One Big Question Mark

Five Arabs, three of whom are only slightly acquainted with the other two, suddenly decide to kidnap a Jewish child. The motive is nationalistic.

The Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, which rejected the appeal of the five men convicted of murdering a teenage boy, Danny Katz, spans 52 pages, plus an additional page at the end, appended by Judge Ayala Procaccia. This additional page expresses almost a plea for mercy - please, don't bother us any more about this case. The justice system, the judge reassured, "did not rest until it repeatedly reassessed itself over the long years, until the last remnant of cloud over this case dissipated. It did justice, while respecting the basic rights of the defendants and seeking the truth, at great investment of human resources, in order to prevent any possible mistake."

The ruling of the Tel Aviv District Court, which the Supreme Court decided to adopt, "is very well constructed," Procaccia wrote. "It analyzed in depth, with the utmost caution and responsibility, every detail in the body of evidence and left no stone unturned. It analyzed the evidence from a penetrating professional judicial perspective and subjected them to the test of logic, common sense and wisdom."

These last words are the heart of this story, which has plagued the judicial system and the entire Israeli society since Danny Katz was murdered 22 years ago, several weeks before his 15th birthday. This occurred in Haifa; all five of those convicted of murder are Israeli Arabs, including two Bedouin. Three of those convicted are from Sakhnin.

It is doubtful whether it would have been possible to convict the defendants had they not signed confessions during their interrogation. The Supreme Court confirmed this week that the confessions were extracted through inappropriate methods. But, according to the court, the use of these methods is not enough to disqualify the confessions. This is a legal issue that will continue to occupy members of the profession, as well as countless issues pertaining to detective work.

This is an awful story, which is one big question mark. It is doubtful that even a fledging scriptwriter would dare to offer it for sale. Five Arabs, three of whom are only slightly acquainted with the other two, suddenly decide to kidnap a Jewish child. The motive is nationalistic. They murder him and, after his death, four of them engage in sex with his corpse. Afterward, they take the trouble for some reason to move the body from its hiding place to another location, and they choose a cave located near the village where one of them lives. This defendant returns to the cave, and dumps trash there; he takes his mother there with him. In the trash, he leaves several pieces of paper with his name and address. And this is how they catch him. Everyone confesses to the act, without coercion.

Two of the main puzzles still remain unsolved today: the motive and the acts of necrophilia. According to the ruling, none of the defendants attributed a nationalistic motive to themselves, though they confessed to committing the murder. All of the evidence in this matter comes from things the defendants said about each other while under interrogation. They had never been involved in politics. The Shin Bet stated that they do not belong to a hostile organization.

People whose logic, common sense and wisdom are different than those of the judges often wondered about the claim that in a single supermarket on Mount Carmel there were four necrophiles: according to the court's verdict, the boy's dead body sexually aroused them, causing an erection. Necrophilia is a very rare sexual deviancy. Three of the defendants have fathered children. It was never clarified whether the sexual act attributed to them was also intended to promote the Palestinian national struggle.

The ending of the case, promised Procaccia, brings with it "a bit of consolation and a bit of peace." However, without dispelling every doubt, the latest ruling joins the previous ones in this case in constituting an instructive document for the study of the history and psychology of relations between the State of Israel and its Arab citizens.