Ms. Livni, Mr. Shavit: See the Israeli Army Investigate Itself

As per Livni and Shavit's advice, two Israeli citizens complained to the Israeli system about the violence of its representatives. For all the good it did them.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Protest in Nabi Saleh, West Bank, September 4, 2015.
Protest in Nabi Saleh, September 4, 2015.Credit: AFP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

At the HaaretzQ conference on peace in New York on December 13, 2015, Tzipi Livni told Breaking the Silence to go to the appropriate Israeli investigative bodies, the Military Police. Ari Shavit gave them similar advice: Give the Israeli system a chance, he wrote in Haaretz (“Why I Broke My Silence," December 16, 2015). “As I discovered, the system can sometimes surprise you and fix things on its own,” he wrote.

Even without consulting with Livni and Shavit, Didi Remez from Tel Aviv and Bouthaina Ladkani from Haifa turned to the establishment itself with a request to investigate the actions of its armed representatives who shot and wounded them during demonstrations (a democratic right and obligation, one should remember). True: Shooting citizens non-fatally during a demonstration is not as serious as the disappearance of prisoners of war. But in our humble opinion, the frequency of the custom of shooting at protesters gives it a cumulative severity.

Remez approached the investigation branch of the Military Police through lawyers from the legal team of Yesh Din-Volunteers for Human Rights, attorneys Anu Deuel Lusky and Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man. Ladkani complained to the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police officers through attorney Abeer Baker, who years ago worked for Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Adalah and Yesh Din both have rich experience in filing complaints against the “establishment” over violence by soldiers and police officers towards citizens, and in investigations that the Israeli establishment closes without results, without correcting itself.

After the protest at Nabi Saleh in March 2010, Remez understood the message very well: He stopped going to demonstrate in the West Bank, after an armed Israeli shot him directly with seven metal bullets coated with rubber. Ladkani is still recovering from the especially brutal ammunition (a sponge bullet, it seems) fired at her by police officers in Umm al-Fahm in June 2014. She is too busy recovering to think whether to take the risk and demonstrate again inside an Israeli city.

The 30 meters between him and the position of the soldiers on the roof of the house in Nabi Saleh was a short enough distance for the armed Israelis to know Remez did not throw rocks and did not endanger them. He only yelled, “Stop shooting, leave the village.” One of them punished him for his shouts with seven bull’s eyes, one of which hurt in particular. Two bullets hit him from behind when two Palestinian medics carried him for first aid.

Ladkani does not know exactly what type of ammunition hit her in the head. In the Justice Ministry’s response to Haaretz, they claimed she and other witnesses who were invited to answer questions “could not identify the source of the fire – a police officer or protester.” Shooting? By demonstrators? Did protesters – Palestinian citizens of Israel – shoot at this demonstration? That’s news to us.

Reports in the Israeli Jewish press told of rock throwing. Ladkani herself did not see stone throwers before the police began to rain down on her and her fellow protesters tear gas and frightening sounds of explosions. The demonstration – against the collective punishment on the West Bank – ended without arrests. That is what Baker was told by the person in charge of the Freedom of Information Law in the Israel Police’s public complaints unit. Baker was also told that there were 505 police officers present at the site, and they used tear gas, stun grenades and sponge bullets.

Did the many police officers not try to locate the source of the shooting and stop it? And if the rock throwing was so serious that it justified immediate repression, would the police not have been happy to arrest the rioters? Allow us to guess that there were no arrests because the demonstrators did not shoot, and that the rock throwing likewise did not occur as it was portrayed.

But Ladkani almost died from the impact of the unidentified object to her head, as the doctor who operated on her told her. She was near the police and facing them, not facing the protesters who had already dispersed in all directions. The Justice Ministry investigators closed the case with the explanation that the criminal was unknown. The Justice Ministry explained to Haaretz that the complaint was filed late: five months after the demonstration. But in light of the severity of the injury, couldn’t the Justice Ministry investigators have clarified how many police officers and which ones fired sponge bullets?

Remez actually filed a complaint with the investigative branch of the Military Police immediately after he was injured, and gave them pictures of the soldiers on the roof. The Military Police took over three and a half years to discover that these were not IDF soldiers but Border Police officers. Allow us to surmise that this basic fact was revealed so long after the filing of the complaint intentionally. The case was handed over to the Justice Ministry unit for investigating police officers, which passed the file on to the State Prosecutor’s Office, which decided there was no interest to the public and inadequate evidence to continue with the investigation, which, after all, started too late.

The real reason for the repeated lack of action by the system that investigates itself is that the establishment has no intention or desire to investigate itself, that deterring demonstrators from fulfilling their democratic right is an inherent goal, and that this has “no interest to the public.” There is no interest to the public in banning Border Police officers and other police officers from using violence to repress demonstrations by Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinian residents of the West Bank and a handful of Jewish Israelis who oppose our domination over another people.

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