In the last twenty-four hours, so much attention has been given to Palestinians with Israeli “blood on their hands” being released from prison, but little-to-no attention has been given to Israelis with Palestinian “blood on their hands” who never went to prison in the first place. A new report by the United Nation’s Secretary General calls into question the double standard.
In one of the harshest reports, if not THE harshest reports, issued by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon has strongly criticized Israel’s continued post-1967 occupation of Palestinian territory, the expansion of its population into those territories, and – notably – the continued attacks against the Arab population that already lives there and the impunity for the Israelis involved in those attacks. Secretary Ban’s report goes further to suggest that in many cases, the Israeli military is not only complicit in the attacks against the Palestinian population, but sometimes supportive or directly involved.
The report offers a number of examples of lacking justice:
On 27 January 2011, an 18-year-old Palestinian grazing his goats on his land was shot dead at point blank range by a settler on Palestinian land south of the village of Iraq Burin. Footage of the killing captured by a security camera appeared in various media.
On 15 February 2011, an 18-year-old Palestinian from the village of Jalud south of Nablus, which is surrounded by six Israeli settlements and ‘outputs,’ was shot in his stomach with live ammunition by one of three settlers from a distance of about 40 metres. The settlers then fled towards Kida settlement.
On 7 March 2011, a group of at least 12 settlers from the ‘outpost’ of Esh Kodesh…attacked Palestinians from…Qusra. Three of the settlers were armed with a handgun and two rifles while the rest were carrying baseball bats and metal bars. The settlers hurled stones at the Palestinians and fired guns in the air, before physically assaulting the Palestinians. Israel Defense Forces soldiers reached the scene 30 to 45 minutes later, but…acted only in support of the settlers…. [One Palestinian] victim was shot in the leg from a distance of some 30 metres by an Israel Defense Forces soldier. Once on the ground he was shot again from close range in the other leg by the same….soldier. While trying to flee, [he] was hit in the leg and kicked in the face by a settler with a wooden stick, in the presence of the…soldier who had just shot him.
The report also notes that many attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank at the hands of Israeli settlers go unreported through official Israeli channels, as is required, because doing so involves the Palestinian going to an Israeli police station inside one of the nearby settlements. Even if they are able to overcome the trauma of the recent attack in order to file such a report, they need to first obtain permission from the Israeli military to actually enter the settlement to reach the police station.
According to Israeli law, the military has an obligation to protect the Palestinian population. A response letter from the Israeli military sent to the human rights organization, Yesh Din, notes:
…in the absence of police presence, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are responsible…and must disperse all parties present in order to preserve the evidence intact until the police arrive.
It goes on to note:
…[soldiers] are authorized, as well as obligated, to detain and even arrest those suspected of criminal activity.
The report then criticizes what it sees as a double-standard in the Israeli judicial system. It notes that if a violent crime is committed against a Palestinian in the West Bank at the hands of Israeli settlers, little is done to catch the culprit. However if a settler suffers so much as a scratch, Israeli authorities “mobilize vast resources to apprehend the perpetrator.” To see this in action, one need only remember Israel’s response to the attack on the Itamar settlement on March 11th, in which five members of the same family were killed, and the subsequent crackdown on the nearby Palestinian village of Awarta.
In the report’s recommendation, Ban calls on Israel to “bring its policies and practices into compliance with its international legal obligations.” He says the government should “immediately cease the transfer of its civilian population into occupied territory” and “should take all necessary measures to prevent attacks by Israeli settlers [already living there] against Palestinian civilians and their property.” Ban urges the Netanyahu government to “ensure that all serious allegations concerning criminal acts committed by settlers or the Israel Defense Forces are subject to independent, impartial, effective, thorough and prompt investigations, in accordance with international standards.”