Getting Off Scot-Free: Israel’s refusal to compensate Palestinians for damages caused by its Security forces

From September 2000 – when the second intifada broke out – through February 2017, Israeli security forces killed 4,868 Palestinians who were not taking part in hostilities. About a third of them (1,793) were under the age of 18.

Faced with this reality, Israel guaranteed itself a nearly blanket exemption from the obligation to pay compensation for all this harm. The state does not offer Palestinians harmed by its security forces a genuine opportunity to file for damages in Israeli courts, offering them no more than the illusion of being able to do so. By broadening the legal definition of what constitutes “warfare activity” and inclusive construal of this term by the courts, on the one hand, and introducing a series of procedural and evidentiary restrictions in legislation and case law, on the other, Israel has rendered virtually nonexistent the chances of Palestinian plaintiffs getting compensation for the harm they suffered.

Paying compensation to persons who have suffered injury to themselves or their property is not an act of charity – it is the state’s obligation under international law. Not compensating Palestinian victims severely infringes upon their human rights as they are denied redress for violation of the basic rights to life, physical integrity and property. Denying the right to receive compensation is tantamount to a violation of the right in itself: the significance of human rights is not limited to merely having them entrenched in some law or international covenant. If no sanctions are enforced when human rights are breached, the rights become moot and the perpetrators have no incentive to institute a change in policy.

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