The Israeli army confiscated nearly $3.5 million worth of property and cash from Palestinians during its recent three-weeks long military incursion into the West Bank, under the pretense of searching for three Israeli teens who went missing on 12 June and whose bodies were found 30 June.
Since the beginning of the military assault, 830 Palestinians have been arrested and seven killed in the occupied West Bank. Nine have been killed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. Two more died from heart attacks suffered during an army raid or while being held at a checkpoint, and many dozens more have been injured. Israel is still bombarding Gaza with heavy airstrikes, and injuries and casualties are mounting.
On 7 July, the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights published a report compiling all incidents of confiscated private property and money. In addition to taking the equivalent of $370,000 in cash, the Israeli army seized 93 computers, as well as telephones, cars and buses worth a total value of $2.9 million.
Euro-Mid Observer is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices throughout the Middle East.
Euro-Mid Observer’s investigation found that the confiscations occurred without a judicial warrant and without proper notification to the families. “In other words,” the report states, “they were conducted like an organized robbery.”In nearly sixty separate incidents, Palestinians reported having their houses ransacked, with valuable gold, cash, jewelry, electronics and vehicles seized, according to the report.
On 2 July, Israel announced that the campaign, dubbed Operation My Brother’s Keeper, was “completed” after the bodies of the three Israeli teens were found in Halhoul, near Hebron.
The report’s findings suggest that pillage is yet another war crime that Israel appears to have committed during the campaign.
International law prohibits the destruction or theft of property in a military conflict. Euro-Mid Observer reports that the seizure of money and private property is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the pillage of or reprisal against civilians, particularly people under military occupation. Euro-Mid Observer also asserts that the widespread confiscation of property violates the Geneva Convention’s prohibition against collective punishment.
The report states that the “Israeli government justifies the confiscation of money and equipment by claiming that they were used for funding or supporting terrorism.” The government has offered no evidence to support this claim.
“Threatened with guns”
Twenty-four-year-old Muntaser Mohammed Musa, from a village near Hebron, told Euro-Mid Observer that after he realized money had been taken from his home during a raid, he approached the officer in charge: “He started laughing with the other soldiers, then they threatened me with their guns and ordered me to go back home,” Musa said.
The largest charity in Hebron, the Islamic Benevolent Society for Orphans, had computers, documents and printers confiscated. Israeli soldiers also raided the society’s dairy factory and confiscated equipment worth up to $812,000.
Soldiers also raided the Developed Company for Agricultural Activities, where they “broke egg boxes, damaged a number of machines, and confiscated computers and other equipment.”
The destruction of private property and public infrastructure is reminiscent of Israel’s 2008-09 assault on the Gaza Strip, during which the army targeted civilian infrastructure, including the blockaded enclave’s largest chicken farm, relief centers, hospitals and factories.
In late 2013, the Israeli military’s central command signed a military order making it impossible for Palestinians to challenge the confiscation of their property in a military court, instead requiring them to file litigation with the Israeli high court — a significantly more burdensome process as it requires they attain a lawyer with access to Israel, and pay a fee to file with the high court.
Israeli pillage of West Bank resources has been justified in the past by the Israeli high court under the reasoning that it funds the Civil Administration — the body overseeing Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank — which allegedly “promotes various kinds of projects aimed to benefit the interests of the area.”
Seized property and money are given to the regional treasury and allotted for “public use.” The regional treasury is operated by the so-called Civil Administration.
Far from benefiting the residents of the West Bank, the Civil Administration is responsible for home demolitions, manning checkpoints, violently suppressing protests and denying Palestinians the right to collect water, along with various other functions of the 47-year-old occupation.