Why does the police fail in the fight against Jewish terrorism? Sometimes due to stupidity – and in this case (victim pictured), due to lack of will

A central scene of one of the greatest movies of all times, Casablanca, shows the corrupt French police inspector informing Rick, the owner of Rick’s, that he is “shocked, shocked” to find out that his joint allows illegal gambling. Seconds later, one of Rick’s aides show up, with the inspector’s winnings.

In the last couple of years, the Israeli police tells us – time after time – that it shocked, shocked by the actions of Jewish terrorists in the West bank. One might have expected the police to do something beyond expressing its dismay – it’s not what we pay for, and anyway it is invading my turf when the media business is shaky – but it’s not at all clear it is either capable or willing to do so. In case anyone suspects of thinking the police is corrupt, I’ll just say you have to be competent in what you do in order to be a credible threat to those who then pay you off. Enough said.

Is it unwilling or is unable? A classic question, to which there is a classic military answer: “‘I can’t’ is ‘I won’t’s cousin.” In our case, that of the vicious attacks on Hassan Shakher ‘Abdalhim Hassan Barhoush, we are obviously in “I won’t” territory.

The assault of Barhoush managed to shock even the Israeli media, which routinely ignores the daily terrorism used by Jews against Palestinians in the West Bank. Barhoush, an 80-years-old shepherd, was brutally attacked by two Israelis on his land last March. The police publicized with great fanfare last week (Hebrew) the fact it detained two settlers residing in Avnei Khefetz (the settlement denied they were registered residents) as suspects.

Arresting suspects is a fine idea, but an arrest is just one of the first steps of an investigation. Afterwards, you are left with the pesky part of gathering evidence which will be accepted by the courts, which the police seem to have lost the will to.

Barhoush, who is represented by Yesh Din, was summoned a couple of days ago to the police station for a suspect lineup. Even though he is old, and was severely beaten, he insisted he could identify them. He was surprised when he was not asked to, but instead was offered by the investigators just a few small pictures, of low resolution, of the suspects and others. Those pictures, for instance, do not show the body build of the suspects.

Surely you jest. Forensic science knows – for some decades now – that people have a difficulty recognizing people, even people they know, just by their picture. The bare minimum is showing the witness a series of pictures of the suspect walking. According to the decision of the HCJ, the police has to hold a lineup whenever possible, but somehow that doesn’t happen.

Nor is this the first casr. Yesh Din has been writing to the police and the prosecution about this since 2009. The general answer that a live lineup should be held as a default, but time and time again this doesn’t happen. In this case, we have a willing witness and two detained suspects; all the police had to do was find a few more people for the lineup.

Advocate Noa ‘Amrami of Yesh Din sent a letter to the relevant police officers, and I’ll quote its main passage: “Then, in the case before us, despite the fact my client showed the ability to recognize his attackers, and even though the SHAI police district detained and interrogated two possible suspects in the brutal attack, the investigators did not see fit to hold a live lineup. Instead, a picture lineup was held, which – as mentioned – denied my client’s possibility of identifying his attackers, and it is clear this device was not a default.”

The police tells us time and time again that it treats Jewish terrorism with utter seriousness, and that it expends plenty of effort to fight it. Those efforts, it seems, do not include a lineup worthy of the name. Without such a lineup, detaining suspects does not mean much. The witness cannot say if he recognizes them or not. This means that there’s a reasonable chance that within a short while this case, too – like most of the cases of Jewish terrorism – will be closed due to police negligence. But the police can be reassured: The public has been informed that it has detained the suspects.

Keep this in mind, for the next time the police will tell us it shocked, shocked by Jewish terrorism.