CSI: Palestine

01.30.18 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The U.S. State Department provided crime scene investigation (CSI) equipment to Palestinian security forces to encourage a “move away from a confession-based investigation process,” according to a 2016 report to Congress that was recently released under the Freedom of Information Act.

See U.S. Assistance for Palestinian Security Forces and Benchmarks for Palestinian Security Assistance Funds, FY 2016 report to Congress, US Department of State.

The report provides a snapshot of US security assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in March-August 2016, when the US provided training as well as technical support to enhance the quality and professionalism of Palestinian security practices. The report also describes steps taken by the State Department to ensure that any such assistance would not be diverted to unauthorized purposes.

U.S. support for PA security forces and the criminal justice sector in the West Bank has averaged around $100 million since 2008, according to the Congressional Research Service, though the amount has declined in recent years.

This funding “has been given to train, reform, advise, house, and provide nonlethal equipment for PA civil security forces in the West Bank loyal to President Abbas. This aid is aimed at countering militants from organizations such as Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad-Shaqaqi Faction, and establishing the rule of law for an expected Palestinian state.” See U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians by Jim Zanotti, Congressional Research Service, December 16, 2016.

Prior background on the origins of US-Palestinian cooperation was presented by CRS in U.S. Security Assistance to the Palestinian Authority, January 8, 2010.

Some Palestinian critics object to the US security assistance program as an improper intervention in Palestinian politics that effectively strengthens Israeli occupation of the West Bank. See How US security aid to PA sustains Israel’s occupation by Alaa Tartir, Al Jazeera, December 2, 2016.

The current state of implementation of the Freedom of Information Act at the State Department is such that even a request for a specified unclassified document — such as the 2016 report to Congress on security assistance to the Palestinian Authority — took nearly two years to fulfill.

Update: Amir Oren reported on the State Department document in Walla news (in Hebrew).