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Giving up on the system: Leading Israeli human rights groups reject army request to file investigations on crimes in Gaza

Israel/Palestine
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Israel’s leading human rights groups will no longer provide information on solider misconduct to army investigators. After years of delayed military investigations for two Israeli wars in Gaza, the last without any army abuse convictions, the Israeli legal rights group Yesh Din and the human rights organization B’Tselem said, “the military law enforcement system is a complete failure” and is “incapable of conducting professional investigations.”

In the past B’Tselem and Yesh Din submitted evaluations of “irregular” army practices to internal investigations. When an army official requested reports of illegal conduct in Gaza after the 50-day offensive Operation Protective Edge, the human rights organizations announced they will no longer submit claims to the military. “Initial investigation indicates that some 40% of Palestinians killed in the operation were minors, women, and people over the age of 60,” responded B’Tselem to Lt. Col. Ronen Hirsch in a letter, “This reality is, in part, the direct result of directives given to the military, some of which raise grave suspicion of unlawfulness,” the letter continued.

Over the past few years of thousands of suspected army violations, only a handful of convictions have been handed down to low-ranking soldiers. Yesh Din research found before 2008 only 2.2 percent of army investigations led to indictments. Three wars later that number has dropped in half to only 1.4 percent.

In the aftermath of Cast Lead in 2008-09, which killed over 1,500 Palestinians in three weeks, there were 400 incidents noted for possible misconduct, only 62 cases were investigated, of which a mere three indictments issued. “The harshest sentence,” of seven and a half months prison, said B’Tselem, “was given to a soldier who stole a credit card.” No criminal investigations have opened against the army after Operation Pillar of Cloud in 2012.

Perhaps the most notable crime during Cast Lead was the use of white phosphorus on a United Nations school that caused indiscriminate death and burns on Palestinian civilians taking shelter. However, Israeli law prohibits the investigation and prosecution of war crimes. There is no internal system to censure those who ordered the attack on the civilian infrastructure. And, since the second Intifada, no officers have ever been convicted of wrongdoing.

Moreover, the army unit responsible for conducting investigations is the same unit that provides legal assistance in advance of military operations.

“Common sense has it that a body cannot investigate itself,” said Executive Director of B’Tselem Hagai El-Ad, “Yet, again, the military will be investigating its own conduct in Operation Protective Edge; again, these investigations will not be supervised by anyone outside the military,” continued El-Ad.

“Every year, we caution against the sorry state of the investigation system,” said Yesh Din’s Executive Director Neta Patrick. Those recommendations to army investigators include basic steps such as the presence of a fluent Arabic speaker and launching timely investigations. Of the cases of on-going army investigations independently reviewed in 2011, Yesh Din found the average time between a submitted request to begin and the start of the investigation was 702 days. “The inescapable conclusion is that the Government of Israel is not willing to investigate harm caused to Palestinians,” said Yesh Din’s Director Neta Patrick.

Separately evaluators with the international human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been barred from entering Gaza to conduct their own assessments. Human Rights Watch received their latest rejection from Israeli officials on August 19, 2014. “I’m afraid that’s still the case,” said Bill Van Esveld, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher in Jerusalem via telephone to Mondoweiss. “We need to get more people in,” continued Van Esveld who said Israeli officials in the Civil Administration told him they are “not processing any application” to enter Gaza for human rights investigators.

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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27 Responses

  1. just
    just
    September 9, 2014, 9:51 am

    I hope and pray that this heralds the end to Israel’s notorious impunity for crimes against humanity.

    • DaBakr
      DaBakr
      September 10, 2014, 2:06 pm

      even if the military did take b’tzlms ‘evaluations’ as seriously as b’tslm does itself this would not give you the “end” of the type of “impunity” of which you crave. What you seem to crave is for a power outside that of Israel be able to impose some form of punishing sanction. That you would have groups within Israeli society pushing hard for these sanctions against itself is just an entertaining scenario of factional infighting which, as the supposedly ‘surprising’ unanimity of the 50 Day War has shown, won’t amount to much except for a continuation of b’ztzlm’s complaints.

