A plea deal has been reached in the case of one of two Israeli settlers who were charged in the arson-murder of the Dawabsheh family in July 2015.
Saad Dawabsheh, 31, his wife Reham, 27, and their 18-month-old son Ali were killed in the attack when settlers set their home in the village of Duma on fire. Their older son, who was four-years-old at the time, was the sole survivor of the attack and sustained severe burns on over 60 per cent of his body.
The main suspects were Amiram Ben-Uliel and Elisha Odes, two young men who are part of a violent gang that goes by the name of “The Hills Youth.” Their sole purpose is to instil terror in the civilian Palestinian population. Odes’ identity has been kept hidden until recently because at the time of the murder he was still minor. Recently his identity was revealed in an article in Hebrew, and he is shown speaking in this video, where the gang members talk about their experience with the authorities. They are also responsible for attacks that receive the title “Price Tag.”
The suspects were tortured
According to the deal, Odes was released to house arrest and the murder charges against him were dropped. He is still facing charges in relation to three other ideologically motivated incidents, including the torching of a Palestinian taxi in Kafr Yussuf; the burning of a warehouse in Aqraba; and vandalism in Beit Safafa, in Jerusalem. He has refused to plead guilty to membership in the Jewish terrorist group known as Hamered (The Revolt).
The State Prosecutor is expected to request that the teen serve five years in prison for his crimes, yet his attorney, Adi Kidar, is expected to file for an immediate release given that he has already served three years in remand.
Citing the “extreme violence” used on his client, Odes’ attorney said that, “the court criticized the Shin Bet [Israeli secret police]” and that he hopes his client might eventually be able to lead a normal life. He added that he wishes his client will one day be allowed to “share the horrors he endured in his interrogation.”
Ask any Palestinian who has been detained or arrested and you will hear stories of torture. It is never a question of “if” but rather “how much,” and that depends on the length of the detention or arrest and the exposure that he or she has internationally. The few times that Palestinians tried to challenge the culture of torture in Israeli courts they failed.
The 1999 Israeli High Court ruling that torture is illegal in most cases left an opening big enough for a herd of elephants to walk through. This opening says that if the agents can show there is a “ticking bomb,” then torture is permissible. In a more recent case — which was described as alarming by The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer — the court denied a petition by a Palestinian detainee who was tortured and upheld the decision by the AG not to prosecute the agents who were involved.
It is interesting that when interrogating Palestinians there is always a bomb ticking, even when the Palestinian is a child. However, when dealing with the settlers — who actively and admittingly aim to murder, destroy, or, in a word, terrorize Palestinians — the bomb never ticks.
So, in the case of the two main suspects of the Duma arson-murder it was determined by the court that there was no ticking bomb and the torture by the interrogators was deemed illegal. This resulted in parts of their testimony that was not “given voluntarily” being struck down by the court.
In many ways, this case is similar to the case of Elor Azaria — an Israeli soldier and a medic, no less — who executed a wounded man on the ground in Hebron in broad daylight. He executed a helpless man lying on the ground in front of countless people including his commanding officer. He was prosecuted and ended up serving eight months in prison, but was hailed a hero by many in Israel.
Had there not been a camera around, and had the world not seen the video that was posted, Azaira would never have been prosecuted. Why? Because by Israeli standards he did nothing wrong. By Israeli standards, killing Palestinians is never wrong. There were those who claimed he acted in violation of Israeli military rules of engagement, but the fact is he acted as the Israeli military acts all the time — that is with total disregard to the lives of Palestinians and to international law.
There was general condemnation expressed in Israel after the Duma arson-murder was revealed, as one might expect when an entire family is burned to death by Jewish terrorists and the one little boy who survived was severely burned. So much so that even Naftali Bennett — a war criminal himself, who prides himself at having killed innocent civilians — came out and described this crime as terrorism.
However, the hand-wringers seem to ignore that when Israeli pilots drop bombs on civilians in Gaza or other places, they too burn families with children. They cause entire buildings to collapse and bury people alive; they choke men, women and children with chemicals that emanate from the bombs. When this happens, however, barely a single voice of concern is heard.
Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”
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