After nearly seven years, a court in Israel found seven Jewish men guilty of celebrating the deaths of a Palestinian family. Back in 2015, three members of a family, including the father, the mother, and their infant child, were killed in a Jewish arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma. The poor family included Ali Dawabsheh, an 18-month-old toddler, and his parents; Riham and Saad.
“This was an exhibition of joy over the murder of innocents, with songs and dance to rally those present. The defendants exhibited their insightful messages in their songs, which called for revenge,” said Judge Eitan Cohen this Wednesday in announcing the decision.
“I found that the inflammatory nature of the incident was clear to all, clear, indisputable, and taught among other things two main messages that were folded into action: expressions of support for the killing of innocent families, and calls for revenge against Arabs,” he also added.
The irony of this sad story was when the seven men’s lawyers said what they did in 2015 was ugly, yet not criminal behavior. But the Jerusalem Magistrate Court was not on the same page with the lawyers and said this Wednesday that the men were guilty of “glorifying with dance and song the murder of the Dawabsheh family” at a wedding in Jerusalem.
The eighth defendant, however, who was the singer at the wedding, was not convicted after the judges decided he was not aware of what the others were celebrating. The way the seven men were celebrating was also controversial as they are shown in a video and several photos dancing with guns and knives while stabbing a photograph of the dead infant.
All-out Condemnation of the Tragedy
Only a few hours after firebombing of the Palestinian family, which made a lot of noise across the world, then-Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, issued a statement to denounce the attack and attribute it to extremist Israeli settlers as an “act of terrorism.”
In the statement, Netanyahu said that he was “shocked over this reprehensible and horrific act. This is an act of terrorism in every respect. Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of who the perpetrators are.”
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, also condemned the move and described it as a “war crime,” adding that it would form “part of the Palestinians’ case against Israel at the International Criminal Court.” But the news of the tragedy went beyond the Israeli-Palestinian borders and attracted international attention. The European Union and United Nations, for example, strongly rebuked the attack and demanded quick action to bring the perpetrators to justice.
A day after that deadly Wednesday, thousands of angry Palestinians appeared in the streets to attend the family’s funeral and also protest in the West Bank. Violence and terror in the West Bank is not a new story, yet they have increased in recent years to alarming levels. While cases of violent attacks by extremist Jews against Palestinians have been high, Jews in Israel have also been target to retaliatory attacks by young angry Palestinians.
To reduce the frequency of tragic incidents like what happened to the Dawabsheh family, leaders of both Israel and Palestine must come to the scene as soon as possible. What they can do is to come to the negotiating table and try to reach a mutual understanding of the problem.
They must find a common ground that terrorist attacks, wherever and against whomever they take place, must be condemned.