Welcome to Hebron, where the rule of law is nonexistent

It took the police nearly three hours to reach a Palestinian’s home in Hebron after it had been fired on. When the police arrived, they asked the victim to do their job for them. 

By Yesh Din (written by Yossi Gurvitz)

Issa Amro, a resident of Hebron, is a noted activist who is often targeted for harassment by both the army and the settlers. He recently made it to the headlines in Israel (Heb) after IDF soldiers stormed his house during an Iftar dinner, choosing it as their training site. Yesh Din has already covered this phenomenon, which allows the IDF to show the Palestinians who’s boss. In Amro’s case, one suspects this harassment was anything but accidental, and was intended to intimidate an activist who gives the occupation forces a major headache.

Amro has other troubles. He is out of favor with the settlers, as he is one of the organizers of protests against the closing of Shuhada Street. Remember Baruch Goldstein’s massacre in Hebron? Following the massacre, the IDF decided that for security reasons, a main road in Palestinian Hebron must be closed. Some sort of occupation logic, I assume. A massacre took place? Make sure to punish the group which has just been massacred. That’ll be sure to deter the population which supports the murderer.

Be that as it may, several days ago, as Amro was sitting down for the Iftar dinner, there was a sudden loud noise. The guests were quick to take cover – Hebronites are well-drilled. A quick survey found a bullet casing nearby, which indicates a shooting. Amro went to the military checkpoint near his house, and spoke to the soldier there, asking him to call his captain. The soldier refused. Amro informed him his house was shot at. The soldier remained apathetic: “I don’t care, call the police.” As a common Israeli soldier, this one was unaware of his duty to defend Palestinians, including the duty to secure a crime scene.

Amro went back home, called the police, and they said they were on their way. Twenty minutes later, he called again. They were still on their way. And indeed, just 150 minutes after the second phone call, a police car moseyed up to the crime scene. The police were quick to show outstanding professionalism by asking Amro where the shot came from. Amro, sadly not a ballistic expert, reminded them this was their job. They said they’d do it.

A few minutes later, Amro joined the cops on their way to the police station in Kiryat Arba. That’s when the incident took a particularly Hebronic twist: a well-known settler and notorious felon blocked the road, informing the cops that “Issa won’t pass here.” Instead of informing the settler he isn’t going to order them around, the cops chose the path of better discretion and went down another road, which quite amused Amro.

Finally, Amro made his statement. The cops promised to return to the crime scene so as to actually examine it. So far, they haven’t. We shall patiently wait for the police to close the case without arresting any suspects. A reminder: 84 percent of cases are closed due to police negligence, due to the “unknown perpetrator clause.”

To sum things up: a house was shot up during a holiday dinner. A soldier did not know – or pretended not to know – his duty, nor did he hear the shot. A police force needed close to three hours to reach the scene. The police ask the victim to do their job for them, and later allow a settler to block their way and meekly turn to another road.

Welcome to occupied Hebron, where the rule of law crawls to die.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.