just published our annual data sheet on law enforcement – or rather the lack of law enforcement – in the West Bank.

If you are a Palestinian and you’ve been attacked or otherwise harmed by Israeli civilians in the West Bank, there is little to no chance the police will solve the case. Yesh Din has been monitoring the police investigation cases of complaints filed by Palestinians against Israeli civilians since 2005. The unambiguous data show that of 1,045 cases we are monitoring, the police concluded its investigation of 970 cases. 72 indictments were made (about 7.4% of the cases), and the police managed to lose 11 file cases. 884 cases were concluded due to police investigation failure.

593 cases were closed as “perpetrator unknown”, meaning the police failed to identify a suspect. 195 cases were concluded because of “lack of sufficient evidence”, i.e. the police managed to suggest a suspect but lacked the evidence to indict the suspect. 76 cases were closed on the grounds of “absence of criminal culpability” – that is, police claims that no crime was committed; we appealed 25 of these cases, since the investigation was unfinished or we believed there was enough evidence for an indictment. Finally, 12 cases were closed due to “lack of public interest”.

In two cases, the police concluded the perpetrator could not be indicted, probably due to age (minors); and one case was closed because it fell under the jurisdiction of another agency. The police’s general failure rate in 2005-2014 is 85.2%. Ironically, it was in the two years (2013-2014) in which the Nationalist Crime Department was active that the rate of police failure actually rose to 89.6%. The police tells us it invests many more assets and efforts in fighting nationalist-based crimes; so far, it fails to demonstrate results.

And why do I speak of “people breaking into your courtyard”? Because settlers enter private Palestinian property in the West Bank time and again. In our files from 2013-2014 we emphasized the setting of the crimes. It turns out that 28.3% of the recorded incidents took place within Palestinian villages and towns. Most of the incidents still take place in the countryside near the villages – territories which are to be dispossessed – but more than a quarter of the incidents are invasions of towns and villages, places where the settlers have no reason to visit, uninvited.

And the Israeli police, including the new and much ballyhooed Nationalist Crime Department, doesn’t know – or, perhaps, knows but is unwilling – how to deal with Israelis who commit nationalist crimes. This failure is anything but new: back in 1982 the Karp Report warned that Palestinian residents in the West Bank do not trust the Israeli justice system, and that in many cases they avoid complaining to the police since it is pointless. The Karp Report further found that law enforcement in the West Bank failed – and was the first government report to note this failure.

This is Israeli law and order. This is how it has been maintained for over 30 years: an order of rulers and ruled, with a thin legal coating of “laws of occupation” which allows us to say all is well, since it is temporary. For the past 47 years.

Read the full data sheet

Map of locations of offenses against Palestinians in the West Bank

Though the HCJ has ruled, fear rules

furiqDespite the HCJ’s ruling permitting the farmers of Beit Furik to access their lands, farmers avoid doing so, fearing harm by Israeli civilians

In a letter sent at the end of September, our attorneys Roni Pelli and Michael Sfard warned the Legal Advisor of Judea and Samaria, Col. Doron Ben Barak, that the IDF forces continue to evade their obligation to protect farmers in the village of Beit Furik and the area. The letter, sent several days before the olive harvest began, demanded the IDF adequately protect the villagers during the harvest.

As it is the occupying force in the West Bank, and as the Palestinian residents are protected civilians according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the IDF has a clear duty to protect them.  In the case of Rasher Murad, Supreme Court Justice Beinisch wrote:

“There is, therefore, no doubt that the respondents must employ all measures at their disposal to protect the Palestinian farmers who come to work their land. They must also protect the appellants’ property rights and ensure they are not subjected to harm. Although this Court cannot determine the scope of forces or the operational actions necessary for such missions, we do have the right to say that protecting the security and property of the local residents is one of the most basic duties of the military commander in situ.”

And yet, the IDF fails this basic duty time and again. In 2011, we appealed to the HCJ on behalf of the Beit Furik village council, demanding the IDF protect the farmers when they access their land. The Court ruled that the farmers must be allowed to access the majority of their land without hindrance all year round, with an exception of a narrow strip, circling what is termed the “Gideons’ Outposts.” Access to this strip is allowed all year round, subject to coordination with the IDF forces. This agreement was granted the status of a ruling.

