Why won’t Israel allow autopsy on youth killed by police?

Cross-Posted from Electronic Intifada

A refusal by the Israeli police to allow an autopsy on a young Palestinian killed by its officers indicates a cover-up.

On 17 October, Mutaz Uweisat was killed by the police in Armon Hanatziv, an Israeli settlement in occupiedEast Jerusalem.

Israeli police have alleged that the 16-year-old boy tried to stab a border guard.

Palestinian human rights groups are calling for an investigation of the officer implicated in the killing.

In a request submitted earlier this month, the two groups, Adalah and Addameer, also urged that an autopsy be carried out in the presence of a medical officer approved by the Uweisat family.

Five days after submitting the request, Adalah issued a statement saying that the police had refused to perform an autopsy and that an Israeli court in Jerusalem had refused to order one. The police had decided to close its examinations of the incident, the group reported.

The Israeli authorities have still not handed over Mutaz’s body to his family. They have similarly refused to return, or delayed returning, the bodies of many other Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.

Israel’s refusal to allow an investigation into the incident makes its account impossible to verify. A number of other recent allegations made by the Israeli authorities against young Palestinians shot dead by its forces have turned out to be inaccurate.

Questionable incidents

Amjad Iraqi, an Adalah campaigner, said that the authorities are displaying a similar attitude in this case as they did after Fadi Alloun was shot dead by Israeli police near the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City last month. While the police also accused Alloun of trying to stab Israelis, video evidence proves that he was unarmed at the time he was shot.

“There is little interest on their part to conduct proper investigations into these very questionable incidents,” Iraqi said. “And they are refusing requests for independent autopsies to ensure that the authorities are giving truthful information about the victims.”

Mutaz hailed from Jabal al-Mukabir, an East Jerusalem area that neighbors the Armon Hanatziv settlement.

His killing follows the recent relaxation of the rules under which Israeli forces may open fire with powerful Ruger rifles.

“Targeting teenagers”

Senior police representatives have also publicly stated that officers may shoot to kill.

Moshe Edri, the Jerusalem district commander with the Israeli police, last month praised officers who shot dead a Palestinian. Edri stated that “anyone who stabs Jews or hurts innocents — his due is to be killed.”

Amnesty International has found that Israeli forces have dramatically increased their use of ammunition against Palestinians since 1 October. More than 85 Palestinians have been killed in that period.

Amnesty has documented a number of instances in which Palestinian youths were killed by Israeli forces when they did not present any imminent threat to life, and says the slayings amount to extrajudicial executions.

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Israel Jails Teen For “Intifada” Facebook Post

Cross-Posted from Electronic Intifada 

Writing on Facebook can result in being locked up if you are a Palestinian citizen of Israel.

That became clear in mid-October when 19-year-old Anas Khateeb was arrested and charged with incitement over three comments he had posted on the social media website. The comments read: “Jerusalem is Arab,” “long live the intifada” and “I am on the waiting list.”

In the past week, a magistrate’s court in Akka (Acre) — a city in present-day Israel — extended his detention until 26 November.

His treatment is being perceived as an attack on the right to free expression by Palestinians. The charge of incitement is viewed as absurd. None of the three posts explicitly called for violence.

And none of them received more than 70 “likes,” indicating that Khateeb was unlikely to foment unrest on any significant scale. Under Israeli law, incitement only occurs if there is a strong possibility that a speech or text will encourage acts of violence.

Khateeb’s arrest has been part of a wider crackdown on Palestinians living in present-day Israel, where they make up about 20 percent of the population.

Adalah, a human rights group, has calculated that approximately 100 Palestinian activists were arrested in Israel within the space of a week in early October. In most cases, requests by police to extend the detention of these activists were approved by courts.

The courts have ignored evidence that police violently suppress political protests, according to Adalah. The organization also accuses the Israeli forces of abusing their powers and has documented how Palestinian activists have been arrested for organizing an “unlawful gathering,” even though there is no such offense in Israeli law.

Police who overstep their powers are seldom punished.

“This impunity has not only allowed the police to avoid accountability, but has essentially encouraged them to view their brutality as legitimate,” said Amjad Iraqi, an Adalah campaigner.

Strategy of persecution

Monitoring of online activity by Palestinians is undertaken by both the authorities and by employers.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel finds that that Palestinians are being dismissed from jobs because of comments they have made. Employers are checking what Palestinian workers write on Facebook and giving the names of young workers to the police, it has been reported.

“The persecution of Palestinian citizens of Israel has been a strategy of the State of Israel for years,” said Khulud Khamis, a feminist campaigner and writer based in Haifa. “It is only changing form, and spreading to the medium of social media.”

“I think those people who publicly voice their opinions do so knowing the risks entailed,” she added. “Others keep silent for precisely the same reason.”

Nadim Nashif, founder of the grassroots group 7amleh, said that young people are more likely to be arrested for Facebook posts as they are the most politically active group in Palestinian society.

The Israeli authorities are seeking to depict a wide variety of comments relating to protests as incitement, according to Nashif.

“A girl from Haifa was arrested because she wrote ‘take an onion with you’ on Facebook,” he said. “The Israeli authorities said that this meant that she was preparing for tear gas to be used.”

“It is ridiculous, they will try to find anything they can [to persecute people],” he added.

Panic

While a number of Palestinians have been jailed for their online activities in the recent past, Israel appears to be intensifying its surveillance and repression both on the Internet and on the streets in response to mass protests.

A young Nazareth woman was recently placed under administrative detention — detention without charge or trial — after stating in a text message that she wished to become a “martyr.” Although administrative detention has been widely practiced against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, this is the first case in a decade of it being used against a Palestinian citizen of Israel, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

“Israel is trying to keep things under control; they always panic at a potential uprising,” Nashif said. “They are taking a harsh attitude with Palestinian citizens in order to keep us quiet while they are busy in the West Bank. Things that are acceptable in normal times are not anymore.”

Nashif noted that different standards are being applied to Israeli Jews than to Palestinians.

In October, Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s president, promised he would never release Yigal Amir, who assassinatedYitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister, in 1995. In response, Hagai Amir, Yigal’s brother, wrote on Facebook that Rivlin was a “kiss-up politician” who “must pass from the Earth.”

Hagai Amir was detained for one day, before being released and placed under five days’ house arrest.

By contrast, “Anas Khateeb did not make any specifically violent comments and his detention has been extended,” Nashif said. “It is completely unjustified.”

Racism at the top

Israel’s ruling coalition contains a number of ministers who have made racist and arguably genocidal remarks about Palestinians. The best known example is that of Ayelet Shaked, now Israel’s justice minister.

During Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, she claimed that all Palestinians are “enemy combatants” and advocated the killing of Palestinian mothers while calling their offspring “little snakes.”

Unlike Khateeb’s posts, Shaked’s Facebook comments received thousands of “likes.”

Adalah has complained to Israel’s attorney general about the incitement by Israeli public figures. But no action has been taken.

Among the cases raised by Adalah were that of Avigdor Lieberman, then Israel’s foreign minister, who called in March this year for the beheading of “anyone who is against us.”

And during the summer, Adalah complained about how Bentzi Gopstein, director-general of the Israeli far-right group Lehava, had stated publicly that he supported the burning of churches. Adalah contended that his remarks amounted to a call for violence against Palestinian Christians.

“There are lots of racist posts and comments in the Hebrew social media, but they only arrest Arabs,” said Rani Khoury, a Palestinian living in Nazareth.

“Israel does not want Arabs to think politically,” Khoury said. “They want us to be more Israeli. They have been scaring us like this since 1948.”