Judge Rules Against Stripping Citizenship of 2012 Bus Bomber

Citizenship should be revoked only in extreme cases, the judge says in ruling against then-Interior Minister Silvan Shalom's 2015 request

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Mohammed Mafarja arrives at the Tel Aviv court on December 19, 2012.
Mohammed Mafarja arrives at the Tel Aviv court on December 19, 2012. Credit: AFP
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

A judge refused on Sunday to strip the Israeli citizenship of the perpetrator of a 2012 bus bombing in Tel Aviv.

In her ruling, Tel Aviv District Court Judge Varda Meroz said that citizenship should be revoked only in extreme cases, and despite the severity of Mohammed Mafarja’s crime, she continued, it doesn’t qualify as such a case.

The attack, which took place a few days after Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, wounded over 20 people. Mafarja was convicted in a plea bargain of various offenses, including attempted murder and attempting to aid the enemy, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. During his sentencing hearing, he expressed regret for his crime.

The request to revoke Mafarja’s citizenship was submitted in 2015 by then-Interior Minister Silvan Shalom and approved by then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. Mafarja opposed the request, arguing that he was being punished twice for the same crime.

The state said Mafarja “blatantly broke faith with Israel, and his being a citizen of the country facilitated his terrorist act.”

But Meroz disagreed, saying his prison sentence was sufficient punishment. “Revoking [citizenship] is reserved for extreme cases,” she wrote. “Mafarja’s case, despite its severity, doesn’t fall within the bounds of such cases.”

Mafarj is one of only two people the state has tried to strip of citizenship since 2008, when a law was passed allowing this penalty for people who break faith with the country by committing terror attacks. In the other case, the Haifa District Court approved revoking the citizenship of Umm al-Fahm resident Ala’a Ziwad, who committed a car-ramming attack in Gan Shmuel in 2015. An appeal of that decision is pending before the Supreme Court.