I was surprised to learn that Israel has two separate court systems: the normal justice system for Israeli citizens and a military justice system for the Palestinian population under military occupation.
This was explained to us today by Alma Biblash, Executive Director of the Human Rights Defenders Fund.
Alma acknowledges that the regular Israeli justice system is flawed. It treats Jewish Israelis better than Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. There have also been a number of right-wing judicial appointments lately. However, the regular justice system meets all the criteria of a functioning judiciary in a democratic state.
The military justice system, according to Alma, is beyond flawed. In fact, “justice” is not the goal of the military justice system.
“Security” is. (Security again!)
Instead of being processed by professional police, defendants in the military justice system are processed by soldiers, young people with very little training and experience who are largely unaccountable for their conduct. Defendants are thus seen and treated as “enemies” rather than citizens with rights--and of course, they cannot vote or participate in the system in which their cases will be tried and their fates decided.
Alma said that 99% of defendants are found guilty.
She gave us an example of a demonstration which she attended with a Palestinian colleague. She said the two of them were arrested at the same time at this demonstration: she explained that the two of them were talking together under a tree when they were arrested. With her Israeli citizenship, she was released and back home within 24 hours. Her Palestinian colleague spent one year in detention.