Tomorrow, Tuesday, January 21, the Israeli Supreme Court will hold a hearing against Palestinians who were forced to serve as human shields in Israeli military operations. The hearing is scheduled to start at 11.30.
On 5 May 2002, the petitioners filed their petition against the IDF practice of using Palestinians as human shields. In response, the state informed the High Court of Justice that the IDF would cease using civilians as human shields, but would continue the “neighbor procedure” – in which the IDF demands a Palestinian to instruct a person, whom the army wants to arrest, to leave his house.
On 14 August 2002, Nidal Abu Mukhsan was killed. He was a resident of Tubas whom the army had sent to the house of an armed Palestinian to get him to come outside; the armed Palestinian killed Mukhsan. Following this incident, the seven human rights organizations filed another petition to the High Court, demanding that a temporary injunction be issued prohibiting use of the “neighbor procedure.”
The High Court issued the temporary injunction on 18 August. Despite the court order prohibiting use of the “neighbor procedure,” B’Tselem continued to receive testimonies indicating that soldiers were still implementing the procedure. In November 2002, the petitioners filed a contempt-of-court application with the High Court.
On 5 December, seven months after the initial petition was filed, the state filed its response with the court, in which the state repeated its earlier contention that use of the “neighbor procedure” was legal. In an attempt to seek court approval of its use, the state gave it a new name – “operational directive - prior warning.”
The state’s attempt to defend the procedure was sharply attacked in the media. The Supreme Court also expressed a hint of criticism at the state’s position. Despite the cosmetic changes in the procedure, it remained illegal and immoral.
Meanwhile, soldiers continued to violate the temporary injunction and the new procedure that the state described in its response.
B’Tselem reemphasizes that any use of Palestinians to perform military tasks is illegal and immoral. The protection of soldiers is a legitimate military consideration, but it cannot be the sole consideration. First, the civilian population does not have the duty to protect soldiers. Second, the protection of soldiers does not nullify the IDF’s duty to protect civilians, and surely does not allow acts that knowingly endanger civilian lives.