Defence minister says “Jewish terrorists” carried out arson attack that killed three Palestinians – but no evidence.
Palestinians have denounced Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon’s announcement that there is not “enough proof” to prosecute Jewish settlers who burned alive a Palestinian family in late July.
The arson attack took place nearly five months ago in the occupied West Bank village of Duma and killed three members of the Dawabsheh family, including an 18-month-old toddler, Ali, and his parents, Saad and Reham.
The couple’s four-year-old son, who was severely burned, is the only survivor of the attack.
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“We know who is responsible for this terrorist act, but do not have enough proof yet to try them,” Yaalon said on Tuesday while speaking to Israel’s army radio.
On Tuesday, Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected a petition demanding that the government take immediate “legal steps against the Dawabsheh family’s murders”.
On December 3, Israel announced that “members of a Jewish terror group” had been arrested for the crime.
Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Programme director at Defence for Children International (DCI) – Palestine, said Yaalon’s comments lends “credence to claims that the Israeli government condones settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to further distress and control the occupied population”.
“The [Israeli] state’s policies have led to the climate of impunity that makes such violence possible,” he told Al Jazeera.
Alluding to 18-month-old Ali, Abu Eqtaish added: “In this hyper-militarised environment, without a semblance of accountability for wrongdoing, disproportionate violence is inflicted on Palestinian children.”
Al-Haq, a Ramallah-based Palestinian human rights group, also decried Israel’s failure to bring the Dawabsheh family’s killers to justice, referring to it as “institutionalised impunity”.
Mona Sabella, the group’s legal research and advocacy coordinator, said Israeli settlers “are guaranteed impunity by way of policies that are inherently discriminatory”.
“These policies allow Israeli settlers to get away with murder of Palestinians, while Palestinian [suspects] are extrajudicially executed or arbitrarily detained,” she told Al Jazeera.
The settlers who killed the Dawabsheh family are no exception. According to the Israeli rights group Yesh Din, widespread settler violence against Palestinians and their property goes largely unpunished by Israeli authorities.
A report published by Yesh Din in October paints a picture of growing settler violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. At least 91.6 percent of investigation files were closed without an indictment being served, while the number of violent attacks carried out by settlers doubled between August 2014 and August 2015.
Soldiers are also rarely prosecuted. Of the 229 new Israeli military investigations into soldiers’ violence against Palestinians opened in 2014, a mere eight resulted in indictments, notes another Yesh Din report.
Meanwhile, 99.74 percent of cases trying Palestinians in West Bank military courts resulted with a guilty verdict, as noted by a leaked military document obtained by the Israeli daily Haaretz in 2011.
In November, two Israeli teens were found guilty of kidnapping and killing 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir in the summer of 2014.
Yosef Haim Ben-David, their 31-year-old uncle, was found by the Jerusalem court to have committed the crimes he was accused of, but his lawyer filed a last-minute psychiatric evaluation. He has yet to be delivered a verdict.
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Speaking to Al Jazeera earlier this month, members of the Abu Khdeir family expressed pessimism that the trial would yield justice.
“I don’t think we will ever get justice from this court for the killing of Mohammed,” Hussein Abu Khdeir, the late teen’s father, said. “They are going to let them go free.”
Xavier Abu Eid, an adviser for the Palestine Liberation Organization, later tweeted that the trial of Abu Khdeir’s killers “is an example of how cheap Palestinian lives are for Israel”.
— Xavier Abu Eid (@xabueid) November 30, 2015
Amjad Iraqi, international advocacy coordinator at Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, said the killings of both the Dawabsheh family and Mohammed Abu Khdeir “illustrate the double standards between how Jews and Palestinians are dealt with by the Israeli authorities”.
“Israel’s security services are notorious for their rapid arrests, military trials and convictions of Palestinian suspects in the space of a few weeks,” he told Al Jazeera.
“With Jewish suspects, however, the process is characterised by foot-dragging and technical excuses to avoid issuing indictments and convictions,” Iraqi said.
Follow Patrick Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_