How the Israeli Military’s “Justice” System Shields an Illegal Occupation

For almost 50 years, Palestinians have been living under an Israeli military regime that has wrongfully killed, injured, and abused them, while leaving them no real means to seek accountability. The sole system through which victims can pursue justice is a farce.

The Military Advocate General (MAG) is ostensibly set up by the Israeli military to investigate hundreds of incidents in which Palestinians have been harmed by soldiers. In practice, however, the MAG is a mechanism to camouflage crimes committed by Israeli forces, and to insulate the military itself from true scrutiny.

The flaws in this system are laid out in our recent report, The Occupation’s Fig Leaf: Israel’s Military Law Enforcement System as a Whitewash Mechanism. Our organization has this data in the first place because Palestinians cannot directly file complaints with the military law enforcement system. On their behalf, for over 25 years, we have filed hundreds of complaints with the military authorities. Most of these efforts have been in vain, due to the structural shortcomings of the system.  

To begin with, the mandate of the military law enforcement system is narrowly defined; it only investigates incidents in which low-ranking soldiers are suspected of having acted in breach of orders or directives, thus absolving senior military and government officials of any responsibility. As such, the system’s law enforcement capacity is limited even when it fulfills its tasks, which it often makes no attempt to do.

The apathy of the investigative authority is sometimes staggering. For instance, our report shows that the military is more likely to lose track of a file altogether than to press charges based on that file. Since 2000, we have filed 739 cases in which soldiers killed, injured, or beat Palestinians; used them as human shields; or damaged their property. Our analysis of these cases shows that 44 of them were classified as physically “lost files.” Only 25, or three percent, of these cases led to a trial. In 182 of them, no investigation was ever even launched. In 343 cases—nearly half—the investigations were closed with no further action.

The investigation process is excruciatingly slow. Even the decision of whether or not to open an investigation often drags on for a long time, and when an investigation does take place, it is limited to interviews with soldiers whose contradictory testimonies are not even challenged. When all is said and done, the MAG typically finds a way to interpret the evidence or the regulations in a way that ensures the case will either be closed or drag on indefinitely.

The result is a charade that, outwardly, appears to have all the characteristics of a functioning system. It has investigators and prosecutors. It hears testimonies, produces paperwork, and engages in lengthy processes. This semblance of a functioning justice system not only allows Israeli officials to claim that Israel enforces the law, it also fosters a sense of fairness—both in Israel and the world—around the occupation itself.

In this legal masquerade, human rights organizations such as B’Tselem are expected to serve as subcontractors for the military investigative system. We submit complaints, collect statements, obtain documents, and so forth. Although this is not our responsibility, we’ve chosen to perform these tasks for 25 years in the hopes of helping to bring justice to victims.

In reality, however, our cooperation with the military investigation and enforcement systems has not achieved justice. Instead, it has lent unwarranted legitimacy to the occupation.

We arrived at this bitter conclusion only recently, with a great deal of accumulated experience and knowledge about how the system works. For this reason, we’ve decided to stop filing complaints with the military authorities and to call on the Palestinian public to follow suit. Resources that have been invested in these futile efforts will be put to better use exposing the system for what it is: the occupation’s fig leaf.

We will continue to document and report on Israel’s human rights abuses in the occupied territories. We will continue to collect testimonies and evidence, and to meet with the wronged families. But we will not be part of the military law enforcement whitewash mechanism.

Sadly, this won’t bring justice any closer, but at least the families of victims won’t suffer through the false hope that military “justice” will result in any semblance of the word. New opportunities emerge from calling out the military law enforcement system for what it is—and from denying the occupation one of its most effective propaganda strategies to date.  

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This is intolerable.

Occupation began in 1948. That makes it 68 years.

None of this would have happened if the "leaders" of the Palestinians had not abandoned them to fill their own coffers. Arafat walked away from the deal of the century, Jordan gave up the West Bank, and all they did was to reign terror on the Israelis. Sorry, I think the author is misguided.

This argument is tired, played out, and weak. 22% of the land does not constitute "the deal of a lifetime". If Israel had any kind of moral leadership that had any regard for international law, then the situation would not be as it is now. Israel has the largest and most powerful military in the region, and is the most oppressive regime in the region (bar Saudi Arabia), yet it blames its woes on the slingshot missiles that come from Gaza. If you had any sort of moral compass, you would recognize that not only is the author rightly guided, but has more weight as an Israeli citizen who sees the injustice happening in her own backyard.

We need to stand as a family and condemn the nondiscrimination killing to the innocent civilians. Israeli should look into the Bible about the great commandment that the Lord left us with. Love. He left us with the Love as the best commandment among the ten. Meaning if you had the love for someone, you cannot wish him or her bad.

It is not a "Justice" system. Call a thing what it is, an Injustice System.

First of all, because Catherine knows the Bible then she also knows that the whole idea of "occupation" is not about loving Palestinians or not loving Palestinians--It is solely about the right for Jews to live in their G-D given land. And, clearly, scripture holds serious consequences for nations that burden themselves with Jerusalem, or with the Palestinians and the International community trying to covet the land (Ezekiel 36), or for trying to divide the land of Israel.

