When Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, who were not involved in violence, suffer injury or property damage during an Israel Police operation, you can be sure they will wait a long time to even to be acknowledged as victims, let alone be compensated.
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The first step in the process requires the Israel Police to grant what is known as “enemy action” confirmation. This is a precondition for eligibility to receive state support for various treatments beyond those covered by national healthcare insurance, for receiving disability support from social security (the National Insurance Institute), or opening a case file at the Property Tax Authority, to get compensation for property damage.
Itai Mack, a lawyer representing several such victims, has been trying to get the required confirmation since November, in vain.
Louay Faisel Abed, from Isawiyah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, lost his eye from a sponge-tipped bullet fired by a Border Police force on October 21. He is still in the medical process of obtaining a prosthetic eye. Abed, who owns a transportation company, was standing on the porch of his house when he was hit. There were no conflicts in the area between the Border Police and residents at the time Abed was injured, say witnesses.
Or take the couple Mazen and Nadia Abu Humus, also of Isawiyah, who were hurt when standing by the window of their house; then too witnesses say there were no clashes in their street yet a sponge-tipped bullet fired by a Border Policeman hit Mazen in the forehead. He needed deep stitching and both he and his wife were injured from shards of glass from the shattered window.
Before dawn on October 20 a Border Police force broke into the house of Jihad Zaatari in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al Amud. Only after breaking down the two entry doors did they realize they were in the wrong house.
In parallel with the complaints the victims submitted to the Ministry of Justice’s police internal investigations department, in all three cases, Mack went into action (as he had a year ago when obtaining “enemy action” confirmation for another family in Isawiyah whose house was set on fire by a tear gas grenade thrown into it).
Just like a year ago, in early November, he sent the requests for confirmation to the commander of the Kedem district in the Israel Police, Haim Shmueli. Receiving no answer after three weeks, he went to Shmueli’s office and was told to send the requests directly to the Border Police commander in Jerusalem (he was not told the commander’s name), even though the decision to grant the confirmation, or not, is the prerogative of the Israel Police.
Mack then took the paperwork to the Border Police commander in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, an army base for all intents on purposes, in which Palestinians are not to be seen. There he had to wade his way through police at two entrance barriers, who didn’t just wave him through, though he gained the impression that the skullcap he wears was helpful. Then he encountered a clerk who didn’t know what an “enemy action” confirmation was.
In parallel with delivering the documents to the Border Police commander’s office, Mack sent copies to the two responsible elements in the police: the commander and VIP officer of the Kedem district.
On December 21, the assistant to the Border Police commander advised Mack that the investigation was over and that he would receive the decision through the Kedem district department of investigations and intelligence Deputy Commissioner Ben Amos.
Meanwhile, Knesset member Dov Khenin of the United Arab List contacted Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and described to him the difficulties the four East Jerusalemites had encountered in obtaining the confirmations they need. Erdan replied to Khenin on January 21, that the police could not find the letters from the said four residents of East Jerusalem. Erdan also wrote, “All requests for police confirmation of enemy action forms are examined painstakingly Any citizen asking the police for such a form will be willingly handled.” Khenin wrote back to Erdan saying that Mack had already sent nine letters to the police and Border Police.
Last week Ben Amos of the Kedem district police called Mack and said he was not familiar with the cases, that none of Mack’s many letters had reached him and that the Border Police had not been in touch with him about these cases.
Haaretz asked the spokespeople of the Border Police and Israel Police for the meaning of the foot-dragging and the hassles. The Israel Police replied for both: “During incidents of unrest that place police and civilians at risk, means to disperse rioters and protect the innocent are used. Claims that illegal means were used shall be investigated by the IAD [Internal Affairs Division]. The check conducted found that no complaints were filed with the police regarding the incidents described in the letter. However, the manner of handling under the scenarios set forth in the law, were explained to the legal counsel of the petitioners, who is in contact with the police.”
Experience has shown that representatives of Israeli authorities approach, at their own initiative, people accidentally hurt by Israeli security forces, and advise them of their rights and how to file for an “enemy action” confirmation – provided they are Jewish and not Arab citizens or residents. That is why, in the case of non-Jews a lawyer has to get involved. Mack concludes that the bureaucratic obstacles he encounters explain why the many residents of East Jerusalem who get injured during police actions, in which they were not involved, tend not to pursue their rights.