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Settlers sentenced to an unprecedented 30 months over 'price tag' attack

Court sentences two West Bank settlers for setting fire to Palestinian-owned vehicles, but not before the investigatory process violated their civil rights.

Two extremist settlers were sentenced to 30 months in prison on Sunday, in what is the first such conviction for a “price tag” attack against Palestinian civilians.

Yehuda Landsberg and Yehuda Savir, both residents of the illegal Havat Gilad settlement outpost in the northern West Bank, were convicted of setting fire to Palestinian-owned vehicles with racist motives last year, reported Shabtai Bendet of Walla! News.

The sentence was the result of a plea bargain.

Illustrative photo of a car burned in a suspected price tag attack at Dir Jarir (photo: Iad Hadad / B'tzelem)

Illustrative photo of a car burned in a suspected price tag attack at Dir Jarir (photo: Iad Hadad / B’Tselem)

Israeli authorities have been notoriously ineffective in prosecuting settler attacks against Palestinians and their property. According to data from human rights organization Yesh Din, over the past nine years, only 7.4 percent of investigations into such attacks led to indictments.

In an attempt to combat settler violence, the Israeli government has taken a number of steps in recent years, ranging from establishing a “nationalistic crimes” unit in the West Bank district of Israel Police, to declaring groups of “price tag” assailants as “illegal associations,” a label usually reserved for Palestinian groups.

Those declarations serve law enforcement in two main ways. Firstly, declaring a group an “illegal association” opens up criminal charges of belonging to such a group. More relevant to this case, however, is that once a suspect is accused of being a member in an illegal association, their civil rights can be severely curtailed — primarily by allowing police or the Shin Bet to deny them access to legal counsel during the investigation and interrogation process.

Landsberg and Savir were both denied access to attorneys under due to the illegal association accusation, which never materialized into a criminal charge in and of itself.

Read more: Settler violence – It comes with the territory

The pair’s attorney also said they were subject to “undue pressure and abuse under interrogation,” Haaretz reported in February of this year. “Security forces misled the courts by attributing security offenses to them, thus preventing them from exercising the basic right of meeting with a lawyer,” attorney Adi Kedar told Haaretz.

While police and prosecutors should be commended for bringing violent settlers to justice, the use of draconian investigative tools like denying access to legal counsel is always abhorrent.

One of the aspects of the Israeli military legal system that we at +972 most often criticize is the denial of due process, denial of access to attorneys, unnecessarily long periods in prison while awaiting trial and the coercive use of plea bargains to achieve a near-100 percent conviction rate.

One cannot possibly condemn those practices when they are used against Palestinians and accept their use against Israelis. Civil rights and due process must be blind to nationality, race and type of crime.

A graffiti reading in Hebrew "Gentiles in the land are enemies", seen on a Palestinian bus in the East Jerusalem nighboorhood of Beit Hanina, on March 24.

Illustrative photo: Hebrew Graffiti reading “Gentiles in the land are enemies” is seen on a Palestinian bus in the East Jerusalem neighboorhood of Beit Hanina, on March 24.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and especially illegal settlement outposts, inherently bring about physical and structural violence against their Palestinian neighbors — a documented phenomenon that is far more systematic than that which emanates from the violence of individual settlers. The very existence of settlements necessitates land seizures and large swaths of “security zones” that infringe on Palestinians’ access to their agricultural and grazing lands. The use of civilian settler security officers results in an outsourcing of the occupying army’s (the State) monopoly on power to private actors results in impunity for unnecessary and often-times illegal violence against Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the military forces deployed to protect settlements results in restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinians, and the application of separate and unequal legal systems for Israelis and Palestinians living in the same areas results in an apartheid-like system that has resulted in the imprisonment of over 800,000 Palestinians since the start of the occupation nearly 50 years ago.

It is commendable that Israeli authorities are finally showing signs of seriousness in their treatment of violent settlers. But in order to stop the real settler violence, as detailed above, the only answer is dismantling the settlements themselves, which are all illegal under international law.

‘Price tag’ attacks: It’s not about the graffiti
Palestinians catch settlers allegedly attempting a ‘price tag’ attack

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    1. Weiss

      This is a good start, the law should be applied equally for all.

      Speaking of which, will they be demolishing their homes as well?

      Here in the US this would be considered a federal hate crime.

      Reply to Comment
      • Eliza

        Weiss – A good start but for what?

        It sounds like such a whinge but I’m not too impressed with this action against two settlers engaged in price tag attacks.

        As Michael makes clear in this article, the real violence is the illegal settlements themselves, especially the outposts, which violate Palestinian rights.

