As he left the tiny courtroom, the guilty party was careful to touch the mezuzah on the doorpost. He had just admitted he had harmed someone under aggravated circumstances and caused death by negligence. On Sunday, during the final hearing in a case that’s dragged on for two-and-a-half years, a loving young lady repeatedly caressed the back of the killer by negligence.
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The deceased by negligence was Nadim Nuwara, a teenager from Ramallah. The convicted party is former border policeman Ben Deri from Rishon Letzion. The place: Jerusalem District Court, located in occupied East Jerusalem.
Thus another case of an Israeli in uniform who took the life of a Palestinian with unexceptional ease slides under the media radar. The only exceptional thing here – and this was only because of the determination of bereaved father Siam Nuwara and the unplanned presence of security cameras and CNN – is that this case was investigated and came to trial. It also slid away more slowly than usual.
The announcement of the plea bargain signed with Deri reads: “Before the shooting the accused felt no danger and knew there was no justification for firing.” That’s exactly what the eyewitnesses said who were there in Bitunya on May 15, 2014, the day Palestinians mark the Nakba – their catastrophe of 1948.
Young people were approaching the military checkpoint that cuts off Ramallah from the villages to the south, effectively annexing the settlement bloc of Givat Ze’ev to Israel. A Border Police company was sent into the Palestinian enclave and positioned themselves on a balcony. The stones thrown in protest by the young people from a distance of 70 or 80 meters were a symbolic gesture and could not have harmed the policemen or the checkpoint. When Deri aimed, fired and hit, Nuwara wasn’t even holding a symbolic stone.
Because the deceased was a Palestinian teenager and the guilty party is a Jew, we – a nation of army and shooting-range veterans – believe the story presented by the state prosecution with the help of attorney Zion Amir: that a live round somehow got mixed up among the rubber-coated bullets, which were the only ones Deri was permitted to use. That’s why it wasn’t manslaughter, as per the original indictment, but causing death by negligence.
Deri, negligent fellow that he is, did not check if a single, random, orphaned, mistaken live round had made its way into his rifle just before he pulled the trigger, aiming to hit the teenager who was walking, arms at his sides, 80 meters away. Note that this premeditated assault would have violated orders even if a rubber-coated bullet had been used.
We, who excel at reading the Palestinians’ minds and Facebook, believe the prosecution and police when they said they could not ascertain how three other Palestinian youths were hit by live rounds that same day, in that same place, fired by the same Border Police company. One, Mohammed Salameh, was killed. Only Deri and another border policeman at the scene had the authority to shoot, and only with rubber-coated bullets.
Now the mission is almost complete. The showcase of law and justice has been presented. Earlier this month Supreme Court justices Noam Sohlberg (a resident of the Alon Shvut settlement) Neal Hendel and Anat Baron dismissed the family’s appeal of the plea bargain. All that’s left is the sentencing, which is scheduled for September. And because the deceased is a Palestinian and the guilty party is a Jew, Deri’s family, friends, and the far-right Honenu organization, which has been accompanying him throughout the process, have good reason to assume that Judge Daniel Teferberg won’t go too hard on him.
After the initial shows of support for Deri, the media silence here is calculated. It’s a sure way to erase the fact that Deri acted as many soldiers and policemen have acted before him toward Palestinians, and to assure that many others can continue to act as he did. The silence is a means of enabling the judge to hand down a light sentence while taking full consideration of Deri’s feelings and his future.