Last Wednesday Israeli Police filed an indictment against an officer who was filmed beating Tariq Abu Khdeir, a 15 year old Palestinian-American teenager from Florida. He was beaten and arrested during a demonstration to protest the brutal murder of his cousin Mohammed Abu Khdeir. On 2nd July 16 year old Mohammed was abducted and burned alive by Israeli extremists in supposed revenge for the killing of three Israeli teenagers.
Tariq’s bruised face caused outrage in the United States and the State Department called for a “speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force” used against the American teen. As a result of mounting pressure from the US, Tariq was released and able to fly home just under two weeks after the ordeal.
Speaking at a press conference following the news of the charges filed, Abu Khdeir and his mother called it “groundbreaking.” Suha Abu Khdeir, the boy’s mother, said it was “a shame that in order for [Israeli authorities] to take action it had to be an American citizen that this happened to.” They believe that the charges were only filed because the incident was recorded and because Tariq is a citizen of the United States.
In sharp contrast, at the time US pressure was mounting for the soldiers behind Tariq’s beating to be held accountable, Israeli General Danny Efrni, closed the investigation into the killing of Yousef Sami Shawamreh.
In March, Yousef and his two friends had gone to pick the thistle like plant gundelia which farmers from his village in the South of Hebron harvest at the same time every year, when he was fatally shot in the hip by an Israeli soldier.
According to the army, three Palestinians approached the fence and started cutting it. The guards performed the standard procedure for stopping a suspect, shooting first in the air and then toward the Palestinian. According to local residents, the separation wall annexed some of the villages land, including the land of Shawamreh family, and so the boys had crossed over to harvest the crop on the other side of it, a routine that the soldiers were aware of.
The two boys who were with Yousef claim they heard three shots, causing them to get down on the floor. Yousef then reportedly got up to cross back over into the village, when another shot was fired causing him to fall. One of the boys, Muntaser, attempted to carry him to safety, but was told by 6 soldiers who arrived at the scene to put Yousef down, threatening to shoot him if he did not obey.
The prosecution, however, found that, “the force prepared for the operation professionally and acted in line with rules for opening fire”- concluding there was no suspicion of a criminal act on their part.
Yousef’s case joins the hundreds of cases that fail to end in an indictment. An Amnesty International report found that 41 Palestinians had been killed by live ammunition in the West Bank between 2011 and 2013 alone. The same report found that between September 2000 and June 2013, only 16 investigations ended in indictment of Israeli soldiers.
According to statistics released last week rights group Yesh Din, in 2013, out of the 239 notifications submitted to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID), the body which deals with complaints regarding offenses committed by Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers, only six resulted in indictments.
Neta Patrick, Executive Director of Yesh Din said: “Every year, we caution against the sorry state of the investigation system. However, it appears that Israel refuses to deal with these structural failings or take minimal steps to correct them, despite harsh criticism voiced by public commissions and by civil society organizations.”
She added: “The inescapable conclusion is that the Government of Israel is not willing to investigate harm caused to Palestinians.”
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