Violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli civilians in the territories have become routine. Since the start of the Intifada such clashes have increased in number and become more intense. Many of them result in property damage, personal injury, and even death.
This report examines how the authorities have handled offenses committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the territories during the Intifada. The overwhelming majority of these incidents involve settlers living in the territories, while a handful involve Israelis residing inside the Green Line.
The authorities that deal with such offenses are: the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the Israel Police, the State Attorney's Office, and the courts of law. The investigation dealing with the IDF is based on testimonies by soldiers and on dozens of testimonies culled from Palestinians by B'Tselem and other human rights organizations. To examine the work of the police and the courts in this regard, B'Tselem examined a sample of 206 attacks on Palestinians, involving property damage, personal assaults, and fatalities for which at least a reasonable suspicion exists that they were caused by Israeli civilians.
B. The Legal Status of the Israeli Civilians in the Territories
Two systems of law prevail in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, one for Palestinians and one for Israelis. The policy of the Israeli government to apply the Israeli Criminal Code to every Israeli citizen and to every Jew who is not an Israeli citizen has created a legal situation which distinguishes between populations according to national origin. Palestinians in the territories are subject to local or military law, and those who commit offenses are tried in local courts and more often in military courts. However, Israeli citizens who commit crimes in the occupied territories are subject to Israeli law and are tried in courts inside Israel. The Israeli judicial system assures them freedoms and legal guarantees that are not available to Palestinian defendants in the territories. Moreover, the maximum punishments prescribed by the law according to which Israelis are tried are generally lighter.
This situation, in which a person's national identity determines by which legal system he will be tried and in which court, conflicts with the principle of equality before the law.
C. Violence by Israeli Civilians Against Palestinians in the Territories
The violence perpetrated by Israeli civilians in the territories against Palestinians takes many and diverse forms. The most serious, of course, are incidents in which Palestinians have lost their lives.
Palestinians Killed by Israeli Civilians;
In four of the sixty-two cases the Israelis who opened fire were in mortal danger, and in three other cases they knowingly put themselves in danger. We have insufficient information about six of the cases. In the other forty-nine cases Israeli civilians killed Palestinians in situations not involving mortal danger.
In many cases Israeli civilians, especially those who live in the territories, use their firearms to respond in a manner exceeding what is necessary for self-defense. In other words, they chase stone-throwers and fire at them, even when it is clear that they do not constitute a threat. This type of reaction conflicts categorically with the Criminal Code and with the Rules of Engagement that apply to civilians.
Using weapons supplied by the IDF, individuals and organized groups initiate operations against Palestinians and their property in order to intimidate, deter, and punish. In many cases these are planned operations, initiated and carefully planned by groups of settlers, who are backed by the established leadership of the settlements.
The operations initiated by settlers against Palestinians include entering villages, shooting at houses and solar water-heaters, sabotage and torching of vehicles, violent disturbances, blocking roads, smashing windows, destroying crops and uprooting trees, harassment of merchants and owners of stands in the market including destruction of their wares, and so forth.
The many rampages and other acts of violence by settlers against the Palestinians, and especially the organized character of many of these raids, attest to the fact that these are not merely criminal acts: they constitute ideologically and politically motivated violence.
D. The IDF
According to both international and Israeli law, the IDF has the duty to act to prevent injury to Palestinians. If Palestinians are attacked in the presence of soldiers, they must arrest the assailant and hand him over to the police. If they are unable to do so, they must report the incident to the police so that an investigation can be undertaken. It goes without saying that if Palestinians' lives are at risk from Israeli civilians, IDF soldiers must use every possible means to nullify that risk, including opening fire at the assailant.
The soldiers' powers and their duty to enforce the law vis-a-vis the Jewish residents in the territories are not sufficiently clear. A disparity exists between the written directives and public declarations made by senior officers, and the orders that filter down to the soldiers on the ground and the way in which the soldiers interpret the orders.
