Thursday, October 13, 2011

Justice the Israeli way

In January 2007, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 10-year-old Palestinian girl on her way home from school.  Abir Aramin lived in Anata, a Palestinian village north of Jerusalem. The pathologist who performed the autopsy found that Abir was hit in the head by a rubber bullet. However, an Israeli police investigation found the soldiers innocent, claiming there was no proof that gunfire killed Abir. 
(...) Four and a half years later, Israel’s highest court found the Israeli soldiers responsible for killing Abir, and ordered the state to compensate the family. However, this is as far as justice goes in Israel. The court refused to order the police to reopen the criminal investigation. Those who killed Abir  continue to “serve” as soldiers and officers in the Israeli army.
Abir's father, Bassam Aramin, who  is president of the Al Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue and co-founder of Combatants for Peace, wrote an open letter which was published on the Israeli site +972 . A bitter account of how the Israeli judiciary claim to dispense 'justice'.

Abir Aramin
By Bassam Aramin
 The Israeli play has come to a conclusion – the protagonist, whom we shall call Y.A., a soldier serving in a unit of Israeli border guards, the playwright, Y.S., head of the investigation, and the talented director Dorit Beinisch, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  The setting: the Israeli High Court of Justice on July 10, 2011, roughly four and a half years since the assassination of the ten-year-old child Abir Aramin by a bullet to her head, in front of her school in the town of Anata on January 16, 2007, at the hands of Y.A., the protagonist.
The decision of the High Court panel headed by Justice Beinisch and filled out by Justice Edna Arbel and Justice Ayala Procaccia is clear and unmistakable, and it comes after the investigation file was closed many times by the Israeli public prosecutor under the familiar provision – or rather, pretext -  “lack of sufficient evidence.”
But this time was different.  This time, Justice Beinisch actually agreed with the decision of the lower court.  She agreed that the responsibility for the killing of the child Abir lies with the soldiers involved in the incident and that the opening of fire was unjustified and the result of negligence.  She sharply criticized those who carried out a belated and incomplete investigation, despite immediate legal action taken by the family to ensure that any investigation would be properly conducted. But then, Justice Beinisch performed a perfect about-face.  She concluded that, due to the incompleteness of the investigation and the passage of four and a half years, neither the solider who fired the shot nor the soldiers or commanders of his unit could be brought to trial – though she did say that the mother of the slain girl had the right to know the identity of her daughter’s killer.
This is the Israeli justice that I have awaited for four and a half years: the closing of the case “according to Israeli law.”  The closing of the case of young child’s killing by the High Court of Justice could not happen without a legal basis supporting such action. However, no one can tell me what this legal basis is.  No one has studied it in the Israeli law schools except, it seems, Justice Beinisch and her fellow justices.  Even Michael Sfard, the family’s lawyer, who holds a doctorate in law, could not explain the legal basis on which Beinisch’s decision rested.
But Justice Beinisch and I, we know the legal basis for her decision.  So knows the Israeli public, and so too do the victims of the Israeli occupation – the Palestinians.  Yes, we know well that when it is applied to Palestinians, Israeli justice is a mirage, always just out of reach.
Could Iron Lady Beinisch rule that an Israeli Jew is guilty of slaying Palestinians?  Would she dare tarnish the reputed purity of Israeli arms?  How could she accept that a soldier of “the most moral army in the world” would engage in the killing of a ten-year-old child?  How could she look at the Palestinian child Abir as a victim, when she is surrounded by six million corpses of Jews who fell as victims of the Nazi Holocaust?  Who is this child, and how could she take up any room in a heart already turned into stone by the horrors that Jews experienced during a long history of persecution and discrimination and murder?  For this is the history that is always present in the consciousness of Beinisch, and that drives the system of the Israeli occupation.
In the middle of the year 2007, during a speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem, I asked a question of Gideon Ezra, who was at that time the Minister of Public Security.  I asked him what his reaction would be if someone killed his ten-year-old daughter.  His answer was no less provocative than the question: he said, Hamas also kills Jewish children!  The minister was talking to the wrong Palestinian.  I wonder, however, if Mr. Ezra were one day to be confirmed as Minister of Justice, would he be in favor of exonerating Hamas on the spurious legal basis of the passage of time?
(Click here for the rest of the letter)

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