There IS a judge and there IS justice as far as the IDF is concerned! Well, let’s not get too carried away since this is the IDF we’re talking about and “justice” is relative. Thanks to B’Tselem, 100 Palestinians have video cameras and are now photographing actions by the IDF in the Territories. The group aptly calls the project “Shooting Back.” The footage has already implicated settler extremists in beatings of unarmed Palestinian farmers. Recently, a 14 year old girl filmed an IDF patrol firing a steel coated rubber bullet at an unarmed, detained protester.
Everyone knows incidents like this happen every day in the Territories. What’s different is that a very small number of Palestinians now have the ability to document the oppression. As a result, the shooter was arrested and his commanding officer, who apparently ordered the shooting, was suspended for 10 days. Haaretz reveals today that the officer’s commanding officer dismissed him for violating military procedures.
While we should commend the IDF for taking action, we should note that the only reason they are doing so is the damage this incident has done to both the army and Israel in world public opinion. And in fact, the justice done in this case is of limited value since Lt. Col. Burberg, after his dismissal, will face limited discipline:
The deal will see Burberg indicted for a minor charge of “behavior unfitting a commander.”
In addition, Burberg has said he looks forward to continuing to serve in the IDF (though his future is uncertain given the disciplinary action against him).
What does this tell us? That B’Tselem needs to greatly expand its video program and provide cameras to 1,000 or even 10,000 Palestinians so that filming like this becomes commonplace. Let the IDF know that their every public action is liable to be shown on YouTube. Yes, it will force them to figure out ways to conceal their worst behavior (and they will). But it will also close down opportunities for abuse that they hitherto enjoyed with impunity.
And let’s also not forget that the father of the girl who shot this footage has been arrested, some fear as punishment for his daughter’s courageous action.
Now that the IDF has proven that it knows how to discipline its bad apples, dare we ask that the Border Police show the same fortitude in prosecuting the two soldiers who shot and killed two unarmed teenage boys (in two separate incidents) in Naalin very recently? They were shot at close range and posed no threat to the troops that fired on them. The difference between these incidents and the above one? No video footage of the shootings. Do you think justice will be done without graphic evidence of the crime? It’s doubtful.
UPDATE: AP reports the soldier who killed the first boy has been arrested by Israeli police. Who knows, maybe things are changing regarding the impunity with which 90% of such cases are normally treated? No word on when or whether the soldier who shot and killed the second boy (at the funeral of the first boy) will be held accountable.