It is difficult to know for certain whether the gap between the public declarations of senior commanders and the orders that reach the soldiers on the ground stem solely from a continuing failure by the commanders - who do not explain the orders clearly - or whether the orders that filter down reflect true IDF policy, whereas the declarations in the media and the written orders are mere lip service paid by the army to the rule of law.
Frequently soldiers who witness acts of violence by settlers against Palestinians make no effort to prevent or put a stop to the incident, or at least to take the personal details of those involved and pass them on to the police. Attempts by the IDF to prevent illegal acts by settlers against Palestinians, or to arrest those taking part, if any, are few and unconvincing. There are cases in which soldiers not only do nothing to stop violence by settlers, but themselves also join in.
In many cases of settler violence the IDF restricts the movement of the Palestinians, including by means of curfew, but takes no such action against the settlers. The rationale is to protect the Palestinians from the settlers, but the result is an absurdity in which the restrictions are placed on the victim but not on the assailant.
Despite its duty, the IDF has shown protracted impotence in dealing with violence perpetrated by settlers against Palestinians. This is not a chance development but the product of the close ties between the IDF and the settlers. The official position is that the security forces are the sole responsible authorities for imposing order and enforcing the law in the territories. Together with the other branches of government, the IDF considers that the settlers contribute greatly to security and to maintaining public order in the territories, even letting them share officially in its activity.
The IDF's recurrent failures in reacting to settler violence despite repeated warnings by politicians, reporters, and human rights organizations suggests that these failures are not the exception but part of the IDF's overall policy. Against the background of the special relationship between the IDF and the settlers, the fear arises that this policy is the product of a situation in which each side is conscious of the other's contribution to reinforcing the machinery of Jewish rule in the territories.
The IDF has failed consistently to impose the law on the settlers and to safeguard the lives, persons, and property of the Palestinians in the face of recurrent attacks by Jewish inhabitants. The IDF's attitude toward these manifestations of violence fluctuates between "voluntary nonintervention" and more active forms of cooperation. As long as the IDF continues to espouse this tolerant and compromise-oriented approach, and even to collaborate in perpetrating violence, it will go on contributing actively to the continuation of such violence.
E. The Israel Police
There are serious deficiencies in the way the police handle offenses imputed to Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the territories. In fact, nothing has changed in this regard since the publication of the Karp Report (drawn up by a committee headed by Deputy Attorney General Yehudit Karp) more than ten years ago.
In many cases, including some involving fatalities, no investigation at all is carried out. In general, incidents in which the law was broken but no complaint is submitted are not investigated, even if the police receive information from external sources.
Palestinians frequently refrain from submitting complaints to the police against Israeli civilians, because of a basic disbelief in the ability of the police and the Israeli judicial system to do justice and enforce the law in such cases.
The behavior of the police toward Palestinians who do try to submit complaints, and the manner in which the complaints are processed, consistently reinforce the Palestinians' mistrust of the police. Often the police have refused to accept complaints from Palestinians, or have sent them on a wild goose chase from one station to another. If an investigation is launched, it almost always ends without anyone being brought to trial.
In some cases the police could not locate the file, even when the media reported developments in the investigation, such as autopsies, house searches, and even arrests of suspects. In other cases the police denied ever receiving a complaint, even when volunteers from Hotline: Center for the Defense of the Individual had accompanied the complainant and been present when the complaint was made.
Very often police investigations drag on for two years and more, or files are held up for long periods in the Prosecutions Department and no indictment is submitted, even after the case has been solved. This "foot- dragging" has serious consequences from the standpoint of justice being fully done.
The closing of files on the ground of "offender unknown" has become almost the norm, including not a few cases in which there were prima facie details identifying the offender. Even the situation regarding the investigation of fatalities involving Israeli civilians in the territories has not changed since the Karp Report stated that: "The impression the monitoring team gleaned from the investigation... is that neither the proper energy nor the requisite speed for investigations of this kind were displayed, and question marks hang over the mode of the investigation itself."
