Haaretz Editorial

Hysteria in Military Court

This unacceptable proceeding doesn’t restore the honor of the IDF or the soldiers involved in the incident

Sixteen-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi at Ofer military prison in the West Bank, Jan 15, 2018
THOMAS COEX/AFP

The decision by a military court judge, Maj. Haim Balilti, to keep Ahed Tamimi and her mother, Nariman, in jail until the end of their trial meets all the criteria of hysteria. If, as Balilti wrote, a 16-year-old girl from the village of Nabi Saleh who slapped a soldier constitutes “a clear danger, one it’s very doubtful can be nullified by alternatives” to arrest, then there’s reason to question the strength of Israel’s security forces in the territories.

One doubts that the judge himself truly believes his arguments, since the Israel Defense Forces have already proven that they don’t fear girls who attack them with scissors, or elderly women or children who throw stones at them. In such cases, soldiers have already demonstrated that they have the option of shooting them and thereby “neutralizing” the threat.

This could also have been Ahed Tamimi’s fate, had she not encountered an intelligent IDF company commander who understood quite well that she was seeking to provoke, and who, unlike the military judge, concluded that he and the soldier with him were in no danger, and that a violent response could provoke a much more dangerous clash.

Thus the “danger” of Tamimi’s actions didn’t threaten the lives of IDF soldiers, but rather their honor. This insult to their honor is what the military court judge sought to “nullify” on Wednesday.

Because the act itself, slapping a soldier, apparently isn’t enough to justify keeping her in jail until the trial ends, at some unknown date, other crimes from Tamimi’s dangerous past were loaded onto her case, even though the IDF hadn’t previously thought they constituted a danger. After all, based on the prosecution’s arguments for keeping Tamimi in detention and the criteria set by the judge, not only Tamimi and her mother ought to be denied bail due to this type of “danger,” but so should additional hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who throw stones, curse soldiers or insult the IDF’s honor.

The denial of bail to Tamimi and her mother was nothing but an effort to punish them before the verdict and thereby lengthen the jail sentence that will undoubtedly be imposed on them. This is an extra punishment that seeks to compensate for the insult to the soldiers, since Tamimi can’t be put on trial for that. This unacceptable proceeding doesn’t restore the honor of the IDF or the soldiers involved in the incident; it merely shames Balilti and those who sent him.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel