An Israeli military court in Jaffa extended the detention of two Israeli army corporals on Friday over allegations that they stole money from Palestinian travellers and sexually abused women during body searches at the notorious military checkpoint which is the only route for Palestinians to get from Ramallah to East Jerusalem and Israel itself. At first glance, this suggests something positive about the Israeli military and that its troops are committed to an ethical code of conduct which stipulates holding them accountable for crimes committed against the Palestinians. However, the facts on the ground shed a completely different light on the situation which allows Israeli soldiers to act with impunity in the way that they deal with Palestinians as they try to go about their daily business.
In a report issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem, Amnesty International said that some Israeli checkpoints “segregate” Palestinian streets to restrict movement but give full freedom to illegal Jewish settlers to move through them. Human Rights Watch said that, besides the Separation Wall, Israel uses checkpoints to separate Palestinians from their lands and keep them far from the Jewish settlements built illegally in the occupied territories.
Meanwhile, the Israeli rights group B’Tselem has documented the suffering of the Palestinians at the Israeli checkpoints, including the one at Qalandia where the two soldiers mentioned above allegedly committed their crimes. “Despite repeated reports and promises given through the years, the conditions in these checkpoints are still very harsh,” it pointed out. “Even during Ramadan, when many of the workers fast all day, the Israeli authorities do nothing to alleviate the suffering at the checkpoints.”
What is happening at the illegal military checkpoints imposed on the Palestinians by Israel reflects how many crimes the occupation soldiers commit without any reason. During the past few years, heavily armed Israeli soldiers stationed at these checkpoints have killed dozens of Palestinians, including women and children, under the pretext that the victims were trying to stab them.
In April 2016, for example, the Israeli military police shot dead a Palestinian woman, Maram Abu Ismail, 26, and her teenage brother, Ibrahim, 16, at Qalandia checkpoint. The Israeli police claimed that the woman held a knife and approached an Israeli soldier, but witnesses said she was shot while she was far from the soldiers. The Palestinian Authority said in a statement that the siblings had been en route to Jerusalem for a medical appointment. Their Israeli killers went unpunished. Later on, the case was closed as Israeli prosecutors determined that the soldiers had acted lawfully.
In September 2015, the Israeli occupation forces stationed at a military checkpoint in Hebron known as Al-Container shot dead an 18-year-old Palestinian girl named as Hadeel Al-Hashlamoun because, according to eyewitnesses, she did not take off her scarf. A sequence of photos taken by a photographer working for a human rights organisation, showed the scenes before, during and after the execution. She was shot and fell on the ground. Then she was showered with live bullets. The case was later closed on the grounds that she could not be arrested while lying on the ground. Amnesty International said it was not aware of any criminal investigation into her death.
Examples of the unlawful killings recorded by Amnesty and other local and international rights groups, including Israeli organisations, are many. Israel was founded on the killing and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and, latterly, has been engaged on shooting unarmed Palestinians taking part in the peaceful Great March of Return protests in the Gaza Strip.
When there was no way to avoid an open prosecution of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria for shooting dead the already wounded and motionless Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif in 2016, the Israeli judicial system sentenced him to just 18 months in prison for manslaughter, despite him taking deliberate aim and shooting the young man in the head. Compare this with the 20-year sentences for Palestinian boys caught throwing stones at Israeli military armoured vehicles.
Even the two unnamed corporals being kept in detention are likely to be cleared; the lawyer of one of them has described him as “an excellent and highly valued soldier who serves according to his best abilities in a complex and demanding job.” She tried to excuse his crimes: “As for the property offence, it was a one-time act that is not characteristic of him [and he] completely rejects the other suspicions and expects the investigation to end in a way that will negate the charges.”
The killing of Palestinians and inflecting suffering on them appears to be planned deliberately by the Israeli occupation authorities, as B’Tselem points out: “This reality cannot be excused on security grounds or by citing budgetary concerns or personnel issues. It reflects a deliberate choice by the Israeli authorities to maintain these inhuman conditions and force them on Palestinian workers. Whatever the reasons, this choice is unconscionable and unacceptable.”
It is clear that the Israeli judicial system is nothing more than a tool for inflicting more suffering on the Palestinians in collusion with the military and other occupation institutions. In an official response to the Israeli Supreme Court regarding aggressive acts against Palestinian property, the Israeli government claimed boldly that it “is allowed to ignore the directives of international law in any field it desires.” This provides the green light for the judicial system in Israel to whitewash the crimes of its soldiers. The people of Palestine can expect no justice from the self-proclaimed occupation state.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.