The scale, character, and recurrence of the deficiencies show clearly that the failure is one of method, not chance. The fact that in many cases - including some involving death - no investigation is opened or files have "been lost" indicates contempt on the part of the police for the lives, persons, and property of the Palestinians.
The impotence of the police in handling offenses imputed to Israeli civilians in the territories against Palestinians does not stem only from the investigators' negligence or a lack of manpower. As the Karp Report concluded a dozen years ago, after pointing to "concrete deficiencies" in the functioning of the police in such cases:
It appears not only that the said deficiencies themselves require the most thorough handling, but that they are only a symptomatic of a deeper problem, which contains within it the seeds of a dangerous process whose end cannot be known... .
The key lies not in a technical follow-up into one of the investigations, not in criteria of investigative methods, and not in the legal viewpoint, but in a radical overhaul of the concepts entailed in the rule of law in its broad and deep sense. [Karp Report, pp. 31, 33.]
F. The Judicial System
The judicial system receives the investigative material from the police and is responsible for bringing suspects to trial (State Attorney's Office) and for judging them (the courts of law). The investigation by B'Tselem at the very least raises questions regarding the judicial system's handling of offenses committed by Jews in the territories against Palestinians.
- State Attorney's Office
In attempting to examine how the State Attorney's Office handles files dealing with Jews suspected of committing violent offenses against Palestinians in the territories B'Tselem encountered difficulties stemming from a lack of information regarding: files closed by the State Attorney's Office; the considerations that often resulted in serious counts being replaced by lighter ones (in plea-bargain deals); and the reasons that the State Attorney's Office chose not to appeal light sentences handed down by the lower courts.
It is thus not possible to reach unequivocal conclusions regarding the manner in which the State Attorney's Office handled these cases. Nevertheless, the investigation by B'Tselem does raise certain questions:
(a) A high percentage of files involving fatalities were closed by the State Attorney's Office on the ground of insufficient evidence to bring anyone to trial. This seems rather peculiar in light of the data uncovered by B'Tselem (even though B'Tselem was not permitted to scrutinize the files themselves).
(b) In a number of cases involving fatalities, the State Attorney's Office agreed to modify the original charge from manslaughter to causing death by negligence, as part of plea- bargain deals. As such, this phenomenon is not exceptional, since thousands of such deals are cut every year, but the examination carried out by B'Tselem shows that in at least some of the cases in which Jews were brought to trial for causing the death of Palestinians, there was solid evidence against the defendants. In these cases there is no obvious reason for cutting a plea-bargain deal in which the original charges are reduced.
(c) In some of the cases in which a lower court passed light
sentences on Jews who attacked Palestinians, the State Attorney's Office did not appeal the sentence, even though in his argumentation for punishment, the prosecutor had asked for rigorous punishment.
It should be emphasized that during the entire period the State Attorney's Office was subjected to pressures of various kinds from politicians and settlers. B'Tselem cannot prove a circumstantial connection between those pressures and the above conclusions. Still, given the atmosphere in Israel (especially during the Intifada) which makes light of attacks by Israelis on Palestinians in the territories, and knowing the heavy pressure brought to bear by the settlers and their supporters on the political system as well, we cannot ignore the suspicion that these had an influence on the tolerant attitude toward the settlers and on the fact that justice was not fully carried out vis-a-vis Jewish offenders.
The severity of the punishment meted out to individuals who commit offenses is an expression of the gravity the judge attributes to that crime, and the system's general policy of punishment regarding a given crime reflects the value scale of the society as a whole.
On the basis of information in B'Tselem's possession, one cannot but conclude that the courts are extremely lenient where the punishment of Israeli civilians convicted of crimes against Palestinians is concerned. This leniency is entirely independent of the severity of the crime, and certainly involves much lighter sentences than those given out to Palestinians convicted of similar crimes.
Some of the courts demonstrate understanding for the national and religious motives of the accused, and fail to hand down punishments that adequately express the supreme value of human life.