      As a functioning nation, Israel has no built in ‘impunity’ for gov’t. officials, military or even paramilitary (in deference to what I imagine you see the armed settlers as) as evidenced by as recently as Olmert and as far back as the ’67 and even ’48 wars. Has Israel been lax in aggressive prosecution of all offenders? Of course it has. How aggressively or luxuriously the legal system goes after the infractions implied above are, as in all elected governments, affected by political considerations among the populace. Israel is not functioning to satisfy those non-citizens peering in and making judgement. Sure, if you want strings attached to the US military-industrial loan guarantees then by all means fight for that. (I would gladly sever most of the seedy corrupt arms deals that enslaves both American tax payers and Israelis too. Its a fixed game imo and all the so-called malfeasance attributed to AIPAC and the US congress is really benefitting the US arms industry more then anything Israeli. But we all know its so much easier to blame AIPAC then the Military/Industrial, Big Oil Lobbies. Congress isn;t going to give standing ovations to the secretive heads of MacD/D,Exxon,Rythn,etc).But other then that, its pretty much myob. Israel can and will deal with ngo’s as it sees fit. There is a legal process in place and it works. Maybe not the way you want it too but then you are not an Israeli.

      As for the Palestinians-I support ongoing negotiations with the end result being pretty much as imagined with the details worked out in %’s and swaps. What perceived advantages Israel may demand will be offset by the idea that the new Palestinian State will be presumably Jew-free(as Abbas has stated many times) and Israel will continue to offer full rights to its 20% Arab population.

      Egypts proposal is intersting.

      The main principle of negotiations must be based on both sides ending any more claims on land. That means Israel must set a firm boundaries and the Palestinians must desist in laying claim the “from the river to the sea”. Compensation, naturally. In other words, the conflict-both geo and legal must end. B’tzlm, ideally, would become less adversarial by default, but this is all speculation.

      But-Until that day comes ?..more and endless cycles and any ‘sanctions’ imposed (or wished for from outside) would only be seen as part of the cyclical aggression. Warfare=lawfare. Stalin used lawfare to impose totalitarian control over millions as did Mao.(take that however you like) And it seems like the Palestinians are hemming but mostly proceeding with calculations to use the ICC and the UN as a weapon to promote their cause and it is honestly too difficult to predict wether this will be more destructive or actually helpful as the disarray in the region as a whole has a huge impact on the outcome (e.g. Sisi and the Egyptians as a whole have no love for Israel but may see more value in shared goals then old animosities)

      (of course if one feels that Israel as a nation is completely illegitimate then it really makes no difference what an intra-Israeli ngo does as they would technically be as illigit as the State itself. And of course a non-biased and benevolent organization like the UN would be the only institution that could fairly decide the way Israel should be viewed and judged by the world)

  2. seafoid
    seafoid
    September 9, 2014, 10:19 am

    Israel is a complete joke at this stage

    Watch the video first

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEQSs3Y2lgE

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.614881

    “Israel issued its defense statement on behalf of an officer convicted of beating five demonstrators in a civil suit brought on by one of his victims, claiming that not only should the plaintiff not receive compensation but that the defendant suffered more than his victim.

    A military court in December convicted Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, in a plea bargain, of beating five Palestinians and foreign activists with both his rifle and fists during a demonstration in April 2012. Some of the demonstrators, including Naim Shakir, 36, of Al-Sawiya, needed medical treatment. Al-Shakir filed a suit in June seeking 16,000 shekels ($4,620) in medical costs, plus 60,000 shekels ($17,320) to cover his lost earnings.

    Eisner – then a deputy brigade commander – hit Shakir in the back with the butt of his rifle, according to the military court verdict, during a confrontation between demonstrators protesting Israel’s presence in the West Bank and soldiers. As a result, Shakir said in his suit, he needed physiotherapy. He also still suffers pain that affects his functioning and has impaired his ability to work in construction.

    At his sentencing hearing last December, Eisner acknowledged he had “made mistakes” during the confrontation, but noted that the demonstrators had injured him as well: He suffered a broken hand.

    The state denies Shakir’s right to compensation. “The claimant’s injuries, if they occurred at all, are exaggerated and not related at all to the actions of the defendant,” the state asserts. If the plaintiff receives any financial compensation, the defense statement reads, “The defendants have the right to deduct for damages caused to them, including damages to Defendant 1 (Eisner) … including pain, suffering and emotional distress.”

    The state asserts that Shakir was an integral part of the rioters, “who violated law and order maliciously and intentionally in a violent way.” The defense counter concludes that therefore Shakir should not only be held accountable for his own injuries but also for “much greater bodily damage” caused to Lt. Col. Eisner. ”

    I would just note that anyone in Galut injured by anti-Semites expects (rightly) that the full force of the law is applied against their assailants. Why is this not possible in Israel ?

