Letter From the Law

A few days after the Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza that killed three of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish's daughter, nine Israeli citizens signed a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi noting that the forgotten can relax and the living will heal, but what about the disgrace (paraphrasing Natan Alterman's poem, "Simhat Eynayim")? They wrote that if the defense minister and chief of staff knew that the strike on the Abu al-Aish family home was an accident, they expected a public announcement that this was indeed the case, and an apology to the family. If not, they would like to know whether the IDF is investigating the incident and to receive the findings of the investigation.

The signatories: Amos Oz, Haim Gouri, Prof. Menachem Brinker, Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell, Prof. Marek Glazerman and Prof. Menahem Yaari, Amos Schocken, Dalia Yairi and Niva Lanir.

The response from the defense minister's office arrived a few days ago: "... the incident during which Dr. Abu al-Aish's home was damaged by a tank shell, and as a result of which two of his daughters, his niece and another woman were killed - indeed this difficult and unfortunate event during which four women were killed..."

It was not "women" who were killed in the incident, but girls. It was not two of Abu al-Aish's daughters who were killed, but three. Another daughter was injured as was his niece and his two brothers.

Barak's office noted that these "women" did not "apparently" take part in the fighting against IDF forces. "Apparently?"

It seems that an alert legal adviser suggested to the distinguished defense minister that in order to be safe he add this safety valve to protect against a compensation suit.

And that's not all: The letter said that the security forces "warned Dr. Abu al-Aish that IDF forces were expected to operate in the area." It further said that two investigations indicate that the IDF force identified on the third floor of the doctor's house persons who were suspicions because they were observing the IDF forces and aiming sniper fire at them.

Abu al-Aish continues to vehemently claim that his house is two kilometers away from the place where the IDF was operating and that there was no observer on the roof of his home.

The piece de resistance of the minister's response lies in the following line: "The investigations indicate that the security forces cautioned Dr. Abu al-Aish that the IDF forces are expected to operate in the area and several times suggested to him that he evacuate the home of its residents so that they will not be harmed."

And what did the hasty doctor do? "He chose not to evacuate his family from the home, despite the substantial risk entailed in not doing so." This means the father of the girls chose to endanger his daughters and in making this choice, sealed their fate. He is guilty.

Niva Lanir, who delved into the details of the incident, says the commander of the Erez checkpoint did indeed suggest to Abu al-Aish that he flee. And yet, the commander knew, and others knew, that the widowed doctor had nowhere to run to with his family.

Given the importance of the investigations, the nine letter writers were told, they were sent for review to the chief military advocate, who has the authority to order further investigation or other steps. They will also be forwarded to the attorney general for further review.

Keeping the doctor away

Dr. Ibrahim al-Hur, the head of the intensive care unit at the government hospital in Hebron, recently also had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the Israeli security officials negligent, near-scandalous attitude toward Palestinian subjects. Al-Hur, an expert in cardiac diseases, was invited in June to attend two professional conferences in Cyprus.

Although the doctor was never arrested and has a special card issued by the military commander to residents of the territories indicating they are no threat to enter Israel, he was informed by the Civil Administration's District Coordination Offices that security officials (i.e., the Shin Bet security service) is prohibiting his departure abroad.

Usually, those who are rejected accept the decree and stay at home; either they do not have time or money to hire a lawyer and begin a legal battle, usually a hopeless one, against the security agencies.

Al-Hur approached the HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, which specialized in lifting arbitrary prohibitions. In an appeal to the High Court of Justice, attorney Ido Bloom wrote that prohibiting the senior doctor's departure to attend professional medical conferences abroad affects his livelihood and his right to freedom of occupation and especially his ability to care for his patients in the best possible way.

Security officials explained their refusal to allow al-Hur's departure abroad by saying he is active in Hamas and is among the directors of the orphans association in his village, Tzurif, which is linked to Hamas.

The center presented official documents showing that al-Hur is actually a recognized member of Fatah. It proved that Dr. al-Hur resigned over a year ago from the orphans association and also that the association is legally registered with the Palestinian Authority and does not appear on the list of associations whose activities are prohibited by Israel.

A few days after the first conference closed and at the last minute, before the start of the second conference, the center received a dry notice from the State Attorney's office: "The security forces have notified us that after a new review of the matter, on the basis of the material submitted by you and on the basis of other inquiries, it has been decided to allow Dr. al-Hur's departure."

Why were "a new review" and also "other inquiries" necessary for material forwarded by an Israeli organization that operates using donations? Is this not what security officials are paid to do?