Israel's Top Court Denies Settlers' Appeals in 'Terrorist' anti-Palestinian Attacks

In upholding their convictions and ruling they were part of a terrorist group, justice writes that 'in light of the history of the Jewish people, we have a special obligation in the fight against acts of persecution and racism'

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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The graffiti spray-painted on a home in Beitillu.
The graffiti spray-painted on a home in Beitillu in 2015.Credit: Nasser Shiyoukhi / AP
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

The Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday denied the appeals of five young Israelis, including two who were convicted of terrorist offenses in connection with attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank with firebombs and gas grenades and the torching of Palestinian cars.

The defendants, some of whom were juveniles, had appealed the severity of their sentences, which ranged from one to five years in prison. Two also appealed their conviction for membership in a terrorist organization.

Writing for the court, Justice Menachem Mazuz stated that “in light of the history of the Jewish people, which is replete with persecution, we have a special obligation in the fight against acts of persecution and racism.”

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The Supreme Court ruled that the acts of the two defendants convicted of terrorism were indeed “acts of terror as part of a terrorist organization.” Mazuz wrote that their actions indicated a clear ideological motive and that they had committed a “series of crimes centered around doing bodily harm and damage to the property of innocent Palestinians to terrify them.”

The court said that, as evidenced by graffiti sprayed at the sites of some of the targets of the attacks, the acts of the defendants were in retribution for attacks against Jews or in protest against the government’s pursuit of the perpetrators of the fatal 2015 arson attack on the home of the Dawabsheh family in the Palestinian village of Duma.

In reducing the sentence of one defendant from three years in prison to 30 months, the court noted that, although he had played a major part in the offenses for which he and his associates were convicted, he had successfully undergone rehabilitation for his acts and had cooperated with teachers and therapists from the moment of his arrest.

All of the defendants’ names were barred from publication, either because they were minors at the time of the crimes or because they were serving in the army at the time.

In 2018, three of the defendants were sentenced to terms of two and a half to five years in prison by the Central District Court in Lod. The three, brothers from the settlement of Nahliel, were convicted in a plea agreement of arson and aggravated assault committed out of racist motives. One of the three brothers was among the two defendants convicted of membership in a terrorist organization.

A torched car in the West Bank village of Beitillu following the 2015 attack. Credit: Abbas Momani/AFP

According to the trial court verdict, in 2015 two of the defendants threw gas grenades and sprayed graffiti at a home in the West Bank village of Beitillu near Ramallah as its occupants, a couple and their 9-year-old son, were asleep inside.

The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, which provided support for the Palestinian victims of the attacks, said that the acts of the group involved in the case, which it said have been casually dubbed “price tag” attacks, are now officially confirmed as “nothing less than organized terrorism.”

Reacting to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Yesh Din added that “based on our data, in the clear majority of hate crimes against the Palestinians, the settlers wouldn’t be put on trial at all. We expect that this ruling will change the way the state operates.”

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