A light blow to justice in East Jerusalem

When Palestinian men suffer “light blows” at the hands of the Israeli police in East Jerusalem it’s apparently not worth prosecuting.

Or so it appears. According to Yesh Din, a human rights group that has taken a case on behalf of some young Palestinian men shown in mobile phone footage being humiliated and abused by Israeli paramilitary border police, Israel’s Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan dismissed the case with this assessment: the officers' actions were within the law because … "They were light blows that do not cause real damage, [and] are not illegal."

Oh, OK, that’s fine then. Light blows. By the police. No problem. Heavy blows … well maybe that could have been a problem, especially if seen on mobile phone footage.

You have to wonder what kind of signal this is sending out to the Israeli police, armed forces and wider Israeli society. And to Palestinians. (Indeed, what is it saying to  Palestinian officials and prosecutors in Gaza and the West Bank? That they too should turn a blind eye to stuff like this from their own law-enforcement or security personnel?)

Yesh Din itself summed it up quite well: "This shows a reality where soldiers feel that it is permissible to harass and beat civilians. Criminal law forbids assault. It is a wrong and dangerous wink of consent." Amen to that – it’s unfortunately something that can be said of too many places in the world.

One thing the Israeli government has repeatedly said in dismissing the Goldstone report is that – unlike many other countries in the Middle East – Israel is a democracy. It has independent courts. It runs a fully operational legal system that will, goes the argument, always hold wrongdoers to account. Well not so over the Gaza conflict and not so here. To use the current Twitter jargon, this looks like a #Israeljusticefail to me.

By the way, next week Amnesty has a big report on how water is being denied to the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza. It boils down to this: the (illegal) Israeli settlers have lush lawns while Palestinian farmers have hopelessly parched fields. Look out for it on Tuesday.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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