They Say/We Say: "US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro should apologize to Israel for saying Israel has a double standard in law enforcement"

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

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They Say, We Say: Why should we be worried about Israeli democracy?

They Say:

The US Ambassador to Israel (speaking in January 2016) was wrong to say that Israel has a double standard in law enforcement against Jews versus against Palestinians.

We Say:Regrettably, Israel has a well-documented record of showing a double standard when it comes to law enforcement in the West Bank. This double standard is on clear display with the Israeli response to settler violence, especially the more than a decade-long campaign of “Price Tag” attacks. Notwithstanding the recent arrest of a suspect in the horrific July 2015 arson-murders of a Palestinian father, mother, and baby, these attacks have almost universally met a weak, ineffectual response from Israeli authorities, as has been well-documented by the Israeli media. For years, Israeli authorities have turned a blind eye to settler violence. As Amos Harel wrote in April 2014, “Neither the police nor other authorities have treated attacks by settlers against the IDF or Palestinians the way they treat Palestinian terror…”

Facts about prosecutions and convictions of Palestinians versus those of Israelis are illustrative of this problem. Palestinians prosecuted for crimes by Israel (including stone throwing, terrorist acts, etc.) are tried in military courts. Such Palestinians are, in effect, presumed guilty upon arrest, and face trial before courts that have a conviction rate of nearly 100%.

The situation is much different for crimes committed by settlers. The Israel organization, Yesh Din, which closely tracks Israeli law enforcement in the West Bank, reports that for the period of 2005-2015, 91.6% of investigations into ideologically motivated crimes perpetrated by Israeli citizens against Palestinians in the West Bank were closed without any indictment. Most of these were closed on the grounds of “offender unknown.” Yesh Din explains that this indicates: 

…the failure of the police to locate and identify suspected offenders, though there is evidence that a criminal offense had been committed. To illustrate, these were the grounds cited by the Hebron Investigation Unit for closing the investigation into vandalism of farmland belonging to a resident of the village of a-Tuwani, in the South Hebron Hills by residents of the settlement of Ma’on Farm. The file was closed without the police attempting to locate suspects who were clearly visible in video footage, and without the police demanding alibis from additional suspects, who were questioned only a year and a half after the offence was committed.

At various times in the past, the IDF and Israeli intelligence services have vowed to get serious about settler violence, especially after attacks targeting the IDF or particularly heinous attacks like July 2015 murders. Thus far, such promises have proven to be little more than lip service.

This double standard is likewise evidenced by the Israeli government’s response to the more than a decade-long campaign of construction by settlers, particularly settlement “outposts,” in violation of Israeli law. This campaign has been richly rewarded with the post-facto legalization by Israeli authorities of much of the illegal construction, sometimes in direct response to settler violence (proving that not only is settler violence tolerated, but it works). This legalization of illegal settler construction (which is in addition to ongoing “legal” settlement construction, authorized by the Israeli government), exists side-by-side with a situation in which Israel prevents Palestinians residing in so-called “Area C” – an area that spans over half of the West Bank, in which Israel retains control over Palestinians’ building and planning -- from building on their own privately-owned land, and demolishes structures built without Israeli approval.