This week's ruling that the Israeli government bears no responsibility for the death of activist Rachel Corrie underlined one sad fact, above all else. In areas under Israeli military control, there are two types of justice: the kind for Israelis and the kind for everyone else.
Nine years ago, 23-year-old American Rachel Corrie was run over and killed by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip. A member of the International Solidarity Movement, Corrie was working with other activists to stop home demolitions in the Rafah area. Witnesses say Corrie was run over twice by the slow-moving vehicle. After a military investigation, no charges were brought against military personnel.
In 2005, Corrie's family filed suit. They wanted a fair investigation and they sued the Israeli government for a symbolic $1 to get it. On Tuesday a court in Haifa ruled that Corrie's death was her own fault. In other words, a peaceful civilian activist standing in front of a snail-paced bulldozer is solely responsible if the machine and its driver run over her twice. What did the US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, tell the Corries about the investigation? That it wasn't thorough, credible or transparent.
Outrageous, yes. But here are the facts on injustice: the conviction rate for Palestinians in Israeli military courts is 99.74%. But only 3.5% of complaints filed by Palestinians against Israeli military personnel end in indictments.
That's not a pretty picture. And are two more cases in just the past two months that make the blood boil:
1) No Justice for Majda and Rayah Abu Hajaj
In early January 2009, in the middle of the Operation Cast Lead (Israel's offensive against militants in Gaza), Majda Abu Hajaj, 37, and her mother Rayah, 64, were shot dead by an Israeli sniper. Witnesses said the women were among a group of noncombatants asked to leave their homes – some holding white flags, accompanied by children.
Why were the women shot? There's no clear reason. Sergeant "S" of the Givati Brigade, the sniper, was charged with manslaughter. But earlier this month a prosecutor dropped the charges after the military declared that its investigation has found inconsistencies in evidence and couldn't guarantee the identity of the shooter. So, cleared of those killings, what happened to Sergeant "S"? He agreed to a plea bargain and got 45 days in prison for unlawfully using his firearm on 5 January, the next day, to kill an unidentified target.
2) The Levy Commission
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put together a committee of jurists to investigate the legal status of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Headed by former supreme court justice Edmond Levy (famous for voting against returning Gaza to the Palestinians), the committee pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
The report released in July argued that since the West Bank ("Judea and Samaria" to the settler movement) is a territory without recognised sovereignty, Israelis are free to colonise it without violating the Fourth Geneva Convention. The committee noted that settlers – several hundred thousand of them – are a legal reality on the ground. In other words, the over four-decade occupation of the West Bank does not exist.
Palestinians have faced a discriminatory two-tiered justice system for decades. The Levy commission throws even that base certainty into doubt. If the occupation does not exist, neither do Palestine's people or their basic human rights.