After 15 years of documenting the systematic failure of Israeli law enforcement to protect Palestinians from Israelis who harm them Yesh Din calls upon the international community to intervene
Criminal acts by Israeli civilians (settlers and others) against Palestinians and their property are commonplace in the West Bank. Since its inception in 2005, Yesh Din has documented about 2,000 incidents of violence, assault, threats, vandalism of private property and mosques, damage to or destruction of olive trees, arson, land takeover and more. In this time, we have built an extensive knowledge base that enables an analysis of the state of law enforcement on Israeli citizens who harm Palestinians.
The picture that emerges after 15 years of monitoring how complaints by Palestinians harmed by Israelis are processed points to a deep systemic failure within the law enforcement mechanisms in the West Bank and Israel’s failure to meet its obligation to protect the Palestinian population in the territories under Israeli military occupation, as required by both Israeli and international law.
The common thread between the offenses investigated in these cases is that they were ideologically motivated. The perpetrators set out to intimidate their victims in an effort to drive them off their land in the service of expanding the settlement enterprise and further entrenching Israel’s control over land in the West Bank while pushing Palestinians out. While the offenses are not committed under direct instruction of authorities from above, the resulting land takeover is welcomed by the government, who frequently retroactively legalizes outposts on the land that was illegally taken following years of violence and harassment.
Over the years, Yesh Din has met with Palestinian victims of offenses in order to document the incidents. For those victims wishing to do so, we assisted in filing police complaints, monitored the work of Israel’s investigation and prosecution agencies and provided legal counseling and assistance.
Between 2005 and July 2019, victims chose to file police complaints in 1,291 incidents. Hundreds of other victims who preferred not to file police complaints still gave testimony to Yesh Din for documentation and research purposes. Many of those who did not file complaints made the decision due to their lack of faith that Israel’s law enforcement system is willing or able to properly investigate their complaints. Our monitoring of these investigation files has resulted in a large sample of cases which provide the basis for the following figures.
- About 91% of the files were closed at the end of an investigation with no indictment filed.
- Of the closed investigation files, 82% were closed in circumstances attesting to police failure to investigate and solve the crime. The vast majority of the cases were closed on the official grounds of “offender-unknown” and “insufficient evidence”, which indicate that although the police determined an offense had been committed, they failed to identify suspects or failed to collect sufficient evidence for indictment and prosecution.
After 15 years of gross negligence by Israel’s law enforcement agencies in the face of ideologically motivated crime by Israeli civilians against Palestinians has led Yesh Din to the conclusion that the State of Israel is unable or unwilling to take resolute action in keeping with its legal duties to eradicate violence and harm to Palestinians and their property. When Israel is heading towards annexation and apartheid, settler violence will not cease.
For this reason, we believe that the international community, which shares in the responsibility for protecting the rights of Palestinians living under occupation, has an obligation to intervene and take action to ensure Palestinians get the protection Israel fails to provide.