The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled last month to award 30,000 shekels in compensation to a Palestinian woman who was delayed at an Israel Defense Forces checkpoint with her 9-day-old baby boy dying in her arms.
In the lawsuit filed by the woman, Hashan Wakaman from the village of Alnasaria in the Nablus district seven years ago, she claimed that in November 2006 she was on her way to the hospital in Nablus because of her infant’s serious condition. She claimed that the soldiers at the checkpoint in did not allow the car in which she was traveling to pass, until an officer intervened. The infant died when they arrived at the hospital.
The plaintiff did not claim that her infant son died due to the delay at the checkpoint. Although she said that she believes that he died due to the behavior of the soldiers at the checkpoint, she explained that after she consulted with experts it was explained to her that she would have difficulty proving a causal connection between the death and the incident at the checkpoint.
Judge Yael Yitav noted in that connection that the infant suffered from poor health already at birth. The mother’s lawsuit dealt with the damage caused to her as a result of the incident at the checkpoint.
According to Wakaman’s description, when they arrived at the checkpoint her relative went out to the soldiers to show them the baby’s referral to the hospital, but she was sent back to the car at gunpoint. Afterwards Wakaman’s brother-in-law went out to the soldiers, and when he approached them they began to beat him. As a result of the beating he lost consciousness and was later handcuffed. Only an hour later, when an IDF captain came and spoke to the soldiers, was he released.
She added that the officer ordered a search of the driver and the car, and the soldiers behaved roughly, broke the windows and destroyed the seats. Wakaman claimed that to this day she suffers from fear, and every time she sees soldiers it’s very hard for her.
“How could you be aware that there’s an infant who had no time at all, in the week that he lived, to cause harm to anyone, who could die if he didn’t arrive at the hospital quickly, and simply behave in such a manner,” she wrote in the affidavit.
The state denied the existence of the incident. The brigade commander who testified in court called it a “false incident.”
Judge Yitav preferred Wakaman’s version, including the soldiers’ violence. She said that “although there were several contradictions in her version, I didn’t find that these were significant contradictions that could disprove it.”
She mentioned that an objective doctor who was present at the checkpoint testified and supported Wakaman’s version. But she noted that “The delay itself does not attest to negligence on the part of the state, since the checkpoints are set up for security reasons and it hasn’t been proven that there is anything wrong with putting them in place.”
The judge criticized the state, saying: “It’s hard to avoid the impression that the complaint was not thoroughly checked, or that the accused [the State of Israel] refrained from presenting all the findings, for its own reasons.” She emphasized that “nothing would have been easier than to present evidence of the fact that there was no additional checkpoint that day in that sector, which was set up by another brigade, or reports of commanders and soldiers in the other brigades regarding the complaint and denying the existence of the incident in question.”
In the end the judge adopted the opinion of the court expert and awarded the plaintiff 5 percent disability due to the psychological damage.