However, at a meeting held by Yesh Din representatives with residents of Beit Furik at the end of September, we learned that many residents are afraid to access and work on their land, due to threats and previous cases of violence in the area.

Residents who coordinate with the IDF in order to access their land complained that they still encounter violent attacks by Israeli civilians. Israeli citizens also steal the farmers’ harvest and damage their trees. Coordinating with the IDF takes time, and even when the Israeli civilians have not harvested all of the village’s trees, the villagers are only permitted to access their lands for two days to harvest their olives between 7 am and 1 pm. Furthermore, the forces providing security for the farmers are insufficient in number, and farmers working on plots far from security forces are attacked by Israeli civilians despite the army’s alleged protection.

Furthermore, many farmers who are entitled to reach their land without coordination do not dare to venture out. Several farmers reported assaults and threats by Israeli civilians, as well as recurring theft of fruit and farming equipment. As a result, threats, property crimes and violent crimes committed by Israeli civilians, which the IDF fails to prevent or perhaps is not trying to, are causing the residents of Beit Furik to abandon their lands. In several instances, the farmers do not even know what the state of their land is; untended crops, as a rule, wither away.

Two years after the HCJ’s ruling on the right of the farmers of Beit Furik to return to their lands, from which they were unlawfully expelled, the IDF – the sovereign in the West Bank – is failing to adequately protect the land owners. As described in Yesh Din’s report, The Road to Dispossession, this is no accident – it’s policy.

Horse Stealing Together

maachaz_4A further aspect of the symbiotic relationship between the army and the security coordinators is that the army uses the coordinators to promote de facto recognition of the unauthorized outposts

Our first post about our report The Lawless Zone focused on the unclear relationship through which Israel effectively privatizes powers in the field of defense, law enforcement, and policing and transfers these to settlers. The security coordinators are residents of the settlements who receive quasi-military powers. Although they are not formally empowered to issue commands to soldiers, in practice they do so, and in many cases they exploit their powers in order to expand the territory of the settlement.

This is the main problem created by the institution of the security coordinators, and accordingly our key recommendation is that the army should reassume these powers and appoint security coordinators who are officers in the permanent army and accountable solely to the army and not to the settlements. There is another problem, however, and it is one that highlights the symbiotic relationship between the army and the settlers.

In the mid-1990s, the Israeli government decided not to establish new settlements unless these were approved by the entire government. Since then, the phenomenon of the “outposts” has developed. An outpost is an act of seizure that is ostensibly private and unauthorized, but enjoys the de facto support of the authorities, including generous support from government sources. This tool is used by settlers to seize Palestinian or public land. This process was described in exhausting detail both in the report prepared by Attorney Talia Sasson and in our report The Road to Dispossession. In recent years the emphasis has been on expanding and approving existing outposts, rather than on establishing new ones.

None of this could have happened without extensive assistance from the army. In one instance, the outpost of Netzach Binyamin was torched by Palestinians. The army did not provide protection and accordingly the Israeli civilians fled. In the case involving the land seizure orders in Dura al-Qara, the army concealed the existence of the orders from the Palestinian residents to prevent their appealing, exposing a very long-standing pattern of collaboration between the army and the settlers. Our latest report has identified a new dimension of this collaboration.

In 2009, the district brigades redefined the guarding areas for which the security coordinators are responsible. The changes were made after many years when the coordinators effectively worked without any geographical restriction, since the guard order defining their operations did not specify the boundaries of the settlements. Following a petition submitted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the army took no less than four years to prepare the amendment.

The amendment led to two changes. Firstly, the guarding area of the settlement was defined not according to its municipal boundaries, but according to the defense perception of the brigade commander. More importantly, the orders for the first time defined guarding areas for illegal outposts: 48 such outposts were allocated independent guarding areas, while 35 more were included in the guarding area of their parent settlement.

This provision constitutes the de facto approval of the outposts by the IDF – and this in an administrative process that was supposed to restrict the security coordinators’ operations.

This process happened quietly, without a government decision, without public discussion, and without updating the courts, which are still hearing the issue. An ostensibly technical military order bypassed all these stages, granting official recognition to a criminal offense.

