Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shooting the shooter: Israeli law-breaking caught on tape

Last year, B'Tselem decided to give ordinary Palestinians cameras so they could record any abuses to their rights committed by police or soldiers. The project, which has been going on for over a year, has been largely successful. Of course, these kinds of videos are highly contested by articulate and suspicious Israeli advocates, but sometimes the footage speaks for itself.

The most recent example shows an Israeli soldier shooting a Palestinian protestor at close range with a rubber bullet. It's clear that the soldier is subdued, unarmed, and posing no threat to the soldier. This incident is being investigated by the Israeli army. Comforting? Not exactly...

The International Law Observer drew my attention to this story, as well as to this report by Yesh Din of how internal Israeli military law enforcement punishes soldiers who violate the law. I haven't gotten through the entire document (it's 131 pages), but from what I've skimmed it's clear not only are there many examples of such violations, there are also many more which go unpunished. Even if you believe that Israeli law prevents and punishes crimes of individuals, you can't argue against the, at the very least, tolerance within Israeli society for such behaviors. These kinds of incidents should provoke outrage, but instead the Israeli PR machine tries to pretend this kind of incident is an anomaly.

The study, funded, inter alia, by the European Union; various Jewish and Israeli NGOs; and the German, Dutch, and British governments, is one to be taken seriously, not covered up.

On a related note, check out this article by Valentina Azarov about defining civilians in Gaza and Israel within the scope of international law.

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