Gideon Levy
Selected Articles from Ha'aretz

Israeli Justice And Equality

September 27, 1998

Here is a lesson in Israeli justice. Atta Jabbar, a 53-year-old Palestinian whose home was demolished for the second time two weeks ago, was beaten by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and has been jailed in the military prison at Aduraiyim for 10 days. Meanwhile, Avshalom Ladani, a Jewish settler who killed a Palestinian youth and seriously wounded a younger boy, is passing the time in a youth hostel.

At the end of last week, Jabbar was still finding it hard to stand up because of the kicks and blows landed on him by the soldiers. He is accused of "pilfering government property," "rebuilding structures that were razed," and "injuring a soldier." His real crime is that he built his home on land for which his father brandishes a deed from the time of the Turks but which is now too close to the bypass road, the security road and the gasoline station of the Jewish settlers from Givat Haharsina, all of which were built on his father's vineyards. For this crime Jabbar has already been punished twice by the razing of his home. His other sin is that he tried somehow to oppose the act of destruction, and, as the charge sheet has it, cursed the soldiers and even tried to throw his baby son Rajjah at Border Policeman Sami Sirhan. To throw his baby? At the court in Aduraiyim, Jabbar told me that all he tried to do was to pass four-month-old Rajjah over to the policeman as a demonstration of protest: "Take the child. I can't bring him up without a home," he told the officer who came to demolish his house. Today, Jabbar will be brought before military judge Gena Modogvarshvili, who will pass judgment on him.

For 10 days he has been rotting in the military jail, suffering from the pain of the blows. He has left behind him, on the wreckage of his home, his wife and his three small children. Why has he been under arrest for 10 days? He just is. Perhaps because he is a danger to the public; a skinny porter from the Hebron market, when I saw him last Wednesday in the jailyard, he was able to walk only with great difficulty from his cell to the courtroom, in handcuffs and with his feet also chained and his back bent from the beating.

Jewish settler Avshalom Ladani of Dolev, by way of contrast, who shot the youth Ayyad Karabseh and seriously wounded the boy Issa Jibarin after his car was stoned on Sept. 17, spent the holiday and the Sabbath in the Bayit Vagan Youth Hostel in Jerusalem. Ladani was arrested and quickly released after the Judea and Samaria Council and its representatives in the government raised a rumpus lest the murderous settler have to spend the Jewish holiday in jail. Anyone's best guess is that nothing bad will happen to Ladani. His neighbor, settler Yosef Levy of Dolev, was acquitted this April after he shot at and wounded the youth Ayyad Hamoudeh.

Many other settlers, who had a hand in killing about 135 Palestinians in the territories over the past 10 years, have never even been arrested. For the 48 cases of murder that took place from 1988 to 1992, for example, only 21 charge sheets were drawn up against those who used the firearms. Only one settler has been convicted of murder and one of manslaughter, and even he was sentenced to only three years in prison. Tens or maybe hundreds of settlers who have vandalized cars, orchards, solar heaters and houses have never been brought to trial. But even this is not enough. According to the leaders of the settlers, who feel that they are cheated and oppressed, marksman Ladani is a law-abiding citizen who fell victim to the caprices of the Jerusalem prosecutor's office. They launched an aggressive and self-righteous public campaign orchestrated by their extremists, Transport Minister Shaul Yahalom (who also took the same opportunity to make a crude attack on Dr. Ahmed Tibi) and the secretary general of the Judea and Samaria Council, Aharon Domb. They lashed out at the prosecutor's office for having dared to place the shooter under arrest. In their pursuit of justice, needless to say, the settlers could not care less about the unnecessary and cruel detention of Atta Jabbar. Maybe it even makes them happy.

It is not hard to understand the settlers' outcry. As they see it, they are the masters of the land in which they settled and where they are allowed to do almost whatever they like. Their trigger finger is frighteningly itchy; every stone leads to a shooting according to their perverted standards. What traveler on the roads of the West Bank has never been exposed to stone-throwing? But only the settlers are so quick to shoot. Usually they fire not to defend themselves, as their leaders so piously claim. They shoot to punish and avenge, they shoot to frighten and above all they shoot to show who is the boss around here. Self defense? Would the leaders of the settlers justify such self-defense on the part of their Palestinian victims, who are attacked by them day in and day out? Are the Palestinians, too, in the settler's conception allowed to defend their lives and property in a similar way? After all, the lives and property of the Palestinians in the territories are more exposed to danger than those of the settlers. Is it necessary to mention yet again that nearly 400 Palestinians were killed over the past decade, 276 of them children, and some of them for absolutely no reason at all?

But the real problem is not the lawbreakers and those who defend them. The real problem is the law enforcement authorities. There is no way to avoid saying that they bend the values of law, justice and above all equality in the face of the settlers' wrath when it is directed at them. Therefore, the fact that Avshalom Ladani is vacationing at a youth hostel and Atta Jabbar is rotting in jail and groaning in pain is, above all, a disgrace to the Israeli law enforcement system that takes such pride in its values.



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