This post is presented as a public service, in case you still believe in the fairy tale about the wild settler and the army that does not pick and choose its operations. The army very much picks and chooses its operations; it has always done so.

Read the full report

Watch the short video “Meir the Civilian Security Coordinator in the lawless zone”, for more information on the subject.

Abandoning Responsibility

ravshatz_toys2The IDF grants powers to the civilian security coordinators in the settlements and outposts, but fails to ensure that they are subject to army discipline and to the law. In essence, the army has privatized law enforcement 

The privatization of the use of force and its transfer to private bodies should be a source of concern to us all. Such a process – and particularly when the powers are transferred to a body with a clear political agenda – creates uncontrolled militias. This is the process that has occurred in the West Bank due to the army’s policy of delegating some of its law enforcement powers to the civilian security coordinators, as discussed in our new report “The lawless zone”.

The institution of the civilian security coordinator in itself is not new and forms part of a spatial defense approach that predates the establishment of the State of Israel. This function was formalized in the Local Authorities Law (Arrangement of Guarding), 5721-1961. However, the law established that the security coordinators and guards were to be accountable to the police or the army. The situation in the West Bank, where this mechanism was introduced by a military order in 1971, is more complex.

The security coordinators and the guards accountable to them enjoy quasi-military powers, such as the power to detain or search a suspect, and to arrest him if he resists. Despite this, the supervision of their actions is remarkably vague. In official terms, security coordinators derive their powers from appointment by the OC Central Command. In practice, however, they are appointed by the settlements in which they work. In official terms, security coordinators are accountable to the army, which grants them powers and provides training programs, and to military law. In practice, there is not even a single documented instance in which a security coordinator has been prosecuted for deviating from his authority, despite the fact that our report itemizes a number of documented violations. In official terms, the security coordinator receives instructions from the army brigade; but he receives his salary from the settlement where he operates. The security coordinator is not an employee of the Ministry of Defense and coordinators who have filed suits for compensation against the ministry have been unsuccessful for this reason.

While we were preparing the report, the IDF Spokesperson was forced to admit that there is no document establishing procedures for the supervision and assessment of security coordinators, along the lines of the procedures relating to army officers, for example. The Spokesperson also confirmed that it has no information about disciplinary proceedings against coordinators or against members of their guarding units. Yet according to an Operations Division order, the security coordinator bears a “responsibility to soldiers undertaking a guarding function in the area, including briefing them on their arrival, monitoring the execution of their task, and attending to their welfare.” It is also worth noting that then-Deputy State Attorney Shai Nitzan stated in an official letter that commander-commandee relations do not pertain between the security coordinators and the soldiers. This claim is contradicted by the experience of many soldiers who have reported just such relations.

The transfer of military powers to civilians is particularly serious when it takes place to a group of civilians with a distinct ideological viewpoint who are motivated by an aspiration to seize additional Palestinian land and who refuse to recognize Palestinian land rights in the West Bank. The transfer of quasi-military powers to an ideological group, some of whom do not recognize the State of Israel and some of whose leaders have called for the elimination of the democratic regime, can only be seen as the waiver by the army of its authority to exercise power. Or in other words – privatization.

Been there – done that. When the Ministry of Finance attempted to privatize Israel’s prisons and build the first prison to be managed by a private company, the Supreme Court struck out the law. Justice Ayala Procaccia explained that such privatization creates the clear potential for the violation of human rights: “The private body that receives a governmental authority carrying the potential to violate the core of individual rights is not rooted in the framework of rules of action and criteria that dictate the standards of use of the institution power of authority and guide the actions of the organs of state. It did not grow up and was not educated in this framework; it is alien to its concepts, and it has never internalized the theory of balances in the use of governmental power.” Anyone seeking a practical example of all these defects need look no further than the security coordinators. By the way, we should note that the state is currently attempting to privatize another arm of the law enforcement system, namely the prosecution: it is proposing to employ attorneys from the private sector as prosecutors who will decide whether or not to serve indictments. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has asked the attorney general to halt this further attempt at privatization: responsibility for the penal process must remain entirely in the hands of the state.

