A culture of impunity is the norm in the Israeli occupation

In depth: The decision not to investigate the murder of the Palestinian journalist reflects a culture of impunity for the systemic violence necessary to maintain the Israeli military occupation.

The murder of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh shocked Palestinians and sent an outpouring of grief, but the subsequent clearing of Israel’s responsibility for her murder held few surprises.

Facing widespread condemnation after his death, Israel first resorted to blaming the Palestinians for his assassination by circulating video footage showing gunmen firing indiscriminately in Jenin.

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem quickly demystified the Israeli army’s account, proving that the video was in a location far from where Abu Akleh was killed, forcing Israeli authorities to back down from their claim.

“It was never an understatement to say that Israel’s international impunity is the backbone of the occupation”

Senior Israeli army officers then switched to another but familiar narrative; that a soldier from an elite IDF unit may have “accidentally” shot her, suggesting that there were armed Palestinians in the vicinity of Abu Akleh when the soldiers opened fire.

Eyewitnesses and Palestinian journalists present at the scene reject this. They say Shireen and her colleagues were clearly identifiable as journalists and wore body armor and helmets marked PRESS. There were no clashes in the area at the time, they said.

Recent video pictures of the last seconds before the incident confirms this. The video shows relative calm in the area, with the AlJazeera the team, among others, casually walking around and talking when targeted.

Finally, last week, the Israeli army announced that it was not planning to investigate the murder of Abu Akleh on the grounds that there is no suspicion of foul play. Case closed.

“Israeli investigations into its own crimes have always been little more than public relations stunts staged to limit the damage in the wake of a crime that dealt a severe blow to Israel’s standing among its Western allies. , but with no real intention of imposing accountability,” Muhammad Shehada of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Observatory said The new Arabic.

“But what Israel has discovered over the years, and especially in recent years, is that no matter how much it escalates its illegal and criminal actions against Palestinians, Westerners, and especially Americans, support remains. the same,” he added.

Israeli human rights group Yesh Din condemned Israel’s response, saying the military’s own law enforcement mechanisms no longer even pretended to give the appearance of investigating.

“Israel didn’t even bother to stage the usual stunt of a full investigation into Shireen’s murder. You only need PR stunts when you have conditional support from your allies,” Shehada added.

“It was never an understatement to say that international impunity for Israel is the backbone of the occupation.”

The decision not to investigate the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh is consistent with Israel’s record over the decades. [Getty]

A story of impunity

For Palestinians, Israel’s decision not to investigate the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh is consistent with Israel’s record over the decades, whether with journalists or civilians.

In April 2018, journalist Yasser Murtaja was shot dead by an Israeli sniper while covering protests on Gaza’s borders. He was also wearing a press jacket when he was shot.

In the face of outrage over his murder, the Israeli government alleged that Murtaja was a member of the armed wing of Hamas, a charge that was dropped given that a month before his assassination, the US Agency for international development (USAID) offered him a grant. ) who said his vetting process found no links to activism.

In the end, no one was brought to justice.

“Israel regards the brutal force it exerts against the Palestinians as a necessity to maintain its regime of military occupation over millions of Palestinians”

Similarly, Fadel Shanaa, Palestinian cameraman for Reuters, was killed during the Israeli military offensive on Gaza in 2008, when an Israeli tank opened fire on him and his crew. Shanaa also wore a bulletproof vest which identified her as a journalist. Israel conducted an investigation and exonerated its troops.

But it’s not just journalists. Palestinian nurse Razan Najjar was killed by the Israeli army as she tried to evacuate the injured during protests on the Gaza border in 2018.

She raised her hands as she approached the injured near the border fence and was clearly wearing a white medical vest. The Israeli soldiers shot him in the chest.

The Israeli army then tried to insinuate that she was being used as a “human shield” by Hamas. Again, no Israeli soldier has been held responsible.

Perhaps the most publicized incident in recent years was the killing of 21-year-old Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in Hebron by Israeli soldier Elor Azaria. Pictured shooting the injured man in the head at point-blank range, the incident prompted widespread condemnation.

However, after serving nine months in military prison, he was pardoned and released, becoming a hero to many in Israel’s right-wing circles and a local celebrity.

During the second Intifada, the murder of Rachel Corrie also attracted international attention. The American peace activist was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer as he protested the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza.

After years of campaigning by his family and high-profile hearings, Israel’s Supreme Court in 2015 upheld a ruling that invoked the “combat activities exception,” which exempts the Israeli military from liability during “Wartime Activities”.

“Only 0.7% of complaints against Israeli soldiers filed by Palestinians result in indictments. More than 80% of cases are dismissed without a criminal investigation ever taking place”

Palestinians are more than aware that these well-known instances of impunity are the norm. Data collected by the Israeli rights group Yesh Din shows that only 0.7% of claims against Israeli soldiers filed by Palestinians lead to indictments.

More than 80% of cases are closed without a criminal investigation ever taking place.

Citing the Israeli military’s failure to bring soldiers to justice, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem announced in 2016 that it would stop filing abuse complaints as they cause more harm. good for the Palestinian plaintiffs.

“Israel’s history of investigating the crimes of its army shows that they are not intended to hold to account, but rather to grant total impunity to its soldiers,” Shehada said.

“These criminal actions are not exceptions, they are a daily reality for Palestinians and daily practices of the Israeli military occupation. And these are not individual behaviors, these are meticulously designed state behaviors,” he added.

“Israel regards the brutal force it exerts against the Palestinians as a necessity to maintain its regime of military occupation over millions of Palestinians.”

Ali Adam is a journalist and researcher whose work focuses on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Follow him on Twitter @_AliAdam_

Michael A. Bynum