How Israel deals with unarmed demonstrators

A video published this week by the B’Tselem human rights organisation shows an unarmed, handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian being shot by an Israeli soldier at very close range with a rubber-coated steel bullet (not, as some would have it, a "rubber bullet").

The incident occured earlier this month during protests against the construction of the annexation wall in Nil’in. The wall, ruled "illegal" by the International Court of Justice in 2004, will separate the villagers of Nil’in from their farmland, with potentially devastating consequences for a community highly dependent on agriculture.

According to B’Tselem, the officer holding the demonstrator down while he was shot was a lieutenant colonel. The soldier who fired the gun was, according to local residents, still serving in the same unit the following day. Such is the culture of impunity that successive Israeli governments have engendered, whereby soldiers feel free to beat, torture and kill innocent people without the slightest fear of punishment.

Update: The soldier who shot the unarmed demonstrator has now been released and, yes, returned to his unit.

B’Tselem reports:

"According to press reports, the Military Police have opened an investigation and arrested the soldier who fired the shot. Apparently, until the video was aired, the army did not conduct a Military Police investigation, and settled for an operational debriefing. According to the reports, the debriefing reached the desk of the Judea and Samaria (West Bank) Division Commander, who failed to inform the Military Police or the Judge Advocate General’s Office, or to take any measures against the soldier or the battalion commander. Residents of Ni’lin stated that, the day after the incident, they saw the soldier still serving in his unit.

When questioned by investigators, the soldier stated, according to press reports, that the battalion commander had ordered him to shoot the detainee. The commander, however, admitted only that he had ordered the soldiers "to frighten" the bound Palestinian."

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