There’s something particularly disturbing about celebrating the burning alive of a baby.
This is precisely what Israeli Jewish settlers were doing yesterday, outside the court in Lod. “’Ali was burned, where is Ali? Ali is on the grill!”, they chanted, in reference to the 18-month old baby Ali Dawbsheh, who was burnt alive by Jewish terrorists in the West Bank town of Duma in 2015. Ali’s mother Riham and father Saad died of their wounds a few weeks later. Of the family of four, only 5-year-old Ahmad survived the arson with severe burns.
The terror-supporters were actually taunting Ali’s grandfather, Hussein Dawabshe, who was attending a preliminary hearing at which the court decided to indict one adult suspect who confessed to the murders, as well as a minor who was an accomplice. Hussein was accompanied by Palestinian-Israeli lawmakers Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi. Tibi posted the video of the chanting, with policemen standing by doing nothing, and wrote:
“Where’s Ali? There’s no Ali. Ali is burned. On the fire. Ali is on the grill” – all this was thrown at our face – including at the grandfather Dawbsheh concerning his 18-month-old grandson by the riff raff of ‘price tag’. In front of us stood policemen and officers and did nothing. No words…
The terror supporters also referred to the other family members: “Where is Ali? Where is Riham? Where is Saad? It’s too bad Ahmed didn’t burn as well.”
This is certainly not the first time that the burning of this baby was celebrated. In December 2015, a video showing dozens of wedding guests celebrating the arson went public via Channel 10. The guests are seen dancing with Molotov cocktails, knives and guns, and stabbing a photo of baby Ali Dawabsheh. The wedding couple was said to be “very well known in the radical right”. Following widespread public outrage, Netanyahu distanced himself from the event, saying that these were “shocking images” which “show the true face of a group that constitutes a danger”, but he also provided the “many sides” narrative:
“That is not the proud religious Zionism that contributes to the state, and whose sons serve in the elite units in the army… It is also impossible to compare the scope of that terror with Arab terror. In the last month they [Arabs] carried out hundreds of attacks against us, and we saw just a few Jewish terrorist attacks.”
A year later, 13 people from what became known as the “murder wedding” were indicted for incitement to terrorism.
Meanwhile, last month, in what was probably much less noticed, the Dawabsheh family home was torched once again:
“A group of settlers attacked my home at dawn today, breaking a window and throwing a Molotov cocktail inside before fleeing the scene,” Yasser Dawabsheh said. “We were lucky that I was able to hear them when they attacked, so I was able to evacuate all my family,” he said. “Fire crews reacted quickly and put out the fire before the whole house burnt down…”
The defense had made a central issue of the torture that was applied in the early interrogations close to the time of the arson, and this was a can of worms for the court.
The defendants made an issue of their interrogations by Shin Bet officers, saying that they were tortured. In fact, the settlers had held a press conference to this effect at the very same hall in which the “murder wedding” was held.
The court announced at yesterday’s preliminary hearing that confessions obtained under torture by the Shin Bet interrogators would not be admissible, but that later confessions would be admissible. Haaretz note:
“If the confessions had been declared admissible, they probably would have ended in a conviction of the two suspects, legal experts had said. The rejection is a blow to the State Prosecutor’s Office as it will now be more difficult to obtain a conviction.”
Of course, Israel and the court refer to torture with euphemisms such as “moderate physical pressure” and “special methods”. But it’s torture – and the Haaretz coverage is clear about that, and even charts out some of the torture methods. The thing is, that torture (under whatever euphemism) is legal in Israel under certain circumstances, known as the “ticking bomb” scenario – where there is knowledge of other network members at large, who are bound to perpetrate an attack. Haaretz:
“Law enforcement agencies said the interrogation was justified because the two suspects had knowledge about a group that sought to perpetrate similar attacks. In the event, there were two failed attempts to commit similar attacks.”
So is the court now saying that torture is not permissible under any circumstance?
In 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that torture was permissible under those ‘special circumstances.’ The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) slammed it, saying the ruling was interpreted by the Shin Bet as a green light to torture almost every Palestinian detainee. “Today in Israel, there is no effective barrier – not legal and certainly not ethical – that stands in the way of using torture. A secret service organization such as the GSS (Shin Bet) decides independently to use torture and, afterwards, investigates itself as to whether the use of interrogation was justified,” the committee said.
Israel has effectively been permitting torture in various modes. In 1987 the Landau commission overtly legalized torture. This prompted the outspoken scientist Yeshayahu Leibowitz to call Supreme Court judge Moshe Landau a “Judeo-Nazi”. Israel has wandered back and forth with the legality and its more or less overt modes, but the practices have continued.
Yet now the Lod court is effectively saying that confessions from such practices are simply inadmissible under any circumstances. Would this also apply to Palestinians? This is doubtfully the case. The court is only a District Court, and it is only relating to this particular case, which happens to involve Jewish – not Palestinian – terrorists.
Judge Ruth Lorach was particularly effusive in her appraisal of the “special methods.” She said, “These methods have hurt the basic rights of the defendants in a severe manner – rights concerning preservation of the wholeness of the body and soul, and they have hurt their dignity.”
(This quote is notably only to be found in the Hebrew version of the Haaretz coverage).
So how much “dignity” are Palestinians really going to get from all this?
The virulently hateful scenes outside the court yesterday did not bode well.
Ahmed Tibi told Ynet that he asked police officers to do something about those chanting and taunting, but that they responded with indifference.
“What would have happened had the situation been reversed?”, he asked. “If 20 Arab youths were shouting about a Jewish fatality ‘he’s on the grill, he’s burning’? How many of them would have gone home with broken legs? How many would have been arrested?” Tibi wondered. “Part of the reason it was horrifying was the police’s indifference, like nothing had happened,” he explained. “They (the police) could have at least removed them from the court. (No need) to break legs. Legs are only broken to Arabs in Haifa, not to Jews. But they could have at least removed them,” he added.
Tibi notes that there were expressions of disgust from across the political spectrum, but silence at its top:
“But lo and behold—not a single minister (said anything), not Miri Regev [minister of culture], not Yisrael Katz [minister of intelligence], not Ayelet Shaked [justice minister], not Naftali Bennett [education minister] and in particular not the prime minister, who knows how to retweet awful things. He remained quiet instead of condemning this sickening phenomenon”.
H/t Edith Breslauer