When criminal offenses committed by soldiers against Palestinians are exposed and make headlines, the IDF and Israeli top brass are quick to label them “exceptional incidents” and pledge to bring those responsible to justice. Israel’s official spokespersons go to great lengths to convince the Israeli and international public that such incidents are rare and that they are treated with utmost severity. However, the report Exceptions, published by Yesh Din, reveals that these exceptions are actually those cases in which soldiers and officers who committed a crime against Palestinians are investigated and put on trial. Even more exceptional are cases in which criminals are penalized and must serve a sentence.
An internal IDF investigation revealed that a quarter of soldiers who served in checkpoints took part in acts of abuse against Palestinians, taking bribes and other humiliating and illegal behavior, or they were witness to it or heard about it from friends. The report uncovers complete data that has never before been published on how military law enforcement bodies handle cases in which IDF soldiers commit crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank, including physical violence and damage to property.
The report is grounded in empirical data, and based on indictments and rulings provided to Yesh Din by the IDF. Out of 1,246 investigation files opened by the MPCID (military police criminal investigations department) during the seven years covered by the report, only 78 cases (6%) led to indictments against one or more soldiers. Of the thousands of Palestinian civilians killed during that period – between the start of the second intifada in September 2000 until the end of 2007 – only 13 indictments holding soldiers responsible for the killing of civilians were served. As of the publication of this report, military courts have convicted five soldiers for the deaths of three Palestinians and one British national.
Through this report, it is possible – for the first time – to examine the quality of the IDF’s criminal system – including the MPCID, the Military Advocate General Corps and courts-martial – regarding all offenses committed by soldiers against Palestinain residents of the West Bank. The report includes a detailed description of each one of the cases brought before courts-martial regarding crimes committed during the period covered by the report.
The report also presents data regarding Palestinians’ ability to realize their rights to compensation for damage to their persons or property. It describes the conflict of interests inherent in MPCID investigations, which are designed – as the chief military police officer has explicitly stated – not only to expose criminal offenses and bring those responsbile to justice, but to spare the State of Israel the compensation payments to Palestinians who have been damaged by soldiers’ actions.