        Its just that if I were a Zionist intent on settling as much of the West Bank as possible, as creating as many facts on the grounds as I could, the last thing I would want is some undisciplined rabble rousers giving me lots of bad press by setting fire to cars. I’d be trying for the gentlest possible occupation to ensure the least amount of international scrutiny. I wouldn’t give a toss if some young thugs got 30 months in jail.

        As I said, its a whinge but I don’t think there is any indication that Israel is even close to giving up on final annexation of most of the West Bank. Eventually.

        Reply to Comment
        • Weiss

          When just one Jewish extremists home is demolished for committing violent acts they will begin to understand just how barbaric & medieval that policy really is.

          Lets not hold our breath on that one.

          If you desperately want endless war go fight it yourself because the rest of us MODERATE Jews are going to help make a 2 state solution a reality whether you like it or not… Get onboard or get out of the way…

          Reply to Comment
          • Eliza

            Weiss – If your comment is in response to mine, I don’t get it.

            I am not a Zionist. Saying that, I don’t care if Palestinian rights are attained via a one or two SS.

            All I was saying is that the arrest and imprisonment of two young Jewish thugs is something consistent with Israel achieving territorial expansion by keeping settler violence under some control. The burning of Palestinian cars by young Israeli Jews gives Israel a bad press and does not significantly assist the settlement enterprise. So, why should it be tolerated by Israel or Israelis who do want to create facts on the ground?

            In other words, punish the low level crime in order to hide the fact that a greater crime that is being carried out via the appropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish only settlements.

            I have no issue with offenders being punished appropriately or the law being applied equally. The imprisonment of the offenders is a good thing – I just don’t think anyone should read too much into it re Israel’s expansionism into the W/B (which is the greater crime). I don’t think its a start for anything, not really.

            There is no indication that there is any substantive change within Israel towards the need to justly resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. I wish there were, maybe there is, but I just don’t see it.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Doug Thomson

      Israel is in desperate need of a Bill of Human Rights that applies equally to all who reside in, work in or. Is it the nation. Israel also needs strong hate crime legislation.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Joel

      A good piece.
      Can’t argue with anything the guy says.

      Reply to Comment
    4. I hope their houses are bulldozed; it’s stupid, but at least it would show equal treatment by the law. ALL people should be granted due process and treated equally.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Gustav

      “I hope their houses are bulldozed”

      Yes, in the middle of WW2, a Brit writing hurtful grafiti about Germans would have been interned in a camp because Germans who lived in England and who became British citizens were interned in camps.

      Same thing in the USA with Germans, Japanese and Italians.

      Not so much eh?

      Here the offenders got quite a hefty punishment. OK, but even that is not enough for people like you and Weiss? You are both one eyed haters. Soon you’ll be demanding that we should collectively slash our own wrists just because we feel about Palestinian Arabs the way they feel about us.

      For crying out loud, we are still in the midst of a 100 year war with these people. Most of us don’t like that war but since they force it on us, we are not in love with our Palestinian Arab enemies!!!! There I said it too. Having said that, I think the act of putting the grafiti on the bus was pointless and stupid!

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        If the point of 972 could be summed up in one sentence, it might be this: the behavior of Israel towards the Palestinians goes way, way beyond anything neccessary of self-defense. You are welcome to disagree with this thesis, but it appears you haven’t even noticed it.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Gustav, this has absolutely nothing to do with WWII. You are not at war. Israel has successfully made peace with Egypt and Jordan, and could easily, had you desired it, made peace with Syria and the entire Arab world. You do have some little local difficulties in Gaza, and possibly even in the West Bank, but this is because Israel has ruthlessly occupied these lands, and understandably any occupied people will be inclined to resist, and that resistance may intensify the more you kill their children.

        Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          Israel has successfully made peace with the Egyptian army and the King of Jordan.

          All the citizens of these countries hate Israel and Jews and would shred the peace agreements given the chance.

          Reply to Comment
    6. Gustav

      We are not talking about self DEFENSE here. We are talking about the psychological impact that war has on people. ANY people. Including Palestinian Arabs.

      War induces fear and hatred in people. And some people over-react. For the author and for people like you, Marnie and Weiss to overlook that fact is an act of hatred in itself.

      Hey, I am not applauding the act of those who chose to put hateful graffiti messages but to blow it out of all proportion is equally stupid and deplorable. I can assure you that the Palestinian Arabs write at least as hateful messages about us and probably even worse ones!

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        This is not about a little bit of harmless graffiti, which goes unpunished, but about deliberate and extensive arson. Any state would take action against such violent vandalism irrespective of the identity of the culprit. This is newsworthy because the SOI has so often previously turned a blind eye to such crimes.

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          Yeah, Right…

          Any state would bulldoze the homes of the offenders who are their own citizens?

