FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Israel’s Two-Tiered Justice System

in Nazareth.

An Israeli judge made an historic ruling last week when he decided that an Arab teenager needed “protection” from the justice system and ordered that he not be convicted despite being found guilty of throwing stones at a police car during a protest against Israel’s attack last winter on Gaza.

Prosecutors had demanded that the juvenile, a 17-year-old from Nazareth in northern Israel, be convicted of endangering a vehicle on the road, a charge that carries a punishment of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, as a way to deter other members of Israel’s Arab minority from committing similar offences.

But Judge Yuval Shadmi said discrimination in the Israeli legal system’s treatment of Jewish and Arab minors, particularly in cases of what he called “ideologically motivated” offences, was “common knowledge”.

In the verdict, he wrote: “I will say that the state is not authorised to caress with one hand the Jewish ‘ideological’ felons, and flog with its other hand the Arab ‘ideological’ felons.”

He referred in particular to the lenient treatment by the police and courts both of Jewish settler youths who have attacked soldiers in the West Bank and who violently resisted the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and of religious extremists who have spent many months battling police to prevent the opening of a car park on the Sabbath in Jerusalem.

Abir Baker, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal group for Israel’s 1.3 million-strong Arab minority, said the ruling was the first time a judge in a criminal court had ackowledged that the state pursued a policy of systematic discrimination in demanding harsher punishments for Arab citizens.

“We have known this for a long time, but it has been something very hard for us to prove to the court’s satisfaction,” she said. “Now we have a legal precedent that we can use to appeal against convictions in similar cases.”

The youth was arrested during a protest on a road near Nazareth a few days after Israel launched its operation in Gaza last December.

Dozens of demonstrations took place in Israel during the four-week attack, leading to the arrests of 830 protesters in what human rights groups described as often brutal Israeli police action.

The overwhelming majority of those arrested, say the rights groups, were Arab citizens, despite the participation of Israeli Jews. Adalah reported that 250 protesters were subsequently indicted, almost all of them Arabs and half of them minors.

Judge Richard Goldstone, in his United Nations fact-finding report into the Gaza assault published in September, wrote that he had been “struck” by the fact that despite many counter-demonstrations by right-wing Jews that had turned violent the police appeared to have made “no arrests” in those cases.

He also noted that, according to the information he had seen, most Arab protesters had been refused bail and held in detention for lengthy periods, even in cases where they faced relatively minor charges.

Of the court system, Mr Goldstone concluded that “the element of discrimination between … and differential treatment of Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel by the judicial authorities, as reflected in the reports received, is a substantial cause for concern”.

The ruling by the Nazareth juvenile court appeared to confirm those findings.

Mr Shadmi wrote in his verdict that, in recent years, the Israeli authorities had been “working on two fundamentally different enforcement levels in relation to crimes perpetrated by [Israeli] minors”.

He pointed out that in cases of violence by Jewish youths against the security services, legal proceedings were usually frozen or cancelled before the indictment stage. He said he had not heard of a single instance of a Jewish minor being sent to prison for such offences, even though most Arab minors were convicted and jailed.

The judge admitted that he had nearly been swayed by prosecution demands for a lengthy jail term for the youth, who cannot be named because of his age. But ultimately, he said, he had been persuaded by the defence’s argument that similar cases of “ideological violence” involving Jewish youths — such as settler attacks on soldiers — rarely, if ever, merited jail terms.

“If the state feels that ideological offences justify relatively forgiving enforcement for minors, then this should be the policy towards all minors regardless of nationality or religion.”

Earlier this year the justice ministry recommended that 40 Jewish settlers convicted of resisting the disengagement from Gaza be pardoned on the grounds that their acts “were prompted by an unusual historical event and that the perpetrators are not felons”. According to Israeli media reports, many of the settlers arrested over the dissengagement will never be brought to trial.

Mr Shadmi ordered the Nazareth youth to refrain from committing any offence against the police for two years against a bond of $1,300. In a procedure mainly reserved for juvenile offences, he sentenced the youth to 200 hours of community service without convicting him.

The verdict was greeted with surprise by the youth’s family. The father told the Israeli media: “Thank God we had a judge like him, who is not motivated by racism. This may lead the state of Israel to understand that it’s time to stop treating the Arab population like enemies.”

The prosecution announced that it would appeal against the decision.

Gideon Fishman, a sociology professor at Haifa University who has made a study of criminal sentencing policies in Israel, said he was not aware of research into discriminatory policies by prosecutors towards juvenile offenders. However, he said he was sure that there was systematic bias.

“The judge is right to raise his voice against a policy that is more lenient towards Jewish offenders. This is a policy being pursued by state prosecutors intentionally and not by accident, and it undermines trust in the system.”

Judge Shadmi referred only to discrimination in sentencing in Israeli criminal courts.

Palestinians from the occupied territories are tried in Israeli military courts under different legal rules and procedures that have been severely criticised by human rights groups.

JONATHAN COOK is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

 

 

More articles by:

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jonathan-cook.net/

September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail