Israel Police Fail to Charge Offenders in 95% of Reported anti-Palestinian Attacks

Police data for 2015 shows that only 4 out of 89 cases yielded indictments. New unit focused on Jewish political crimes did not make improvement.

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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A Palestinian man points to damage sustained to a West Bank mosque following a suspected settler arson attack in Mughayer, north of Ramallah, Nov. 12, 2014.
A Palestinian man points to damage sustained to a West Bank mosque following a suspected settler arson attack in Mughayer, north of Ramallah, Nov. 12, 2014.Credit: AP
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

Information released by police in response to a request by the left-wing non-profit group Yesh Din shows that there are difficulties in indicting Jews for violations committed against Palestinians, in comparison to the indictment of Jews who have committed ideologically motivated crimes against the police or the public.

The information released by police shows that in 2015, 280 files were opened in connection with politically or ideologically motivated crimes committed by Israelis in the occupied territories. Eighty-nine of these dealt with violence against Palestinians or their property. Only four of these cases led to indictments, amounting to 4.5 percent of the files opened.

The other 191 files dealt with violations against security forces, public disturbances, criminal trespassing, obstructing a public official and similar offenses. In these cases there were 55 indictments, amounting to almost 29 percent of files that were opened.

The group claims that these differences are largely a result of political ideology.

Yesh Din has accompanied 289 cases since 2013, dealing with alleged politically-motivated attacks by Israelis against Palestinians or their property. Of these, only 20 investigations led to prosecution, amounting to 8.2 percent of the cases in which a decision was made either way. Another 225 files were closed and some are still under investigation.

Yesh Din claims that the establishment in 2013 of a department dealing with politically motivated crimes in the Judea and Samaria police district did not improve the effectiveness of investigating such crimes. The department was set up with the intent of solving such crimes more efficiently. So far, at least as far as the files Yesh Din is following, there has been no increase in the number of prosecutions. Before the department was opened there was a prosecution rate of 8.5 percent, almost identical to the rate of indictments since the department was established. There was no data on other files but the data analyzed by Yesh Din shows the trend.

Report's author: Political leaders ultimately to blame

Miryam Wijler, the information coordinator at Yesh Din who compiled the report, says, “It’s not just the policemen on the ground, it’s presumably the policy dictated from above. I look at the numbers – it was 8 percent before and it remains 8 percent. The reality is that there has been no change. Where does this come from? I look mainly at the political echelons. The miserable results of this department after four years raise concerns that its opening was only performed for appearance’s sake and was not meant to truly address ideologically-motivated crime against Palestinians in the West Bank.”

Retired police Maj. Gen. Arieh Amit, who commanded the police’s Jerusalem District, said after hearing the numbers from Haaretz: “It’s not very politically correct to say so, but police treatment of Jews and Arabs is not equal, as is the case for veteran Israelis versus new immigrants or Ethiopian Jews, Bedouin of foreign workers. A policeman has to be very objective. That’s his job, but we’re talking about human beings. ”

Amit however does not see the issue as one stemming from a calculated lack of police activity, but rather echoes Wijler’s assessment; in his opinion the situation is the result of antagonistic political rhetoric. “I put the blame on Israel’s leaders. When the prime minister looks into the camera and declares that 'the Arabs are streaming to the voting booths in droves,' he turns himself into someone who treats Arab citizens as a dangerous enemy. This is leadership that everyone looks up to, whether it’s good or bad. These things trickle downwards. It is clear that the attitude of investigators towards a Jewish suspect who commits a crime against Arabs is not the same as towards an Arab who commits a crime against a Jew.”

Amit agrees though that in practice the investigation of violence against security forces is easier than investigating violence against a Palestinian. He stresses the difficulties of establishing good intelligence sources among right-wing activists. “One can’t ignore the fact that it’s much harder to catch criminals among the hilltop youth than among Arabs or Palestinians in their villages. The Jewish ones get serious briefings on how to contend with interrogations” he adds.

The Israel Police said they enforce the law with equality and without bias. Any expression of violence from any side is met with firm and uncompromising enforcement, whose purpose is to preserve order and the rule of law.

The police said that “presenting the data this way distorts reality because it does not take into account regular operations to prevent such actions. These actions have borne fruit in recent years, and the evidence is the significant drop crimes of violence in Judea and Samaria, and in the past year important cases have been solved that have led to dozens of indictments in this area.”

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