1) the regrettable, but isolated, incidents come to light because Israel grants freedom of speech to all; and
2) Israel investigates the few rotten apples that do bad things.
On the surface, it would look like yes. If the crimes are reported, it's because someone was allowed to do the reporting; and cases are in fact opened against bad-behaving soldiers or settlers.
However, the Middle East being what it is, it's always healthy to aim for a deeper level of analysis. And when one does so, two questions arise: Are people actually free to report on the Israeli army's criminal actions -- or do they face consequences? And the cases that are opened against soldiers who commit crimes -- do they lead to convictions?
To try and answer these questions, I decided to look into an incident we have already talked about on this blog: the shooting of a blindfolded, handcuffed Palestinian in the foot by an Israeli soldier in July. It's not the only crime of the Israeli army I'm aware of, but I'm rather lazy and I took advantage of this incident about which a lot of information was available.
Who denounced the shooting? A Palestinian girl, who filmed the incident with a camera that had been provided to her by her school to film a student's party. She handed the video over to B'Tselem, an Israeli human-rights organization funded by European churches and leftist institutions.
Good. She filmed it and the story hit the headlines. But was she encouraged by the Israeli State to keep on with her work -- or at least left alone?
Er, no. Since the day she filmed the army's criminal action, her house has been shot at on a daily basis by the Israeli Defense Forces, the same ones that "take extreme care not to hurt any civilians." As can be read in her testimony:
“Since my video was shown, the soldiers shoot at our house all the time,” she said. The shattered and cracked windows at the front of the building confirm her story. “When we leave the windows open, they fire tear gas inside too.”
A photo of her in her house is available:
Be sure to notice the bullet hole in the window right at the center of this blown-up detail:
So we have here that the Israeli "freedom of speech" means that if you expose the army and are not fortunate enough to be Jewish, your house will be shot at. Just like in those pseudodemocracies where newspapers are not closed down, but contrarian journalists suffer strange accidents.
But what about the commander who ordered the shooting and thus faced the implacable investigative machinery of the Israeli army? To be sure, he was prosecuted. But was he jailed, or dismissed from the Army?
Er, again no.
Omri Burbag --such is the beast's name-- was removed from the command of the battalion, transferred to another position and tried in the military court on the relatively light charge of "unworthy conduct."
What other position? Well, he went on to command the armored branch at the training center for warfare on land near Ashkelon. See here (Hebrew).
That's right: the commander who ordered a prisoner to be shot is now training other soldiers.
The bottom line would seem to be that Palestinians can't freely expose the Israeli army's crimes; and that while cases are opened against offending soldiers, they don't result in convictions. Which dispels yet two more Hasbara myths.
Hat tip: Jews sans frontières.