    • a blah chick
      a blah chick
      September 9, 2014, 10:26 am

      Doesn’t Shalom Eisner translate as “ironman of peace”? Now there’s an Israeli name for ya.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        September 9, 2014, 10:47 am

        You could write books about what they have done with the word Shalom.

        http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/israeli-journalist-says-received-threats-after-publishing-recording-of-violent-idf-officer-1.425948

        “Or Heller, the military correspondent of Channel 10 News, revealed on Sunday that he received life threats in the past few days after he published a recording of Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner criticizing the chief of staff, Benny Gantz.

        Eisner was dismissed from his position as as deputy brigade commander after being filmed beating a Danish peace activist last week.

        Heller published a conversation between Eisner and Hagit Rein, whose son Bnaya was killed in the Second Lebanon War. “

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 9, 2014, 11:19 am

        Shalom, Shalom,
        You’ll find Shalom
        The nicest greeting you know;
        It means bonjour, salud, and skoal
        And twice as much as hello.
        It means a million lovely things,
        Like peace be yours,
        Welcome home.
        And even when you say goodbye,
        You say goodbye with Shalom.

        It’s a very useful word,
        It can get you through the day;
        All you really need to know,
        You can hardly go wrong,
        This is your home as long as you say:
        Shalom,
        The nicest greeting I know;
        Shalom,
        Means twice as much as hello.
        It means a million lovely things,
        Like peace be yours,
        Welcome home.
        And even when you say goodbye,
        If your voice has
        “I don’t want to go” in it,
        Say goodbye with a little “hello” in it,
        And say goodbye with shalom.

        “Milk and Honey” 1961

  3. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    September 9, 2014, 10:30 am

    “Israeli law prohibits the investigation and prosecution of war crimes.”

    Since the creation of Israel involved war crimes this is understandable.

  4. annie
    annie
    September 9, 2014, 10:38 am

    Israeli law prohibits the investigation and prosecution of war crimes. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/09/leading-israeli-investigations#sthash.zoGZZJYD.dpuf

    what law is this?

    (also, please excuse my link that accompanies the copy paste, i’m simply too lazy to erase them all the time so i’m going quit exerting the effort.)

  5. annie
    annie
    September 9, 2014, 10:45 am

    yesh din reported (perhaps it was yossi gurvitz reporting) about a year ago, hundreds of complaints, violations against palestinians in the WB committed by settlers over a long period, and the vast majority were not ever investigated. and the ones that were ended up being dismissed. so it’s not just war crimes or crimes committed during major offensives. it’s the constant everyday violence, it’s not investigated or prosecuted except on rare occasions.

  6. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    September 9, 2014, 10:47 am

    “Eisner acknowledged he had “made mistakes” during the confrontation, but noted that the demonstrators had injured him as well: He suffered a broken hand.” They just kept hitting his rifle butt with their faces.

    Well, the Kafr Qassem killers got off with presidential pardons, could they do no less for the colonel? What kind of a country would it be if the military/security state considered the human rights of the untermensch?

  7. just
    just
    September 9, 2014, 11:00 am

    I’m glad that you brought Eisner into the limelight again. The fetid rot goes to the top.

    “Critics say Israel is damaging its image abroad through excessive heavy-handedness. But Danny Danon, the deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament, wrote in Tuesday’s Jerusalem Post: “The state of Israel is at war. This war is being fought on a completely different battlefield to the past, one in which the word de-legitimisation has replaced bullets, and provocative actions such as the flotilla have replaced tanks and fighter planes … Would we allow a suicide bomber into our country so that we could attempt a ‘dialogue’ with him?”

    The state, he said, must “implement a three-pronged approach to keeping these terrorists out of Israel: prevent, arrest and deport”. He urged that Ias, the Danish activist, be arrested and deported immediately.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/17/israeli-officer-inquiry-assault-danish-activist

    Quaint.

  8. Kay24
    Kay24
    September 9, 2014, 11:39 am

    It is all there in youtube videos , photographs, you name it, and it does not take long to find it on the internet. Still, there is an unbelievable climate of denial, indifference, and pretense of being ignorant, when it comes to the zionists, and those in the US who support it. There is a mental block, when it comes to acknowledging the suffering of these poor Palestinians. Accordingn to their narrative it is ALL the fault of the occupied people, even when they are slaughtered without mercy.

