'If I’m Hit by a Bullet in Tel Aviv and Someone Says Maybe It’s a Soldier – You Wouldn’t Even Investigate?'

On the line with Shlomit Bakshi, spokeswoman for the Israel Police’s Judea and Samaria District in the West Bank

Amir Oudeh at his home in the West Bank village of Qusra.
Olivier Fitoussi

Hello to Shlomit Bakshi, spokeswoman for the Judea and Samaria District in the Israel Police. This is Nir Gontarz from Haaretz. How are you?

OK.

I’m calling about Amir Oudeh.

Who is Amir Oudeh? Tell me, please.

Amir Oudeh is a young Palestinian man from the [West Bank] village of Qusra, who was hit by a bullet while standing on the balcony of his home.

Oh. I understand: the recent article by Yotam [Berger, Haaretz’s correspondent in the West Bank].

Yes, exactly. According to the article, after the shooting a complaint was filed with the Judea and Samaria District.

Correct.

And for a number of weeks, until Haaretz showed an interest you didn’t take any investigative action – such as seizing the security cameras surrounding the home that could tell you the identity of the gunman.

That’s not correct. Wait a minute, what are you? You work with Yotam?

No. I write for Haaretz’s Friday supplement.

I see. Most of the things that were reported are not correct. I’ll tell you why: The father of the young man came to the police station on December 4 – if I’m not mistaken – and filed a complaint giving the son’s version, which was that he was standing on a balcony, etc., and he was probably shot by a military force. OK?

Yes.

In such a case, when we understand that there is involvement by a military force, we collect testimony and send it to the Police Internal Investigations Department [in the Justice Ministry].

Since when do you believe the Palestinians? What does it mean, his dad said he may have been shot by soldiers? Maybe it wasn’t soldiers? Maybe it was someone else? Don’t you need to start investigating?

If we understand from the beginning that it involves soldiers, then the file goes to the Police Internal Investigations Department and that unit starts

If I may ask, how long have you been a cop?

Twenty-five years.

A veteran. Me too. I’m the former crime reporter at Yedioth Ahronoth; I know how a normal investigation works. The fact the father may have said that perhaps it’s soldiers doesn’t mean you do nothing other than transfer the file to the internal investigations unit.

That’s the procedure. That’s the procedure. From the moment there is an understanding that soldiers are involved, we don’t investigate. That’s the procedure! I’m telling you what the rules say.

The home is wired with security cameras. If the district investigating officer seized them and discovered the case does indeed involve a soldier, and then you transferred the file to the internal investigations unit – fair enough. But you haven’t even done that.

That’s the role of the internal investigations unit – to seize it and investigate. That unit opens an investigation when there’s involvement by soldiers. That’s the procedure.

Tell me, have you already determined that soldiers are involved? Have you determined that a soldier shot Oudeh?

I am not saying for certain.

So why have you already transferred the file with certainty? If there’s no certainty, was there no room for a basic police investigation before getting rid of the file because “the dad said”?

The investigation will be conducted by the internal investigations unit, because there’s an understanding that the force operating there is from the Israel Defense Forces. If that unit were to say “It doesn’t involve a soldier, we looked into it,” the file returns to us. We don’t open an investigation when soldiers are involved.

If I’m hit by a bullet in Tel Aviv and someone says maybe it’s a soldier – you wouldn’t even investigate?

We’re in the Judea and Samaria District, my friend. We’re in the occupied territories. You’re talking to me about the territories; we aren’t talking about Tel Aviv.

To transfer a file to the internal investigations unit, don’t you first need to know it’s a soldier?

We understand there were soldiers there.

I get it, but how do you know Oudeh was shot by a soldier?

I don’t know. It needs to be investigated.

So why don’t you investigate whether it involves a soldier or not? Why didn’t you seize all the camera footage first?

Maybe another Palestinian shot him.

Unbelievable exactly! Why didn’t you do anything to find out? And why are the people in the internal investigations unit saying they only got the file weeks later, after an inquiry from Haaretz?

That’s not true. Two days after the complaint was filed, we faxed the file to the internal investigations unit. After they receive the fax, they need to physically come and get the file. This step took them about three weeks. Not because of Haaretz.

And in the meantime, it’s possible someone already destroyed the footage. It’s unbelievable. Somebody has already been good enough to get it?

How am I supposed to know if the internal investigations unit took it or didn’t take it? They’re in charge of the investigation.

There are a lot of ignored complaints from Palestinians. In August 2014, juveniles broke headlights in Burin [a Palestinian West Bank village] and it was filmed, but the police didn’t manage to see the video. In December 2014, a Palestinian claimed Israelis had tried to kidnap their son and it was filmed. The cameras were not examined. In January 2015, a Palestinian claimed teenagers had attacked him. There were bruises on him but not on the teens, but he was the one arrested. In September 2016

So what? I don’t understand. You’re reading me a list. What can I do with it?

It’s just the tip of the tip of the failure of the Judea and Samaria police district to deal with Palestinian complaints. There’s a problem. You’re ignoring the Palestinians.

Heaven forbid!

Allegedly.

This isn’t a conversation that should be conducted with the spokesperson. You want us to respond to the query? Send us an email and we’ll respond accordingly.

How will you respond?

As required.

Every child knows that

What’s your name?

Nir Gontarz.

What are you? A writer at Haaretz?

Yes, for the Friday supplement. Every child knows the way in which the Judea and Samaria police deal with Arabs’ complaints is

We investigate impartially. Do you know how many indictments have been filed on Palestinians’ complaints?

No. The fact you’re avoiding investigating Oudeh’s shooting because “maybe it’s soldiers” – maybe it is. It’s shameful! After all, you yourself said no one knows if it was a soldier.

Maybe he wasn’t hurt at all? First, the internal investigations unit is probing. What’s not right?

Never mind. Let’s wrap this up. This conversation isn’t doing me any good.

Or me. From the outset. If you want to do it, do it in an orderly fashion.

I don’t want anything. OK?

OK.