What Would You Do if Your Were Attacked in Your Own Home?

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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Aryeh Schiff after his sentencing in November
Aryeh Schiff after his sentencing in NovemberCredit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

The essays in Haaretz responding to the sentence given to Aryeh Schiff, who fatally shot a man who was trying to steal his car, are detached from reality. It’s easy to write while sitting in Tel Aviv or the comfortable Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia. I’d like to see how the writers of these pieces would react to a daily reality in which armed, masked criminals do as they please in their neighborhoods.

Organized crime must be fought with the methods used to fight terrorism, including a reasoned, controlled use of the Shin Bet security service, since the only difference between terrorism and organized crime is their motives. Both hurt and intimidate civilians. In a democratic society there is obviously room for debating the human rights of a burglar or a robber, and even of a rapist or murderer. But this is not more important than citizens’ rights to personal safety and the protection of their property.

“It never occurred to me to boycott Israel. Until Arkansas told me I couldn’t”

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Noa Landau wrote (Haaretz, Nov. 16) that Schiff’s punishment was “embarrassing.” Why embarrassing? It’s a reasonable and proportionate penalty, concordant with the justified plea bargain. In the United States Schiff would not even have been prosecuted. Not that we should, God forbid, learn everything from the Americans. But there’s a limit to the opposite extreme as well.

The prosecutors initially requested a six-year prison sentence. What would this contribute to Israeli society? Schiff is an older man, a bereaved father, who was sleeping in his travel trailer with his wife when three masked men invaded his space and stole his vehicle, and not for the first time. The situation was forced on him. It’s easy to write that he should have brushed his teeth and casually follow the protocol for apprehending a suspect. What if his assailants were to use this delay to attack him and his wife?

Yasmin Levy wrote that “this is what the life of a Bedouin man who coveted the vehicle of his Jewish neighbor is worth,” going on to assail the judge for her “lack of compassion for [Mohammed al-] Atrash’s 10 children, who will remain fatherless.” This is extreme populism. Atrash, 35, had numerous convictions for cars and home burglaries, as well as one for threatening to kill his wife. Last year he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting one of his two wives. He could have exercised his right to marry just one woman, have fewer children and make an honest living.

Everyone living in Israel’s outlying areas, in the north or south, knows the intensity of the threat posed by “property criminals” and the damage they cause to homes, workplaces, fields and orchards. This year there was an incident in which, after three young Bedouin men broke into a house in a Negev community, one of them sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl while another shone a light on her for his friend’s benefit. After this horrific incident the girl’s father said that had he shot the perpetrator he would now be in jail. Or at least be on trial, as newspapers published opinion pieces about the right to life and rehabilitation of the poor disadvantaged youth who committed the crime.

Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer wrote (Haaretz Hebrew, Nov. 9) that “with the light sentence given to Aryeh Schiff, the court disregarded the infinite chasm between a human life and property [rights]." But it isn’t really an infinite chasm, since it can be bridged instantly. Burglars don’t like being disturbed while at work.

In 2011, Shlomi Asulin, a police officer, died  after being in a coma for four years: He had been stabbed in the neck by one of two car thieves he tried to stop in Rehovot. He left behind a wife and two young children. The liberal left is confused every time it pities cruel people, sanctifying the rights of criminals while making light of the security and wellbeing of people who abide by the law or enforce it.

Not everything should be excused and justified based on the 1948 Nakba or on the discrimination of Arab citizens. Embedded in such an approach is a sense of patronizing arrogance, first toward most Bedouin and Arabs, who are not criminals despite being subjected to discrimination and who are the ones suffering most from the terror of organized crime. Behind whitewashed code words such as “lack of governance” hides a daily hell. The brawl outside Be’er Sheva’s Soroka Medical Center last week included blows, murder and gunfire. In such an extreme situation, it is justified to use extreme methods in order to protect the lives of people living in Rahat or Be’er Sheva, in Arad or in Lehavim.

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