The Supreme Court of Israel, when sitting as a criminal appeals court, has throughout the years stood guard against this trend. It has tended to deal more severely with the Jewish criminals, and its rulings have emphasized time and again the need to deter those who take the law into their own hands, the need to deal out punishments that suit the severity of the crime, and the supreme value of human life. Nevertheless, the following summary of 12 cases heard in the court from 1988-1992 against Israeli civilians accused of murder, manslaughter, or causing the death by negligence of Palestinian residents of the occupied territories, indicates the following (summary of the 11 trials that were concluded while this report was being written):
a) convicted of murder - one
b) convicted of manslaughter - one
c) convicted of causing death by negligence - six
d) found unfit for standing trial and sent for psychiatric hospitalization - one
e) convicted of arson, shooting in a residential area, injury in grave circumstances, and causing damages to property and animals - two (in one case)
f) acquitted - one
In five of the cases, the charge of manslaughter was lightened to causing death by negligence as the result of a plea-bargain deal.
Except for the accused convicted of murder, who was sentenced to life imprisonment, a mandatory punishment for anyone convicted of murder, the punishments handed down were significantly lenient. The accused convicted of manslaughter, for which the maximum punishment is 20 life imprisonments, was sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment. The maximum punishment for causing death by negligence is three years' imprisonment. Of the six convicted of this charge, one was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, a second was sentenced to five months' imprisonment, and four were sentenced to a period of public service of up to six months.
In some of the decisions, the judges offered the circumstances in the territories, i.e. the Intifada, to explain the lightened punishments of Jewish criminals. In several cases the judges expressed their understanding of the distress of the Jewish residents of the territories, or cast blame on the Palestinian's involved, since they were Intifada activists. Thus for example, in the sentence of Pinhas Wallerstein, head of the Binyamin local council, who was charged in the Jerusalem district court of causing the death by negligence of Rabbah Mahmud Hussein Hamad, Judge Ezra Hedya wrote:
The case before us is undoubtedly most unfortunate, all the more because of the loss of human life. However, this notwithstanding, one must not forget that the deceased and his friend Ziad, who were apparently activists in the "Intifada," were the "attackers," who in their violent acts and offensive and aggressive behavior threatened the well-being, person, and even life of the accused, the attacked... in addition, I took into consideration the saying "judge not your fellow man until you stand in his place."*
*Crim. case 265/88, State of Israel v. Pinhas Ben Moshe Wallerstein, p. 8.
In comparing these punishments to punishments of Palestinians sentenced for similar crimes, it appears that aside from a few exceptional cases, the Israeli courts tend to deal harshly with Palestinians, while lightening the punishment of Israeli citizens who committed identical crimes. For the crime of stone-throwing, for example, Palestinians have often been sentenced in military and civil courts to one years' imprisonment, and in certain cases to much harsher punishments.
The Israeli government has failed in its task of protecting the lives, persons, and property of Palestinian from repeated attacks by Israeli civilians in the occupied territories.
The various authorities apply an unstated policy of tolerance, compromise and failure in bringing about full justice where Israelis who attack the Palestinian population are concerned.
Every branch of the government and legal system, individually and together, tends to view the many acts of violence by Israeli civilians against the Palestinian residents of the territories with an insufficient degree of seriousness.
The Israeli government applies a double standard between Israelis and Palestinians in law enforcement in the territories. This discrimination, and the many failures in law enforcement vis-a-vis Israeli civilians in the territories, undermine the foundations of the rule of law in the State of Israel.
The Israeli government bears complete responsibility for enforcing the law. It must fulfill its responsibility to safeguard the well-being and security of all residents of the territories, Israelis and Palestinians alike, without discrimination or preferential treatment, and must instruct all arms of the government to enforce the law vis-a-vis its citizens in the occupied territories.
a. All persons, regardless of their identity, suspected of crimes committed in the territories, must stand trial under the same legal system and according to the same laws. The Israeli civil law must cease to be applied to Israeli civilians and to Jews who are not citizens of the state, who commit crimes in the territories. International law requires that as long as Israel continues to reign in the occupied territories, it must apply the local military law, at the same time respecting human rights and refraining from use of administrative collective punishment.
b. Israel must take real steps to protect the security, life and property of Palestinians in the territories:
- Mechanism of law enforcement for Jewish residents who committed crimes against Palestinians: a permanent, inter-ministerial follow-up committee (Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Police, Ministry of Defense) should be established to supervise law enforcement in cases of crimes against Palestinians in which the suspects are Israeli civilians.
