State rules Palestinian stabber was mentally ill, thus not a terrorist
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Victim was knifed to death in Jerusalem's Old City in March

State rules Palestinian stabber was mentally ill, thus not a terrorist

Decision on killer of Adiel Kolman, based on legal opinion from AG, could have repercussions for attacks where assailant proves insanity

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

Adiel Kolman, who was killed in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem's Old City on March 19 2018 (Courtesy)
Adiel Kolman, who was killed in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem's Old City on March 19 2018 (Courtesy)

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.

IDF troops prepare the home of Palestinian terrorist Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel for demolition in the northern West Bank village of Aqraba on March 19, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

“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.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a State Control Committee meeting in the Knesset on December 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

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.”

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