Friedmann's Norms

Friedmann's defensive-offensive speech is an enlightening lesson in democracy and human rights. In Kenya or Burma.

Last Monday all eyes were focused on the prime minister as he delivered a speech about the Winograd Report, and on the opposition as they spoke. Few paid attention to the words said on behalf of the government by the justice minister a short time earlier - from the same dais.

Daniel Friedmann was replying to a no-confidence motion over the attorney general's decision to close the investigative files of those involved in the killing of 13 Arab citizens in October 2000. Were Prof. Friedmann representing Menachem Mazuz in court, the attorney general would be in big trouble. Since Friedmann is representing the government, the country is in big trouble.

Friedmann's defensive-offensive speech is an enlightening lesson in democracy and human rights. In Kenya or Burma. The discussion opened with a speech by MK Dov Khenin of Hadash, who read out the names of the Arab victims. "Every person has a name," he said, "and every one of them has an individual death, too."

Friedmann did not defend himself; he complained. "During that event or in connection with that event," he said, "14 people were killed, but the 14th person is a Jew, and he is not mentioned." How is it possible, he said, that MK Khenin forgot Jean Bechor, who found himself near the village of Jisr al-Zarqa and was hit by a rock and killed. "Nobody was tried for his death either," said the minister.

In other words, the law professor is equating those in charge of enforcing the law with citizens who break the law. He does not distinguish between the serial use of firearms, which caused the death of more than a dozen people, and stone throwing, which led to the death of one person.

Even if we assume that the police were negligent in investigating the death of the citizen at the hands of rioters, what does that have to do with closing the investigative files into the killing of 13 citizens by police fire?

That was only the beginning. Friedmann also claimed that "the Or [Commission] Report says the demonstrators aimed live fire at the police," and that "in quite a few cases the policemen's lives were in danger." As it happens, nowhere in the Or Report does it say that the demonstrators directed live fire at the policemen. It says only that such a claim was heard from some of the policemen regarding several incidents, but no evidence of this was found.

Contrary to the justice minister's words, the commission ruled there was no clear and present danger to the policemen's lives, and that live fire was used for warning purposes, without objective justification. The commission pointed at policemen regarding whom there was ostensibly evidence they were responsible for unjustified shooting that caused death, without any advance warning, as required.

In a speech he delivered two years after the publication of the Or report, commission member Prof. Shimon Shamir said that in several cases the conclusions of the Justice Ministry's Police Investigation Department "stretched to the utmost, and even beyond that, the degree of tolerance regarding claims of clear and present danger to life and the degree of justification for live fire and the use of snipers."

According to Friedmann, we are presumably dealing with a war in which citizens from both sides were killed, and with policemen who were defending their lives against Arab rioters armed with live weapons. And, nevertheless, as though going beyond the letter of the law, "a genuine and serious attempt was made to examine whether policemen behaved wrongly." Unfortunately, the investigation came to a dead end because the families refused to cooperate with the police.

Shamir said during that same lecture that there were quite a number of local Arabs who were willing to testify, and that there was very broad operational leeway to interrogate the policemen, take testimony from eyewitnesses and gather evidence on the ground, including weapons and bullet casings.

Friedmann managed to stir up not only Arab and left-wing MKs. Even MK David Azulai was quite shocked by the justice minister's speech defending the policemen and those who are covering up their crimes. "No matter about what, no matter who, 13 civilians who are killed during the dispersal of demonstrations," the Shas MK taught the professor from Kadima, "is an event that should flash a warning light to everyone."

Incidentally, the no-confidence motion was rejected by a majority of 67 to 14 with 13 abstentions.