Extremist Jewish settler who burnt alive Dawabsheh family acquitted of murder

Accused will now be charged with conspiracy to commit arson, faces no more than five and a half years in prison.

May 16, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
The Dawabsheh family
The Dawabsheh family

On May 12, an Israeli court dropped murder charges against an extremist Israeli Jewish settler who was indicted for the 2015 arson-murder of the Palestinian Dawabsheh family in the occupied West Bank village of Duma. The accused, who was a minor at the time of the crime, admitted guilt as part of a plea deal between his lawyers and the state prosecutor’s office in the central district court in Lod. He admitted to planning the torching of a Palestinian home in a racially motivated conspiracy and to marking out the Palestinian village with another co-accused. In exchange, he escaped conviction for planning the family’s murder, but he will be convicted of conspiracy to commit arson in a racially motivated crime, as well as being involved in other hate crimes.

The new, amended indictment against the accused does not mention the 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabshe, or his parents Riham and Saad. The original indictment had charged the accused with conspiring to commit a crime alongside the main defendant. According to the indictment, the minor did not show up on the night on which he is alleged to have met the main accused to commit the crime, but the latter’s confessions, which have been admitted as evidence, clearly mention the minor’s name.

Ali was burnt alive, and Riham and Saad died soon after their home was firebombed by the accused minor, alongside the main defendant, Amiram Ben-Uliel. An older brother survived with serious burns.

The prosecution has also agreed not to ask for a sentence of more than five and a half years in prison for the minor. Ben-Uliel continues to be in jail while the investigation is ongoing. The minor’s identity is being kept confidential.

The accused also confessed to torching a garage in the West Bank village of Aqraba and vandalizing the property with racist signs, torching and spray painting on a taxi in the town of Yasuf, as well as slashing tires of cars in the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa.

In June 2018, the court had ruled that the minor’s confessions were inadmissible because they were allegedly obtained by the Israeli Shin Bet security service under extreme duress. However, the court did admit parts of the defendant’s confessions concerning the other anti-Palestinian hate crimes. The defendant was released to house arrest in July 2018 after being kept in jail for two years.

Ali Dawabsheh’s grandfather criticized the plea bargain, saying that the prosecutors are giving “a green light to a Jewish suspect who will leave prison and continue the murder spree he and his friend started”. Rejecting the agreement, he insisted that justice must be achieved in the case. The maximum sentence for each count of arson is 15 years in prison.

Attacks on Palestinians by Israeli settlers have tripled in 2018 and become increasing fatal. They include beating up Palestinians, throwing stones at them, damaging their homes and cars, painting anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and nationalist Israeli slogans, cutting down trees belonging to Palestinian farmers, as well as shooting at villagers from Israeli settlements and illegal hilltop settler outposts.

Recently, Hamdi Nassan, a 38-year-old father of four, died after settlers from the nearby illegal outpost of Adei Ad shot at Palestinian villagers. Six Palestinians, three of them with serious injuries, were wounded in the attack which was carried out by close to 30 extremist Israeli Jewish settlers. In another attack last year, Aisha Rabi died after a huge rock struck the car in which she was traveling with her husband and daughter.

The United Nations has said that Israel, as the occupying power, has failed to investigate settler attacks effectively and hold the attackers accountable. Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din reported that between 2014 and 2017, out of 185 investigations opened into settler attacks, only 21 resulted in convictions of the accused. The rest of the cases closed without indictment, revealing how the Israeli justice system is heavily biased against the Palestinians and how the Israeli settlers enjoy impunity in the occupied west bank.

*The headline has been modified to better reflect the story