The committee's tasks would include data collecting, initiation of investigations as needed, and assurance of law enforcement.
- Periodic update of data on law enforcement regarding crimes by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the territories:
In a manner similar to the updated information published annually by the Israeli police regarding the extent of its activities within the Green line, updated information regarding the police's handling of offenses by Israelis in the territories must be published at the same frequency, and made available to the public.
The IDF must act vigorously to prevent attacks by Israeli civilians on Palestinians by:
a. Immediately revoking the order not to open fire on a Jew who is shooting to maim or to kill.
b. Clarifying the powers of soldiers and their duty to arrest Israeli civilians suspected of committing offenses against Palestinians in the territories.
c. Introducing a mandatory report in cases of shooting with a weapon supplied by the IDF, even if there are no casualties. (This was a recommendation of the Karp Report.)
d. Confiscating the weapon of every Israeli civilian who uses it for any purpose other than self-defense, or threatens to do so.
e. Taking measures against soldiers who do not intervene in cases of violence by Israeli civilians.
f. Investigating thoroughly every case in which soldiers cooperate passively or actively in attacks by Israeli civilians on Palestinians, and then bringing the suspects to trial and punishing the guilty.
g. Limiting, if necessary, the freedom of movement of Israeli civilians in order to prevent them from going on rampages. These measures must be taken against the perpetrators, instead of acting against the Palestinians.
a. Every Palestinian who wishes to submit a complaint to the police against an Israeli civilian must be permitted to do so. The phenomena of sending complainants on a wild goose chase from one police station to another or of preventing them from submitting complaints by any other means must be eradicated.
b. Investigations must be initiated in serious cases of violence by Israeli civilians even if no official complaint is lodged. To this end media reports must be continuously and permanently monitored, the Arab press especially. (Also a recommendation of the Karp report.)
c. Police handling of offenses by Israeli civilians against Palestinians must be speeded up, with thorough investigations carried out in every case.
d. If a Palestinian is shot to death by Israeli civilians, efforts must be made to locate Palestinian eye-witnesses and to take their testimony.
- State Attorney's Office
a. The State Attorney's Office must demand from the police a thorough, speedy, and exhaustive investigation of offenses imputed to Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the territories.
b. Israeli civilians against whom there is evidence that they committed an offense against Palestinians in the territories must be brought to trial.
c. Deterrent and appropriate punishments should be demanded for Israeli offenders who attack Palestinians in the territories.
- Courts of Law
a. Parity should be created in the level of punishment meted out to Israeli offenders and Palestinian offenders, to ensure that punishments are commensurate with offenses and constitute a deterrent.
b. When deciding on the punishment for Israeli civilians who have been convicted of offenses against Palestinians, the judges should relate to the concrete case before them, and not base their verdicts directly or indirectly on the offender's origin or his ideological motives.
On February 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli citizen, resident of Kiryat Arba settlement and member of the "Kach" movement, entered the Isaac Hall of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where hundreds of Moslem worshippers were praying. Carrying an automatic weapon he received from his IDF reserves unit, Goldstein opened automatic fire on the worshippers while they were bowed in prayer, killing 29 or 30 of them, and wounding many dozens.
A government commission of inquiry into the massacre was formed a week afterwards, headed by the President of the Supreme Court, Justice Meir Shamgar. The committee began its work on March 8, 1994, a week before publication of this report.