To sum up: When the state – and remember that in the West Bank, the Israeli army acts as the sovereign – transfers any of its powers to use force to private individuals who are accountable not to the army but to their settlement, it damages its own standing, the ability to enforce the law, and above all – the occupied population whose person and property it is obliged to protect. Accordingly, our report urges the army to correct this flaw and to appoint security coordinators who are not settlers but officers in the standing army; and to ensure that they are accountable to the army and not to the settlements. In a nutshell: the army should take back its monopoly on the use of force.

Read the full report

Watch the short video “Meir the Civilian Security Coordinator in the lawless zone”, for more information on the subject.

A Constant Conflict of Interest

The status of the civilian security coordinators in the West Bank constitutes a glaring anomaly. Under the guise of protecting security and enforcing the law, this institution encourages lawlessness. The army must reassume the powers it granted to the coordinators

Yesh Din has just published our latest report, The Lawless Zone, which examines the institution of the civilian security coordinators and its negative impact on the conduct of the IDF and the settlers in the West Bank.

What is a security coordinator – or a civilian security coordinator, to use the full title? A security coordinator is a civilian, in most cases a resident of a settlement, who enjoys extensive powers in and around the settlement. The security coordinator receives his salary from the Ministry of Defense and receives instructions from the army’s district defense officers. But although the coordinators are formally subject to army orders, in practice they are accountable to the settlements. The settlement is responsible for appointing the coordinator, and in some cases even issues a tender for this purpose. The State Comptroller has recognized that this dual accountability is problematic, as has the IDF. The army informed the Comptroller that “in most instances the security coordinator chooses to act in accordance with the interest of the community (the employer), since it is apparent to him that a conflict with the employer may lead to his dismissal.”

Although the security coordinator is a civilian, he holds quasi-military powers in several fields of law enforcement. The security coordinators and their standby units are empowered to detain a suspect (based on their decision that a person is a suspect) and to demand that he accompany them to a police station, or to detain him pending the arrival of a police officer. They are entitled to search the detainee, to confiscate objects which they believe have been or may be used to commit an offense, and if the detained person refuses to accompany them or to be detained, they may also arrest him. The authority to arrest a person is accompanied by the power to use force. These powers are broader, for example, than those granted to guards in Israel, who do not enjoy the power of arrest. Conversely, security coordinators and their guards do not wear identification tags, uniform, or any other distinctive dress (the state attorney has promised that this matter will be corrected, but the relevant regulations have not been amended).

The fact that the security coordinator is a resident of the settlement is the most problematic aspect of the position. The security coordinator is committed to the settlement ethos, which is one of the seizure of Palestinian land. He exploits the powers granted to him in order to remove Palestinians from the vicinity of the settlement or outposts for which he is responsible. The character of the security coordinator has become one that inspires fear among Palestinians who often find themselves the targets of “legitimate” violence designed to remove them from their land. The security coordinators frequently draw on the army to this  end, escalating minor incidents with Palestinians in order to secure military intervention that eventually leads to the removal of Palestinians from land on the grounds that they pose a threat to security. In many of these cases, the Palestinians are standing on their own land when this occurs.

Thus the power originally granted with the goal of encouraging law enforcement and security is often used in practice by the security coordinators as an instrument for expanding the area of the settlement or outpost and for breaking the law. The journalist Chaim Bar Zohar sparked a scandal when he described his own reserve duty service in the “Binyamin” area of the West Bank. Among other incidents, he retold how the settlement security personnel demanded that he escort elderly Palestinian women away from their land, and were furious when he failed to do so, commenting that soldiers performing their national service had always obeyed such instructions. The security coordinators are officially responsible for law enforcement; in practice, they are one of the elements that break the law.

As we can see, therefore, there is an inherent conflict of interest in the function of the security coordinator as it is implemented in the field. A person who is supposed to be responsible on behalf of the defenses system for the security of what is perceived as a peripheral community acts in practice not only to protect the security of the settlement, but also to expand its borders – a process that will almost inevitably lead to conflict between the coordinator (and the settlement) and the Palestinians deprived of their land. The army’s objective is to reduce friction with the occupied population. Under international law, it bears an obligation to defend the protected civilians and their property and to maintain public order. The actions of the security coordinators, however, almost inevitably heighten friction, disturb public order, and harm the protected civilians, due to the expansionist aspirations of the settlement, which is the coordinator’s employer. Thus their activities do not promote security, and it can even be argued that the opposite is the case. As for law enforcement, of course – no more need be said.

