Government investigators ignore ‘lying’ Palestinians

Judge excoriates Industry, Trade and Labor officials for racist attitudes toward suspects

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: A Palestinian construction worker in Israel (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: A Palestinian construction worker in Israel (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry investigators say they ignore testimonies given by Palestinian who are suspected of illegally working in Israel, because they have a “tendency to lie,” Haaretz reported on Monday.

The investigators testified at the Beersheba Labor Court last week.

“I don’t give credence to any testimony by a Palestinian worker, because of their tendency to lie and invent names of contractors… they almost never tell the truth,” Justice Yael Engelberg-Shoham, one of the judges presiding over the case, quoted one of the investigators as saying. The investigator reportedly said he was speaking based on “many cases” that he’d witnessed.

Another investigator was quoted as saying that during interrogations of Palestinians, it “usually comes to light that the suspect is trying to protect the employer, time after time; the responses are partial, and it is evident that he is lying, and we cut the interrogation short after a few sentences – that is the reason that most [cases] are closed.”

The case began six years ago, when Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry investigators indicted a Bedouin contractor who had employed four Palestinian workers to build an Ashdod apartment. Although the Palestinians claimed their legal employer was a contractor in East Jerusalem rather than the Ashdod contractor, the investigators decided that the latter was the culprit.

When the matter was brought before the court, Engelberg-Shoham decided to acquit the Bedouin contractor, harshly criticizing the investigators’ “racist” attitude, the report said.

“One cannot help but be astonished upon seeing the evidence in the case, and especially upon reading the investigators’ testimonies,” Haaretz quoted Engelberg-Shoham as saying. “The investigators’ attitude must be condemned. The basic assumption of an individual, and especially an investigative body, cannot be that all those belonging to a group – Palestinians, foreign workers – are liars. This type of gross generalization is racist, has no place in a civilized state and must be rejected.”

The judge accused the investigators of harboring a bias and conducting the investigation with a “preconceived notion” that the accused was indeed the workers’ employer.

“There was no meaningful attempt to conduct investigative work to locate the subcontractor,” Engelberg-Shoham said. According to the report, she also asked that copies of the verdict be forwarded to the legal advisers of the Industry, Trade and Labor and Interior Ministries.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed