Israel demands payment for jeep that killed Palestinian

Rights groups and family say compensation demand is part an escalating Israeli repressive policy against Palestinians.

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Abdulla has never met his older brother and namesake, but the one-year-old doesn’t fail to point at the many pictures of his sibling that adorn the family’s living room and often blow it a kiss.

“I didn’t want to name him Abdulla,” the boy’s mother, Zeinat Ghneimat, said.

“For weeks, I didn’t call the little one by his name,” she told Al Jazeera while choking back tears.

“I told his father, I won’t be able to call his name, knowing Abdulla is no longer with us.” 

Less than three years ago, an Israeli military jeep flipped over and killed 21-year-old Abdulla, the family’s eldest son.

On January 3, 2018, the Ghneimat family got a bill from Israel, demanding $28,000 in compensation for the jeep damage.

Abdulla was crushed to death by the Israeli army jeep during a raid in his village of Kufr Malek, northeast of Ramallah before dawn on June 14, 2015.

According to a lawsuit filed by the family against Israel in June 2017, Abdulla was trapped under the jeep and bled to death after Israeli forces denied him medical aid. 

He was slowly executed, Naela Atiya, the family’s lawyer, told Al Jazeera.

Zeinat Ghneimat holds Abdulla, who plays with a necklace with a picture of his older brother [Rania Zabaneh/Al Jazeera]
Zeinat Ghneimat holds Abdulla, who plays with a necklace with a picture of his older brother [Rania Zabaneh/Al Jazeera]

“According to witnesses, locals begged the soldiers to lift the jeep 10 centimetres as he was being crushed; they didn’t allow them,” Atiya said.

She added that in their defence and counter-compensation claim, the Israeli state lawyer said soldiers provided medical support to Abdulla and allowed a local crane to lift the jeep, without specifying the timeframe. 

The Israeli military said at the time of the incident Abdulla threw a firebomb at the jeep, causing it to swerve and hit him. It vowed to launch an investigation.

“The findings of that investigation are being reviewed by the military prosecution,” the Israeli army told Al Jazeera this month. The family maintains their son was on his way home after a night shift at a poultry farm where he worked. 

For Abdulla’s family, a wound that never healed was rubbed in salt by Israeli’s compensation demand. Shocked and disgusted Abdulla’s parents said they believe the Israeli occupation authorities are not after their money, rather their will.

“They want us to give up; they don’t want to hold their officers and soldiers accountable,” Iyad, Abdulla’s father said.

In response to an Al Jazeera query on the matter, the Israeli Ministry of Defense said it “submitted a statement of defence to the court stating that the event in which the plaintiff was killed constitutes wartime activity as defined by the law, and, therefore, the state is immune from prosecution in this event”.

It added: “In light of the damage that was caused to the [military] jeep [as a result of the Molotov cocktail thrown by the plaintiff], the ministry has filed a countersuit.”

But the family remains defiant.

“They want to compensate the metal, fine. We’ll give them whatever they want on the condition that they return our son back to life,” Zeinat Ghneimat said. 

‘They want to exploit us in every way’ 


Although extreme, and possibly unprecedented, activists argue that the compensation demand is in line with an escalating Israeli repressive policy against Palestinians.

“They deal with Palestinians, the living and the dead, as if they’re milking a cow!” said Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al-Haq, a human rights organisation, based in Ramallah.

“They want to exploit us in every possible way,” he added.

“They want to ban speech, resistance and they want to benefit financially.” 

Earlier last year, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that recognises verdicts by military courts as admissible evidence in legal procedures in an Israeli court.

The law’s initiator is quoted saying it would make it easier for “victims of terror” to demand compensation from convicted “terrorists” in civilian courts since they won’t have to begin the legal process from zero.

Compensation for Palestinians ‘nonexistent’ 

Meanwhile, Israel has passed legislation and introduced restrictions that broaden the legal definition of what constitutes a “warfare activity”. The moves have rendered the chances of Palestinians getting compensation virtually nonexistent.

A March 2017 B’Tselem report showed a drop of nearly 95 percent of new lawsuits filed by Palestinian victims from 2012 to 2016, compared with those filed between 2002 and 2006. The report went on to say that “Israel has lowered the price to be paid for harm to Palestinians while maintaining a false show of a functioning justice system.”

Jabarin echoed the same sentiment.

“Israeli courts, when it gets to Palestinians, act as a stamp to legitimise the illegitimate,” he said.

These are the same courts, that according to Issa Qaraqe, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Commission, issued $5.8m worth of fines on prisoners in 2017. 

“These are astronomic figures at a time Palestinians suffer high unemployment, difficult economical conditions,” Jabarin said. “It’s a way to pressure the inhabitants, an attempt to break the Palestinian will.”

Qaraqe described the fines as theft.

He said Israel is trying to deter Palestinians by imposing collective punishment on Palestinian families, which constitutes a violation of international law.

Back in Kufr Malek, the Ghneimat family is convinced Israel acts above the law.

“Israel doesn’t care about the world, international organisations or human rights. They act as if they’re the only ones on the planet,” Iyad Ghneimat said. “They want to make it impossible for us, but we have the right, they won’t break us.”

Source: Al Jazeera