UCL Faculty of Laws


New map reveals compensation claims against Israel and the Palestinian Authority

2 August 2023

A first of its kind interactive map showing the compensation claims made against Israel and the Palestinian Authority for losses incurred during armed activities was developed by a team at UCL, the Temple University Beasley School of Law and Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights.

Screenshot of civilian harm map website

The map presents over 470 Israeli court cases in which civilians sought compensation under tort law for loss of life, bodily injury, and property damage inflicted during armed activities. The vast majority of these involve Palestinian civilians who were injured by Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. However, the database includes claims of other nationals, as well as cases in which Israeli civilians sought compensation against Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Since 2004 it has become increasingly difficult for Palestinians to successfully claim compensation for losses. This is down to a number of factors: a broadening of the “combatant activities” exception, meaning the military is not liable for wartime actions; the designation of Gaza as enemy territory and its residents as citizens of an enemy state; and the combined effect of procedural obstacles, high court fees and securities, and denial of entry permits limiting Palestinians’ access to court. The same barriers are not faced by Israeli citizens seeking compensation.

One prominent case included in the database is that of Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor whose daughters were killed in an Israeli tank strike. Dr Abuelaish sought compensation and an apology but Israel’s supreme court ruled in 2021 that the military was not liable as it was a wartime action.

Dr Haim Abraham (Lecturer in Law at UCL Laws) said: "The effects of the expansion of the combatant activities exception are clear. The Israeli legislature repeatedly broadened the scope of Israel’s immunity from liability to the extent that it is nearly impossible for claims against it to succeed and courts have rejected about nine out of ten claims. Simultaneously, Israeli courts have been far more lenient towards claims against the Palestinian Authority.

“Having a clear account of the losses that states inflict on civilians during warfare is key to holding those responsible accountable, and advance reconciliation efforts. By making these cases accessible and searchable we hope to shed light on this topic and facilitate access to justice.” He said hoped the team might also be able to offer advice on best practice for civilians seeking damages for military harms.

Professor Gilat Bachar (Assistant Professor of Law at Temple University Beasley School of Law) commented: "While Jewish Israeli citizens who are residents of the OPT have a right to claim compensation for losses they sustain from the operations of Israel’s security forces, non-Jewish residents effectively have no corresponding right. That raises serious questions about equality before the law."

To mark the launch of the database, an event was held on 19 July in Bentham House, UCL Laws. Professor Eloise Scotford (Dean of UCL Laws) provided opening remarks, followed by a presentation of the project by Dr Abraham and Professor Bachar. After, a panel discussion was held on ‘Contextualizing Compensation Claims’. A recording of the event is available to watch now:

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1CyT9gUKFw&feature=youtu.be


Image: Infographic depicting key statistics and figures of civilian harm claims against Israel and the Palestinian authority