Tuesday, March 29, 2011
"If it was your son that was kidnapped and tortured, and you saw this man smiling in the courtroom, would you consider 18 months in prison to be an appropriate sentence?"
If a 15-year-old African-American minor was abducted by a 28 year white man – after chasing the youth down in an open field in an ATV; if the man had stripped the youth and beat him with the butt of a rifle; if all this happened after the same white man slapped the youth and killed the newborn puppy of the black youth in a separate incident; if such a heinous, racially motivated crime occurred in the United States – reminiscent of the darkest times of Jim Crow – the American people would react with complete disgust, anger and bewilderment that such racist cruelty could still exist. Presumably, the man would be thrown in jail for a long time:
* Kidnapping in the first degree is a class A felony and brings a punishment of up to 30 years in prison
* Aggravated battery is a class B felony and can result in a fine of $20,000 and probation or up to 10 years in prison. Elevated aggravated assault would earn up to 40 years in prison and a fine of $50,000
* Intent to cause grievous bodily harm brings a prison sentence of between 6-30 years, a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five year probation
* Three counts of assault – a class D felony – would land the man in prison for three years and slap him with a $30,000 fine.
All told the maximum sentence could be somewhere around 100 years in prison and a fine of over $100,000. Now imagine that the youth woke up woke up – after being beaten unconscious – and found himself naked, bound, injured and alone in the middle of a field. Presumably, such disgusting, racially motivated crimes would be harshly punished in the United States. As a democracy that holds equality as a core principle, such crimes would be universally condemned and the perpetrator would likely face the maximum sentence.
Now flash to Israel, where a 28 year old settler named Zvi Struck was convicted of this exact crime. In an initial confrontation, Struck slapped the 15-year-old Palestinian victim and killed the boy’s baby goat by kicking the animal. In a subsequent confrontation – on Palestinian land – Struck chased down the boy from the village of Kusra in his All-Terrain Vehicle and kidnapped him, beat him and left him unconscious and tied up in a field. The judge in the case noted that Struck undoubtedly harmed the 15-year-old in a “grievous manner” and that he “reviewed the medical records and the difficult photographs that were taken of the complainant immediately after the event, and I cannot avoid expressing disgust and deep shock over the signs of terrible trauma that the minor suffered.”
After being convicted of these crimes, Struck requested a lenient sentence from the judge because the man who kidnapped, beat and tortured a 15-year-old Palestinian claimed to be a “law-abiding citizen with no prior convictions.” The judge after being overwhelmed by the physical evidence pointing at Struck handed down a sentence – not of 100 years in prison and not a $100,000 fine – of 18 months imprisonment, 1 year of probation and a fine of 50,000 NIS ($14,100).
In the United States, such a crime would be met with a public outcry demanding justice for the assaulted and tortured boy. The criminal responsible would see his face and name rightfully tarnished for years behind the bars of an unforgiving jail cell. In the United States, 18 months in prison is hardly fair for one of the charges that Struck was charged with, much less all four. But Struck did not commit his racially motivated crimes in the United States. He is a settler in Palestine, convicted by Israeli courts that rarely convict settlers of any crimes. Yesh Din, an Israeli Human Rights Organization, recently reported that 90% of complaints filed by Palestinians against Israeli citizens are dismissed. In this context, it is a miracle that Struck was convicted at all.
Unfortunately, Struck is not the only case. Settler violence is common and unlimited. Moreover, this sort of settler terrorism is not only granted general immunity by the Israeli courts (Struck’s rare case aside), but it is committed under the watchful eyes of the Israeli military and is becoming increasingly popular among Israelis. In a Ynet-Gersher survey, 46% of the 504 Israelis polled supported settler terrorism under the guise of ‘price tag violence;’ only 33% said that such terror was never acceptable.
Imagine if this happened in your town and you saw the perpetrator that tortured a youth smiling in the paper. What would your reaction be, knowing that this smiling, smug terrorist would soon be released back into the community? If it was your son that was kidnapped and tortured, and you saw this man smiling in the courtroom, would you consider 18 months in prison to be an appropriate sentence?