Spare a thought for the human rights groups in Palestine committed to documenting, holding to account, and otherwise having to deal with Israel’s racist regime.
Groups such as Al Haq, B’Tselem, Adalah and Al-Mezan are just some of the many groups which create an array of valuable reports, papers, videos, press campaigns and other publications. They also help represent and defend Palestinians facing Israel’s racist military “courts” system.
They do valuable work, and it is a thankless task. Dealing with the system of “military justice” – which has a 99.7 per cent conviction rate – must be like butting so many heads up against multiple walls. Expecting “justice” from a regime of military occupation is pointless.
And indeed, B’Tselem in 2016 made the decision that they would cease issuing formal complaints to Israel’s military occupation authorities in the West Bank. Accurately calling the process “the occupation’s fig leaf,” B’Tselem said there was “no longer any point in pursuing justice and defending human rights by working with a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up”.
The report the group released upon making this announcement documents how these cover-ups work. Since late 2000, when the Second Intifada began, B’Tselem had lodged 739 complaints within the occupation authorities’ internal system.
These were instances in which Israeli soldiers murdered, injured or physically abused Palestinians, or damaged their property – including cases of Palestinians forcibly used by Israeli soldiers as human shields. In the vast majority (three-quarters) of these 739 cases either the “investigation” was closed with no further action taken or had never even been launched in the first place.
B’Tselem states that “only in very rare instances” were any charges made against the soldiers concerned.
This is very obviously a system designed to whitewash the Israeli army’s image. The true function of this fig leaf is as a kind of international public relations. Journalists reporting on the latest Israeli crime quite regularly report – almost without fail – that Israel has “launched an investigation” into the murder or abuse of Palestinians by its soldiers – as if it were some abnormality.
Of course, a short while later, when the mildly critical attention of said journalists has waned, the investigation is quietly dropped, or concluded with some token rap on the knuckles.
As the group candidly admitted, “B’Tselem’s cooperation with the military investigation and enforcement system has not achieved justice, instead lending legitimacy to the occupation regime and aiding to whitewash it.”
It seems to me it was the right decision to withdraw from cooperating with this sham process.
There is an argument to be made that there should be a total boycott of the entire fabricated system of military “justice” in the occupied West Bank. This is a step some Palestinian political prisoners have actually taken.
Samidoun – the political support network for Palestinian prisoners – reports that Ghassan Zawahreh just this month declared a boycott of Israel’s military courts. Zawahreh is a prominent left-wing activist in Dheisheh refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem. He has spent years in and out of Israeli dungeons and is currently interned by Israeli occupiers without charge or trial – their system of so-called “administrative detention”.
Zawahreh sent a letter to the court through his lawyer stating that, “administrative detention is a heinous crime for the ages. What is even more criminal is the occupation’s attempts to mislead through mock courts and charades where the executioner and the ruler, dressed up in military suits, represent the occupation and its crimes.
“I will not be a part of this charade until administrative detention is ended once and for all. I reject this court and refuse to be represented by anyone in it”.
There are currently about 500 Palestinians held in “administrative detention”. Palestinians have been jailed for years at a time without charge or trial under these repeated orders. There are currently more than 5,200 total Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Zawahreh’s stance is a brave move that could lead to further dire consequences for him. Yet until the Israeli occupation is forced to end, such consequences for Palestinians are an inevitability; he may feel he has nothing to lose.
Israel’s occupation will not end until ordinary voters, like you and I, force our governments to end political and military aid to Israel. A good first step in the right direction would be the immediate and total end to all arms sales to Israel. Jeremy Corbyn and other leading figures in the Labour Party have rightly called for an end to all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Let’s push them to do the same for Israel.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.