+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

IDF wants death penalty for Itamar killers

Haaretz reported this morning that the military prosecution has finished preparing the charge sheet for the two suspected murderers of the Fogel family from the settlement of Itamar, and intends to ask for a death sentence. Says Chaim Levinson:

The army will apparently seek the death penalty for the murderers of five members of the Fogel family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar in March. This would be the first time it has sought a sentence of death since the mid-1990s.

Such a request would most likely be purely symbolic, since the only case in which a death penalty was ever actually carried out in Israel was that of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1962. Death sentences were occasionally handed down against terrorists in the early years of the state, but were always commuted.

Assuming that the two suspects currently in custody are indeed the murderers, and assuming they are convicted – neither of which is certain as of yet – three points should be considered:

1. Just how symbolic or serious the IDF’s intentions are remains to be seen. But why did they choose to even so much as raise that possibility? After all, no death sentence was requested for, say, the Palestinian sniper who shot a baby in the head in Hebron, for the recently and most unnecessarily released Samir Kuntar, who smashed another child to death with the butt of his rifle, or for the masterminds of various suicide bombings, all of whom were responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians, sometimes entire families. What’s more, since any attack on a settlement is considered a suicide mission by definition (chances of being caught are high, and of being caught alive miniscule), it’s not as though an increased prospect of “martyrdom” is going to deter future attackers. So why, then? The answer is simple: Populism. The IDF is bowing to the howls of the mob and to pressures of politicians, both in and out of uniform. If the two youths suspected of this ideological murder are convicted and killed by the state, their killing will be for the cause of something even more cynical than “resistance”: public relations.

2. Even if the intentions are symbolic, raising such a high bar of expectation for bloodletting, only to row back from it, is extremely inadvisable. If the two are convicted and sentenced to death and the IDF rows back out of “compassion” (or “Jewish state morality’), it will be seen as craven and spineless; if the IDF rows back under international pressure, the mob will only cry for more blood. Either way, the message will be: We really want to kill them, but because we are official, we cannot.  And soon, perhaps after the next murder, someone at the back of the crowd will say: “That’s ok. I’m not official, and I don’t mind bloodying my hands. Please look the other way.” Another option, of course, is that the mob will chase the state authorities so far up the tree they’ll have no politically viable option to commute the sentence, and the two convicts will be put to death.

3. But the real story here is that of apartheid. Put simply, no Israeli has ever been considered for a death penalty, and is not likely to be considered for it in the future. In fact, the death penalty barely even exists in Israeli law, and even extrajudicial executions of suspected Palestinian militants were always sold to the public as military victories (a guy driving in a car or sleeping in his flat versus a squadron of F16s. I’m sure the top brass in the command centre was holding its breath). So why is it an option for these two suspects? Simple: Different legal systems. In the land of Israel-Palestine, deceptively described as divided into several territories but in fact completely ruled by an Israeli-only government in Jerusalem, several legal systems exist. There are elements of Jordanian, Ottoman and even British emergency laws operating here. However, the most important are, on one hand, the civic law system operating inside Israel, and, in a bubble of sorts, around every Israeli citizen traveling in the West Bank, and on the other hand, old fashioned military law for Palestinians and, in a bubble of sorts, around any Palestinian, whether in Israel or the Occupied Territories. It happens all too often that Palestinians and Israelis arrested together on suspicion of the same offense (like disturbing the peace) are brought before different court systems and receive vastly different punishments. In other words, the IDF does not seek to execute the two suspects because it thinks they may be the culprits. Suspected guilt is merely what it wants to convict them for, as it’s ought. But it seeks to execute them because it knows that they are Palestinian. This is about as Jim Crow as it gets, and it’s officially sanctioned by the state.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. David

      I see no problem with a symbolic death penalty verdict when the charge is cold blooded murder in five(?) counts, including three sleeping children one of which was a baby.
      The symbolism of the multiple stabbing of a sleeping baby, in its very bed, should be kept in mind here. I also seem to recall that five homicides grouped together is a massacre, but I may be wrong.
      I am sure our select panel of International Lawyers from the far left will chip in during this thread.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      David, Israel killed enough children in their beds to warrant dozens of death sentences for its own army generals and air force pilots. The point is that that would be unthinkable, while executing 2 Palestinians for similar crimes (in their case by stabbing, in ours by dropping 1 ton bombs) is at least open for public debate. This double standard is the point.

