Today, the Israeli justice system committed yet another atrocity in the name of national security. It sentenced Ahmed Manasra, an East Jerusalem resident who was 13 years old when he attacked and wounded two Israelis last year, to 12 years in prison. The sentence is a blatant fraud in multiple ways. At the time of the attack, Israeli law did not permit giving minors sentences as adults. Ahmed should have been sentenced as a juvenile, meaning he could not be sent to an adult prison. In fact, under the law at the time of his crime, a minor could not be sentenced to prison at all for the offense he committed. The law regarding children accused of crimes said the emphasis must be on rehabilitation, not punishment. Clearly, there is only punishment in this sentence.
There is further racism in the sentence itself. Two Israeli youth were 14 years old when they murdered an Israeli taxi driver. Their sentence? 16 years in prison. For MURDER. The difference? These minors were a higher class of criminal: they were Jewish murderers.
Israeli law says that the identities of minors accused of crimes is secret. It may not be revealed via the media or any other fashion. In this case, the prime minister exposed the boy’s name while he was still in the hospital recuperating from near fatal wounds struck by Israeli civilians who tried to kill him. It aired a slideshow of him in the hospital which identified him: two absolutely forbidden invasions of privacy. In the hospital, he was chained to his bed like a wild animal. All of these are also absolutely violations of hospital policy and betrayed their patient in ways that are outrageous breaches of medical ethics.
Israeli medics who attended the Israeli civilians wounded at the scene refused to treat Ahmed, who can be seen in a video writhing in pain and looking near death. Ahmed’s cousin, who participated in the attack was deliberately struck by an Israeli driver and as he attempted to flee the scene.
After Manasra’s arrest, the Knesset changed the law concerning minors accused of crimes and permitted charging children younger than 14 as adults. But there is no provision in the law for it to be retroactive. How can you charge someone with an adult offense when the law at the time of the crime explicitly prohibited jailing the suspect? Further, this 14-year-old boy will be sent to an adult prison, a blatant violation of all decency. Undoubtedly, it will turn him into a martyr for the Palestinian cause and a hardened militant by the time he’s released. You can expect any number of his relatives to offer their own lives to avenge this travesty of injustice.
An appeals court will now have to decide if the law can applied retroactively. Undoubtedly, Israeli judges will find a way to further prostitute justice in order to treat Manasra the way the vast majority of Israelis want him treated: as a cold-blooded killer (which he was not).
Ehud Barak once (in)famously said that Israel was “a villa in the jungle.” In this case, Israel isn’t a villa. It is the jungle.
Thanks to Israeli family law attorney, Yossi Nakar, who’s been my guide to Israeli child welfare law and regulations. If there are any imperfections in this analysis, they are mine, not his.
Note in the Reuters story above how little of the background of this case which I’ve offered here is included. It is regurgitated state propaganda without any attempt to do any reporting or research.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.