B'Tselem believes that the information presented in this report demonstrates that Goldstein's act did not emerge out of nowhere, but was, rather, a consequence of the ongoing anti- Palestinian incitement, and another link - the most severe to date - in the chain of violent acts perpetrated by settlers against Palestinians, including frequent illegal use of firearms, which, for the most part, went unpunished.
Throughout six years of uprising, and as indicated by the Karp Report even before then, in this dangerous and untenable situation, the government ignored and often chose not to take the necessary measures according to Israeli and international law.
In this context, and in light of the views expressed by residents of Kiryat Arba and other settlements after the massacre, Goldstien's act does not appear to be merely an an isolated, individual act, but rather the result of the failure to act, as well as various deeds which have been continuing for years.
A. Organized Blocking of Roads by the "Yesha" Council - November 1993
A flagrant example of how the IDF tends to allow settlers to break the law, while imposing restrictions on the Palestinians to prevent friction between the two groups, was its response to the blocking of major arteries in the territories organized by the Judea-Samaria-Gaza ("Yesha" in the Hebrew acronym, meaning "salvation") Council in November 1993.
On November 1, 1993, the media reported that in the wake of the attack in which the settler Haim Mizrachi was killed, the Yesha Council had decided to block some fifty junctions in the territories that morning between 4:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. [Ha'aretz, Yediot Aharonot, November 1, 1993.] "IDF commanders in the West Bank," the report continued, "had instructed the commanding officers of the forces in the West Bank not to allow the settlers to block central traffic arteries, and had ordered settlers blocking roads to be evacuated, even by force." [Ha'aretz, ibid.] The following day the press reported that the settlers had in fact blocked dozens of roads and junctions. [Ha'aretz, Davar, Ma'ariv, November 2, 1993.]
A week later, on November 8, 1993, following the attack which claimed the life of Ephraim Ayubi, from Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip, it was reported that the Yesha Council had again decided to block some fifty roads in the territories and that the IDF had augmented its forces to prevent this. [Ha'aretz, Yediot Aharonot, November 8, 1993.] However, the following day it was reported that:
Before dawn yesterday hundreds of settlers blocked 49 roads throughout the territories, as part of protest actions over the murder of Ephraim Ayubi two days ago. The IDF deployed forces near the junctions but did not prevent the settlers from blocking the road to Palestinians. In most cases the soldiers stood about 100 meters in front of the roadblocks and ordered the Arab residents not to proceed, in order to prevent unnecessary friction with the settlers. [Ha'aretz, November 9, 1993. B'Tselem fieldworkers witnessed this behavior by the soldiers at the Jilazun junction near Ramallah.]
True, the offense involved in blocking roads in the territories is not as serious as the dozens of rampages by settlers that occurred during those weeks, in which Jews caused fatalities and destroyed property. However, the authorities' handling of the incidents shows that in some of the cases, at least, their impotence did not derive from any lack of clarity about their powers or from the fear that they would be contravening orders. It was, simply, the result of the directives they received. The IDF knew in advance about the plan to block roads, and large numbers of troops were deployed, but instead of preventing the settlers from setting up roadblocks, or at least arresting those who were actively involved, the soldiers abetted their illegal action by not permitting the Palestinians to pass by.
B. Hebron, May-June 1993
On May 28, 1993, Erez Shmuel, a student at the "Nir" hesder yeshiva (combining religious studies with compulsory military service) at Kiryat Arba was killed while on his way to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. On the same day loudspeakers in Kiryat Arba called on the settlers to take to the streets. For the next few days settlers from Kiryat Arba ran wild in Hebron. The testimonies culled by B'Tselem fieldworker Bassem 'Eid on June 6, 1993, show that the settlers threw stones, smashed windows of houses and cars, and torched houses in Hebron's Mount Johar neighborhood, through which the road to the Tomb of the Patriarch passes.
