By Palestine Chronicle Staff
B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories has published a new report today that accuses the Israeli army of whitewashing and hiding crimes committed against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during the 2014 offensive, which claimed the lives of 2,202 Palestinians and left more than 500,000 displaced.
The report noted that high-ranking officials were not interrogated in the probes launched by the Israeli army, especially those who were in charge of taking decisions that led to the offensive.
The report noted, “Neither government officials nor senior military commanders, who devised the policy, were responsible for the orders and made operational decisions during the fighting – were ever investigated by any official body nor held to account for their responsibility for the devastating effects of their decisions.”
B’Tselem added that two years after the offensive, no investigation took place of Israel’s policies, including the policy of targeting inhabited homes, the policy of indiscriminate artillery fire at inhabited areas, and the policy of destroying farmland and thousands of homes.
— B'Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) September 20, 2016
The organization asserted that the Military Advocate General’s Corps (MAG Corps), the only body responsible for such investigations in Israel, is experiencing conflict of interests.
“On the one hand, he was responsible for providing the military with legal counsel before the fighting, working closely with military personnel on the ground throughout the fighting and signed off on their policies.
“On the other hand, he is now tasked with deciding what cases merit an investigation and what measures will be taken upon its completion.”
B’Tselem revealed that 80 cases of possible war crimes have been closed by MAG.
“In 24 other cases, mostly related to violence and looting, the MAG ordered an immediate MPIU investigation without first going through the FFA Mechanism.”
“Thirteen of these investigations have been concluded, with the MAG ordering the case closed without any further measures. Only one investigation has thus far resulted in indictments: Two soldiers were charged with looting and a third with aiding and abetting in the incident,” the report continued.
The report concluded that even in these cases, which were probed, the process was not clear nor was the data of the teams that were involved disclosed.
“It is not clear how many teams were established, who their members are and what functions they fulfill inside the military, what timetables govern the work of the mechanism, what resources were allocated to it and what powers its members have been given.”
— Ben White (@benabyad) September 20, 2016
B’Tselem refused the Israeli army justification of whitewashing the killing of civilians based on the personal assessment of combatants in the field, especially as the same soldiers debunked these assumptions and assessments.
“One cannot accept the MAG’s position, that those responsible for these attacks could reasonably base their assessments of the anticipated harm to civilians on assumptions that were repeatedly proven unfounded and debunked by their own actions or the actions of their colleagues – at a heavy death toll,” the report added.
The report concluded that B’Tselem has decided not to refer complaints on possible war crimes to the military legal system, despite receiving a request to do so.
“After Operation Protective Edge, B’Tselem announced it would not refer complaints to the military law enforcement system, despite receiving an official request to do so. We did, however, note that we would eagerly retract our decision if we see that serious, independent investigations are conducted with respect to the persons responsible for violations of IHL during the fighting.
“Two years after the fact, we regrettably see that what we said then still holds true now, and that Israel continues to devote most of its efforts to creating a façade and nothing more.”