Media Roundup: (In)Justice In Israel, iPalestine, & Numerical Profiling

Gaza beach. © palestinephotobank.com.

“Throwing stones, starting fires: Shaked’s first bill as justice minister,” by  Natasha Roth, +972mag – 1 June.

+972mag reports that the new Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is sponsoring legislation that will lower the conviction bar and mandate a possible (probable?) 10 year imprisonment for those accused of throwing stones at passing cars. Currently, Israel law allows for a 20 year sentence (!) but prosecutors generally seek lower sentences (no more than 2 years). +972mag reports,

The new law will make it much easier to get a conviction.

The law was a response to unrest in Jerusalem last summer and in theory only applies within Israel proper, but given the parallel legal systems in the occupied territories, the proposed law would technically apply to Israeli settlers living in the West Bank as well. However, Israeli police tend to treat incidents of stone-throwing and violence by Israelis towards Palestinians with indifference or incompetence, meaning that the increased prison terms will likely only be handed down to Palestinians.

Prior to her appointment, Ms. Shaked distinguished herself as a rising star in the far-right Jewish Home party, which is categorically opposed to a Palestinian state and favors a gradual Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank, and during last summer’s war on Gaza shared a racist and violent screed on her Facebook page: 

[The Palestinian people] are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

(In)Equality Before the Law

“A court of non-convictions when the victim is Palestinian,” by Yossi Gurvitz, +972mag – 13 June. 

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Israeli Jewish settlers throw stones at Palestinians. Photo Credit:  Oren Ziv/Activestills.org

Speaking of Israeli law and order, the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din has compiled a report documenting the gross inequality in law enforcement between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank when the latter is the victim of the former:

Every year Yesh Din publishes data about police investigative failures regarding crimes carried out by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank. They are usually quite similar: the police fails to investigate approximately 85 percent of complaints by Palestinians who report being harmed by Israelis. The rate becomes much higher when it comes to the destruction of Palestinian trees by Israeli civilians: that’s when the police failure rate reaches 97.4 percent.

Even in the rare cases when an indictment is issued, the Palestinian will likely see no justice done:

To begin with, the chances that a complaint by a Palestinian victim will develop into an indictment against an Israeli felony suspect stands at a mere 7.4 percent. […]

In 10.5 percent of the cases, the [Israeli] defendants are convicted of all charges; in 22.8 percent of the cases, only some of the defendants are convicted, or they are convicted of some of the charges […] But what is truly high is the rate of “non-conviction” (24.6 percent) and the rate of withdrawn indictment (22.8 percent).

What is a non-conviction? It is a relatively rare practice in which the court believes there is reason to avoid tarring the suspect with a criminal conviction for one reason or another — despite the fact that the felon has been found guilt of the charges. […]

At the end of the day, the chance that a Palestinian who lodges a complaint about being harmed by an Israeli civilian will see a conviction is only 1.9 percent. Again, most of the blame for this lies with the police – but the courts are also responsible, as seen by the unusual rate of non-conviction.

Rule of law? Rule of the violent.

And Now for an Illustration: 

“Israeli soldiers get suspended sentence for beating restrained Palestinian,” by  Amos Harel and Gili Cohen, Ha’aretz – 14 June. 

It is not simply Israeli settlers, but also the occupation soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces whom often escape any  judicial accountability for their acts of violence against Palestinians. A case in point: recently a video surfaced of the brutal beating of an unarmed Palestinian man who walked up to a group of Israeli soldiers to complain about their use of tear gas near his home, which was causing his children to inhale the gas and suffer from its effects. The soldiers taunted the man; when an insolent young man is armed in an occupied land and lords it over the native population it is no surprise that he’ll respond with extreme force and vulgarity if the native dares to even speak up, and in this case the soldiers shouted expletives, threatened to “fuck your mother” and dared the Palestinian to even talk back to them. The soldiers then proceeded to demonstrate the courage and honor of the IDF:

 

Such visual documentation of a wanton attack against a civilian by armed soldiers of the self-proclaimed “most moral army in the world” did, in fact, prompt the IDF’s brass to respond (usually, commanders will seek to ignore or dismiss any accusations against soldiers no matter how credible unless video evidence makes its impossible to avoid the matter any longer – read about a case like that here). Their idea of accountability?:

Two Israeli soldiers who were filmed beating a Palestinian man in the Jalazun refugee camp this weekend were given suspended sentences of 28 days in military jail. Another soldier, who was filmed cursing at the man, was sentenced to 30 days on base without leave. . . . 

