A British lawyer named Roy Amlot wrote an op-ed for The Times, ‘West Bank: justice in the military courts‘, Nov. 14, recounting his recent experiences visiting the West Bank “to observe the military courts in action…under the aegis of the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC).”
BHRC claims it is dedicated to “promoting principles of justice and respect for fundamental human rights through the rule of law in different parts of the world”, by working within the legal and human rights sectors of various countries.
Amlot begins by explaining his visit to the region:
A small group of barristers recently visited the West Bank to observe the military courts in action — our second such visit under the aegis of the Bar Human Rights Committee. Since our first visit a few years ago a number of changes have been made by the Israeli authorities, such as the introduction of a Juvenile Military Court, and the purpose of the visit was to see what impact these had made. Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank are tried for a wide range of offences, including motoring ones, in military courts run by the Israeli Army, and in which all officials from judges to prosecutors to translators are serving Army officers.
Some of his reflections seem painfully obvious, such as his observation that the atmosphere at military courts can be “intimidating”.
A whole range of sentences is available to the court. We visited the two courts of Ofer and Salem in the West Bank, where both adults and children were on trial, separately, but without any obvious sign when the court moved from one jurisdiction to the other. In both courts the atmosphere is intimidating.
In other passages, Amlot’s attempts to provide context strain credulity, such as when he employs the following absurd political analogy:
A large Berlin-like wall runs north to south along a route declared unlawful by the International Court of Justice for the fact that it cuts deep into Palestinian territory, dividing families and their communities from their lands.
First, less than 10% of the security fence – built in response to waves of deadly terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada – is actually a “wall”, with the vast majority composed of a chain-link fence. Additionally, the sections which are concrete walls were designed with the decidedly humanitarian purpose of preventing Palestinian snipers from shooting at Israeli civilian vehicles. More importantly, in case it needs reminding, the Berlin Wall was built by communist East Germany to keep their citizens from leaving, whilst the Israeli security fence was constructed to keep terrorists from entering.
However, the most egregious smear is found in the last paragraph of Amlot’s piece:
Where sentences are imposed [against Israeli soldiers], they are woefully lenient. Killing a Palestinian child may attract no more than a few months of community service. It is discrimination at its worst.
First, the dearth of anything resembling details in his broad claim makes it difficult to know what incidents he’s referencing. Even assuming Israeli culpability in the unlisted cases, is he referring to soldiers convicted of murder, manslaughter, or negligence? Further, what is the time frame? Is he referring to recent cases, or ones which go back many years?
If his claim is based on cases which date back several years or so, the NGO B’tselem lists 12 Palestinian minors (under 18) killed in the West Bank (under any circumstances) during anti-terror operations since Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, and reported the details in cases involving the deaths of three Palestinian minors which they believed suggested possible IDF culpability. The circumstances surrounding these three – two aged 16 and one age 15 – vary (and all but one are still under investigation) but all took place during violent Palestinian riots or terror attacks.
Additionally, a more extensive report on Palestinian fatalities since 2000 by the NGO Yesh Din only lists only two examples (both occurring more than 10 years ago) in which Palestinian minors were killed and Israeli soldiers were found guilty. In both cases the soldiers were convicted for negligence (not murder), and even in these situations the sentences handed down exceeded “a few months community service”.
Beyond the specifics, however, the smear that Israeli soldiers murder Palestinian children with impunity is part of a larger lethal narrative advanced by anti-Israel activists and some Guardian “journalists” which we’ve addressed previously. Indeed, no matter how absurd the charges that the IDF targets innocent Palestinian kids, such morally reckless memes evoking the specter of unimaginable Jewish malevolence have become so ingrained in the Islamist and extreme-left imagination that the facts regarding such libels become almost irrelevant.
However, as it is the job of professional journalists to distinguish between proven facts and unsupportable accusations, we eagerly await a clarification by Amlot (or Times editors) which includes details on the supposed ‘impunity’ granted to Israeli soldiers who allegedly have ‘killed Palestinian children’.