Editorial View - By Asher Shla'in

[Comments are welcome at our Dialogue Corner]

Light - But No Justice

Observations Concerning the Or Report

Those arguing about the operation of the Or Commission and the report they presented, tend to take a sweeping attitude of "For" or "against". Thus they miss the discussion of quite important issues that arise while studying the report.

Maybe, appointing that commission was politically and personally motivated, possibly tainted with alien considerations - but anyhow now the report is before us, and it supplies a quite comprehensive description of what did happen. Indeed it is possible that the commission's work did harm in a way the capacity of security forces; sometimes it is hard to face the emerging truth - but eventually we cannot afford to base our actions only on what is more convenient to believe and what propagandists from the various sides try selling to us.

My impression from reading the report is that in the endeavor toward the truth, the commission applied an impressive, serious judgment - this in spite of the difficulty to get all of the needed evidence and the deviation of witnesses from the truth (be it intentional or innocent). The commission constructed a reasonable picture of the events, and supported its factual conclusions in plausible reasoning. If the commission would content itself with this, it would have served its main destination.

I am not that impressed with the commission's conclusions when evaluating the reasoning of the operating individuals, neither from its recommendations about their future. I also cannot uphold the main policy outlines recommended by the commission. Those who support the commission in this respect differ from its opponents in world outlooks, life experiences, the way each person views and evaluates the general picture.

The report gives rather uniform "not justified" marks to most of the decisions taken by the police personnel to use firearms. In my differing opinion I would distinguish necessary police shooting aimed at alleviating the situation and putting out the riot, from irregular cases of arbitrary action, thick-headedness or obstinacy. In my view, a severe reaction was indeed called for toward a rioting mob, especially after it already had demonstrated its spirit through blatant violence at the police and toward property, having managed also to cruelly hurt civilians on whom they could lay hands. Yet, in no way should I ignore any police criminal negligence, neither, for sure, such shooting that contributed nothing to overcome the riot and resulted solely in death and injuries. It is most important for the State of Israel to clearly identify policemen that shot an escaping youth from behind, even those who messed with the shooting and hit casual passers-bye.

Considering all this, I avoid a sweeping generalization toward Or's report. It is worth mentioning that the commission itself, toward the end of the report, has remarked that its recommendations indeed oblige nobody and that its main contribution is in the factual findings.

In one important issue the commission's recommendation is very right. It calls for activating the Police Investigation Unit (PIU) to examine the circumstances of most of the fatalities, which the same unit has not started to investigate.

The PIU will commence its work now, about 3 years after people got killed. Appropriate pathological examination were not made, bullets were not extracted and not paired with firearms, eyewitnesses were not interrogated by the PIU professionals within short while from the events.

Up to the present time, the inquiry by the commission seemingly replaced the PIU work. There, all the testimonies were taken in public, with more ability to pre-coordinate witnesses while a few of them were encouraged to sign prior legal declarations that could reflect on what they were going to say. No wonder that in the more problematic cases the commission failed to arrive at conclusive results and ended up with the recommendation that the PIU will take up the inquiry.

I wondered how such a reality came into being: why didn't PIU begin to investigate promptly, whether parallel to the commission's work or coordinating with it? The reply given to this question was that the families of the deceased objected and did not cooperate (i.e. by agreeing to autopsy). Nowadays we hear from families voices of consent to PIU examination. I infer from this, that maybe in the former time there was a centralized guidance of the Arabs to oppose PIU activity. One cannot even be sure that the authorities approached all the families at the time. Maybe the reaction of "Adala", the organization that assumed the representation of all the Arabs in this affair, was accepted as decisive. Incidentally, "Adala" represented both the casualties and the instigators, and I think that there is a clash of interests between them. Anyhow, it appeared as if "Adala" became part and parcel of the inquiry mechanism.

We know today that Arab public figures preferred at the time operating in the framework of the commission to the CIU activity, maybe because it enabled gathering political gains. Possibly this was more important in their eyes than revealing the truth about each event.

My impression is, that the opponents of public order did a sophisticated political work - while the police was abandoned during the process with no competence to enlist the support of public figures. Not activating PIU at the right time, surrendering to improper opposition, appears as an expression of the same political frailty.

The Or Report is divided into 6 parts ("gates") given below.

One can read (at least for the tome being) each part (in Hebrew) by clicking its name:

Prior to October Events: Background, Causes, Event-prediction & Police preparedness
Development and Course of Events
Special Events October 1st, 2000 - October 2nd, 2000
Special Issues
Notifications Sent According to the Law
Summation & Conclusions

Asher Shla'in, 11/September/2003

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