Secondly, Christina needs to look at Israel's track record. Very few nations, if any (not even America), have a track record of being the first respondents to Natural Disasters, Terrorist Attacks, and Genocides like Israel. Where were the Christians, the Americans, the Europeans in the slaughter of Darfur? The Jews and Israel were there to help. How many Palestinians, harmed by their own society, have been treated without charge in Israeli hospitals? How much aid does Israel give to Palestinians, even knowing they will use it against her? That's what love is--do for others when no one else will.

What love is not is, supporting lying regimes, leaders and journalists that manipulate the truth, hide behind their own religious doctrines of jihad, call for the death of Israel and America, deny the right for both a Jewish State and the Jews to exist, and unjustly use international law against Israel.

As for the author, Never say that Israel does not follow International Law. There is no nation that does more to try and adhere to international law, and I, for one, am telling Israel to run, run, run, from the EU, the UN and all those leeches that want to suck the life out her. They use the law to further their own economic and political interests in the ME, and make Israel to look like the perpetrator, when in reality Israel is the victim, on every front. Just look at your history.

That is not to say that the Palestinians are not victims too. But they are not Israel's victims. They are the victims of their own oppressive leaders from Arafat, to the PLO's Abu Mazen, to Hamas' Khaled Mashal. If you look into their history you will find that it was Abu Mazen, himself, that sent the Palestinians to refugee camps--all in the name of propaganda. Exploiting your own people to further your personal and political agenda in my eyes is evil.

There are two statements in this article that are very loaded, "Although this is not our responsibility, we’ve chosen to perform these tasks for 25 years in the hopes of helping to bring justice to victims." The "not our responsibility" is pathetic enough, but the "we've chosen...for 25 years" is inflammatory--that is the exact time period since Arafat insisted the Palestinians "come out" from under the banner of success living among the Israelis, into their present Hell living under two oppressive regimes. So what you are really saying is that you have "chosen" to "abeit and aid" terrorists and terrorism under the guise of justice.

In fact, your response to Errol is very telling, "yet it blames its woes on the slingshot missiles that come from Gaza." Israel does not blame its woes on the "thousands" of missiles and the "hundreds" of knife attacks on its citizens, not at all. But Israel does hold the Palestinians and its leadership accountable for their incitement and violence towards its citizens. It has a zero tolerance policy against any form of attack towards its citizens. And you are telling me thats "unjust?" When true "justice" is to "hate evil." Read the book of Proverbs.

You should be thankful its merciful Israel that responds to the unjust attacks of the Palestinians, because no other nation would tolerate it. In fact, are you aware the the reason the Palestinians are even in Gaza is because Arafat got kicked out of Jordan and Lebanon?

Lastly, you mention "we have filled" "our analysis," "our investigations." What is the criteria that you base your analysis and investigations on? How many of those 739 were wounded during the intifadahs' or operations started and fueled by Hamas? How many of those were testifying under the threat of Hamas?

Let me end by saying, If you want to take on responsibility that no one else will take on, then you need to be filing reports and lawsuits against the Palestinian justice system, not Israel's military. Because that's where all the problems stem from.

NO justice system is fair or just. The underdog can NEVER match let alone beat bigger adversaries. It is NEVER a level playing field.

Laws are outdated and biased towards protecting the wealthy, landowners, states and big companies, keeping the commoners down and controlled.

Common sense, logic and natural justice seem to have gone out the window.

Over-complex, in places downright wrong and inaccessible except to those with access to ALL branches of the law through having the financial means to buy the best help = as in football now: got loadsa dosh = can buy best players so your team far more likely to win.

The many differences of rules between military, administrative, criminal, contracts, various types of property law... in courts and laws = almost random lines drawn to exclude more than to include and built up over time like a shanty-town: higgledy-piggledy, supports and joists added to try to hold up the failing structure.

Right and wrong, good and bad - most of us here in our culture and NOW in time agree on the basics. With gloabilisation comes swamoing and take-over of others' morals and rules. The biggest/strongest beats smaller (but perhaps better: local, fast ?) ways of deciding who has wronged who and what the deterrents and punishments should be.

The ruling economies (powers) must be wary of imposing our attitudes and laws on others. It is a very difficult line to tread: protect ALL from basic wrongs and ensure basic rights = the aim of ALL systems of justice.

I know nothing about international law or wars, all I know is there is ALWAYS one side better funded than the other who bullies and attacks the weaker. I have read a little about Israel-Palestine (but due to my memory problems can't remember much) and have always sised with the palestinians = mainly because I read (true?) that Israel receives massive help and funding from the USA = has created a less equal war.

I don't understand how it all started (UK's fault partly?) but many battles over land, ideas and religion have been going on for centuries,the histories are way too complex for me to even begin to understand and of course it depends on WHOSE version you read, as with everything else history (the recounting of) can never be unbiased.

Most is opinion, facts are rare, more rare than they need be due to vested interests and money covering up the unacceptable. 'History' is skewed: it has been created mostly by wealthy educated men (HIS story!) in (or from) the West with mainly christian indoctrination = no wonder the truth is lost.

I'm not saying anything new or clever, I can't: I've got a brain injury.All I know is what is 'right/wrong' has always changed over time and differed in place (beliefs).

Too much to say but too muddled/exhausted to get it out/down straight.

I say let the politicians fight their own battles by killing one another, why should the average citizen pay with their lives? and let the masses educate themselves that love and peace is the only way out of this big mess called israel.

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