Indictment for a Senseless Death

Late on an autumn Shabbos night last year, a Palestinian couple and one of their children, a 9-year-old girl, were driving near the Shomron community of Rehelim, when a four-pound stone smashed through their car’s windshield and struck the mother, 47-year-old Aisha Al-Rabi, in the head.

As a result of the attack, the vehicle skidded and overturned, injuring both parents seriously. The mother, 48, later died of her wounds in the hospital.

Last week, Israeli prosecutors filed an indictment against one of five boys from a nearby institution, Yeshivat Pri Ha’aretz, who had initially been detained on suspicion of throwing stones at Arab vehicles that night, October 12. The indictment against the accused youth, who is still a minor and therefore has not been publicly identified, is for manslaughter in the course of committing an act of terror. The act, the indictment charged, was committed “with no concern for the possibility that someone could die as a result.”

Evidence cited by prosecutors, it was reported, includes DNA that matches the boy’s found on the rock that hit the vehicle.

The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, had been accused of using heavy-handed tactics in the pursuit of the investigation against the youths, who were held in custody for many days without access to attorneys, and who were threatened, it was alleged, with violence in order to coax them to make confessions. If it turns out that unduly harsh methods were used by the agency in the absence of any “ticking bomb” concerns, that violation of citizens’ rights needs to be addressed.

But what also needs to be addressed, whether or not the evidence against the indicted youth proves dispositive, is the unfortunate fact that some feel it is justified to commit acts of violence against Arabs who have posed no threat to them, like this most recent attack and the 2015 firebombing of a Palestinian home in Duma, which killed three family members, including an 18-month-old baby.

Klal Yisrael is charged with being an exemplary people among the nations of the world. And part of that designation means rejecting ugly acts — like throwing stones at innocents, a staple of Arab “demonstrations” — routinely committed by others. When individuals among us adopt the repulsive and violent methods of other societies and peoples, it is not only an abdication of our Divine charge but provides our enemies fodder for claiming that we are no different from them. To call that a chillul Hashem is no overstatement.

Even from a practical perspective, is there some gain to be had by acting like the worst of our enemies? There are still places where Jews and Arabs of good will live in proximity and harmony. Irresponsible acts, even when they don’t involve harm to innocents, do violence to such comity. That truth must be conveyed to all of our young in no uncertain terms.

Ironically, Klal Yisrael’s specialness was demonstrated in this recent tragic case, in the actions of Israel herself.

From September 2000 through September 2017, Palestinians killed 813 Israeli civilians, including 135 children, in suicide bombings, shootings and stabbings. Those murders were greeted in some Palestinian circles with rejoicing, praises for the war criminal “martyrs” and their enshrinement as heroes on posters and even in school textbooks.

Even more restrained Palestinian groups have offered justifications for the willful killings of innocents, explaining that what they consider to be an illegal “occupation” and illegal “settlements” are reason enough to murder men, women and children.

Palestinians who were involved with the 2001 Sbarro bombing, as well as the family of the perpetrator, have been given hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Palestinian Authority since the attack.

When 45-year-old father of four Ari Fuld was fatally stabbed at a shopping mall near Efrat by a Palestinian this past September, several Palestinian organizations labeled the murder a “natural response to Zionist crimes.” Hamas hailed it as a “heroic stabbing operation.”

In the starkest contrast imaginable, when an Israeli teenager, who may well never have imagined a tragic outcome to his repulsive act of vandalism, caused the death of an innocent person, Israel’s law enforcement agencies did not hesitate to pursue every lead and arrest suspects, treating them no differently from any other suspected criminals. And, when a thorough investigation yielded evidence, the authorities duly indicted the boy on a most serious charge.

We hope that the future will show that the youth had no intent of harming, much less killing, another human being. But one thing is certain: Israel acted decisively, without tolerance for wanton violence, whoever the perpetrator. And the world, including parts of it that exult in the spilling of innocent Jewish blood, was shown an example of a responsible actor on the global scene.

Reports about the investigation and indictment appeared in Al Jazeera, the Jordan Times and other Arab media. Their readers were shown that example no less. We can only hope they gave it some thought.