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.