      Reply to Comment
    3. max

      Dimi, as you write, Israel has 2 parallel legal systems. It’s quite common in the world.
      It’s application to this and that part of society is indeed problematic: is Israel allowed to apply its own legal system in the territories?
      Where you’re misleading (I assume you know it) is with your statement “no Israeli has ever been considered for a death penalty” – it’s true simply because no Israeli has been in military court for such actions, nothing to do with apartheid.
      That aside, I think that the symbolism will be wasted; but the army didn’t ask for it, did it? I’m sure the army “considers” far more stupid ideas

      Reply to Comment
    4. directrob

      “because no Israeli has been in military court for such actions, nothing to do with apartheid”
      eh … it has everything to do with Apartheid, Israeli go to a civil court (if they go to court).

      Reply to Comment
    5. max

      I think that you don’t know what you’re talking about: military courts are only used for military cases. Most civil cases are handled by a court with general jurisdiction and which had existed in the Territories until 1967

      Reply to Comment
    6. Michael W.

      Doesn’t the US have a different legal system for its suspected terrorists captured in territories occupied by the US?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Abban Aziz

      The death penalty would be great for Israel. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and *gasp* the Palestinians all use the death penalty.

      It is an injustice to see cold-blooded murderers and terrorists sit in Israeli “jails” earning college degrees and being allowed to speak with their supporters.

      Had Israel executed the Palestinian terrorists captured in 2000 rather than releasing them in good faith gestures there wouldn’t be as many suicide bombings and attacks.

      The biggest killers during the second intifada were the 300+ Palestinians released as part of the “peace process” with the PLO.

      The court system in Israel and Palestine is confusing and complicated but not “apartheid.” You know jack squat about apartheid and it is a slap in the face to blacks who truly suffered under apartheid to see their tragedy exploited by Pallywood propagandists.

      Reply to Comment
    8. directrob

      udhr (article 7):
      “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law…”
      Why walk the Israeli protesters in front and are not upset when arrested? Because the law protects them and they walk free the same day.
      Why break Palestinian women into tears when at the same protest when their son, husband or daughter is arrested? Because they will be gone for at least three months.
      It is not only not fair it is against international law.
      Sorry Abban Aziz, the blacks have spoken, it is not Apartheid it is worse:

      Reply to Comment
    9. laila

      Which penalty did Damian Kirilik get for killing 6 members of the Oshrenko family in Rishon LeZion in october 2009?

      Reply to Comment
    10. max

      I agree with Abban Aziz’s on the Apartheid claim, the politically motivated ANC-delegation notwithstanding. Picking up on democratic Israel (yes, its democracy is flawed in some areas), on a site that enjoys all the advantages of this democracy, is nothing less than bigotry. @Directrob, pathos is no substitute to reason.
      When last did any of the commentators here – or the ANC – complain about the Arab’s apartheid against blacks, continuing to these days in Sudan? Applied to the Kurds in Syria and Iran? Applied to against Palestinians that are denied citizenship? Applied against Christians and Jews throughout the ME? Against women throughout the Arab League countries?
      You’ll find UN documents for these issues, but no calls from enlightened pseudo liberals. And yes, I know you’re all against these, but somehow only manage to voice your concern when it comes to Israel… Or is it simply because only in Israel can you find such a platform for criticism?
      Daring to label such legalistic issues – and what’s more, on an article based on a rumor of someone said something – to apartheid, is probably a reason those who really need attention don’t get it.
      For clarity: I’m categorically against the death penalty, no matter the offense.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Abban Aziz

      “Sorry Abban Aziz, the blacks have spoken, it is not Apartheid it is worse.”

      The “blacks” have spoken? So you’ve spoken to the thousands of BLACK Sudanese who flee to the Jewish state. fleeing the apartheid-inspired policies of the Arab League who seek to eliminate non-Arab sovereignty in all areas they claim.

      This is the core tenant of pan-arab nationalism, a movement that once played a crucial role in the Palestinian government.

      Today, the Palestinians continue to support the apartheid Sudanese government, and Abbas defended Omar al-Bashir.

      These are the leaders that will represent “Palestine.”

      What do you say about this?

      You didn’t respond to my comment at.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Abban Aziz

      Even if we are to assume the apartheid libel, Israel’s relations with Palestinians aren’t even in the same league.

