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Attacks on Palestinians highlight history of lax enforcement on Jewish extremists

Recent violent attacks on Palestinians by Jewish extremists highlight the deficient law enforcement and weak penalties imposed on perpetrators of similar past attacks

Two recent incidents have brought attention to the issue of attacks on Palestinian civilians by Jewish extremists. On Thursday, a firebomb was thrown at a Palestinian taxi in the West Bank, injuring six people, one of them seriously. Later the same day, three Palestinian youth were assaulted in a “lynch” committed by dozens of Jewish youth in West Jerusalem, while hundreds stood by without intervening.

Both incidents have sparked widespread condemnation; and the firebomb attack has been labeled a terrorist attack by both Israeli and American officials. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and promised him that Israel will catch the perpetrators of this attack.

Yet this kind of incident is hardly a new development. Last year, the Jerusalem Post warned that Jewish terrorism was “gaining steam.” The article argued that a serious response to this problem is “long overdue,” pointing to several years of warnings by Israeli security officials on this issue.

Despite this, law enforcement on Jewish extremists has remained highly deficient. According to information gathered by the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, 85 percent of police investigations fail when it comes to violent crimes committed by settlers against Palestinians. And Netanyahu’s promise to catch the perpetrators of the recent firebomb attack sounds all the more dubious, considering Israel’s record of breaking similar promises when it comes to the spate of mosque arsons which have plagued the West Bank in recent years.

Even when perpetrators are caught, their treatment leaves a lot to be desired. The penalties imposed by courts tend to be severe when it comes to the most violent crimes. However, Israeli presidents over the years have used their pardon powers to mitigate the punishment of Jewish extremists. To illustrate the magnitude of this problem, I have listed the most prominent cases from the last 30 years:

-The infamous Jewish Underground, active in the 1980s, was responsible for numerous attacks in which three innocent Palestinian civilians were killed and dozens were injured. Fifteen members of this terrorist group were convicted. Three of them received life sentences, but were released after seven years when President Chaim Herzog, of the Labor Party, commuted their sentences.

-Allan Goodman, who murdered a Palestinian in Jerusalem in 1982, served less than 16 years in prison, after his life sentence was commuted.

-Nir Efroni murdered a Palestinian-Israeli gas attendant in Zichron Yaakov in 1984. He and his partner stabbed their victim multiple times and returned to stab him again when they noticed he had not yet died. Efroni was caught only six years later, after his partner ratted him out, and served just 13 years.

-David Ben Shimol spent only 11 years in prison for firing a rocket on a commuter bus in 1984 that killed one Palestinian and injured dozens.

-Danny Eisenmann, Gill Fuchs and Michal Hillel served 11, nine and five years respectively for murdering a Palestinian cab driver in 1985.

-Nachson Wals served just 8 years in prison for killing a Palestinian in 1991.

-In 1992, Kahanist youth threw a grenade in a Jerusalem market, killing one Palestinian and injuring dozens. They received sentences ranging from 5-15 years, of which they served 7-9.

-Daniel Morali served just 13 years for killing a Palestinian truck driver in 1994.

To recap, Israel is quick to condemn and promise the capture of violent Jewish extremists. These promises are often broken, most investigations fail, and the penalties for those who do get caught often end up being woefully inadequate. Don’t be surprised if the problem only gets worse.

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    1. Piotr Berman

      Apparently, the teens involved in the last lynch openly bragged about it and many were caught. From JP:

      …their attitude inside the courtroom was similar. The newspaper reported that a 15-year-old boy admitted beating the 17-year-old victim, Jamal Julani, claiming that it was in response to a perceived slight on his mother. “He insulted my mom,” the boy told a magistrate. “So I caught him and beat him. I hit him and I hope he gets it again. I hope he dies. You can’t go by Damascus Gate without getting stabbed. So why do they come here? I beat him and I’d beat him again.”

      Reply to Comment
    2. I was reading the Ha’aretz article about the lynching incident and I got to this paragraph about the thirteen-year-old who was arrested in connection with the incident:

      “His mother, L., told Haaretz: ‘They came at noon while he was sleeping. The investigators woke him up and took him to the police car. How can they do such a thing to a young kid?'”

      It’s lucky I’d swallowed my tea, otherwise it would have ended up all over the screen. The double standard and the blindness are astonishing.

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    3. Sean Mullin

      Thank you Roi, While the Israeli governments condemnation is always fierce, Their lack of determination to convict under the civilian legal system Jewish West Bank citizens enjoy supports and encourages all kinds of criminality and violence. Meanwhile, under military law, Christian and Muslim West Bank Citizens who fall foul of the authorities endure a 99.7% conviction rate. That’s without proper lawyers, without proper courts, without proper evidence. Many are kids who throw stones, a pathetic act of resistance compared to the structural and actual violence visited upon their families for 3-4 generations now by Israel. The PA meanwhile is doing nothing more than acting as a security force subservient to IDF interests. The violence from both sides is heartbreaking, but Israel certainly seems to be the main aggressor: Is the best form of defense really attack? How can a country live with such howling double standards?

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    4. Carl

      I’m not sure the length of sentences says much in its own, it’s the comparative severity of sentences that’s the thing. It seems rare for Jewish nationalists to get multiple life sentences for violent attacks, though Palestinians (rightly) get them for acts of equivalent violence.

      The use of pardons by the political branch is very illuminating as to the logic behind the sentences mind. We have some insanely undemocratic instruments in the UK but the ability for a PM or president to pardon someone is fortunately lacking. Give us time and we’ll catch up though.

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    5. Gil Franco

      The actual time served in these cases don’t seem outrageously short especially where the offender is a juvenile. They strike me as similar to what would happen in most continental countries. Carl is right, the comparison would be informative if we knew the sentences Palestinians who murder Jews actually serve. Another aspect worth exploring would be the connection between the prisoner exchanges and the pardons. Long sentences for Jews is hard for politicians to justify when Arabs who have committed heinous crimes are released in these deals.

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    6. Piotr Berman

      I am not sure if examples were illustrating well the scope of the problem. When Israeli Jewish civilians kill, the law is somewhat lenient, but when they fall short of that, Israeli law can be extremely lenient. For example, in a recent case of sentences for teens killing an Arab resident of Jerusalem the accomplices got some tiny slap on the wrist. That does not happen when the ethnicity of perps and victims is reversed. Stone throwing cases show quite extreme disparity from what I could gather.

      In particular, the brazen lack of remorse that I have cited (and also quoted for another suspect) has to be based on expectation that it will not result in a heavy sentence. In many countries, violent teens can be incarcerated in juvenile facilities until they are 18 or 21, and these teens definitely do not expect that.

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      • Piotr Berman

        [cont.] will not result in a heavy sentence.

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    7. ish yehudi

      piotr- don’t know if it makes sense to chime in with cases that stand in sharp contradiction to your claim- but I know that in the attempted East jerusalem bombing in 2001 (?) which didn’t go off or hurt (thank G-d) anyone and they received 15 years- and 2 of the 3 are still serving. They’re appeal was summarily denied by the Supreme Court…
      i thnk the police and ShabaK have a hard time catching the Jewish attackers/ arsonists etc. but there is NO love lost between them… They have no qualms about whacking settler kids about. or bursting into houses at 3 inthe morning.

      Reply to Comment