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For near identical crimes, an Israeli and a Palestinian’s fate couldn’t be more different

A Palestinian hit-and-run suspect is sent to prison and winds up dead; a Jewish suspected of a similar but deadlier crime in the West Bank is sent home to his family.

By John Brown* (translated by Sol Salbe)

Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian man, September 27, 2008. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian man. (Illustrative photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Three months ago, on July 25, Raed al Jabari, a 35-year-old a father of five, was driving on Route 60 through the West Bank. He apparently fell asleep at the wheel (having earlier taken painkillers). Near the Gush Etzion Junction he hit a woman standing on the road. The woman was slightly injured. Immediately afterwards, he veered sharply back onto the road and turned himself in to Israeli authorities. There he explained what is outlined above.

Al Jabari was arrested and taken to the Ofer military prison. He was brought to the military court within the complex, where in light of these facts, the military judge released him on NIS 8,000 bail ($2140), having decided that he was not dangerous and his action wasn’t a deliberate terrorist act. But those were the days of Operation Protective Edge, and under the cover of the fighting in Gaza, the IDF greatly intensified its repressive actions in the West Bank. Without any additional evidence, the Military Advocate-General decided not to release him and Al Jabari became a “security prisoner.”

On September 9, Jabari was transferred to the Eshel Prison in Beersheba — inside the Green Line Israel — in flagrant violation of international law, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners outside of occupied territory. According to eyewitness accounts, he refused to get out of the vehicle, but was beaten and eventually got out. A few hours later the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) announced he had been found hanged in his cell. His family wasn’t informed of the death. Only after the case was reported in the media and rumors began to reach the family did they contacted the IPS, which at first claimed it knew nothing of the matter, and then confirmed the details. Israeli news site Walla! News reported at the time: “the prisoner who committed suicide, a 37-year-old Palestinian from Hebron, was arrested two months ago during Operation Brother’s Keeper on suspicion of security offenses.”

The findings of the Israeli autopsy have not been published to this date. The Palestinian doctor who was present has been compelled by the court to desist from publishing the results. He did, nevertheless, recommend an additional Palestinian autopsy. I have been unable to get a hold of even those results. However, following the autopsy, Palestinian minister for prisoners claimed that there were no signs of hanging on the body, but that there were signs of violence.

I don’t know which of the accounts is the true one, and for our purposes it does not matter. Either way this is an IPS failure, which followed the military legal regime’s criminal abuse of a person whose only crime, it is reasonable to assume, was of a minor traffic accident, and whose death would be whitewashed using the usual means.

Yesterday, Sunday afternoon, on the same West Bank road near the village of Sinjil, a Jewish Israeli from the settlement of Yitzhar ran over and killed five-year-old Palestinian Inas Shawkat Dar Khalil, also critically injuring four-year-old Omar Asfour. He fled the scene and didn’t summon help. When he arrived at the major settlement of Ofra, he called the police. They sent him home to his family.

The settler — responsible for the death of a child and the critical injuries of another — wasn’t arrested, he was not taken to a military prison, he wasn’t tried without evidence, he wasn’t beaten up, he wasn’t taken away from his family, and he didn’t become a security prisoner.

A Palestinian under similar circumstances who only lightly injured an Israeli woman, had to endure all of that, and died because of it.

A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that al Jabari struck the Israeli woman with his car on July 26, when in fact the events took place on July 25, 2014. We regret the error.

John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and blogger. Translated from Hebrew by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne Australia.

How Israel’s High Court chooses occupation over international law
Conviction rate for Palestinians in Israel’s military courts: 99.74%

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    1. Steve

      This country is deeply, deeply, sick.

      Reply to Comment
      • Joel

        Maybe you should read Ariel Shtul’s Facebook comment above, before you condemn an entire society.

        Truth has 50 shades of grey, while you see black and white.

