Today, B’Tselem announced it would no longer refer complaints to the military’s law enforcement system. We explain this unusual decision in our new report, The Occupation's Fig Leaf: Israel's Military Law Enforcement System as a Whitewash Mechanism, which is based on hundreds of complaints B’Tselem has filed, dozens of military investigations and many meetings with officials. We will continue reporting violations but will no longer help a whitewash mechanism that also, in advance, absolves senior military and government officials of responsibility for the policy they set out.
Beating & abuse
On 10 October 2015, soldiers arrested six Gazan youths who crossed the perimeter fence into Israel during a demonstration and held them at a military base for three days. Three of them, minors, told B’Tselem they were held handcuffed out in the open, subjected to beatings and degradation, and denied food, drink and sleep. The fact that soldiers can so easily turn a military base into an exterritorial area in which they can treat minors as they please is, in part, due to a law enforcement system which has long enabled security establishment personnel to use violence against detainees, including minors, without any accountability.
Sleep deprivation; prolonged binding; verbal and sometimes physical abuse; exposure to heat and cold; poor, meager food; small, foul-smelling cells; solitary confinement; unhygienic conditions. A new report by HaMoked and B’Tselem shows these to be standard in interrogations at Israel Security Agency’s (ISA) facility at Shikma Prison. The report is based on affidavits and testimonials by 116 Palestinians interrogated there from Aug. 2013 to March 2014, including at least 14 who had been interrogated under torture by the Palestinian Authority shortly before. The ISA’s interrogation system is run with the approval of Israeli authorities, including the High Court of Justice.
On 13 Dec. 2015 soldiers fired tear gas into a home in al-Janiya during clashes. Yazan Mazlum and Yusef Shabayeh, both 17, went to help its inhabitants. According to testimonies given to B’Tselem, soldiers who came into the building dragged the boys away and beat them severely, alleging they had thrown stones. This is yet another instance of security forces using violence for alleged involvement in stone-throwing. That such incidents continue, although the responsible parties know of the phenomenon, raises concern that the military might consider them legitimate means. However, this type of violence is prohibited under any circumstance.
On 9 Dec. 2015 soldiers at a flying checkpoint near Silwad fired at a car shuttling school boys as it drove off after inspection. A bullet shattered the back window and lodged in the windshield. The four boys, aged 8-16, suffered anxiety attacks. The military said one of the boys had thrown a screwdriver at the soldiers, a claim unbacked by evidence and contradicted by the accounts given by the driver and children. Even if the claim were true, the shooting was unwarranted and violated open-fire regulations. Fortunately, no one was hurt by the bullet that penetrated the car.
On 24 Nov. 2015, security forces arrested two young minors in Beit Ummar. Khatab Abu Mariyah, 12, who was arrested on the street, told B’Tselem he had been kicked and beaten. Yusef ‘Alameh, 8, was taken by force from his home despite being under the age of criminal responsibility. Security forces did not allow the parents accompany the boys, who were then held for hours and interrogated without the presence of an adult on their behalf. This disregard of the basic protections afforded to minors along with the violence used are another example of cases previously documented by B’Tselem in which the military blatantly violates the rights of minors – with legal backing.
On 6 Oct. 2015, soldiers assaulted Palestinian Ansar 'Asi, 25, while he was standing at the entrance to a storage room at his workplace in al-Bireh watching clashes between soldiers and Palestinian youths. The soldiers violently beat 'Asi and arrested him. The incident was captured on his employer's security cameras. 'Asi was injured and taken to Hadassah 'Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem. He was held in detention for two days before being interrogated. Police interrogators told him that soldiers had identified him as a stone thrower, refused to listen to his denial of the allegations, and made no attempt to check his version despite the existence of the footage. Only following a military court hearing did the police view the footage. Even then, 'Asi was held for another two days due to the weekend sabbatical.
On 2 June 2015 the Jerusalem Municipality bulldozers with police escort, arrived to the Abu Khaled family home in Silwan, to demolish two apartments built by the family. The family had no choice but to build without a permit since Jerusalem Municipality policy is to deny permits to residents of this and other Palestinian neighborhoods. One family member climbed to the roof to try to prevent the demolition. He was pepper-sprayed, forcibly taken off the roof, and arrested by the police. Relatives who demanded his release were also attacked with pepper-spray and physical violence. City workers demolished the two apartments.
At around 2:30 A.M on Sunday, 18 January 2015, the military arrived at the Ya’qub family home in the village of Beit Rima, northwest of Ramallah. Entering the house, soldiers arrested ‘Ali Talji Ya’qub, 21, beating him and three of his relatives. The soldiers dragged ‘Ali’s brother, Ya’qub Talji Ya’qub, 31, out into the street and left him lying there, unconscious.
