Israelis get anti-lynching warning: ‘You’re not Van Damme’

In online lecture, state prosecutor says anyone acting violently toward a disarmed attacker will face trial

Jean-Claude Van Damme goes undercover as an ultra-Orthodox Jew in the 2001 movie The Order (screen capture: YouTube)
Jean-Claude Van Damme goes undercover as an ultra-Orthodox Jew in the 2001 movie The Order (screen capture: YouTube)

The state prosecutor on Monday warned Israelis against taking the law into their own hands regarding suspected perpetrators of terror attacks.

“Whoever acts violently against a terrorist who no longer poses a threat will stand trial,” Shai Nitzan said in an online lecture to thousands of students, the Hebrew-language Maariv website reported.

In his lecture on human rights and security, delivered via the Education Ministry’s Online Academy program, Nitzan called for sessions in every school that would outline what is permitted during a terror attack and what is not, so as to ensure that Israel retains its humane character.

“As soon as a terrorist has been neutralized, there can be no violence on the part of citizens. If he’s handcuffed, you can’t hit him. You can’t punch. You’re not [action star Jean-Claude] Van Damme. You’re not the police, nor are you judges or God.”

Shai Nitzan. May 7, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shai Nitzan. May 7, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Nitzan quoted the Jewish saying that instructs, “If someone tries to kill you, you may kill first,” but also called for good judgment.

“If a policemen sees someone who is trying to stab someone else, then the obligation is clearly to remove the danger and if the only way is shoot him, then that’s his duty, because he’s a policeman. He is not allowed to shoot him in the torso to kill him. If he’s too close, he’s permitted to shoot him in the torso — only if it’s essential to removing the danger.”

Despite this, the state prosecutor clarified, where someone mistakenly believes that there is a danger, and the error is genuine and reasonable, that person will have a defense against having to stand trial.

“It’s OK to use violence during a terror attack only if required. Whoever uses violence, even if we’re talking about terrorists, will stand trial because we live in a state of law.”

In his lecture, Nitzan also related to the practice of demolishing the homes of terrorists. He called it a “very extreme step, which Israel tries to avoid, because of the fact that innocent people are hurt by it.”

Nevertheless, he said that the defense establishment had presented the Supreme Court with evidence that home demolition is a deterrent for some planning terror attacks.

Nitzan’s warning comes a month after 29-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker Haftom Zarhum died after being brutally beaten and shot when he was mistaken by Israeli security forces for a terrorist during an attack at the Beersheba bus station.

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