          Earth to planet Bryan, are you there?! Show me such a state!!! Show me just show me already!!!

          Did Britain punish offenders in the middle of WW2 if a Brit carried out a hate crime against the properties of Germans who lived in Britain? Not so much eh? But even if it did, did the punishment include bulldozing the homes of the British offenders? Not so much, eh, Bryan dear?!

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Gustav – I said any state would “take action” against violent, terrorizing vandals. Depending upon the age and circumstances this would comprise anything from supervisory probation to a short prison term. The objective would be to demonstrate social disapproval of such actions, hopefully to reform the individuals concerned and to deter others. I said absolutely nothing about bulldozing houses, which it is utterly deplorable, and carried out as far as I am aware by only one state on this planet. Your own government has found that the procedure is counter-productive, but such is the hysterical dysfunctional state of affairs at the moment that it has been reintroduced to popular acclaim.

            Those who have referred to “bulldozing houses” of Israeli terrorists have simply argued that Israel should be consistent. I have no time for such an argument: primitive and barbaric punishments (stoning to death, cutting off hands and bulldozing houses) are simply evil and should never be employed under any circumstances. You owe me an apology!

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            I have already pointed out that you are not fighting World War II: Hitler is dead: you are not even at war. Israel indeed faces social tensions but constructive measures could easily ameliorate these: sensitive and consistent policing, reining back lunatics on both sides, ending blatant discrimination and stopping counter-productive repressive measures like shooting citizens and destroying their houses and expelling or dispossessing residents. You would be well-advised to look outside your little psychological ghetto and examine how other states have resolved similar disputes – Northern Ireland is an excellent example; or simply follow through on some Israeli proposals that have not previously been properly pursued, like the Orr Commission which “found that Arab citizens suffer discrimination in Israel and leveled criticism at the government for failing to give fair and equal attention to the needs of Arab citizens of Israel. The commission found that frustration with discrimination led to the outpourings of frustration in October 20001”. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Or_Commission)

            Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          I was in East Jerusalem and saw a young Arab man spit on the ground when a group of young Jews walked by.

          You don’t have to tag to hate.

          Reply to Comment
    7. Average American


      Reply to Comment
    8. Average American

      Loved the part about the defense lawyers saying it was a basic right to speak to a lawyer!

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        “I hope their houses are bulldozed”

        An over the top comment which implies that the houses of Palestinian Arab grafiti writers are bulldozed which is a monstrous lie!!!

        For crying out loud, the Jewish grafiti writers got 30 months. Nothing is good enough for you people?

        I now question why they were punished at all! There, there is MY over-reaction to your incessant hateful rhetoric against US!!!

        Reply to Comment
        • Brian

          Let’s not “blow it out of all proportion”–its just a little graffiti (and vehicle burning) and it just a little 47-year occupation folks. Not a word about the structural violence of the settlements described in the last three paragraphs–that structural violence as opposed to the violence of individual settlers being actually the main point of the article.

          Reply to Comment
    9. Bruce Gould

      That’s right, the Palestinians don’t get their houses bulldozed for writing graffiti, they get bulldozed for nothing at all, for not having the right “building permits” – since 67 some 28,000 Palestinian houses have been bulldozed and zero Jewish houses.


      Reply to Comment
    10. Gustav

      Nowhere on this earth are buildings permitted without building permits????

      The rest are just your malicious allegations.

      But even if your malicious allegations would be correct, even then, to demand that the Jewish grafiti writers should have their homes bulldozed by The Israeli authorities is way, way … way over the top!

      I repeat my previous comment. We are in the middle of a 100 years of war waged against us by Palestinian haters who kidnap and murder our children. Despite that, the Israeli courts slapped on a 30 month sentence on the Jewish offenders. Where else on this earth or in history did any court system do any more against their own people in the MIDDLE OF A NASTY LENGTHY WAR of the type which we have been facing????!!!! I mean, these people, these Saint Palestinians, lynch Jews who inadvertantly wander into their capital. That’s what they did to two unfortunate Israelis who lost their way early in the second Intifadah and drove into Ramallah!!! And the Saint Palestinians proudly displayed their bloody hands in front of the cameras after the lynching. I don’t know who I find more disgusting. Them or you guys who support them no matter what they do.

      Actually, I do know! I find YOU people more disgusting! They do what they have been taught from childhood and what their elites preach to them. But you guys? You are able to see the facts on both sides. Yet you CHOOSE to act as hatefully as they do. They have the excuse of having been brainwashed. You people have no excuse. You act out of pure choice. Either because you are full of hatred or because it suits your ideological agenda!

