In January 2016, the Ministry of Justice published an unusual report designed to summarize and detail the efforts made by Israel regarding the fight against ideologically motivated crime. The report, published only in English and distributed to the diplomatic community in Israel, maintains that since the establishment of the nationalist crimes division of the Judea and Samaria Police, there has been a sharp decline in the scope of the phenomenon, and a rise in the number of indictments and rulings against those suspected of committing nationalist crimes.
According to the Ministry of Justice report, whose information served Israeli representatives that appeared before the UN Human Rights Commission, in 2015 there was a significant decline in the rate of ideological crimes in the West Bank, as demonstrated by the fact that only 119 investigation files were opened with the Judea and Samaria Police, compared with 367 files in 2014 and 497 in 2013. Out of these 119 files, only 31 were the result of complaints filed by Palestinians.
On the other hand, the report claims that there was a sharp rise in the rate of indictments filed in nationalist crime cases and that in 2015, 38 indictments were filed as a result of nationalist crime incidents (which is 32 percent of the files) as opposed to a rate of 16 percent in 2014, and 19 percent in 2013.
However, an analysis Yesh Din published in response demonstrates that these statistics are a small portion of the police work in the field of nationalist crimes. According to police data provided to Yesh Din following a Freedom of Information Request, 280 investigation files on ideological crimes were opened in 2015, more than double what the Justice Ministry claims. The police also reported that in 2015, 89 investigation files were opened in the Judea and Samaria district following nationalist crimes in which the victims were Palestinians – and not 31 as the Justice Ministry claims. The police also reported 59 cases in which indictments were filed for nationalist crimes.
At the same time, the police data and the Justice Ministry data on the submission of indictments provide a smokescreen designed to present a much rosier picture than the reality regarding how the law enforcement authorities handle Palestinian victims of crime. According to the police data, 89 investigation files opened due to Palestinian complains in 2014 resulted in only four indictments. This rate of indictment – 4.5 percent of the investigation files – is even lower than the data Yesh Din found between 2005 and 2015.
The impression from reading the Justice Ministry report is that it tried to present the international community with misleading information, in order to avert any criticism of the total failure by the Israeli law enforcement system regarding its handling of ideological offenses by Israeli citizens against Palestinians. The data provided by the Justice Ministry does not include the work done by investigative units in the Judea and Samaria district that are outside the nationalist crime division (the Samaria district, Hebron district and Binyamin station).
Furthermore, the data presented by the Justice Ministry regarding indictments formulated as a result of the work done by the nationalist crime division primarily includes indictments for crimes committed by Israeli citizens against Israeli security forces. According to police data, out of 240 investigation files examined by the nationalist crime division between 2012-2014, only 114 files – a bit less than half – were those in which the victim of the offense was Palestinian. Out of the 83 indictments filed by the division during these years, only 21 of them (25 percent) were cases in which the victim of the offense was a Palestinian.
Yesh Din’s data demonstrates that despite the fact that attempts were made to improve the handling of ideologically motivated crimes against Palestinians throughout the West Bank in the last five years, law enforcement in this field is still lacking, and does not provide sufficient protection to the Palestinian residents and their property. The rise in the number of assaults inside Palestinian villages documented by Yesh Din reflects the Israeli law enforcement authorities’ failure to create deterrence, and deepens Palestinian fear and lack of trust in Israeli authorities.