The Israel Defense Forces decided not to open an investigation into the incident. It was also determined that the arrest of the Palestinian man in question during a protest at the refugee camp was justified, but that the soldiers’ use of force was not proportional.

The mockery of any sense of justice was not lost on all Israelis:

[Member of the Knesset] Esawi Freige (Meretz) said in response that “an army that jails [a soldier] for eating a non-kosher sandwich but finds it sufficient to reprimand and confine [soldiers to their base] for brutally beating a Palestinian, is an army whose moral compass is seriously dubious.”

iPalestine 

“A surprising new feature in iOS 9: the Palestinian flag,” by Roy Latke, Geektime – 10 June.

The techie world is slowly recognizing Palestine. In 2013, Google set the standard when it changed the name of the West Bank and Gaza Strip from “Palestinian Territories” to “Palestine,” which led to an Israeli protest that Google was overstepping its boundaries and interfering in international affairs.

And now Apple, the very epitome of the tech world, recently included the flag of Palestine in the latest software update to its popular iPhone.

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Photo Credit: Geektime.

Wiping the Floor vs. Beheading

“Israel’s free speech double standard: ‘Incitement’ law used to crack down on Palestinian political expression,” by Alex Kane , Mondoweiss – 9 June

Last summer, Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and member of the Knesset (MK), was the subject of a police investigation into incitement after she reportedly called two Palestinian police officers patrolling an anti-Gaza war demonstration “collaborators with the oppressors of their own people” whom should be used to “wipe the floor.” That last bit – “wipe the floor” – was interpreted as a violent threat even though in Arabic it is widely understood to convey mere contempt, likening individuals to a floor mop to disparage them as worthless. Ms. Zoabi was singled out for condemnation by the Israeli political establishment, suspended from the Knesset for six-months, and banned by a Knesset committee from being a candidate in the March 2015 election (the committee’s decision was overturned by the High Court).

Incidentally, during the March campaign season, former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, of the far-right Israel Is Our Home party, openly threatened beheading of Israel’s Arab citizens, whom he regularly attacks as an unwelcome minority. “Those [Arab citizens] who are against us, there is no other option before us – we must raise the axe and cut off their heads, otherwise we will not survive here,” Mr. Lieberman told supporters. Those words were condemned by Israel’s Arab citizens as nothing short of a call for violence against them. The same institution that opened an inquiry into Ms. Zoabi’s alleged incitement has decided not to pursue the same track with Mr. Lieberman:

Last month, Israel’s top law enforcement authority told Palestinian citizens that a call for their beheading was not “necessarily” violent–and ruled out any reprimand of Avigdor Lieberman for the comment. The Attorney General’s office announced it would not be opening an inquiry into Lieberman’s statement that some Palestinian citizens should have their heads cut off. . . . 

In response, Adalah’s Nadeem Shehadeh called for the Attorney General to open up a criminal investigation to determine whether Lieberman had violated Israel’s law against incitement to violence. The Attorney General office’s responded curiously. In a letter to Shehadeh (PDF), the office said that “Lieberman sought to send a message that it is imperative that the authorities struggle – not a private individual – and not in a violent manner necessarily – against anyone who is disloyal to the state.”

The office of Israel’s attorney general offered the generous benefit of the doubt toward Mr. Lieberman’s comments in contrast to its approach toward Ms. Zoabi’s own use of a less vivid metaphor, which was met with immediate derision.

Ms. Zoabi’s vocal activism in support of the rights of Palestinian citizens and her refusal to be intimidated has been a frustrating ordeal for many Israeli lawmakers. Her advocacy in support of a secular state with equal rights for Jews and Arabs is portrayed as a threat to the Jewish character of Israel. Mr. Lieberman, on the other hand, is a prominent proponent of Jewish-Zionist nationalism and even advocates for the “transfer” of Palestinian citizens into an eventual Palestinian state in a two-state solution. That may explain the disparity in judgement between the two.