Our principal conclusion in the report is that the residents of the settlements appointed as security coordinators should be replaced by professional IDF officers. These officers must be accountable solely to the army and not to the settlement. The settlement will not serve as their employer, and the hope is that they will not share the ethos that seeks to displace Palestinians from their land. Perhaps it is not too much to hope that they may be committed to enforcing the law.

Read the full report

Once more: It ain’t about the graffiti

YG_0309_enAnother incident of nationalist crime takes place in the village of Yasuf, but the media only paid attention to the unimportant part: the graffiti

Atallah Yassin Muhammad Gouda lives in the village of Yasuf, which has known quite a few attacks by Jewish felons; perhaps the most notorious being the torching of its mosque in 2009, which introduced the phenomenon of the price tag attacks into Israeli consciousness. Gouda lives in a neighborhood that is adjacent to the outpost Tapuach Maarav, and according to the testimonies of its residents, they suffer from frequent attacks by Israeli civilians. The residents attribute the burning of several vehicles, as well as stone attacks on the houses in the neighborhood to their Israeli neighbors.

At the beginning of August, Gouda was woken by noise, and when he hurried to see what happened, he saw the family car, which was in the courtyard, on fire. He alerted the rest of the household, and together, they managed to prevent the fire from spreading to the house, which was only two meters away from the vehicle. After dousing out the flames, which had caused severe damage – estimated at several thousand NIS – to the car, they discovered there also a gasoline can and several rags soaked in gasoline. The police was called and arrived at the scene, collecting evidence and taking fingerprints. Given the record of the SJPD, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for an indictment.

The torching of the car caused the family significant damage: not only would they have to pay for fixing it, but as the only provider, the father, is a taxi driver, and as the car (bought 18 months ago) was his work vehicle, there would also be time in which they would have no income.

So, the attack by the unknown felons achieved three goals: significant damage to the car, and damaging the Gouda family income. The third goal is the wider goal of settler violence: spreading fear and despair among the Palestinian residents, in an attempt to convince them by violent methods to abandon their lands, so that Israeli civilians can take them over. A fourth, collateral, goal – the spreading of the fire to the house and its sleeping residents – was not achieved. We note this isn’t the first time that Israeli civilians are suspected of torching a vehicle in dangerous proximity to a house, as its residents are sleeping.

And, oh, yes: there was also some graffiti. When the bedlam ended, after the fire was extinguished, and the smoke and panic settled, the residents found that someone had sprayed the wall of the house with a “price tag” graffiti. Anyone following the issue through the Israeli press, might have mistakenly concluded that the graffiti is the main issue. Here is a Ynet newflash (Hebrew): “A price tag slogan was sprayed on a house in the Palestinian village of Yasif (error in the original – Yesh Din). A Palestinian vehicle nearby was set ablaze.” And then you have Mako (Hebrew):”The residents of the Palestinian village of Yasuf in Shomron woke up this morning to a new-old troubling sight – slogans sprayed on the walls of a house and significant damage caused to a vehicle.”

Which is weird. Every journalist learns that you open your piece with the most important part, and go on to the less important. In any reasonable measure, the setting of a vehicle on fire – especially one which is close to a house – is significantly more serious than any graffiti daubed on a nearby wall. The slogan cannot kill anyone or destroy anything: a few brushes of paint, and it is gone. So why is the media obsessed with the graffiti?

Because to a certain extent, the media has swallowed the myth spread by the settlers: that their crimes are not severe, it’s merely spray paint. Nothing to write home about. When the Israeli media puts the slogans in the spotlight, it puts the fire in the background. But as we’ve already shown, the great majority of nationalist crimes in the West Bank does not include slogans – and when these are present, there is a clear correlation between them and cases of arson. That is, the slogans accompany arson, and not vice versa. And arson is the spreading terror per excellence.

It’s time we remembered that.

Only the common people must obey

10602923_906293642733305_1767460987_nThe court puts an end to the ongoing disgrace of the illegal construction of the Mod’iin Illit Municipality, which built even its municipal comptroller office on private Palestinian land

“‘Yes,’ agreed Ferdinand, ‘It truly is so,’

But the order is not valid in the palace.

