The Justice Ministry ruled Monday that a Palestinian assailant who stabbed an Israeli man to death in Jerusalem earlier this year was not a terrorist because he was mentally ill.
The decision relied on a legal opinion given by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit at a closed-door meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in November. An attorney representing the family of Adiel Kolman — who was knifed to death in March by Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel in the Old City of Jerusalem — obtained the opinion through a Freedom of Information request.
Mandelblit wrote that “it is important to clarify and emphasize that a person’s mental distress creates difficulties in determining that his actions were motivated by nationalism.”
The attorney general’s assessment was given as part of a deliberation over whether to demolish Fadel’s home in the northern West Bank village of Aqraba. The 28-year-old assailant was shot dead by police officers while attempting to flee the scene. Arguing that their son was not responsible for his actions, Fadal’s parents later provided authorities with files documenting his complex medical history.
“As a result, the basis for the exercise of the demolition, whose purpose is to deter other people from acting out of similar motivations… has been abandoned,” Mandelblit wrote.
Israel made frequent use of home demolitions until 2005, when the government decided to stop employing the measure. However, in 2014, it was brought back into use. There is a dispute among security analysts and officials over the utility of home demolitions in combating terrorism, with some seeing it as an effective deterrent against terror attacks and others as an ineffective form of collective punishment.
The Justice Ministry’s Monday decision was the first time the state articulated that the attack that killed Kolman, a 32-year-old father of four, was not nationalistically motivated and by extension not a terror attack.
Michael Litwack, the attorney representing the Kolman family from the B’tzalmo bereaved families group, told The Times of Israel that the ruling could have lasting implications in future cases where an assailant claims to be mentally ill.
Moreover, he asserted, Fadel had specifically avoided targeting a Palestinian in the attack.
“The only disease he suffers from is Jew-hatred,” Liwack said, adding that the authorities had thus far refused to hand over the documentation from Fadel’s parents showing his mental health history.
The Kolman family released a statement saying that Mandelblit’s opinion was like another blow at Adiel.
“The State of Israel fights to protect the terrorist’s reputation,” the family said.
Amid public outcry following the leaking of its decision, the Justice Ministry released a statement asserting that the state cannot carry out a demolition “with regards to someone who is not responsible for his actions.”
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.