Ahed Tamimi’s recent plea deal for 8 months of prison for slapping a soldier occupying her property last December coincides with yet another reduction of the sentence of Israeli medic-soldier killer Elor Azarya (now reduced to merely 9 months), a coincidence that has been hard to miss. Slapping a soldier appears to be worse than killing a Palestinian.
But there was another stark parallel, few have noticed (among them Tamara Nassar in Electronic Intifada): On Wednesday, David Muial, an Israeli who took part in a bloody lynching of Eritrean refugee Habtom Zarhum in October 2015, got a penalty of community service – not for murder, not for manslaughter – but for “abusing the helpless”, as reported by Times of Israel
Zarhum was one of the victims of Israel’s various ‘mistaken identity’ embarrassments.
Muial features in one of the most violent videos I have ever seen, smashing a bench against Zarhum’s head, after he is on the floor, incapacitated by a shot, and held down by another man.
The lynch mob at Beersheba central bus station had assumed that Zarhum was a Palestinian terrorist after a shooting in a bus earlier on. According to the police, the mistake was due to his ‘external appearance’ – that is, he was dark skinned.
The State Prosecution had originally pushed to convict Muial and three other lynchers for “causing injury with grave intent,” but decided to reduce to a lesser charge as part of a plea bargain, accepting his claim that he believed Zarhum was a terrorist.
Muial’s legal team said in a statement Thursday that the prosecution took into account his “sincere regret and deep pain” over the incident.
But would Muial have regretted it and felt deep pain if it was a Palestinian terrorist? Very doubtfully. The atmosphere at the Beersheba station was jubilant in the wake of the lynching. Channel 2 played an important part in that celebration. It was only shortly after that the truth began to come through – that the man who was lynched was not the man who shot.
That’s where the embarrassment and regret comes in. It’s not because you’re lynching and publicly executing an incapacitated man. It’s because it turns out he ‘didn’t deserve it’.
This is why the Azarya case is bothering so many Israelis (the majority of Israeli Jews) – because from their perspective, Azarya did no wrong in executing a suspect. From their perspective, the possibility that the suspect is not even an assailant, is not even important. These details can be worked out later, after the execution.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett suggested life in prison for Ahed Tamimi. The prosecution pushed for 10 years, and after considerable international pressure gave in to 8 months.
But David Muial is getting no prison sentence at all. He just has to be ‘rehabilitated’:
“We hope that the end of this process will help [Muial] to collect himself and move towards rehabilitation,” his legal team said.
And who will press for the rehabilitation of Israeli society?