The appearance of justice versus the essence of justice | Machsomwatch
אורנית, מהצד הזה של הגדר

The appearance of justice versus the essence of justice

Avital Toch

Translator:  Charles K.


On a person’s “right” to liberty, and perhaps on a Palestinian’s “right” to be arrested, interrogated and tried in the absence of any evidence or proof he did what he was accused of; on the “right” of minors to spend much of their time in jail; and on someone’s “right” to be arrested for no reason at all, with no investigation.  Because the only law that applies to residents of the occupied territories is military law. 


International covenants ratified by the State of Israel prescribe that all individuals are equal in the eyes of the law, including people under military rule.  The Israeli army and legislature have created two legal systems in the occupied territories, military law for Palestinians and civil law for settlers.  “Military law applies only to Palestinians.  If an Israeli is interrogated he’s not arrested, and if he’s tried he can expect a pardon.  There’s no equality, no law, no justice, and no intent to do justice.” (Atty. Laviv Haviv)


According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.”


A few of the trials documented during the past month in a military court provide a quick glimpse of the murky byway along which the Israeli justice system has been proceeding for years.  Civil law, applied to Israeli citizens, and military law, applied to residents of the Palestinian territories, are taught in the same law schools and both are subject to the same Supreme Court.  Machsom Watch members have been visiting this murky region for years, to be present and to document.


Let’s pay attention to the tiresome details that make it possible for a minor case to result in a major injustice.  For example, incriminations.


What’s Abdullah Amira from Ni’lin, who sells falafel, doing in court?  His interrogation in January, 2014, sounds like a song by the Rolling Stones – he’s accused of rock-throwing, damaging vehicles, pouring oil on a military jeep and breaking its windshield, throwing Molotov cocktails and firing tear gas grenades at soldiers.  An indomitable, solitary fighter confronting the army, or someone incriminated as a result of a harsh interrogation of other terrified villagers?  It turns out there’s no documentation of these actions by the army nor any evidence of this serious attack on the soldiers, and the defense attorney will always wonder why so serious an event doesn’t appear in the army’s incident log, who’s responsible for the entries, what do they write in the log, and where are the witnesses?


But no one has yet asked in open court about the means used to make the villagers incriminate their compatriot, testify to his unbelievable heroism.


How and when are minors interrogated, and why are they still in jail?  Most of the time they just sit there, without being interrogated, with no proof, for no reason, perhaps until they incriminate other minors.  So there will always be minors in jail.  Muhammad and Nur Al-Adin Suleiman, brothers, are accused of throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails on Highway 443.  One admits the charge, the other doesn’t.  The judge overseeing the arrest asks the investigator why he wants them held for five more days.  Surprise!  The arrest train stops for breath:  “Bringing the detained to court interferes with the police patrol timetable…”  “It’s a problem to bring the detaineesinfo-icon from the incarceration facility…”  “There are agreements between the police and the Israel Prison Authority.”  Or in simple Hebrew:  It’s inconvenient to bring detainees to interrogation, and anyway - what difference do a few more days in jail make to young Palestinians compared to the transportation problems the police have?

And it’s the interrogator who notes that, when he asks for five days, he only needs two for the actual interrogation.  The question of releasing the youths on bail, instead of detaining them, remains unasked, because the state must detain minors, has to keep them in jail.


Why are Palestinian citizens arrested?


According to the International Covenant, No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”  But Palestinian citizens are arrested just to be arrested.  Soldiers violently force their way into their homes at night, they’re arrested against the background wails of their terrified children so they can be interrogated and incriminate someone else who will be arrested in turn, be interrogated and incriminate someone else, who will also be arrested, interrogated and incriminate others.  Thus will many Palestinians be arrested and jailed in turn.  The serial incriminations make everyone suspect everyone else.  And in despair, and distrusting military justice, many will admit to what they’re charged with and agree to a plea bargain because they fear being jailed through the trial.


Military justice, which according to international conventions should protect the population of the occupied territory (the Palestinians), is an additional device employed to eliminate it.