Testimony of Sa'id a-Salaimah, age 36, from the Masharqah al-Fuqa neighborhood in Hebron:
On May 28, 1993, at 2:30 p.m., I arrived at my home. My family told me: Come in quickly, a settler has been murdered. I saw a lot of soldiers there and about a half hour later the area was filled with settlers. At about 5 p.m. the settlers began breaking the windows in the house of my uncle, Taleb Muhammad Isma'il a-Salaimah, who lived next door to me. I saw the settlers enter the house. Strong blows could be heard from the house. There were soldiers on the roof of the house... .
The next day, at about 11 p.m., we saw my uncle's house go up in flames. After about two hours, firemen arrived and put out the fire... . Everything in the house was burned: the mattresses, the sofas, the blankets, the kitchen cupboards, and eight metal containers of olive oil.
On May 30, 1993, the newspaper Ha'aretz reported that the commander of the Hebron area, Col. M., had said about the fear of acts of vengeance by settlers:
We spoke with some of the leaders of the Jewish settlement in Hebron. We did not hear from them explicitly that they intended to react. I hope they will not and I also believe they will not. The [Jewish] residents know that if we have to deal with preventing disturbances by Jews, that will naturally make it more difficult for us to deal with the important things, i.e., apprehending wanted individuals. Naturally, if there are disturbances by the Jewish settlers and if they take the law into their own hands, we shall react as we have until today.
Testimony of Akram Hamudah Jabar, age 53, from the Masharqah al-Fuqa neighborhood:
On Sunday, May 30, 1993, at 12:30 p.m., I was sitting in my house with my family. Suddenly I heard shooting and shouts. People outside called to us to come out. Suddenly a bullet came through the glass on the gate of the house. The bullet grazed the right hand of my wife Hanan, age 40. The bullet hit the wall. Nearly twenty settlers came there and started shooting at the windows of the houses... . Young people from the neighborhood arrived and began throwing stones at the settlers.
After about a quarter of an hour soldiers arrived. The settlers kept shooting at the houses, even when the soldiers were present. A military ambulance arrived and took my wife and my small son, age three and a half, who was hit in the head by fragments from the bullet.
C. Al-Bireh, December 1989
Beginning on December 14, 1989, and during each of the five days that followed, a settler went by the same street in al-Bireh and harassed the residents. Fifteen of them testified that the settler had caused them damage by throwing stones at their houses and shooting at windows and water containers.
According to the local residents, the settler lived in the Psagot settlement and drove an old beige-colored Peugeot station wagon, license number 47-936-53. One of the residents, Sa'id 'Atma Jabar, went to the Ramallah police station on December 31, 1989, accompanied by the coordinator of Hotline: Center for the Defense of the Individual, 'Ala Khatib, to submit a complaint.
The soldiers refused to let them in, saying: "There is no public reception today." A policeman standing at the entrance told them that he did not deal with cases of that kind.
On the same day the Hotline sent a letter to MK Amnon Rubinstein detailing the course of events, with copies to Deputy Attorney General Ms. Yehudit Karp and to the Israel Police Legal Advisor, David Maiberg, head of police Ombudsman's Unit.
On April 1, 1990, the police Ombudsman's Unit wrote to the Center: "We found that there were prima facie grounds for a clarification on our part in the wake of the refusal to accept a complaint."
The complaint was submitted in a second visit to the Ramallah police station, on January 21, 1990, and the police were also given the license number of the car involved. The policemen told the complainants that the settler in question was known to them: his name was Baruch and the police were aware of his activity. An inquiry carried out by the Hotline at the Ministry of Transport disclosed that the vehicle was registered in the name of Psagot, a settlement with a total population of 650.
Expectations therefore ran high that the complaint would be dealt with properly. But two months later, on March 16, 1990, the head of the Investigations Department at the Ramallah police station, in reply to a query from the Hotline, stated: "The complainant gave no details about suspects and we carried out clarifications and an investigation on the subject, but without findings. In the meantime the investigation file was closed by the head of the Investigations Bureau of the Judea District, Chief Superintendent Goel Naoti."
On June 13, 1990, the Hotline asked Chief Superintendent Naoti how he could have closed the file with no findings, when details about the suspect were known and there were many witnesses.
