Meet F., He lives in a village in the Ramallah and Al Bireh District, which unfortunately for its residents borders several settlements and outposts. As a result, the residents have virtually lost all access to their land, as they have to coordinate such access with the military; twice a year, they are permitted access for several days. The settlers, naturally, don’t have to coordinate anything whatsoever and have access to the same land whenever they want it. F. estimates that each year, about 80% of his olives are stolen before he even manages to come and harvest them.
This year, F. went along with a few family members to the olive harvest, and when he reached his land he noticed several IDF soldiers. The soldiers were leaving the property, however; half an hour later three Israeli civilians, one of them armed with a rifle, showed up. They demanded that F. evacuate his land, and when he refused, the gunman pointed the rifle at him and started threatening him; F. refused to obey, and shouted for the soldier’s help.
A brawl erupted, three Israelis vs. a single Palestinian. The gunman beat F. up with his rifle. During the brawl, F. – armed with a saw – did what he could to defend himself, and as a result one of the settlers was slightly wounded. Lo and behold: as soon as he was wounded, the soldiers arrived and stopped the brawl. To their credit, the soldiers prevented the Israelis from continuing their assault on F.
Half an hour later, the police arrived at the scene. A policewoman took the statements of the Israelis, and a policeman took F.’s statement. Nobody bothered taking the statements of F.’s relatives, who were nearby and had witnessed the attack. The soldiers were divided: one claimed that F. attacked the Israelis, another soldier supported him and said he had been attacked. At the end, F. was taken to the police station for interrogation, as was one of the Israelis; the other two Israelis, the gunman among them, were discharged immediately.
At the police station, F. underwent what he described as a hostile interrogation, during which he was treated as the attacker. Let us repeat the facts: F. was on his land, during harvest time, in one of the only days the army allows him to reach his land. Did the police take the claim seriously that he attacked three Israelis (what were they doing there, anyway?), one of whom was armed with a rifle?
But there’s one little detail that tells us all we need to know. As mentioned above, F. and one of the Israelis were both taken to the police station. When their interrogation was over, the police drove the Israeli home; they left F. on the road, to find his own way home.
It’s a minor, unimportant detail, not related directly to the investigation – but ity tells us clearly who is seen by the police as the public it serves and who is at best a nuisance. F., when he finally made it home, did not expect his complaint to have any effect; the next time he is attacked, he may not bother to make a complaint. The time after that, he may realize what he is expected to do, despair of maintaining his land and move elsewhere. After all, in a place where the police only interrogates one of your attackers, refrains from confiscating the weapon used to attack you, and then drives your attacker home while ditching you on the road – what’s the point of expecting justice? And without the assurance that there is someone who will prevent injustice – be it theftת arson or assault – what point is there in tilling the land?
And that’s how it works.