Israel's Justice Minister Strikes Again

A policeman who shoots a civilian unnecessarily should be severely punished especially because he is a policeman - not pardoned, as recommended by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman strikes again. The minister has recommended granting a pardon to policeman Shahar Mizrahi, who was convicted of killing Mahmoud Ganaim of Baka al-Garbiyeh. The killing took place during a confrontation after Ganaim was caught breaking into a car in Pardes Hannah.

Mizrahi was initially sentenced to 15 months in prison, but the Supreme Court doubled his sentence. The police claimed at the time that Ganaim was shot because he tried to run over one of the policemen, although an eye-witness said that the car was parked on the sidewalk during the shooting.

Petah Tikva District Court Judge Menachem Finkelstein ruled that "there was no justification for the immediate and close-range shooting at the head of the deceased."

Two months before Mizrahi went into prison, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch asked the justice minister to recommend pardoning the policeman. Now the justice minister has recommended the pardon be granted. But these two ministers, in charge of law enforcement in Israel, should not have interfered in the Supreme Court ruling. They of all people should fear extreme police violence and they should have supported Mizrahi's serving out his sentence. The Israel Police has been afflicted in recent years with extreme violence, and has become trigger-happy, especially when suspects are Arab. Mizrahi should serve out his relatively light penalty, and not be pardoned.

A policeman who shoots a civilian unnecessarily should be severely punished especially because he is a policeman. Granting a pardon to Mizrahi will convey the wrong message to police and civilians. Police will receive the message that killing an Arab is not a serious thing to the ministers responsible for law enforcement in Israel. Citizens, particularly Arabs, will get the message that their lives are horrifically cheap.

But they have known this for a long time: No police personnel were ever brought to trial for the killing of 12 Arab civilians during demonstrations in October 2000, which is scandalous in and of itself. Mizrahi deserved his punishment.

Now the task is in the hands of President Shimon Peres, who must decide on the minister's recommendation. Stop this unsound process and do not approve the policeman's pardon.

Read this article in Hebrew