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In Your Backyard (on American-Israeli Terrorist Jack Teitel)

(From today's Ma'ariv (Hebrew only, translation by INT)

In Your Backyard
by Neta Patrick and Michael Sfard

The fact that the murder case in which Yaakov (Jack) Teitel was a suspect at the end of the 1990s, was shelved on the grounds of an unknown perpetrator (a situation in which the police has no lead for locating a suspect), is a scandal and a police fiasco.  It would be a smaller scandal if this was an exception that did not attest to the rule, but whoever follows the outcome of investigations of violent incidents against Palestinians in the West Bank knows that hundreds of cases are shelved on a daily basis without basic investigation actions being carried out in them.  Alibis are not checked, investigation teams do not visit the scene of the incident, and police lineups are not in the lexicon of the Samaria and Judea District Police.

"Shelving a case" is a euphemism for closing a case.  In theory, shelving a case does not rule out the possibility that it could be reopened if new evidence is discovered, but in practice, cases do not return from the shelf.  The statistics gathered by Yesh Din show that for several years, consistently, over 90 percent of the cases involving suspicions that Israelis committed offenses against Palestinians have been closed without an indictment.

Regarding Teitel, the case opened following the murder of Issa Jibril Musaf, a Palestinian shepherd from the southern Hebron hills, and was shelved despite the fact that there was clear evidence that pointed at him. 

There are many such cases.  For example, the case of Saber Ishtaya, a 70-year old farmer from the village Salem, who was beaten cruelly with clubs by four kippa-wearing attackers, aged 30-35 (according to his testimony).  The case pertaining to his matter was also shelved due to an unknown perpetrator.  The alibis given by the suspects to the police were not even checked before the instruction to shelve was given. 

In the incident in which Jamal Kanaan was attacked on his land near the village Beit Dajan, by about 15 attackers who arrived at the spot by bus, the case was also shelved.  This is despite the fact that another assault was staged in a nearby location by about 15 attackers who came by bus. 

Despite the clear similarity between the incidents, no cross-checking of information between the two cases was done, and the investigations were conducted separately, while failing to question the person who booked the bus.

The failure of the Samaria and Judea District Police to protect Palestinian civilians against the ideologically motivated crime of Israeli citizens does not stem from the lack of professionalism of the district police officers, or the fact that its commanders are bad people.  The police officers are professional and the commanders are largely good people who want to do their job well.  The failure is an inevitable result of the indifference of Israeli society and its leaders towards what is happening in their back yard and being done to the people under our rule.  This is the reason that the Samaria and Judea District Police do not receive the necessary resources for carrying out their tasks, and budgets and personnel that are suitable for the size of their sector and the problematic nature of the population that they are in charge of.

The result is that another Teitel, or more than one, is now roaming free in the West Bank.  And there is no reason for it not to take us 12 years again to catch him after he strikes.

The authors are attorneys who belong to the legal team of Yesh Din--Volunteers for Human Rights