Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel sparked widespread outrage in Israel on Wednesday when he told the family of a convicted terrorist who recently died in jail that he “shared in their sorrow.”
The US-born jurist’s comments were included in a ruling he issued voiding an early release petition by the family of Sami Abu Diak, who died Tuesday in Israeli custody after battling cancer. He died before the court was able to hear his case.
Abu Diak was serving three life sentences for voluntary manslaughter and kidnapping, among other charges. He was linked to the armed wing of the Palestinian Fatah faction and was arrested in the early 2000s, during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. He was convicted over the killing of Ilya Krivitz, a Jewish resident of the Homesh settlement, in 2001 and was involved in the killing of three Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israeli security forces, according to reports.
The Palestinian Authority and Abu Diak’s family had asked for his release to allow him to die at his family’s side, but Israeli officials denied the request. The Palestinians also reached out to European countries and the Red Cross to apply pressure on Israel to release him.
After a public outcry over his expression of empathy, Hendel withdrew his ruling and released a new one without the controversial wording, explaining that it had not been proper for him to issue it by himself. The new, nearly identical, ruling was signed by three judges.
Hendel also apologized to the Krivich family.
“It is a disgrace that a judge on the High Court expresses sorrow for a terrorist,” Krivitz’s family said in a statement reported by Ynet.
“It doesn’t make any sense that he says such things,” Krivitz’s daughter Rita Rakowski told the Hebrew news site.
“My dad was an ordinary person who was murdered just because he was Jewish. A judge in the State of Israel should not express his position on such matters. He’s simply isn’t normal.”
“I feel like he’s laughing at us inside,” she added.
The court said that it had “nothing to add” to its published decision.
Krivitz, 62, was shot in a Palestinian village near the settlement of Homesh where he lived, in June 2001.