Over the past twenty years, Israel has taken measures to guarantee a nearly blanket exemption from its obligation under international law to pay compensation to Palestinians harmed by its security forces. In a new report released today (Wed., 8 March), B’Tselem traces the development of this practice and illustrates how it has led to a major drop in the number of claims for damages Palestinians filed in recent years. Israel’s policy reflects how little value it places on the lives, bodies and property of Palestinians living under its control.
In the summer of 2014, Israeli security forces killed 1,391 people, including 526 minors, who did not participate in the fighting. The report describes how Israel creates the false appearance of investigations into alleged breaches of law during the fighting, when in fact, those who are truly responsible for the violations, those who designed the policy and issued the orders, were never investigated. The MAG Corps’ investigations focus only on the responsibility of the lower ranks for cases considered “exceptional”, ignoring the fact that scores more nearly identical cases ended with horrifying outcomes. The MAG’s stand, which absolves himself of responsibility and allows decision makers to repeatedly ignore these outcomes is illegal and immoral.
The report explains the reasons behind B’Tselem’s decision to no longer refer complaints to the military law enforcement system. It was made based on information compiled from hundreds of complaints B’Tselem has filed with the military, dozens of military investigations and many meetings with officials. B’Tselem will continue reporting violations but will no longer help a system which serves as a whitewash mechanism and that also, in advance, absolves senior military and government officials of responsibility for the policy they set out.
The report looks at the policy of bombing residential buildings in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. This policy was one of the horrifying hallmarks of the fighting in Gaza in the summer of 2014, leading to the death of hundreds of people – more than a quarter of the operation’s Palestinian casualties. The report examines the recurrent stories of many Palestinian families who lost everything in a split second and analyzes Israel’s contention that it followed IHL provisions. While Hamas openly declared its intent to harm Israeli civilians, Israeli officials kept saying, both during and after the war, that the military had obeyed the law and done everything in its power to avoid harming civilians. The report indicates that these claims are entirely baseless.
During Operation Protective Edge, Israel violated international humanitarian law in some cases, and many other cases are highly suspect. However, B’Tselem does not intend to demand that these suspicions be investigated by Israel’s current investigation mechanisms. This is due to the experience that B’Tselem gained following past military offensives in the Gaza Strip, which shows that there is currently no official body in Israel capable of conducting independent investigations of suspected violations of international humanitarian law.
Six months after the Turkel Commission’s issued its report on Israel’s investigative policy of alleged violations of laws of war, B’Tselem published a position paper on the report. While the commission held that Israel fulfills its obligation to investigate, it noted: “in several of the areas examined, there are grounds for amending examination and investigation mechanisms and in several areas, there are grounds for changing the accepted policy”. The commission’s recommendations are far-reaching. Nonetheless, B’Tselem emphasizes that greater systemic change is needed to bring Israel’s military investigative policy up to par.
The report reviews civilian casualties during Operation Pillar of Defense. It provides statistics regarding the number of Palestinians and Israelis killed during the operation (14-21 November 2012). The report challenges the prevalent perception among the Israeli public and media that the operation was “surgical” and caused practically no fatalities among uninvolved Palestinian civilians. The report also demonstrates a significant difference between the first and second half of the operation: 80% of the fatalities of uninvolved Palestinians occurred in the last four days of the operation.
The report reveals the full inventory of crowd control weapons used by Israeli security forces in the West Bank. These weapons are meant to be non-lethal, enabling authorities to enforce the law without endangering human life. In fact, however, some of these weapons are dangerous and may be lethal if used improperly. Crowd control weapons have killed and injured demonstrators and people throwing stones.
The report surveys the broad spectrum of issues regarding the Israeli authorities' human rights record in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past year, the 44th year of the Israeli occupation. An interactive version of the report is available online and distributed through social media. The report documents a sharp increase in the number of uninvolved Palestinians killed by the Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip in 2011. There was also an increase in the number of Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians, compared to 2010.
According to the report the Israeli army's policy not to investigate the killing of Palestinian civilians exempts soldiers from accountability, even when criminal offenses are suspected. Even in the few cases in which investigations are opened, routine procrastination by the Judge Advocate Generals' Office leads to closing of the files.
B'Tselem's annual report on human rights in the Occupied Territories, covering the 16-month period from January 2009 to April 2010. The report surveys the events since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead. One and a half years after the operation, the allegations regarding breaches of international humanitarian law by Israel and Hamas have yet to be properly investigated.
B'Tselem issued a position paper detailing the guidelines of the necessary Israeli investigation of its conduct during the operation in Gaza. B'Tselem's initial survey of the military operation calls into question Israeli statements that the military acted according to International Humanitarian Law and that responsibility for the harm to the civilian population rests exclusively with Hamas.
B'Tselem's annual report surveys a wide range of Israeli human rights violations in the OPT in 2008, until Operation Cast Lead. As house demolition and lack of law enforcement on violent settlers continued, Israel largely refrained from holding members of the security forces accountable for their actions.
According to the report, the number of Israelis and Palestinians killed in clashes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip dropped. However, there has been deterioration in many other measures of the human rights situation in the Occupied Territories.
Despite the so-called “disengagement” in August 2005 and the recent internal violence, the Gaza Strip remains subject to Israeli control. This publication surveys the
various spheres of Israeli control in the Gaza Strip, and the implications
of this control. So long as Israel retains extensive control over Gaza, it cannot disengage from its responsibility.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.