Only the common people must obey it.

In the palace, you may speak properly.’”

It is with these words from the Hebrew classic “The Life and Times of Ferdinand Pedhazur etc.” by Ephraim Sidon, pallidly translated by yours truly, that we opened the petition we served four years ago against a series of authorities – the municipality of settlement Mod’iin Illit, the Union of Authorities for Firefighting and Emergency Services in the Region of Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley, the SJPD, the Minister of Defense, the Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank, and the Chief of the Civil Administration. Recently, the High Court of Justice (HCJ) held a hearing in the petition; we demanded the removal of a number of buildings built by the municipality of Modi’in Illit on private Palestinian land, and ordered its removal.

The construction took place in 1999-2000, and even though the Civil Administration was quick to issue demolition orders against the structures – which included some emergency services, but also regular municipality offices, at a later point also including the office of the municipality’s comptroller (!) – it then behaved according to procedure. That is, it left the implementation of the orders to the consideration of the military commander, and assiduously avoided carrying them out.

In other words, the government helped in the stealing the land of private civilians, Palestinian ones, and transferred it in fact, by deed or inaction, to the hands of Israeli authorities. The process is contrary to Israeli law, as well as international law, which says that the occupation authorities are obliged to protect the protected population in the occupied territories, as well as their property.

The authorities, caught red-handed, were quick to blame one another, each blaming the others for preventing the removal of the buildings, in what can only be described as collective contempt for the rule of law. During 2009-2010, we tried to have the buildings removed, and each authority sent us to another. During the HCJ hearing, Judge Uzi Fogelman noted that “instead of removing the disgrace, feet are being dragged.”

During the hearing, the government tried to stick to its usual modus operandi, i.e. a vague promise to remove the structures sometime, while admitting they are illegal but emphasizing that “now” is not the time. This “now” is worth looking into: any connection between it and the normal meaning of time is not only non-existent, it is misleading. The “now” the government refers to is drawn into infinity, it pines towards the setting of suns, it is in tune with the biblical “for a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday,” it echoes the messianic “though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come,” until it merges into the “temporary situation” which is the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, and is gone.

Unfortunately for the government, the representative of the municipality of Modi’in Illit misunderstood its strategy of Longue Duree, intended to postpone the hearing until the next ice age, and dared to say that the main problem is “visibility,” i.e., not what the municipality or the authorities are doing, but how their actions are seen. The judges were quick to admonish him: Judge Rubinstein said that “visibility is not small matter in a public situation,” and Judge Fogelman noted that “we reached the stage when building by the government on private grounds is related to visibility. This is a slippery slope.”

In the end, we managed to save small prey from its hunters: the HCJ ruled that the structures which are not emergency structures are to be evacuated within 60 days, and the rest, after various procedures, within less than a year. And as the court is already familiar with the dramatis personae, it also ruled the government must provide a monthly update on the advancement of the evacuation. We’ll keep you posted.

Looting a child’s piggy bank

YD_7.8IDF troops raided a house in Madameh, and looted one of the children’s piggy bank while they were at it

During Operation Brother’s Keeper, the IDF carried out a large number of raids on Palestinian houses, boasting afterwards that it seized more than a million NIS. However, in some cases the seizure looked more like looting – and, as in the case before us, seizure was accompanied by looting.

What’s the difference? It’s quite simple. Seizure is an official act. The army raids a house, takes property for some cause, and leaves documentation. The person whose property was seized has an address to turn to. It will help him about as much as sacrificing a chicken to the nether gods, since the scandalous Amendment nr. 36 to the Order Regarding Security Provisions rules that military courts in the West Bank do not have the jurisdiction to deal with it; but he could send an official document, and receive an empty reply, and the legalistic façade will remain in place. He will have the right to appeal to the HCJ, which will require hiring an Israeli lawyer and costs which will likely amount to more than the damage he suffered.

Looting is something completely different. Looting is the taking of property without proper authority and without a military need, and of course without the requisite legal documentation, by a soldier or group of soldiers. Looting is a war crime, and recently even the Military Prosecution warned the IDF soldiers that it is so; it is also a felony under the Military Justice Law. The problem is that a seizure can easily serve as cover for an act of looting.

