Friday, August 08, 2008

A country of laws

Last week a video showing an IDF soldier shooting a Palestinian detainee in the foot (with a rubber bullet) was filmed by a 14 year old Palestinian girl with a camera distributed by an Israeli human rights organization, Bt'selem, and the video was released by them. The IDF said that it would investigate the matter. The detainee was arrested for throwing stones at a demonstration agiasnst the Security Fence at Ni'ilin village on the West Bank. The IDF identified the soldier and he said that he had been ordered to shoot the blindfolded and restrained Palestinian in the leg by his superior officer. At first the officer denied it, saying that he had merely told him "as a joke" to scare the Palestinian. But, then they both underwent lie detector tests, and the officer finally admitted that he had given what amounts to an illegal order, since it is not allowed to either shoot civilians without adequate cause, and to shoot anyone at close range. While the civilian was not badly wounded and was able to stand and walk soon after the shooting, as seen on the video, nevertheless the officer involved, once he admitted responsibility, was removed from his post and demoted to a lower rank, and will stand trial for his actions. Israel is a country of laws and human rights are protected here, even those of our enemies!
Another example, of the 188 Hilles clan gunmen from Gaza allowed into Israel, 23 were injured and were taken into hospital and are being treated there. As is routine they are being treated as well as and alongside Israeli patients, there is no distinction. It may not change any minds, although this is not the reason it is done, but these Palestinians owe their lives to treatment by Israelis. It is also noteworthy that while Pres. Abbas of the PA asked Israel to take the Hilles clan in, he also asked Israel to repatriate them to Gaza. But, when Israel saw that the men were being arrested and mistreated it immediatley stopped the repatriation pending an agreement with the PA to return them elsewhere, and eventually they agreed on Jericho.
During his speech announcing his intention to resign last week, PM Olmert mentioned that he was proud to be the PM of a country in which the PM himself is not above the law and can be removed for reasons of corruption. Although he denies the corruption charges against him (taking bribes and multiple charging) and says that he expects to clear his name, nevertheless he agreed that he could not continue serving as PM if he were indicted. As it happens, he will continue to serve until that happens and/or another PM with another Govt. is appointed or elected. We are a country of laws.
The state of the legal system in Israel is not satisfactory. Over the years the Supreme Court has arrogated to itself increasing powers to intefere in the running of the country, and many felt that this had been supplanting the ability of the Govt. and Knesset to actually run the country. The appointment by Olmert of Atty. Gen. Friedman, a well-known critic of the over-zealous Supreme Court ruled over by former Chief Judge Barak, was a signal that the political establishment was counter-attacking the judicial establishment. Even though it may have hastened Olmert's own downfall, this struggle is still underway and a lot depends on how the the Govt. can reign in the Supreme Court. This is a complex issue and is beyond my limited judicial knowledge. However, it also shows that Israel is a country ruled by law, contrary to the beliefs and prejudices of many misguided liberals, Jews and non -Jews alike.


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