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The hills of Palestine (West Bank). © palestinephotobank.com.

Making the Desert Bloom Scorched Earth

“Military again evacuates Khirbet Humsah residents for maneuvers, orders evacuation of three other communities,” B’Tselem – 10 June.

There are many ways Palestinians lose their lands: Israeli settler violence, expropriations, arcane laws unscrupulously enforced to affect their dispossession, and an order by the Israeli military declaring an area to be a closed military zone off-limits to civilians (the military, in turn, often hands over the lands to settlers). In the meantime, Palestinians suffer other indignities. Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reports:

Yesterday morning, 10 June 2015, ten Palestinian families were evacuated from the small shepherding community of Khirbet Humsah, in the northern Jordan Valley, so that the Israeli military could train on adjacent land owned by the residents. The families, numbering 69 persons – including 43 minors – had to leave their homes on military orders at 6:00 a.m. They took with them water, food, and their livestock and went to areas some distance away until they were allowed to return. When the families returned home, they found that some of their cultivated farmland and grazing areas had been burnt, apparently by fires started by military shooting. They also found the tanks in which they keep water for the livestock riddled with bullet holes. The residents also reported finding unexploded ammunition close to their homes.

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Photo Credit: B’Tselem.

Welcome to Israel! Are You A 1 Or A 6? 

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Israeli checkpoint on the occupied West Bank. © palestinephotobank.com.

“What they don’t tell you about Israel’s famously tight airport security,” by Chris Weller, Business Insider – 11 June. 

Journalist Chris Weller relates his experience at Israel’s international airport where profiling is unapologetic (which Mr. Weller describes as “Extreme, yes. But effective.”) and travelers are accorded a number:

I learned that before any passenger ever gives up his luggage to the fine folks at Ben Gurion International, an employee places a neon yellow sticker on the back of your passport. On it is a 10-digit number. The first number, ranging from one to six, indicates your perceived threat level to whomever else you’re passed along.

Mr. Weller cites a previous article by activist Lia Tarachansky on what the numbers effectively represent or convey:

This number is a sticker you get on your passport and bags that helps the Israeli airport security evaluate your level of Zionism. “1” is awesome, “6” is you’re fucked. 1 is reserved for white Jewish Israelis, 2 is for white Jewish non-Israelis and friendly internationals, 3 is a suspicious Israeli or international, 4 is sometimes given to non-white Israelis, 5 is for Arab Israelis or questionable internationals, and 6 is for Palestinians, Muslims, and hostile internationals. Hostile is defined as not Zionist or suspected of questioning Zionism. Anything above a 3 means interrogation.

And, lastly, happy Pride!

“Why I won’t be participating in Tel Aviv’s Pride Parade,” by Fady Khoury, +972mag – 7 June.

I am not saying that LGBT Israelis need to become philanthropists or that they should drop their own struggles to fight for the rights of LGBT Palestinians. LGBT Palestinians will lead the struggle against their own oppression within their society. And of course I would be happy to see a little more meaningful solidarity between the two groups, but that’s not what this article is about. The demand here is for LGBT Jewish-Israelis to combat their own country’s manifestations of anti-LGBT-racism, the oppression of LGBT persons because they are LGBT, even if they are not the direct victims of such oppression, and that they come out against the cynical exploitation of sexual orientation under the pretext of security.

This is not a narrow Palestinian struggle about which a Jewish-Israeli can say, “that doesn’t interest me.” It is a LGBT struggle about persecution on the basis of sexual orientation, in which their country is one of the persecutors.

The State of Israel, which plans to celebrate Pride this weekend, and to publicize those celebrations around the world, has a direct hand in the oppression of LGBT Palestinians, and indirectly, using sexual orientation as a tool for blackmail, which harms the entire LGBT community. LGBT groups that ignore their country’s oppressive practices against any LGBT group suffer from a moral lapse. Unfortunately, in this case, the mainstream Israeli LGBT groups have failed. And so, for that reason, among others, I will not take part in this year’s Pride Parade.

Media Roundup is a weekly feature of Palestine Square.