A year ago three Israelis were kidnapped and murdered. The whole of Israel was left in shock, politicians made their pronouncements and the military acted. Over the 18 days after the start of Operation Brothers Keeper they had arrested more than four hundred suspects, killed a bunch of Palestinian demonstrators and still didn’t find the perpetrators until September. Not soon enough to stop a war that saw rockets launched at all Israel, dozens of dead Israeli soldiers, 2,000 dead Palestinians (even the most conservative estimates call half of the dead civilians) and Israel’s name left in even more tatters around the world than it already was.
Now here we are a year later. Another despicable crime, another terrorist attack and the same politicians lining up to condemn it. But where are the mass swoops? Where are the arrests of the usual suspects? Where is the claim that hundreds of people need to be arrested in order to break the terror network that allowed these terrorists to operate? Where is the overwhelming force that would enable these arrests to be made? The same overwhelming force that ensures that a few people demonstrating against the arrests would end up shot dead…no one’s fault of course because if you’re going to try and mess with a military operation you have to take what comes.
My prediction is that the mass arrests will never come. There’s a wrinkle in the counter terror handbook. A wrinkle that says for Jews we go by a different book. For Jews we tiptoe around the issue with the utmost of care and sensitivity lest we offend the people who support the actions of the murderers, lest we offend the Members of Knesset who created the atmosphere that allowed the murderers to work with impunity.
Yes with impunity.
Just a couple of months ago the NGO Yesh Din released a report entitled Mock Enforcement. This timely report details a world where over 91% of all investigations were closed without indictments. Where indictments were actually filed only one third ended with a full or partial conviction of the defendants.
In short if you want to commit a crime against a Palestinian, and you’re an Israeli and the victim is a Palestinian who actually bothers reporting it to the Israeli police, you have a 91% chance of never seeing the inside of a courtroom. Even if you are indicted the odds are you’ll never be convicted. Even if you are convicted the odds are even greater it will only be a partial conviction.
The statistics for Palestinians in the military justice system are the reverse. According to information released to Haaretz by the military courts over 97% of all cases heard in military court result in a conviction. This data was from 2011. According to a US State Department report updated in 2013 Israeli military courts have a conviction rate of more than 99% for Palestinians.
This means two people can live a hundred meters away from one another, commit the same crime and either be facing the most effective system of justice the world has ever known or the most incompetent justice system the world has ever known, all administered by the same country. Or perhaps we’re not looking at effective or ineffective justice systems we’re looking at systems where a Palestinian is considered guilty and an Israeli is deemed innocent before even making it into a courtroom.
In such a reality how can anyone be surprised that this event happened? If the whole Dawabsha family had managed to escape from that burning building the likelihood is that not only would you never have heard the attack took place but the perpetrators of the crime would never be caught. If they were the smart money would be against them being convicted.
The perpetrators of the attack sprayed the word “Revenge” in Hebrew on the building they burned. They could have sprayed “death to Arabs”, they could have said anything they wanted but they chose the word revenge. What on earth had this 18 month old baby done to anyone?
Hundreds of demonstrators recently gathered in the settlement of Beit El to prevent the police form enforcing a decision by the high court to tear down two houses that were illegally built. When asked why he was demonstrating one settler said;
We came back to the land of Israel after 2,000 years to build, not destroy. Houses of Jews should not be destroyed.” He then added “They only act against Jewish housing, while letting the Arabs build all over the place illegally,”
This idea of injustice, of victimhood, of discrimination, of being constantly under attack makes violence against Palestinians an inevitability. This mindset is perpetuated, facilitated and paid for by an Israeli government that is perfectly happy to look the other way just as long as the crimes aren’t too bad, too evil, too sensationalist. The killers of Ali Dawabsha don’t see themselves as murderers they see themselves as avengers. When they are caught they will show up with smiles on their faces, convinced both in the righteousness of their own cause and the illegitimacy of the Israeli court trying them.
And they will be caught, for in a high profile case like this appearances demand it. In my mind their capture will serve to show just how hollow the statistics for capturing these criminals on a more regular basis really are. According to the same Yesh Din report quoted above;
“Around 85 percent of files are closed due to the failure of the police investigation to locate suspects or find sufficient evidence to indict suspects.” The police don’t even bother finding the suspects who have been reported.
The politicians will continue to take the moral high ground and issue their condemnations but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The West Bank is littered with settlements bearing the names of those killed in terror attacks. After terror attacks politicians promise there will be more building in the West Bank to show the perpetrators they cannot succeed. I wonder where the talk is now of showing the perpetrators of terror the extent to which they will not succeed. I wonder where the action is to break down the networks of extremist encouragement endemic in schools and yeshivot throughout the West Bank and Israel proper?
In Beit El where plans have already been approved to replace the two houses torn down with a further 300 units the message is being heard loud and clear.
At the end of the day it always comes back to the same question;
Does Israel exist in order for the Jews to have national self determination, where they can be a free people in their own land. Or does it exist in order to recreate the biblical kingdom of David, does it exist in order to fulfill God’s prophecy that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews?
Some people aren’t asking that question, they have found their answer and are working towards it with all of their energy and vigour. The rest of us are just standing around watching helplessly wondering why it is that this is allowed to go on.