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What justice looks like for those who kill Palestinians

Ahed Tamimi was sentenced to eight months in prison for slapping a soldier. Col. Israel Shomer, who shot a Palestinian teenager in the back three times didn’t sit a single day behind bars.

By Yael Marom

Israeli lawyer Gaby Lasky (L) speaks with her client, sixteen-years-old Ahed Tamimi (R), before she stands for a hearing at the military court in Ofer military prison, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 15, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli lawyer Gaby Lasky (L) speaks with her client, sixteen-years-old Ahed Tamimi (R), before she stands for a hearing at the military court in Ofer military prison, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 15, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Ever since she was arrested in the middle of the night late last December, 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi has been held in Israeli custody. On Wednesday, Tamimi signed a plea deal in Israeli military court and will serve eight months in prison, including three months time served. Her mother, Nariman, and cousin, Nur, also signed plea deals. Nariman will serve eight months, and Nur was sentenced to time served.

Israel’s military legal system uses the tactic of plea bargains often. Approximately 70 percent of convictions for minors in military court end in plea bargains, pushing the percentage of total minors convicted in military courts to an astounding 95 percent. For Palestinian teenagers it is obvious that if they sign a plea bargain, there is a high chance that they will go home to their families and friends faster than if they insist on going to court — even if they have a chance of winning. Often the proceedings might even take much longer than the sentence they would be handed in a plea bargain.

In the case of the Tamimi family, one could assume that it was clear to them that what began as a “show trial” would eventually end in prison time. Thus the path to a plea bargain was paved. The military court’s insistence on holding Ahed’s trial behind closed doors, such that it would be hidden from public view, did not give the family any more reason to trust in whatever justice the occupier could offer.

Ahed’s eight-month sentence comes at a curious moment. All it takes is for a Palestinian teenager to humiliate an Israeli soldier in order for the entire system to be enlisted to ensure that she and her family go to jail. And yet, it is unheard of for a soldier to be put on trial for shoving or cursing a Palestinian.

So let’s take the comparison further — to killing.

Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot dead a disarmed and injured Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 24, 2016, is surrounded by family and friends as he awaits to hear his sentence in a courtroom at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, on February 21, 2017. (Jim Hollander/POOL)

Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot dead a disarmed and injured Palestinian attacker in the West Bank city of Hebron on March 24, 2016, is surrounded by family and friends as he awaits to hear his sentence in a courtroom at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, on February 21, 2017. (Jim Hollander/POOL)

Just this week, the IDF Parole Board decided to cut Elor Azaria’s sentence by a third, after it had already been previously commuted by the IDF chief of staff. By the time he is released, he will have served a total of nine months behind bars. Azaria did not slap anyone, but he did shoot and kill Abedel Fattah Sharif, a Palestinian who was shot and wounded on the ground, posing no threat to anyone, after attacking soldiers with a knife just minutes earlier in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida neighborhood. Had a B’Tselem volunteer not been at the scene to capture the incident on film, Azaria would have been lauded as a hero who “neutralized a terrorist.”

Or what about the case of Amir Awad, a Palestinian teenager who was shot in the back by two IDF soldiers during a protest in the West Bank village of Budrus in 2013? The soldiers fired eight bullets into Awad’s back, killing the 16-year-old boy as he was trying to flee. Two soldiers were put on trial for reckless and negligent use of a firearm, following a faulty investigation, yet their attorneys did not agree to a plea bargain of three months community service. During a hearing held last week, the attorneys presented military data to the court showing that in the last seven years, out of 114 cases in which soldiers had shot and killed Palestinians, only four indictments were filed. Now the prosecution is considering withdrawing their indictments altogether.

Ahmad Awad, whose son, Samir, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers, stands outside Ramle Magistrate's Court, September 22, 2016. (photo: Haggai Matar)

Ahmad Awad, whose son, Samir, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers, stands outside Ramle Magistrate’s Court, September 22, 2016. (photo: Haggai Matar)

As if that was not enough, there is the case of Col. Israel Shomer. In July 2015, Shomer, who at the time served as a brigade commander in the West Bank, shot and killed 17-year-old Muhammad al-Kasba. The teenager threw stones at Shomer’s armored military jeep, after which the officer stepped out of the car and began chasing him, along with another soldier. At a certain point, Shomer opened fire. Two bullets hit the teenager in his back and another one in his head. Shomer was not in any danger; perhaps he just wanted to teach the boy a lesson. A year after the incident, the military prosecution closed the case and decided that Shomer would not be put on trial.

The women of the Tamimi family, who dared to resist occupying soldiers in their yard by fists and words alone, will sit in jail for longer than Shomer, longer than the soldiers who killed Samir Awad, and only a slighty less than Elor Azaria. That’s what justice looks like under the occupation’s legal regime.

