Originally posted in Hebrew on Walla!News, on 31.8.2008 :: Translation by Dena Shunra
Shas chair, the minister Eli Yishai, has recently determinedly opposed the release of Palestinian prisoners, as it did not include a “balanced” release of Jews, who have carried out terrorist attacks against Arabs. It would seem that his demand was only natural: if two nations are reconciling, and if members of one nation are to be released as part of the reconciliation process, there is no reason not to release the members of the other nation, especially when that nation is your own. A terrorist for a terrorist. However, in practice, while 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, – most of whom had no involvement in terrorist activity – are languishing in Israel’s prisons, the Jewish prisoners who murdered Arabs enjoy amnesty and release, again and again.
Here are some examples:
In the 90’s, Nachum Korman was convicted of having killed an 11-year old Palestinian boy, beating him to death. He stepped on his neck and hit him with the butt of his pistol. The child died after two months of suffering, but Korman was sentenced to only six months of community service. Yoram Skolnik, who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a cafted Palestinian suspect, was pardoned seven years later. Boaz Moskowitz killed a 14-year old, but was only sentenced to five months of community service and one year of a deferred sentence.
Members of what became known as “Gush Emunim Underground” were caught in the eighties. They severely wounded the mayors of Nablus and Ramallah, murdered three students and injured dozens at the Hebron College. Only six of them were committed to trial for membership in a terrorist organization. The others were acquitted of attempted murder. One by one, they were all released, within less than eight years.
During the same period Nisan Ishgoyev shot and killed a 13-year old Palestinian boy and was sentenced to six months of community service; Pinchas Valerstein shot and killed another youth, and was sentenced to four months of community service. (He was later appointed chair of the Yesha Council). Israel Zeev also shot and killed a Palestinian shepherd, and wounded his friend (for passing by their settlement); he was sentenced to a year and a half. Moshe Levinger killed a Palestinian in Hebron and was sentenced to a year and a half.
And these are only a few. In fact, there is hardly any Jewish terrorist who received meted punishment and actually served his time, without amnesty.
Similar “discounts” were granted to police and soldiers who crassly deviated from codes of ethical conduct. This year alone the Prosecutor General decided not to prosecute the policemen who killed 13 of Israel’s Palestinian citizens in October 2000. Last year the police decided to close the case against the Border Patrol policeman who shot and killed Abir Aramin, a 10-year old girl – “due to lack of evidence” – despite the many eyewitnesses at the location. In 1984 Shabak staff (which MP Ehud Yatom is most famous of) shot and killed cuffted terrorists. After the matter was revealed (despite attempts by the State Censor to conceal it), the president pardoned them even before conviction. And even the most famous case that most grievously affected Israeli army morals, is tinged with hypocrisy: in the Kafr Qasim massacre of 43 civilians by Border Patrol forces in 1956, where an official cover-up and denial was also attempted, the convicted murderers were pardoned after only 3 years.
A History Of Asymmetry
Yishai, once part of an ultra-orthodox center party, now embraces the extreme right-wing and attempts to create a ill-founded symmetry between Palestinian and Jewish prisoners. While the Palestinians are residents dispossesed of rights, under military occupation, struggling for independence (even if a minority engages in terrorism and revenge to this end); the Jews in the Occupied Territories have settled on land that is not part of the country by law, under military auspices, and are instigators of conflict rather than its victims. Palestinians are imprisoned even for the crime of collecting donations for the disabled, for promoting Islam, for membership in charity, education, or labor organizations, for distributing pamphlets, and under other pretexts; whereas terrorist Jews are barely even arrested or investigated for acts of violence.
As a matter of fact, the only thing Palestinians and Jewish terrorists have in common is that both types of prisoners are imprisoned in Israeli prisons, and even this fact raises another point of asymmetry: Jewish terrorist prisoners are not imprisoned by the Palestinians, while the Palestinians are held in Israel. In contrast to approximately 2,500 Palestinian families, the families of the Jewish prisoners can meet the Jewish inmates in prison and on vacations – at least until they are pardoned, and experience has shown that they won’t need to wait for long.
The message that Eli Yishai wants to send to right-wing extremists, is that if they kill Arabs, he will look after them. But on second thought, history provides that they don’t actually need his help.
Watch: How can one settler prevent water from an entire village of Palestinians, in the West Bank (Answer: with help from the Israeli Army). Yes, it’s happening there almost every day…