Soldier’s video of military dog attack on a Palestinian boy published today. The media reports that the military stated it would investigate the incident and take measures to prevent its recurrence. However, the attack was part of an official military operation which was likely approved by the senior command. MAG Corps has yet to respond to B’Tselem’s demand for an end to the policy of dog attacks on Palestinian civilians.
On 23 Dec. 2014, a confrontation developed between Palestinians and soldiers near the Carmei Tzur settlement, which lies on land owned by Palestinians from nearby Beit Umar. Palestinians threw stones at soldiers, who responded with crowd control measures. An attack dog brought there by soldiers attacked a Palestinian teen, who was taken to hospital from there into custody. B’Tselem reiterates its demand that the military cease the reprehensible use of attack dogs.
On 13 May 2011 Border Police violently dispersed a demonstration at a-Nabi Saleh. Of the five complaints filed, the DIP investigated only one and adopted no further measures. The DIP’s handling of the complaints was faulty and its decision not to investigate is unjustifiable. Of equal concern is the State Attorney's Office’s support of the DIP’s actions, essentially conveying the message that police officers who overstep their authority and harm civilians will not be brought to justice. This is in direct violation of the state’s obligation to safeguard civilians.
In an article in the Huffington Post, B'Tselem's Executive Director uses the recent conflict around displaying a Palestinian flag in Hebron as a metaphor for the broader situation: "Hebron is an extreme version, but the contours of what we see in Hebron are visible throughout the West Bank: two separate and discriminatory legal systems in force, with settlers enjoying all the rights of the Israeli democracy and even added perks and benefits, while Palestinians are subject to military law. It is a rotten system, one that inherently violates Palestinian rights and has a corrosive effect on the Israeli democracy."
13 Nov. 2013, Burin: 11 villagers were taken from their beds and brought to the home of the high-school principal, which was converted into a makeshift interrogation center. The questioned men related that no charges were brought against them, and that the “interrogation” was meant to get them to prevent stone-throwing in the village. This severe infringement of civilians’ rights can hardly be justified. B’Tselem wrote to the relevant authorities inquiring whether the raid was part of official policy and, if so, what its legal grounds are.
The well-known public figure from Israel's pioneer generation explains why support for B'Tselem is so important: "B’Tselem does extraordinary work to protect the human rights of those living under occupation and to steer Israel to a path of justice and peace. To me, B’Tselem represents the Israeli heroism needed in this historical moment."
Since Nov. 2009, B’Tselem has received testimonies from dozens of Palestinian minors alleging that they were subjected to threats and violence, sometimes amounting to torture, under interrogation at the Gush Etzion police station. They claimed that the violence was used in order to force them into confessing to alleged offenses, mostly stone-throwing. Given the severity of these claims, the DIP and the Israel Police must examine the issue systemically, and not make do with the investigations opened into several particular cases following B’Tselem’s complaints. If the claims are substantiated, they must take immediate action to stop the illegal conduct and take legal and administrative measures against those responsible.
B'Tselem responded to the report of Israel's State Comptroller, which states that Israelis living in 83 settlements in the West Bank do not pay leasing fees for land they received from the state and that the authorities do not enforce the law on illegal construction, fearing opposition by settlers. B'Tselem said the comptroller's report added another layer to the understanding that Israel's entire law enforcement system in the West Bank is enslaved to the settlement project, and that the failings detailed are a direct result of the policy of successive Israeli governments, that have avoided for decades enforcing the law on Israeli citizens who harm Palestinians and their property.
B'Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli published an article in the Hebrew daily, Ma'ariv. The article responds to claims by Ma'ariv columnist Ben Dror Yamini that the detention of a 5 year-old Palestinian boy in Hebron was an exceptional incident.
On 21 June 2013, during the weekly demonstration at Kafr Qadum to protest the closing of the road that links the village to the city of Nablus, Israeli soldiers attacked a reporter and a photojournalist of the Palestinian television. The men were then detained and held in custody for two days. Part of the assault was caught on video, and the soldiers are seen beating reporter Ahmad ‘Othman as he tries to protect himself. In response to airing this footage, the IDF Spokesperson claimed that the journalists had attacked the soldiers, yet did not have any documentation to substantiate its claim. B’Tselem applied to the MAG Corps demanding an investigation of the incident.
In the middle of the night of 14 May 2013, Israeli policemen surrounded the home of Khader Sharif of Beit Ula, and ordered him to come out. Sharif, who had undergone surgery for a leg broken in a work accident, had not yet fully recovered and was using crutches. Sharif reported that as the policemen forced him into a vehicle, his injured leg collided with a step and suffered a new fracture. Nevertheless, the policemen hauled him from one police station to another, all the while treating him violently and disparagingly and refusing him medical attention. Sharif was finally released around noon, once questioning showed he could not have committed the alleged theft. He was let out at Tarqumya checkpoint, having received no medical treatment in breach of police directives.