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      This Samir was a terrorist who tried to kill our boys. Azaria is a hero

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Halevy, you are a poster child for the seriously degraded level to which Israel has sunk.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          I absolutely do not agree with you. Most Israeli quite agree with me. We respect the foreigners and minorities if they respect our laws. If they try to kill our people we protect ourselves. On Friday in France the Muslim terrorist was killed by the elite police. It is the same in all other countries. Why not in Israel? Do you live here?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You see, the problem you have, Halevy (along with most Israelis, as you would have it) is that we know you. We’ve read what you’ve written. So we know that this, that you say —

            “We respect the foreigners and minorities if they respect our laws”

            — is actually a sinister Orwellian euphemism for something much less pleasant and democratic. Much.

            And we know what Ayalet Shaked, “Justice Minister” of the Israeli state has said repeatedly and quite clearly, if also somewhat euphemistically. And we know you back Shaked 100%.

            So, apparently you (you and most Israelis, as you would have it) take us (me and much of the rest of the world) for people easily confused? Not a winning strategy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​On the other hand, Halevy, to be charitable, I get the sense of your earnestness. You seem to earnestly believe you are with the good guys. In which case, in my view, that makes you the freier of Ayalet Shaked and the rabbis whose teachings you earnestly follow after. (And, this is a subsidiary point but Shaked is entirely secular, she doesn’t even believe in your holy books, so who is right, Shaked or your religious nationalist rabbis whose message the secular nationalist Shaked exploits while not believing?)

            But you have to realize, Halevy, that the two great death-dealing totalitarian movements of the blood-soaked 20th Century were perpetrated by people who earnestly believed they were the good guys. You don’t seriously think that most National Socialist and Communist Party members went around thinking “I’m a bad guy and I love it!”–do you? They thought they were on the right side of history, they thought they were doing humanity a great good.

            This is the nature of overvalued ideas, of fanaticisms, to which humans are prone. Overvalued ideas can be intrinsically good or bad. But the perpetrators of the bad ideas sincerely believe they are good guys with good ideas.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​“It is the same in all other countries. Why not in Israel? “

            It most definitely is NOT the same. It is simple-minded and deceitful to say it is the same. No one with the slightest objectivity, or humanity for that matter, can believe this cult-like “Palestinians = ISIS” chant of yours.

            France is not belligerently occupying land, stealing it, and creepingly annexing it while denying human rights to that territory’s indigenous inhabitants, treating them brutally, and setting up a de facto apartheid state. Israel is. (France tried this in Algeria. It didn’t work out so well. France is wiser now. Germany of course tried it too. It didn’t work out well, to say the least. South Africa too failed at it.)

            France is not occupying its neighbors. Israel is occupying its neighbor. France is being cynically exploited by Islamic terrorists. Israel is cynically exploiting Islamic terrorists elsewhere to cover for its own dispossession of another people in their own land.

            “Why not Israel?” That’s why not.

            Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordin Halevy

            You do not understand that the Judea and Samaria have never been Arab. They are a part of the Jewish heritage. Minorities can live in peace in Israel if they respect our laws.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            As best as I can figure out, Halevy, you understand very little.

            There are five million indigenous Arab inhabitants of the West Bank but…“it’s never been Arab.”

            And “heritage” allows half a million transferred-in Jews to lord it over those five million Arabs and deny them the right to vote.

            And this is called “living in peace” and “respecting our laws.”

            There is a zombie-like quality to these replies of yours, Halevy. It’s like a scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers in the West Bank. No matter what I say, back comes “you don’t understand…the heritage…minorities can live in peace if they respect our laws….”

            I imagine this being said with that drone-like, ultra-flat, disembodied, mechanical airport subway voice.

            “You are approaching the station now. Please move to the center of the vehicle and away from the doors.”

            No matter where you go or what place it’s the same flat, mechanical voice, the same computerized recording.

            “You are approaching the Jewish settlement now. Please move to the center of the bantustan and away from the doors.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Jesús

            Dear Ben. I admire you; I would not get your temperance in the dialogue you have had with Halevy.
            Personally, someone like him (thousands under the Zionist umbrella), who treats a cowardly murderer as a hero like Elor Azaria, enervates me.
            Thanks Ben, you have told Halevy words that I would not know how to string together. And I appreciate it. If I had the bad luck to be born in Palestine in March of 1947, surely, with 90% of probabilities, any Zionist would have killed me.
            A week ago, due to unforeseen circumstances, I went to the village where I was born, which I have been missing since childhood. Believe me, I felt immense joy; There was no chek point that prevented me! When I left, I found an old man leaning on an old tree, very old; It’s a year older than me. No thief has torn it!

            Reply to Comment