Israel: No prosecutions for firebombing of Palestinian family

By Jean Shaoul
21 December 2015

Less than two weeks after announcing the arrests of a number of people in connection with the firebombing last July that killed three members of the Dawabsheh family and critically injured a fourth in the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank, Israel has dropped the prosecution.

Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Israel’s Army Radio that there is “not enough evidence” to detain or prosecute them. This was despite the fact, as he was forced to acknowledge, that the firebomb attack was “clearly a Jewish attack that I am ashamed of” and that the defence establishment knew the perpetrators of the attack.

The refusal to prosecute the suspects testifies to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s undeclared policy of leniency and conciliation towards the fascistic forces that successive governments have for decades done so much to promote.

At least two masked arsonists, thought to be from the nearby settlement of Ma’ale Efrayim, torched the Dawabsheh’s home in the Kafr Duma village last July. They first spray-painted the Hebrew words “Revenge” and “Long live the king messiah” on the house’s walls, alongside a Star of David, indicating their affiliation to the messianist wing of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, one of Israel’s extreme nationalist groups.

The family was sleeping at the time of the attack. While the parents pulled out the badly burned four-year-old, burned and suffering smoke inhalation themselves, they were unable to rescue their youngest son, an 18-month-old toddler. The parents later died from their burns. Their child remains in hospital four months later.

The terrorist atrocity attracted worldwide attention and condemnation. Netanyahu mouthed a few pro forma comments aimed at appeasing his sponsors in Washington and then imposed a press embargo, banning the media from publishing any details or developments related to the investigation. At the same time, the government intensified its military and police operations against the Palestinian population, leading to a renewed Palestinian uprising in October.

Last September, a senior Israel Defence Forces (IDF) officer told the media that Israel “know[s] unequivocally that this is an act of Jewish terror.”

The following day, Defence Minister Ya’alon stated that “there is a high probability that those responsible for the attack in Duma are part of a very extreme group of Jews,” but that there is not yet enough evidence to arrest any suspects. He later told a group of Likud activists that the defence establishment knew who the arsonists were, but would not bring charges to protect the identity of their sources, an admission of the very closest links between the armed forces and the settlers.

Four months later, Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations envoy to the Middle East, expressed his concern over Israel’s failure to catch the murderers, saying that the Israeli authorities’ “slow progress” to complete the murder investigation was worrying.

Shortly after, on December 3, Israel revealed that it had detained a number of Jewish suspects, apparently under Israel’s administrative detention policy that enables people to be held without trial for renewable six-month periods.

The Israeli media observed the gagging order banning them from reporting the names of the suspects and revealing details of the investigation, while the Electronic Intifada named the suspects as Hanoch Ganiram, 19, and Elisha Odess, a minor. However, B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organisation, said that the police had arrested four suspects, at least two of them minors. A few days later, one of the suspects was released to house arrest.

Earlier this week, the Israeli high court rejected a petition lodged by Esawi Frej, a member of the Israeli parliament for the Meretz party, demanding that the defence minister and attorney general indict and prosecute the suspects. Frej had lodged the petition in October after Ya’alon admitted that the IDF knew who the perpetrators were, saying the failure of any indictments for the triple murder were “illegal, unreasonable, extremely disproportionate and severely [discriminatory].”

According to the Jerusalem Post, the government said, “Filing indictments was still in doubt and not on the horizon in the near future.”

In a ruling that speaks for the backing by the entire Zionist establishment for Israel’s fascistic right wing, the judges rejected Frej’s petition and gave the government more time to investigate the crime.

Israel’s failure to prosecute Jewish terrorist suspects is in sharp contrast to the swift revenge it routinely hands out to Palestinian suspects and their relatives that include summary executions, house demolitions, detention without trial, including the detention of children, and torture.

The firebombing of the Dawabsheh family, the failure to prosecute this and thousands of other attacks by Israel’s ultra-nationalists, and recent moves to allow Jewish worship at the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, have provoked the current rebellion by Palestinian youths against Israel.

Israel has responded to the suicide, knifing and car ramming of 16 Jewish Israelis and three security personnel with the utmost brutality, in pursuit of its broader strategic aim of engineering the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, breaking up the occupied West Bank into a number of different cantons and bringing them under its direct control. Since the beginning of October, Israeli security forces have killed at least 120 Palestinians and an Eritrean worker, using live ammunition to crush angry demonstrations protesting Israel’s murderous operations against the Palestinians.

Earlier this week, B’Tselem provided documentary evidence of 12 incidents that “paints a grave and alarming picture of excessive and unwarranted use of lethal gunfire, which in some cases was tantamount to the summary execution of assailants or suspected assailants” and “without the benefit of law or trial.” As B’Tselem noted, Israeli firing at suspected assailants continued even after the Palestinians were injured and lay motionless on the ground.

This succession of summary executions and settler violence flows inexorably from Israel’s relentless suppression of the Palestinians and decades-long cultivation of far-right death squads, whose function is to do the dirty work of the state in driving Palestinians from their homes and clearing the way for further Israeli expansion.

Decades of reactionary social policies that have gutted educational and essential public services, the racism whipped up by the government and the entire spectrum of official politics and, above all, constant warmongering against both the Palestinians and neighbouring states have spawned these fascistic gangs.

Over the past three decades, social and political tensions within Israel have grown due to the widening gap between rich and poor, which is now the second largest in the OECD countries. With the majority of people alienated from official politics, the state has increased its reliance on fascistic layers to the extent that no party today can form a government without their support.

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