Within a couple of days, Israel State Attorney, Yehuda Weinstein, will have to decide whether to press charges against the Israeli Border Patrol officers, who shot and killed Palestinian Ziad Jilani, on his way back from prayer, who’s truck swerved off the road and hit 2 soldiers walking on the opposite lane. In the official investigation following the killing on 11th of June 2010, conducted that same day by the Police Internal Investigations (Machash), neither Machash interrogators nor the police saw fit to take testimony from the many eyewitnesses on the street at the time. Only soldiers and police personnel were interrogated.
The case was closed last year, citing “lack of evidence” and the incident reported in Israeli media as a “hit-and-run terror attack”. But Jilani’s widow, Moira Jilani, and her three daughters, with the help of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, conducted an independent investigation (including an autopsy, which the Israeli authorities refused to do, and the Israeli media dubbed “body snatching”). The investigation pointed the way to the killers; Maxim Vinogrodov, a Border Patrol officer, and his commander, Shadi Kherraldin.
Confirmation of Killing: Standard Procedure
Known to U.S. soldiers as “dead-checking”, “confirmation of killing” is the official Israeli military name for extrajudicial summary or arbitrary execution. This is exactly what Maxim Vinogradov did to Ziad Jilani. It’s standard procedure in the Israeli army, taught in training and used in every day situations of the continuing military control over the Palestinian population:
Extrajudicial Execution as a Tool of Apartheid and Genocide
Israel has everything to gain from preventing Ziad Jilani’s case from getting into civilian court. As in the whopping majority of similar cases of extrajudicial executions of Palestinians by Israel’s armed forces, the state prefers to sweep them under the rug of “security”, rather than risk these murders going on record as such. If State Attorney, Yehuda Weinstein, follows in his formers’ footsteps, he is in fact sanctioning what is illegal both International law and (with gaping loopholes) Israeli law: Extrajudicial summary or arbitrary execution.
In a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly [bolds by me]:
Considering that the subject of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has been discussed in the United Nations for many years 1/ within the framework of discussions on human rights based on the general recognition of the right to life of every person as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 2/ the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 3/ and a large number of other international human rights instruments, that extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions can be fought effectively only through a genuine will on the part of Governments to enforce the safeguards and guarantees for the protection of the right to life of every person, that declarations of commitment to the protection of the right to life by Governments are only effective if they are translated into practice and respected by all…
But the General Assembly doesn’t just aim to prohibit, it also wants to make sure that past arbitrary executions are also dealt with [bolds by me]:
3. Reiterates the obligation of all Governments to conduct exhaustive and impartial investigations into all suspected cases of
extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, to identify and bring to justice those responsible, to grant adequate compensation to the victims or their families and to adopt all necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of such executions;
Finally, the General Assembly is all about education [bolds by me]:
10. Encourages Governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations to organize training programmes and to
support projects with a view to training or educating military forces, law enforcement officers and government officials, as well as members of the United Nations peacekeeping or observer missions, in human rights and humanitarian law issues connected with their work, and appeals to the international community to support endeavours to that end;
The Death Penalty and Israeli Law
Israel saves the death penalty for convicted Nazi criminals. Ironically enough, even they get trials in the Only Jewish Democracy In the Middle East, before they are executed. Palestinians, however, are not afforded this right, as Israeli law is gradually creating precedent which allows more and more leniency in judgement for the lowest ranking soldier, stationed smack-dab on the rooftop of a Palestinian home. And while it’s in the process of prosecuting and jailing those who attempt to put a spotlight on this standard procedure, its laws are being changed in order to accommodate for murder of Palestinians (allow me to quote myself):
In the end of 2006 the Israeli supreme court put certain (and frighteningly loopholed) limits to murder of “terror active civilians” (after concluding that “it shall not be pre-determined that all targeted killings are prohibited by international law, as it shall not be pre-determined that they are permitted.”):
It is required to have highly founded and convincing information in order to classify a civilian with a group of civilians that carry out hate operations [another name for “terror attacks”]; It is prohibited to assassinate a person if there’s a possibility of using other, less damaging methods, and it is prohibited to hurt the person more than is necessary for security reasons. That is to say, it is prohibited to assassinate a person if it’s possible to apprehend, interrogate and bring the person to trial. Nonetheless, if the apprehension involves serious risk to the lives of the soldiers, there’s no need to take this precaution; After the carrying out of any assassination there must be a thorough and independent investigation as to the levels of accuracy of the person’s identity as a terrorist and in the case of mistaken identity, compensation should be considered; Innocent civilian casualties, during assassination, must be avoided at all cost. “accompanying strikes of innocent civilians will only be legal if it stands the test of proportionality.”
I’d just like to add that viewing this quote in light of the realities of standard procedure administrative detention and torture, and the amount of times I’ve heard soldiers claim that they shot for fear of their lives, while invading civilian infrastructure and homes, I’d urge the supreme court to try, try again.
Challenging the Facade of Israel’s Vibrant Democracy
Ziad Jilani isn’t the first victim of Israeli extrajudicial executions. While they are usually reserved for the higher echelons of Palestinian political leaders or combatants, in militarily occupied territories, the political/social/judicial climate makes it too easy for a hot trigger finger to decide whose life is valuable, and whose is expendable [1,2,3,4,5,6]. While Israel likes pretending it’s a democracy with a functioning trias politica, we find that the legislative, judicial, and executive branches are in service of what in fact is a three-layered apartheid.
While the executive branch is busy executing Palestinians on the basis of their racial, religious and cultural identity (this is after civil administration marked them as expendable and under extreme civilian restrictions with a different color ID), the judicial branch is giving it a free pass, and the legislative branch piles on excuses in the name of executive “security”, in order to allow the continuation and escalation of the bloody status quo.
Moira Jilani has started the Killing Without Consequence campaign, not only to gain some sort of justice for herself and her three daughters, but to open the eyes of the world to the murder, which is practiced as standard procedure, of the Palestinian people:
We need to let Israel’s state prosecutor know that the world is watching his decision and that Ziad will not be forgotten. We hope that this knowledge will help him to do the right thing. This is not only about Justice for Ziad and our family, if we can pressure the Israeli government to press charges against Maxim, it will demonstrate to soldiers that there are consequences for killing Palestinians.
By midnight tonight the petition will close, and tomorrow morning Moira delivers it to Israel’s State Attorney. Please add your name to the list of signatories demanding an end to the practice of extrajudicial summary or arbitrary execution of Palestinians.