    I came across this youtube video, showing the cruelty towards the poor Palestinians, who walk miles and stand for hours, just to be humiliated and treated like animals, by the arrogant zio nazis of Israel at checkpoints. It should make anyone with compassion, sad, to see innocent people treated like that, and especially when you hear the cruel words from these disgusting people from Israel. They are becoming as despicable as the nazis.

    • Marnie
      Marnie
      September 10, 2014, 1:25 am

      “They are becoming as despicable as the nazis.”
      Could it be this is purposeful? They really don’t care, the comparison doesn’t faze them Kay24, I actually think it is titillating for them to be compared to nazis because they see them as macho, mighty, completely ruthless and without remorse. I think there’s certain jews who see the victims of the nazis as being weak and worthless and they project that onto Palestinians, (women, children and elderly males) and anyone of their own, who isn’t a cruel bastard or bitch. I don’t know, just thoughts. Survival of the cruelest, merciless and murderous. It’s very, very ugly.

  9. amigo
    amigo
    September 9, 2014, 11:49 am

    “A military court in December convicted Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, – ” haaretz

    Remind me again what “Shalom ” means.

  10. eljay
    eljay
    September 9, 2014, 11:54 am

    In the aftermath of Cast Lead in 2008-09, which killed over 1,500 Palestinians in three weeks, there were 400 incidents noted for possible misconduct, only 62 cases were investigated, of which a mere three indictments issued. “The harshest sentence,” of seven and a half months prison, said B’Tselem, “was given to a soldier who stole a credit card.” …

    … “The inescapable conclusion is that the Government of Israel is not willing to investigate harm caused to Palestinians,” said Yesh Din’s Director Neta Patrick.

    So…in order to get some measure of justice from Israel, Palestinians need to become credit cards. Sounds simple enough.

    The question, though, is this: When will Palestinians love being credit cards more than they hate Jews?

  11. gracie fr
    gracie fr
    September 9, 2014, 12:12 pm

    41. The Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission (FFM) Committee of Independent Experts further noted that notwithstanding the built-in structural guarantees to ensure Israel’s (Military Advocate General) MAG’s independence, his dual responsibilities as legal advisor to the Chief of Staff and other military authorities, and his role as supervisor of criminal investigations within the military, raise concerns in the present context given allegations in the FFM report that those who designed, planned, ordered, and oversaw Operation Cast Lead in Gaza were complicit in international humanitarian law and international human rights law violations. It is notable that the MAG himself, in his testimony to the Turkel Commission, pointed out that the military investigations system he heads is not a viable mechanism to investigate and assess high-level policy decisions. When questioned by commission members about his “dual hat” and whether his position at the apex of legal advisory and prosecutorial power can present a conflict of interest under certain circumstances, he stated that “the mechanism is calibrated for the inspection of individual incidents, complaints of war crimes in individual incidents (…). This is not a mechanism for policy. True, it is not suitable for this.” Therefore, the Committee remains of the view that an independent public commission – and not the MAG’s office – is the appropriate mechanism for carrying out an independent and impartial analysis, as called for in the FFM report, into allegations that high-level decision-making related to the Gaza conflict violated international law.

    http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/16session/A.HRC.16.24_AUV.pdf

  12. Kay24
    Kay24
    September 9, 2014, 9:09 pm

    Haaretz:

    “Envoys of five European countries have submitted a joint official protest to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office against the land expropriation in the West Bank that the government announced last week.

    The ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy, and Spain, and the deputy ambassador of Germany delivered the written protest to National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen during a meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday, and stressed that Israel’s declaration of nearly 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) of land in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, as state land had greatly angered the countries of the European Union.

    “We gave him a clear message that it was a very bad decision, in a terrible timing and that we hope it will be reversed,” a European diplomat said.”

    Will Israel be held accountable for blatant land theft this time?

    No all EU countries will say one thing and do nothing.

  13. NickJOCW
    NickJOCW
    September 10, 2014, 5:24 am

    Nabil Shaath told Ma’an that the PLO would first submit an application to the UN Security Council on Sept. 15 demanding a “timetable” for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territory.
    ….

    If that request is denied, the PLO will take their case to the International Criminal Court to hold senior Israeli officials such as Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon accountable for Israel’s devastating assault on Gaza, which killed over 2,000 Palestinians.

    http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=723892

    This has been in preparation for some time and Obama must know all about it. In fact, I wouldn’t put it past him to have given it a wink and a nod. The 15th is Monday. …the wheels of God grind slowly…

  14. Talkback
    Talkback
    September 10, 2014, 8:42 am

    This is a major move!