At the end of June, a large group of soldiers burst into the house of the family of Ziadah in the village of Madameh, and carried out a violent search, while causing damage to the house and striking fear and alarm among the children. The goal of the raid, as far as we understand it, was the confiscation of a large sum of money which belongs to the family’s father, for reasons which were not made clear to the residents.

Was this a seizure? No. Seizure may have been the goal, but the actual result was looting: the soldiers did not leave the owner a receipt or any other document which would allow the IDF to pretend any process of returning the property may be held, or even a document showing this is seizure and not looting. The money captured, tens of thousands of NIS, simply vanished.

OK, you’d say, this is uncalled for. The empty and pointless procedure – empty, again, because according to Amendment 36 a Palestinian cannot actually appeal the seizure, except through appealing to the HCJ, which may cost him more than the property seized – was not carried out. There was no official proof that this was an official action. OK, you’d say, this is uncalled for. Next time, we’ll make certain we’d go through the empty gestures properly.

However, the looting which was supposed to be a seizure was accompanied by bona fide looting. One of the witnesses described how one of the soldiers took a piggy bank belonging to one of the children, “round, blue, made of plastic,” and smashed it. The pitiful sum saved by the child – for a bike, perhaps, or a football, or any of those things children save money for – was taken by the soldier, who put it in his pocket.

Here, it would be rather hard to say this money was seized and not looted. This is looting cloaking itself in an official seizure, muddying the water until you can’t tell the two apart; a small and dirty theft, stealing from a child, wrapping itself in the IDF uniform.

It is those who have some expectation of morality of the IDF who ought to be the first to demand an investigation, which should ferret out the thief and expose his infamy. And the great silence which will follow this post will testify to just how empty the rhetoric of the “most moral army in the world” is.

In the beginning of July, we sent a notice, on behalf of the family, to the Operational Affairs Prosecution regarding suspicion of looting by IDF soldiers; one should hope – and demand – that they investigate the incident quickly and efficiently, and lead to the indictment of the looter.

Suspicion of illegal shooting by a soldier at a Yesh Din employee

An IDF soldier opened fire towards Yesh Din investigator, Muneer Qaddus, without any provocation. Yesh Din strongly denounces the shooting. MPCID was notified

At the beginning of August, an IDF soldier opened fire towards Yesh Din investigator, Muneer Qaddus, without Qaddus endangering him in any way, and while he was video documenting the actions of the soldiers. The incident may be viewed in the video below; the shooting takes place at about 01:06.

Qaddus was on the scene to document an incident between IDF soldiers and children from the village of Burin. The children were trying to renovate an abandoned house that belongs to the village, but is very close to the illegal outpost of Givat Ronen. The arrival of the children there is regularly followed by a confrontation with soldiers or Israeli civilians, and Qaddus rushed to the scene. From a nearby hill, he documented the clash between the soldiers and the children; the soldiers were standing on the hill, the children below it. The children were throwing stones at the soldiers and burning thorns, while the soldiers were firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at them.

And then, as you can see in the video, one of the three soldiers turns rightwards about ten meters, turns his weapon directly towards Qaddus, and fires several shots. This, again, is despite the fact that Qaddus posed no danger or threat to the soldiers – and despite the fact that such a shooting is against the IDF’s rules of engagement.

The use of a deadly weapon for the purpose of deterring a person carrying out a rightful action, without any warning, is a violation of the law. When it is carried out by a soldier against a person documenting the actions of the military – note that we have no reason to believe the soldier knew he was shooting at a human rights organization employee – one must also ask what is it the military wants to hide. We further note that the soldiers did not arrest or detain anyone, which strengthens the claim that there was no proper cause for live fire – or for any sort of fire.

We should also remind you that the IDF has a history of harassing photographers, including firing a rubber-coated bullet at the spokeswoman of B’Tselem, Sarit Michaeli, as she was documenting a demonstration.

Yesh Din strongly denounces the attack on Muneer Qaddus, and we have notified MPCID in his name. We note that this isn’t the first time Qaddus is attacked in the line of duty: five months ago, he was attacked by Israeli civilians.