In Occupied West Bank, Jews and Arabs See Different Sides of Justice

The Israeli justice system in the occupied territories treats similar crimes committed by Jews and Arabs differently - impunity toward settlers, harsh repercussions for Arabs.

1. There is a law in Israel. It is the Dromi Law, named for the farmer Shai Dromi who in January 2007 shot to death Khaled el-Atrash, a Bedouin who broke into his farm in the Negev at night.

In June 2008, a law was passed that “a person will not bear criminal responsibility for an act that was required immediately in order to curb someone who breaks in, or tries to break in, in order to commit a crime.” The district court acquitted Dromi of manslaughter, however he was convicted of having an illegal weapon.

West Bank settlers
Moti Milrod

2. There is a judge in Israel. He is Colonel-Lieutenant Netanel Benishu, who is deputy president of the military appeals court in the occupied West Bank. He heard the case of three members of the Bedouin Ka’abneh family, who were arrested on July 19th of this year after Israelis attacked their tent encampment on the lands of the village of Mukhmas east of Ramallah.

No, we did not get this wrong. First the Israelis broke into the encampment and then some of its residents began throwing stones at them. And a clarification – the Bedouins did not use a gun. They also did not kill anyone.

The indictment states that one of the stones they threw hit a policeman in the chest and that an Israeli by the name of Harel Zand from the unauthorized outpost of Mitzpeh Danny was hurt in the leg.

The three Bedouin who were arrested are between the ages of 16 and 20. The military judge, Major Yehuda Lieblein, decided to leave the two older youths in detention and to release the youngest one on NIS 7,500 bail.

The military prosecution appealed the release of the minor. The defense attorney, Naji Amer, appealed the continued detention of the others. Benishu ruled that all three would remain in custody until the end of the proceedings.

3. There is a policeman in Israel’s police force at the Benjamin Station in the occupied West Bank. He is Sgt. Maj. Avi Ben Ami and he was present at the site when the Israelis broke into the encampment. He was in civvies. He said he happened to be on the spot because he had received a report that some of the residents of the settlement were planning to go to the encampment. He arrived and saw that they were arguing with the Ka'abneh family members. He says he immediately identified himself as a policeman.

However, the members of the encampment said they only realized he was not a civilian toward the end of the incident when he put a flashing blue light on his car.

His overt or covert presence did not prevent other settlers from arriving there and, according to his testimony, from shouting and starting to kick cans of milk. Then he also noticed the stone-throwers. He apparently did not see what happened then, according to the tent dwellers account to Haaretz. The Israelis began stoning them (one little girl was injured), threw a baby (wrapped in its blankets) out of a cradle and began overturning sacks of flour and rice

4. Benishu: "If we were dealing with throwing stones at civilians alone", he wrote in his ruling "it is doubtful in my eyes to what extent it would be necessary to instruct that the appellants be in the unique circumstances of the present case. No one would disagree that stone throwing is generally a crime that deserves detention because of the danger involved.”

“And indeed, from the point of view of the danger involved in releasing an accused, there is no resemblance between planned and intentional stone-throwing, and stone throwing that stems from tempers heating up during a fight to which the victim contributed quite a bit…However, the appellant deliberately harmed a policeman who was present at the scene and identified himself”

[Therefore] significant danger to the public is involved (in an act of that kind) … The stone throwing continued even after the settlers left the site … Now is the time to reject the defense attorney’s claims about the supposed discrimination that was created between the matter of the appellants and the matter of the settlers… It must be noted that an investigation has been opened against the settlers and some of them have been interrogated under caution as is required. In view of that, it is possible that action will be taken against them… Second, there is no evidence of stone throwing on the part of the settlers, and while every harmful act against property must be condemned, this cannot be compared with an act of bodily harm.”

5. A beheaded doll now lies on the land where the tent encampment of Ka'abneh once was. On July 25, its inhabitants dismantled it and left. Out of fear. That is what the inhabitants of three other nearby Bedouin encampments did as well. Had the law and order authorities defended us from attacks, they said, we would not have left.

6. Israel has a Torah. Bassam, aged 12, helps support his family by herding his relatives’ sheep in a tent encampment near the village of Jaba. He learned that the Jews’ Torah restricts their movement on the Sabbath and therefore, he thought that Saturday would be a good day to take the sheep a little further out, to the rich pasture at the Mukhmas junction. The Migron outpost overlooks the junction.

7. Thank God for security firms. On August 20, Bassam and a friend went out with the sheep at seven in the morning. It was Ramadan, and hot, and they dozed while the sheep pastured.

At around 12.30, Bassam awoke to the sound of desperate bleating from the flock. He left the cave where he had been resting and saw a group of young Israeli boys (and a few girls) attacking the sheep with stones and iron bars.

Two of the Israelis, he said, attacked him too and beat him on the head with the rods. He was also hit in the back by a stone that someone threw at him. His friend woke up and the two of them fled for their lives in the direction of Shaar Binyamin, a settlers’ services compound.

The police station is there but that is not what they were looking for. They hid and waited for a security guard whom they believe guards a wedding hall.

When he arrived, he called the police, an ambulance and a family member of the boys. He also administered first aid to Bassam whose head was bleeding. In the Ramallah hospital, doctors attended to three deep and long gashes on Bassam’s skull.

8. "Hava Nagilla” - let’s be merry. Bassam’s friend accompanied the soldiers and the policemen who went to look for the young attackers. He saw a group of young people sitting on the ground in a small stone building, clapping their hands and singing. Some of them (including some young women) left when they saw the police and army approaching. Most remained behind and continued singing. The boy saw the police arresting them.

9. At a line-up in the yard of the Beit El army base, Bassam identified three of the youths as those who had assaulted him. As far as we know at this moment, if there are suspects in the attack, they are free.