“Your daughter is killed and you don’t get justice. Is she no more than a mosquito? Are our lives worth so little?”
Munir al-Hanash recounted the details of his daughters’ killing to B’Tselem through tearful eyes. Her case was one of hundreds the Israeli human rights group had urged Israel’s military to investigate.
On January 23, 2013, twenty-one-year-old student Lubna al-Hanash was walking with a friend near the al-Arrub refugee camp south of Bethlehem when she was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier. She died an hour later in hospital.
In June 2014, the military investigation into her killing was closed without any charges. The Israeli Military Advocate General (MAG) Corps, which investigated the incident, said the soldier had been firing at a Palestinian who had thrown a Molotov cocktail at Israeli cars in the area.
“After she was killed, I asked that justice be done, that whoever killed her be prosecuted,” Munir told B’Tselem. “There’s no justice. The Lubna al-Hanash file was closed.”
The al-Hanash investigation is but one of hundreds of Israeli military investigations that have ended without any charges being brought. Since the Second Intifada, B’Tselem has demanded investigations into 739 cases in which Israeli soldiers killed, injured, or assaulted Palestinians. Of these, only 3% have led to an indictment.
Other Israeli rights groups have reported similarly low levels of charges following Israeli investigations into military and civilian abuses against Palestinians. Israeli NGO, Yesh Din, has reported, for example, that a police complaint about settler violence filed by a Palestinian in the West Bank has a 1.9% chance of being meaningfully investigated.
In reaction to this persistent pattern of impunity, B’Tselem announced last week that it would stop cooperating with the IDF. After twenty-five years, the group said that working with the Israeli military has not achieved any justice for Palestinian victims and, instead, has lent “legitimacy to the occupation regime and aid[ed] to whitewash it.”
In a report accompanying the group’s announcement — entitled “The Occupation’s Fig Leaf” — B’Tselem said the way the Israeli military system functions “precludes it from the very outset from achieving justice for the victims.” The group went on to say that there is no point working with a system “whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators.”
The group will continue to document Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories and will focus on denouncing and exposing Israel’s system of military investigations.
B’Tselem’s bold and brave shift in strategy is one of the most damning verdicts of Israeli impunity to come from a civil society organization in Israel. By calling out the smoke screen of procedural justice, B’Tselem has sent a clear message that domestic Israeli institutions are incapable of achieving accountability for human rights violations against Palestinians.
In this environment, it is up to international institutions, like the International Criminal Court, to assume responsibility for holding Israel liable for its grave and persistent violations of international law. Until this happens, Israel will continue to use violence as an indispensable tool for maintaining its military occupation over the Palestinians.