18 July 2011

New film investigates Israel’s military justice system in the West Bank

+972 | By Joseph Dana | 18.07.2011 | NEDERLANDS

A new film by Israeli director Ra’anan Alexandrowicz tackles the issue of military courts in the West Bank like it has never been investigated on film. Israel’s military legal justice system in the West Bank has been treated on +972 in relatively great detail especially in reference to the unarmed demonstrations which have spread through border villages for the past eight years. According to the press release for the film,

The Law in These Parts explores the four-decade-old military legal system in the Occupied Territories. Since Israel conquered the territories in the 1967 War, the Israeli Defense Forces legal corps have created and implemented thousands of military orders and laws, established military courts, sentenced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. This complex system which is invisible to most Israelis is very present in Palestinian daily life and is unique in the entire world. Till today, the IDF legal professionals face judicial and moral dilemmas as they develop and uphold a system of long-term “rule by law” of an occupied population by an occupying army, all under the supervision of the Israeli High Court of Justice. Using interviews, archival footage and deep historical research, this film explores the formal legal mechanisms of Israel’s forty year military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The Israeli human rights organization Btselem released today a report about Palestinian minors arrested on suspicion of stone throwing. The report claims that nearly all Palestinian minors that are charged with stone throwing are found guilty or plead guilty because of pressure to plea bargain. The pressure, the report claims, stems from the fact that minors are almost always kept in jail during the course of their trial which can sometimes last for months. This phenomenon does not only effect children but seems to have a damaging effect on them given their age and ability to remain in jail without parents or family for a long period.

Haaretz quotes some statistics from the report.

Of the 853 arrested, 18 were aged 12-13 and 255 were 14-15 .Sixty percent of the 12-13 year-olds received prison terms ranging from a few days to up to two months. Fifteen percent of all the minors served terms of more than six months and 1 percent served longer than a year.

In 2009, Israel arrested a number of children, aged 14 and 15, in the West Bank village of Bil’in in order to extract testimony that was used to jail nonviolent leader Abdallah abu Rahmah for 16 months. The same thing is now happening to Nabi Saleh popular committee leader Bassem Tamimi. 14 year old Islam Tamimi was arrested last January during a night raid on his home. The testimony extracted from him is now being used to prosecute Bassem Tamimi despite a court case initiated by Tamimi’s lawyer which argues that the testimony is invalid because it was acquired through psychological torture of a minor. (Full disclose: When Islam Tamimi was arrested, I served as the temporary media coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee which handled his case)

The gravity of Israel’s control over the Palestinians can be understood from a new vantage point when looking at the military justice system in the West Bank. This under reported aspect of Israel’s occupation infrastructure demonstrates clearly how ruthless Israeli control over the West Bank needs to be in order to maintain itself. Anyone familiar with Israel’s occupation will surely benefit from renewed study of the occupation legal system due to its relative invisibility in the mainstream press. You can read the full Btselem report released today in English here.

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