      Reply to Comment
    11. Mikesailor

      Gustav: Are you completely off the rails? These defendants were convicted of torching vehicles (more than one apparently) not for writing graffiti. Are you really that stupid? If a Palestinian or other non-Jew torched Jewish vehicles, would they only get thirty MONTHS? Two and one-half years? And, considering that almost all Jews convicted of crimes (including planting bombs when non-Jews are the victims) get their sentences commuted, are we really supposed to think these Jews will serve more than a portion of their sentences? About a week ago, a Palestinian women threw vinegar at some Jews and was shot. Are the Jews who shot her up on charges, even though they and the police lied and said the Palestinan threw “acid”. I know vinegar is acidic on a pH scale but last I heard it is not classified as dangerous. When Jews, all Jews not just settlers, are punished the same as non-Jews, then I will say a rough justice has been done. But both you and I know that is not going to happen and this has just been a “show trial” for Israeli and world consumption meaning absolutltely nothing. Dont you get tired of always being a jackass?

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        I am the one who is off the rails Mikey? You are one of the most malicious haters on this site.

        Right. The offenders torched Arab vehicles. I already said that even their grafiti was a wanton stupid act. What more do you want me to say? They got 30 months for causing damage to property.

        But what do you guys are baying for? “Bulldoze their homes”? You say? For the umpteenth time, we are still in the middle of a 100 year war. A war which your Saint Palestinians started and which they refuse to finish. Yet WE punish our OWN offenders against THEM. But that isn’t enough for you?

        Tell me: do your saint Palestinians punish THEIR offenders against US? Why do you want us to be better towards them than they are against us? And not just better… But to go overboard…

        Tell me, what did you do to your citizens in the middle of WW2 if they torched the vehicles of their enemies (say Germans who were American citizens)? Did you bulldoze their homes?

        Not much eh, Mikey?

        Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          The Saint Palestinians reward terrorists who murder Israelis because unlike us, they know that they are in a war and they give no quarter in their war against us…

          “In addition to monthly salary paid by Palestinian Authority, Palestinian prisoners serving time in Israel jails receive massive prison ‘severance package’ that can reach up to $60,000. In one case, PA even picked up bill for prisoner’s wedding”

          Yet you people rile against us and call us to bulldoze the homes of offenders who commit minor acts compared to the murderers of our children who get full time salaries from the PLO. Money paid for by European governments!

          Reply to Comment
    12. There can’t continue to be different outcomes for the same crimes when comitted by Jews or Palestinians. The law has to be the same for ALL. If the GoI insists on its continual bulldozing of Palestinian homes for criminal acts against Jews, then Jews who commit criminal acts against Palestinians better damn well suffer the same fate. If you don’t like the idea of Jewish homes being bulldozed, then you better feel the same way about Palestinian homes. That is a step in the right direction, but I don’t think this is anything more than a trial balloon. These men won’t serve 30 months and won’t lose their homes.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Yea right marnie dear. As soon as your Saint Palestinians will start punishing their people for crimes they commit against us, we will do likewise.

        Right now, they are trying to catch up to us because we at least punish our transgressors. They reward their terrorists for murdering our children.

        Reply to Comment
        • Eliza

          Gustav – The reason the punishment of the two Jewish thugs who burnt out the vehicles is newsworthy is because it is so uncommon. Which is completely different to the punishments routinely meted out to Palestinians under military courts.

          There is just no point in trying to make out that settler violence is generally punished by Israeli authorities. It is not.

          Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        Ah yes, the preacher of being equipped for decency, the unctuous promoter of constructive dialogue. Behold.

        Reply to Comment
    13. Oh my the drama. My post was as follows “I hope their houses are bulldozed; it’s stupid, but at least it would show equal treatment by the law. ALL people should be granted due process and treated equally.”
      I’ve said on other threads that bulldozing homes has proven an abysmal failure – it hasn’t had the effect it was supposedly meant to have and in fact, exacerbated the situation. I said ALL people should be entitled to due process and treated equally. I think demolishing people’s homes is barbaric and incredibly cruel. I made if clear (“it’s stupid”) how I feel about destroying people’s homes. I don’t need to write a fucking epistle about it.
      This is the way the GoI has decided to do things. It seems to satisfy the lust of racist bigots; however, to confine these actions against Palestinians is disgusting. If this is the way the GoI intends to do things (which I said, 3rd times a charm, is STUPID), then apply this to Jews as well. The families of the men who kidnapped and immolated Mohammed Abu Khdeir are still in their homes, enjoying the warmth and security that a home provides, getting ready for the final night of Hannukah, etc., without the stress of soldiers at their doors, telling them they have 30 minutes to vacate their premises, then watch their homes turned into a pile of rocks. Such is life when you’re not Palestinian.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Herein lies the problem jackass.

      Reply to Comment
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