A new study by Yesh Din shows a familiar pattern. Some 240 complaints of crimes by Israeli soldiers against Palestinians were filed in 2012; Israel launched 78 investigations but instituted no indictments at all. In other words, absolute impunity for the soldiers.
Two things are worth noting. In the Haaretz report, the Israeli army tries to diminish the impact of these findings by arguing that the wheels of justice turn slowly in these cases and that there may be future indictments. But in such cases, quick investigations are vital to the success of a prosecution. The longer the case is left on the shelf, the easier it is for the evidence to go missing or to be contaminated. The investigators themselves know this, which is why they drag out the cases for as long as possible.
If we compare to previous years, we can see the results of the delays. “In 2011, 153 investigations were launched yielding two indictments (1.3 percent of the investigations) and in 2010 there were 145 investigations, leading to four indictments (2.75 percent).” If we were able to dig deeper, my guess is that even these few piddling indictments will have been for minor offences, such as looting, or cases where the Israeli media brought too much attention for the matter to be swept under the carpet.
And remember these are indictments, not successful prosecutions. The crimes will be judged by a court system complicit in the crimes of occupation.
The other thing to note, of course, is that the vast majority of abuses by the Israeli army go unreported. Yesh Din points out that only six of the 240 cases were reported directly by Palestinians. That is both because the Israeli military police do not have a station in the West Bank, making it extremely difficult for Palestinians to report a crime to them, and because most Palestinians understand only too well that the system is designed to ensure the soldiers’ impunity.
The cases that reach military investigators are those where there is a lot of evidence of a crime committed by a soldier and the chance of a successful prosecution should be strong. That even these cases stand no chance of an indictment is proof (for those who still need it) that the Israeli justice system is entirely absent from the occupied territories.