Israel’s compensation bill since start of second intifada: NIS 89 million and growing 15Sep10 September 16, 2010

by Chaim Levinson  -  Haaretz -  15 September 2010

Israel paid out NIS 89 million over the past decade in compensation to Palestinians and foreigners who suffered damages or injury from the IDF, documents obtained by Haaretz show. All in all, the state paid out in 524 damages suits.

The Defense Ministry’s legal consultancy office receives hundreds of complaints from Palestinians hurt by IDF activity every year. If the claims appear plausible, the ministry usually reaches an out-of-court compromise with the injured party, paying out an average of NIS 107,000 per case. When the ministry rejects the compensation claim, the complainants can appeal to the courts, where most claims are also usually rejected. If the court upholds the claim, the state pays out according to the court’s verdict.

Some years ago, the Knesset passed a law allowing the defense minister to proclaim a certain area a conflict zone. Such a decision, which could be rendered retroactively, would then bar Palestinians from filing any compensation suits, even if the injury and damages were caused by negligence on part of the IDF. The Supreme Court annulled much of this law, ruling that the state must allow anyone seeing himself as injured to demand compensation. However, the court retained a number of constraints, including a demand that the state is informed about a plaintiff’s intention to sue within two years of the event, and allowing no compensation to persons engaged in terrorist activity.

According to documents obtained by Haaretz, 29 percent of the cases concluded with compensation paid in out-of-court compromises, totaling NIS 26 million in 242 cases. All other compensation payouts were made following court verdicts, with the last nine months being the costliest by far, with NIS 14 million paid to plaintiffs. NIS 11 million were paid in 2008 and NIS 12 million in 2006.

Among the better known cases were compensation paid to the family of James Miller, a British filmmaker shot and killed while filming IDF activities in Rafah. Miller’s family reportedly received about 1 million pounds sterling in compensation. More recently, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the state is responsible for the death of Abeer Aramin, the 13-year-old daughter of Combatants for Peace activist Bassam Aramin. Abeer Aramin was shot to death by a Border Policeman in violation of engagement rules and instructions on the use of rubber bullets. The compensation sum has yet to be determined by the court.

Another high-profile suit it still ongoing, with the family of American activist Rachel Corrie pursuing a civil lawsuit against the state in the Haifa District Court. Corrie was crushed by an IDF bulldozer as she tried to prevent it from demolishing a house in Rafah. The family believes the bulldozer driver clearly saw the activist and that her killing was deliberate, a claim the state denies.

There are thousands of compensation suits already within the court system, some dating back as far as Operation Defensive Shield in March 2002. The civic lawsuit process can be extremely slow, especially when there are difficulties to produce forensic evidence and eyewitnesses to the incidents.

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