        Reply to Comment
        • Steve

          First of all Joel, I posted first, let’s put that down to your shades. Secondly, now that I have read it, it is still pointless. Let me be clear: in a non racist, civilised society, individuals that run over and kill children get arrested. In the UK, we have the charge of causing death by dangerous driving. The person will be charged.They may or may not be found guilty, but one child critically injured and one dead indicates a guilty sentence as unless the children were in the middle of the road, the onus will be on the defence to prove how that was not dangerous driving. Also, if a child is run over and dies in the UK, and the driver leaves the scene, it tends to make the news. The way Israel reacts is not the behaviour of a non racist, civilised society.
          It’s the behaviour of an apartheid state that values the lives of muslims less that jews. Simple. Only this can explain how a person can run over two children and not even get arrested. In America, anywhere in Europe, Japan, etc, no man can run over two children,kill one, then convince some local beat cop that it was an accident and that’s the end of it. That attitude is a direct consequence of deep seated racism. It’s like America in the 50s, or the times of slavery. Deep seated, sickening racism.

          And your terrible, revisionist, intellectually weak point about the shades of grey of the guy’s point above – that he didn’t actually hand himself in as soon as the article suggested – are you trying to imply that may indicate why he mysteriously died in custody? After being transferred into another country, against the Geneva convention? With an autopsy by his own people suppressed? Same point as above. Deep seated, sickening racism. Again, in a civilised country, a man who flees the scene of a hit and run would be looked down upon, but the cops don’t beat you to death or just lock you up indefinitely as some sort of enemy combatant with no rights. Why does he have no rights and have to suffer military law? Because he’s a Palestinian. As I said, deep seated racism in an apartheid state.

          Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            Steve, your knowledge of criminal law is sadly lacking. The defence has to prove nothing, the accused is deemed to be innocent until found guilty. It is up to the prosecutor to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

            What do we know? The children were in the roadway when they were hit. Cars travel on and have a right of way on roadways. Were the children walking down the roadway or trying to cross it? Did they walk or run across the roadway when it was unsafe? Why were they unattended?

            One would also want to know the topography of the road, the allowable speed, the weather, time of day and what the driver of the vehicle saw and did.

            Most of the facts are unknown to us. The only thing we know is that the children were in the road where they should not have been. These known facts hardly support a finding of dangerous driving cause death much less deliberate murder.

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro, the issue here is not trial but prosecution. The question is not whether the man known to have killed a child and harmed another is innocent or guilty, but whether there is sufficient evidence to mandate a prosecution. The issues you raise would then be argued in court. Generally, the killing of a child places a low bar on prosecution, as, in fact, many deaths save those associated with medical decline do, although there are many cases where prosecutors decline to move when they deem the event purely accidental. Here, there may well be adequate evidence to prosecute for the equivalent of involuntary manslaughter; on the evidence presented, all we have is the general background treatment of Palestinians under occupation, which is not good. We do not have a video as in the other case of this article, so it is rather easier to excuse it away. On that other video, I would say on that evidence prosecution is in order. Issues of pain killer use would be introduced at trial. Let us recall that the sitting military judge released this man on bail, undoubtedly hearing evidence of pain killer use, but was overrode by higher military command. While bail overrides can occur in civilian courts generally, they are rather rare and the circumstances recounted here do not contain that sense of urgency.

            In any case, the man is now dead, and that is much harder to hand wave away.

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            The Israeli police attended the scene of the incident involving two young school children shortly after it happened. Their investigation deemed it to be purely an accident. Therefore, there were no charges, no arrest and no pre-trial detention. There is no evidence suggested in the article, or any other article I have read, which would contradict the police finding. In fact there are no facts given surrounding the circumstances of that incident from which anyone could support a prosecution.

            In the case of the Arab driver we have evidence on video of a car being directly aimed at Israelis at a hitching post. We have evidence that the driver took the turn to drive by the hitchhiking stop and aimed his vehicle at the center of the crowd. There is nothing in the video to suggest it was accidental or to support the accused’s story he fell asleep at the wheel. The video shows that the wheels of the car were being actively steered throughout the whole incident. If it was not accidental, it was deliberate, an act of terror which justified arrest and pre-trial detention.

            His death in jail is another matter which will be subject of a judicial inquiry. Let the chips fall where they may be. If guards harmed him, then they will find themselves in jail. If it was a suicide, then the matter will rest there.