Naoti called the Hotline's lawyer on June 26 and told her that the details she had given him did not appear in the complaint and that the complainant should go to the police - for the third time.
In another letter, dated January 15, 1991, police Major General B. Gilad, who is in charge of special tasks, stated: "A complaint in the name of Sa'id Jabar was not found at the station... . On January 29, 1990, the file was closed since no suspects were found."
The Hotline then asked to photocopy the file, but after repeated requests (including the intervention of MK Amnon Rubinstein) they were told definitively by the Ramallah police on November 19, 1992, that the file had been lost and had not turned up even after a thorough search.
D. Hebron: January 21, 1994
On January 21, 1994, a soldier who had done reserve duty in Hebron that month sent the following testimony to Minister of Education Amnon Rubinstein:
On January 17, while doing reserve service in Hebron... I was together with another soldier from my unit... at the lookout near one of the entrances to the qasbah of Hebron and on the road leading to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. At about 1500 hours a group of Jewish girls accompanied by two armed boys and a few older women emerged from the alley leading out of the qasbah. The girls began upsetting crates of vegetables on stands that were a few meters from the lookout. I yelled at them to stop, and when they didn't [obey] the soldier who was with me climbed down to stop them and I asked for reinforcements via the radio. During the whole time the girls kept dumping the goods and trampling them. They shrugged off our demands to stop with contempt. The owners of the stands weren't there at first, but came back when they heard the tumult. They asked us to put a stop to the damage being done to their property. In the meantime, one of their settlers escorting them slashed the four tires of an Arab car that was parked nearby and smashed the front windshield.
As all this was happening I stayed at my post by the radio, and the other soldier tried, with no success, to stop the rampage. The patrol jeep arrived as a reinforcement only after all the vegetables were already dumped on the ground. The soldier who was with me seized the boy who had slashed the tires. In the meantime the owner of the car arrived and a fight broke out between him and the boy who had damaged his car. The officer in the jeep ordered the two separated, and in the melee that was created, when the settler girls began shouting at the soldiers in the jeep and spraying them with water, the tire slasher escaped. The girls also left. We were told that the police would be summoned to take our testimony. A few minutes later the regional battalion commander arrived with a police jeep. The policeman spoke to the soldier who was guarding with me but did not take orderly testimony. We emphasized to the battalion commander that we could identify the rioters and especially the one who had damaged the car. The battalion commander promised that we would be taken to territorial brigade headquarters to give written testimony.
The battalion commander left... . We were not taken to brigade headquarters... . When I returned to the base I asked the operations room officer to contact battalion headquarters to find out when they would come to take us to give our written testimony. The officer explained that it was impossible to take me to brigade headquarters... . Individual soldiers cannot cross Hebron by foot without an escort.
The orders we received do not include any possibility of arresting rioting Jews. We were told to document their actions with a camera and give testimony afterward. But not every lookout has a camera - we did not have one. As for giving testimony... , there are no arrangements or procedures on the ground that enable one to do this quickly and efficiently... . Our repeated requests in this matter encountered an apathetic bureaucratic reaction and impossible advice to cross Hebron by foot without an escort in order to give testimony, as though it were my private caprice and not the IDF's duty to preserve law and order in the region.
Palestinians Killed by Israeli Civilians
* The Central District Attorney's Office noted that at this stage there is insufficient evidence to draw up an indictment. The file remains open and submission of an indictment will be considered if new evidence becomes available.
Palestinians Injured by Israeli Civilians' Gunfire
Damages to Palestinian Property by Israeli Civilians
UC = Not known if a complaint was filed
NC = No complaint filed
PC = Police refuse to accept complaint
NL = Not located
CL = Closed
D/SA = District or State Attorney's Office handling case
MA = Military Advocate General's Office handling case
PD = Prosecutions Department of the Jerusalem Police handling case
UI = Under investigation
IS = Indictment submitted
PC = Proceedings concluded
TC = Trial Concluded