      Post-apartheid South Africa is still more racist and apartheid than Israel on the worst days.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Ben Israel

      The Palestinians carry out death sentences all the time, the most recent within the last couple of days. Since most of the “972” columnists view the Palestinians as a much more virtuous people than us Israelis, I can only say that if the death penalty is good enough for them, it is good enough for us.

      Reply to Comment
    14. directrob

      Abban Aziz, Max,
      Great diversion of subject. Yes a lot is wrong in the world and the Palestinians have not the best leaders but this all has nothing to do with law in the West Bank.
      Dimi introduced the “Apartheid” word for the fact that there are two law systems in the West Bank, one for “Israeli” and one for “Palestinians”. If that is true than that is indeed an example of “apartheid” and of “racial discrimination”. Actually there is no need to use these laden words (races do not exist and apartheid is a word connected to the former South Africa system) as it violates universal human rights. I think Dimi has a very strong case.
      Would it not be better for Israel if Israel would enforce and apply laws equally for everyone in the West Bank?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Shoded Yam

      “…I can only say that if the death penalty is good enough for them, it is good enough for us.”
      One can only wonder why you’ve come to this conclusion only after an arab has committed such butchery. Its not as if Israeli Jews heretofore,have not provided plenty of excuses to justify such punishment. But I’m sure you’re on board now, right ya chantarish? I mean afterall, justice is blind, no? Then all things being equal, you’ll have no problem when they throw a noose around the neck of Ronny Ron (the murderer of Rose Pizem) and pull it tight enough for his sphincter to open up, or maybe a lethal injection for Jack Teitel, that American-orthodox-jewish-settler-sonovabitch who shot those gay kids in the nightclub in TA and planted bombs next to arab kindergartens.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Abban Aziz

      “Dimi introduced the “Apartheid” word for the fact that there are two law systems in the West Bank, one for “Israeli” and one for “Palestinians”. If that is true than that is indeed an example of “apartheid” and of “racial discrimination”.”

      no, apartheid is a race-based mode of government.

      israel’s legal system is complicated and fragmented. the PLO has their own court system in areas they govern that tends to be dominated by sharia law.

      palestinians who live in israeli-controlled areas have access to civilian courts in israel proper, but whether or not they are tried in palestinian courts depends historically.

      we can’t forget the revolving door policy when the PLO began taking over the prisons and then releasing the terrorists.

      but apartheid? you are mad. there is no apartheid. arab israelis are under the same laws as jews.

      you want apartheid – go to east west bank, where minorities are treated like dogs. christians have half the rights muslim palestinians do.

      Reply to Comment
    17. directrob

      Abban Aziz,
      Thank you for diagnosing my mental health.
      The real question remains if during a demonstration in Area C an Israeli and a Palestinian are arrested by the IDF for the same violation do they go to the same court and do the have the same protection under the law? Do a Palestinian 14 year and an Jewish 14 year old throwing stones in area C end up in the same prison?
      If no these are examples of violations of basic human rights, Article 7 the article that forbids all apartheid for the law…

      Reply to Comment
    18. Abban Aziz

      your analogy is absurd and completely hypothetical.

      what we have is facts and statistics. i explained quite clearly the reality of the complicated political system and you throw buzzwords like apartheid.

      why not respond to my comment eh?

      Reply to Comment
    19. Leonid Levin

      Why not just reinstate the death penalty? That’d be more in line with “a tooth for a tooth”. Why not just put on a death row the murderer of the Oshrenko family, the young settler who recently stabbed a Palestinian to death, the murderer of Yitzhak Rabin, the soldiers who killed hundreds of innocent civilians and children in Gaza?

      Reply to Comment
    20. Y.

      The is a double standard and a double system of law here, but not the one Dimi says there is. Only Palestinians child killers can be expected to get luxury terms in jail and an early release – not Jewish ones.
      The demand for the death penalty is simply the other side of the demand by some to get Shalit (and previously, others) out ‘at any cost’ (which is supported by most on the Left and extreme Left). Until this is changed, we can expect such calls to continue.
      Oh, and talking about shooting prisoners without mentioning Line 300 affair (which completely rejected this notion) is indistinguishable from lying…

      Reply to Comment
    21. Yonatan

      And the same for the Oshrenko family killers?

      Reply to Comment
    22. Click here to load previous comments