    Because it helps getting the International Criminal Court involved, because it can (only) intervene “where a State is unable or unwilling genuinely to carry out the investigation and prosecute the perpetrators.”

  15. ckg
    ckg
    September 10, 2014, 1:54 pm

    Kershner today posts an article in the NYT titled, “Israel Investigating Possible Gaza War Misconduct”. The article does not mention these Yesh Din and B’Tselem statements, nor does it mention AI and HRW being barred from entering Gaza. However, the most ridiculous part is the last paragraph, which according to NEWSDIFFS was not in the original copy but was added later as an unacknowledged update, saying

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of committing a “double war crime” for indiscriminately firing thousands of rockets against Israeli towns and cities and for operating from within heavily populated areas of Gaza, and using its own civilians as a “human shield.”

    This paragraph sticks out as off-topic because the entire article is solely about Israel investigating the conduct of the IDF. Hasbara editors.

    • NickJOCW
      NickJOCW
      September 10, 2014, 3:38 pm

      Netanyahu is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, and it’s unkind of the NYT to publicise his ravings

    • ckg
      ckg
      September 10, 2014, 3:48 pm

      Kershner has now amended her article (per NEWSDIFFS) with discussion of the Yesh Din and B’Tselem statements. LOL.

  16. just
    just
    September 10, 2014, 3:15 pm

    “Israel’s chief military prosecutor has ordered criminal investigations into two of the most high-profile incidents in the recent Gaza war, the killing of four children in an Israeli air strike at Gaza’s port and the shelling of a UN school in Beit Hanoun that left 15 people dead and scores more injured.

    They are among five cases being investigated for potential criminal misconduct, while dozens more are being considered for investigation.

    The beach killings on 16 July, which were witnessed by the Guardian, and the attack on the school on 24 July – while it was being used as a shelter for refugees – sparked widespread international controversy and calls from the UN and the US for a prompt investigation.

    While the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) admits it struck the port in two air strikes, a senior officer said on Wednesday it was still investigating the circumstances of the attack on the school.

    The announcement of the criminal inquiry by senior officers in the IDF’s military attorney general’s corps comes only 10 days after Israel and Hamas agreed a ceasefire to end 50 days of conflict that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

    The speed with which the military attorney general has launched the investigations is in marked contrast to the conflict between Hamas and Israel in 2008-09 – Operation Cast Lead. After that conflict Israel investigated 50 incidents, leading to three convictions………….”

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/10/israeli-military-criminal-investigations-gaza-attacks

    not to be trusted– not now, not ever.

  17. lyn117
    lyn117
    September 11, 2014, 12:45 am

    I think the threat of the ICC may be having an effect

  18. gracie fr
    gracie fr
    September 11, 2014, 5:11 pm

    The Committee of Independent Experts’ findings on alleged war crimes during Operation Cast Lead may be indicative of how the next round of inquiry will go:

    Israel’s domestic investigations are rife with conflicts of interest and a lack of oversight that render them inadequate mechanisms for accountability. In addition to the glaring examples of ludicrous findings, there are several structural issues worth mentioning. Chief among them is the fact that Israeli authorities have refused to investigate the whole operation, as mandated by international legal standards, choosing instead to only examine the conduct of individual soldiers. In doing so, Israeli authorities fail to investigate its command level policy-based decisions including, but not limited to, its rules of engagement as well as its use of excessively harmful weapons in lieu of lesser harmful alternatives, like white phosphorous.

    Additionally, by placing primary responsibility on the Military Advocate General (MAG), who himself may be subject for criminal prosecution for providing legal counsel to the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli investigation lacks independence and impartiality. From the outset, the MAG has affirmed that ‘[t]hroughout the fighting in Gaza, the IDF operated in accordance with international law,’ thereby absolving himself as well as the command level decision-makers of any wrong doing before the initiation of investigations.

    Finally, Israel’s system is too heavily reliant on operational debriefings, which are not intended to provide effective judicial remedy to victims but instead to enhance military operations. During its Twelfth Session, the Human Rights Council recognized that “a tool designed for the review of performance and to learn lessons can hardly be effective and impartial investigation mechanism that should be instituted after every military operation where allegations of serious violations have been made.”
    http://www.arabic.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/177/committee-of-independent-experts_israel-investigat

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