In first, far-right settler teen convicted of membership in terror group
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In first, far-right settler teen convicted of membership in terror group

16-year-old, sentenced along with two of his brothers, admits he was in group that ‘worked to instill terror and fear’ in Palestinians

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

A Palestinian police member inspects the damage inside a burned-out house belonging to a key witness to an arson attack last year by Jewish extremists that killed a Palestinian family, in the West Bank village of Duma, after fire broke out in the home in the early hours of March 20, 2016. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
A Palestinian police member inspects the damage inside a burned-out house belonging to a key witness to an arson attack last year by Jewish extremists that killed a Palestinian family, in the West Bank village of Duma, after fire broke out in the home in the early hours of March 20, 2016. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

The Lod District Court on Thursday handed down a five-year prison sentence to a settler teen convicted of membership in a terror organization, for carrying out a string of so-called “price-tag” attacks against Palestinians and their property.

As part of a plea bargain, the teen, who was 16 when he was charged, also confessed to arson, racially motivated assault, and injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in a series of attacks since 2009.

He admitted to having belonged to a group that “worked to instill terror and fear among the Palestinian population, from an ideological motive.”

While Jewish Israelis have in the past been convicted of membership in terror organizations, it was the first time a Jew was convicted of membership in a terror organization for carrying out so-called price-tag attacks. These have been carried out by far-right Jewish extremists against Palestinians and their property in recent years ostensibly in retaliation for actions and policies against the settlement enterprise.

A Star of David and the Hebrew word ‘revenge’ are spray-painted on the walls of a Palestinian home, which was burned down by arsonists on July 31, 2015 in the Palestinian village of Duma, near Nablus. (Zacahria Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights)

Two older brothers of the teen were also sentenced Thursday along with him, though not for membership in a terror organization.

The eldest, who was serving in the IDF at the time of the attacks, was given a four-and-a-half year sentence for arson, racially motivated damage to property, and racially motivated aggravated assault.

The third brother was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for offenses including racially motivated damage to property and throwing rocks at a vehicle.

The trio, from the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Nahliel in the central West Bank, were also slapped with an NIS 50,000 ($14,240) fine.

The defendants were convicted in June 2017, but the ruling was barred from publication until Thursday’s sentencing.

According to the conviction, the 16-year-old and a fourth defendant, whose sentence has yet to be handed down, wanted to send a message that they would not be deterred by the Shin Bet security forces’ crackdown on price-tag assailants. Those measures had been put in place following the July 2015 attack in the village of Duma, when 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha and his parents, Saad and Riham, were burned to death.

The pair obtained two IDF tear gas canisters and on December 22, 2015, set out to the Palestinian village of Beitillu in the central West Bank. There they spray-painted “revenge” and “regards from the prisoners of Zion” on one of the homes before breaking its windows and hurling the canisters inside, where a couple and their nine-month-old baby slept.

According to the indictment, they made sure that the house was populated before carrying out the attack, but the Palestinians occupants were able to escape uninjured.

In another incident described in the indictment, the same pair hurled a pair of Molotov cocktails through the window of a Palestinian home in the village of Asira al-Qibliya, south of Nablus. The first firebomb got caught in the curtains and failed to ignite, but the second exploded inside one of the rooms, burning it completely. Then, too, no injuries were reported.

A Palestinian woman stands next to a vandalized mosque in the West Bank village of Burka, near Ramallah, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Majdi Mohammed)

In a statement accompanying Thursday’s sentencing, the Central District’s Prosecution Office said the convictions “exemplify the determination of law-enforcement authorities, who act with full determination to eliminate violent acts against various populations, especially when they constitute acts of terrorism and with a clearly nationalistic background.”

Moses Harizi, the attorney representing the settlers from the right-wing Honenu legal aid organization, blasted the verdict as not taking into account the fact that the defendants were three brothers coming from a broken home.

Harizi added that while property was indeed damaged due to the actions of his clients, no individuals were injured in the attacks.

A member of the “hilltop youth” rides a donkey at an illegal outpost in the northern West Bank. (Credit: Zman Emet, Kan 11)

“This verdict is too strict, and we intend to consider an appeal to the Supreme Court,” he said.

In a statement of its own, the left-wing Yesh Din rights group praised the ruling, but called it an exception, rather than the rule.

“The prosecution claims that the case illustrates the determination of law-enforcement authorities to eradicate violence against Palestinians,” it said. “In practice, however, this is an exceptional case that shows more than anything else that all those involved in the prevention of ideological violence — the army, the police, the prosecution, and the courts — fail time after time in their mission.”

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