Israel’s Rape Indictment of Palestinian Reveals the Moral Rot

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Mahmoud Qatusa and his family after being freed, June 25, 2019.
Mahmoud Qatusa and his family after being freed, June 25, 2019.Credit: \ Ilan Assayag

The military advocate general’s announcement Tuesday that he was withdrawing the indictment of Mahmoud Qatusa on a charge of raping a 7-year-old girl and his release from custody aren’t enough to end this harsh affair.

The case allows a terrifying look into the rot that has spread into the “justice system” that Israel has created for its Palestinian subjects living under military occupation. In the backyard of Israeli democracy exists a parallel legal world where the Palestinians are assumed to be terrorists unless proved otherwise.

This general failure includes every member of the system: the police, who held Qatusa in custody for two months without sufficient evidence; the military prosecutors, who filed an indictment even though the file lacked sufficient evidence; the media, which instead of serving as the watchdog of democracy humiliated itself with a sick dialogue implying that reservations about the rape of little girls depends on political tastes and whims; and the politicians, who saw this shocking incident as nothing but an opportunity to sow fear and win votes.

>> Read more: West Bank rape case: Destined for scandal, but no one sounded the alarm | Analysis

Just last week, Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman described the case as a “well-planned terrorist attack on a little girl” and declared that he would demand the death penalty for the “despicable terrorist.” One of the leaders of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, joined him: “If only it were possible to impose the death penalty on this scum. Such a monster doesn’t deserve to breathe the air in our world.” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said such an incident must be investigated as a “nationalist incident.”

That’s why the military advocate general’s decision was a dramatic event. This isn’t a minor technical matter but rather a U-turn. As the rape investigation continues, we must now also investigate the actions of the police who kept the suspect behind bars for two months without sufficient evidence, and the flaws that led to the indictment.

Military Advocate General Sharon Afek announced that he and the police would hold a proper process of drawing conclusions from the affair. But it’s hard to understand why he’s still treating Qatusa as a suspect. Would Afek dare to confer such a mark of Cain on a Jewish citizen who fell victim to such a series of failures?

The Qatusa affair exposed an overall moral rot whose roots are malignant racism and nationalism. This is a result of leaders infected with a racist and nationalist bug who through a long and steady process have infected more and more citizens. To lead the changes needed to prevent the repeat of such cases, we must end the rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the trunk of the tree from which all these rotting branches are growing.

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