            Reply to Comment
          • Steve

            I won’t continue debating with someone who lives in a nation that thinks a local beat cop can conduct a credible forensic investigation on the death of a child on the roadside, with no equipment, in the space of an hour. As I said, this does not happen in civilised, non racist nations.

            I’ll finish with a quote from Reuven Rivlin, the President of Israel. He made these comments this weekend:

            The time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment, President Reuven Rivlin said at the opening session on Sunday of a conference on From Hatred of the Stranger to Acceptance of the Other.

            Rivlin wondered aloud whether Jews and Arabs had abandoned the secret of dialogue.

            With regard to Jews he said: “I’m not asking if they’ve forgotten how to be Jews, but if they’ve forgotten how to be decent human beings. Have they forgotten how to converse?” In Rivlin’s eyes, the academy has a vital task to reduce violence in Israeli society by encouraging dialogue and the study of different cultures and languages with the aim of promoting mutual understanding, so that there can be civilized meetings between the sectors of society.


            I’ll rest my case.

            Reply to Comment
          • I think Steve is right, Pedro.

            The history of Palestinian rights treatment in the territories is not promising to your description of this case. Most likely, whoever was on the scene, child or adult, was Palestinian and so not seen as a credible witness; thus the driver was freed be default.

            When this is all over, however many years it takes, we will find that no ethnic, nor sexual, category establishes sainthood. At the moment, structural skews in ruling law assert otherwise. That’s where the fight is, not against Jews, not for Palestinians.

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            You use weak arguments and offer not one scintilla of evidence or witness statement showing how this incident could have been deliberate. Maan news reported no eye witness testimony. The locals were quoted to say the Israeli police showed up shortly after the accident. The picture of the girl on the gurney shown on Maan showed the young girl was wearing dark clothes. The weather that day had been overcast with scattered showers. Maan news reported the children were walking on the main road near the village of Sinjil. Not one of these facts leads to an allegation the accident was deliberate.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      Mr Brown does not accurately describe the incident or the location of the accident. Take a look at the video of the Arab Palestinian veering into a group of Jewish people at a hitchhiking station outside of Gush Etzion. It looks like anything but accidental.


      Look at the tape, if the driver had fallen asleep why did he turn to go towards the hitchhiking stop instead of going straight. To turn towards the hitchhiking stop the driver had to negotiate a curve. He then proceeded to turn the car into the crowd at the hitchhiking stop. It was a miracle only one woman was unable to get out of the way of the attack.

      The video appears to show that the Arab driver tried to hit several people with his car and did not fall asleep as claimed.

      So there appeared to be reasons for believing this was a deliberate act of violence requiring his arrest and detention.

      I am not aware of the accident involving the Israeli and Palestinian being anything other than an accident. I am not aware of any video of the incident. Apparently the children were walking in the road when they were hit by the car. Police immediately attended at the scene and begun their investigations. If they thought this was not an accident they would have taken the driver into custody.

      Reply to Comment
      • Raimo Kangasniemi

        Justifying the lynching, nothing to say about the murder.

        During the last year, about ten Palestinians have been killed in hit-and-run cases by Israeli settlers in occupied areas – and two more in Israel itself.

        As far as I know, none of the Israelis who caused these deaths have been arrested or jailed.

        Palestinians involved in traffic accidents with Israeli settlers or occupation forces tend to always die. If not killed immediately, then in prison.

        And it’s taken granted by mainstream Israeli media – not to speak of state representatives – that all these cases were “attacks” and all cases of Palestinians being killed by Israeli drives were “accidents”.

        There’s only one word for this: Racism.

        Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          ” During the last year, about ten Palestinians have been killed in hit-and-run cases by Israeli settlers in occupied areas – and two more in Israel itself.”

          Proofs please.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Noe

      A lot of innuendo in this piece and zero evidence.

      On the other hand, Pedro X destroyed this author’s case.

      Sad day for 972mag.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ariel

      The lies in Mr. Salbe post start at the very first line. The accident/attack didn’t happen on July 26th but 25th. By luck it was even caught on camera and uploaded to YouTube that day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3q7yYb3g-Q.
      Raed al Jabari gave himself up the NEXT DAY when he realized his car number is on YouTube and visible, so the police was probably on it’s way. Raed al Jabari at least ‘hit and run’ if not tried to run those people on purpose.
      The Israeli yesterday, on the other hand, call the police imminently and stopped at the next place he felt safe which is the next Jewish town. A report about the accident appeared on main Israeli news paper with that detail (
      http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4581752,00.html) even before it arrive to the main Palestinian media (http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=733987).

      Anyone who compares between a guy running away and giving himself up a day later and after his car number (and with computers, maybe even his face) appeared on social media to the accident yesterday is a hypocrite.

      Reply to Comment
      • You are the only person I have encountered who actually, repeatedly, orders people to cry.

        Reply to Comment
        • LOL!

          Reply to Comment
    5. Ben Zakkai

      Well, I’ve watched the 12-second Arutz Sheva video half a dozen times now, and anyone who thinks it’s clear from that video that the Palestinian driver’s swerve was intentional, or that it wasn’t, is letting his prejudices overrule his eyesight. And even though Yitzhar is an infamous bastion of Kahanist/fascist national religious settlers who’ve been implicated in hundreds of racist and violent acts against Palestinians, and who’ve also victimized Israeli Arabs and even attacked IDF vehicles when the mood struck them — still, we can’t assume without proof that the Jewish driver in question intentionally killed a little girl and critically wounded another. We do know, apparently, that both drivers were guilty of hit-and-run — they knew they hit somebody but didn’t stop to help — although I suppose both of them could argue, possibly with some merit, that they might have been in danger if they did stop. We also know that the Palestinian was illegally transferred to an Israeli jail where he soon died, and that his autopsy records are being withheld from the public — unless, that is, any of the six Hasbara apparatchiks who quickly responded to this article (Ariel, Baruch, Joel, Pedro, Noe, and welcome back Ginger you delightfully unhinged specimen) would care to dispute those facts in a convincing manner — while our friend from Yitzhar went home for dinner. So the author’s main point, i.e. the vastly different treatment of Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab crime suspects by Israel’s military dictatorship in the Occupied Territories, is obviously correct — which we all knew anyway, didn’t we — and as usual all the peripheral chaff thrown up by the Hasbara Corps doesn’t obscure the painful truth that shines as bright as day.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        The video shows that the car was aimed at the crowd by person who was steering the wheels towards the crowd. In the video the car’s wheels are turned into the curve. The wheels then are sharply turned towards the hitchhiking stop, then the wheels are straightened out directly into the crowd and then steered away.

        This shows that the man was actively guiding the car and not asleep at the wheel. If the driver was asleep he never would have negotiated the curve. If he had been asleep and was no longer steering the car, the car would have drifted to the other direction than the stop.

        Reply to Comment
      • Joel

        “.. the vastly different treatment of Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab crime suspects by Israel’s military..”

        And the video shows the Arab operating his car with perfect control as he plows it into a crowd of Jews.

        If you can’t concede that, you’re plain full of shit.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ray

          There are folks in America who, after watching footage of 9/11 hundreds of times, will still insist that it’s cruise missiles, and not airplanes, that hit the Twin Towers. Why are you any more credible?

          Reply to Comment
    6. Yvette

      Israeli Settler Ran Over Two Palestinian Girls

      Numerous sources in Israel-Palestine are reporting that an Israeli settler ran over two young Palestinian girls with a car, killing 5-year-old Enas Shawkat and injuring the other, outside a kindergarten in the occupied West Bank today, near Ramallah.
      The exact details are still being fleshed out, yet it is clear that it was a hit-and-run, while the children were crossing the main street in Singel, a small Palestinian village often attacked by Israeli settlers and their military…..


      Reply to Comment
    7. Brian

      Gideon Levy has written a masterpiece, on Jerusalem. It must be read in full:


      Jerusalem, the capital of apartheid
      Mass arrests, violent settlers, expulsion, and dispossession: With that as the lot of Jerusalem’s Palestinians, no one should have been surprised with Wednesday’s terror attack.

      …Jerusalem is engulfed by lies. It has become the Israeli capital of apartheid….

      Reply to Comment
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