Bill Introduced to Decriminalize Violence by Jews Against Arabs

Nine rightwing Knesset members have introduced a bill that would in effect decriminalize acts of violence by Jews against Arabs.

The measure was given impetus by the stiff punishment the Israel Defense Force handed out to more than 20 soldiers who damaged private property during a rampage through a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank a week ago.

The IDF chief of staff, Gen. Dan Shomron, made clear the army takes a serious view of such breaches of discipline.

In addition to jail sentences of up to two weeks, the men involved were removed from a platoon commander training program, which will hurt their chances for promotion.

Likud Knesset member Pinhas Goldstein demanded the IDF immediately revoke that sanction. He was backed at the Cabinet level by Ministers Ariel Sharon of Likud and Yosef Shapira of the National Religious Party.

They maintained the jail terms were sufficient punishment.

Much more significant in shaping the long-term character of Israel is the measure being vigorously pushed by nine Knesset members representing Likud; the right-wing Tehiya, Tsomet and Moledet parties; and the Orthodox National Religious Party.

UNDERGROUND GANG WOULD BE FREED

Those parties may be the core of the next coalition government led by Likud, if negotiations to form a national unity government fail. Their bill, if approved, would retroactively annul sanctions against Jews who used violence against Arabs, either in the course of rioting or out of “security strain.”

If the bill is adopted, the last three members of a Jewish underground terrorist gang still in prison would be freed automatically.

They are serving sentences for the murder of three Arab students at the Islamic University in Hebron five years ago and for conspiracy to blow up Arab buses in East Jerusalem.

But not all rightists back the proposed legislation. Justice Minister Avraham Sharir of Likud warned over the weekend that he opposes ad hoc bills that emerge from certain political quarters for a specific purpose.

Legal analysts have pointed out that the new legislation would make rulings by the judicial system null and void, would overrule the presidential prerogative to grant amnesty and would violate the judicial principle that laws are not enacted to effect retroactive changes.

CHARGES AGAINST LEVINGER

Since Israel has no constitution, there would be no way to challenge the validity of such a law. Once it passes the Knesset, it is binding.

It is quite likely that the bill, once under scrutiny by the Knesset, will not be able to muster the necessary support for adoption.

But the fact that such radical legislation has been introduced promises that the newly elected 12th Knesset may become a battleground not only of political issues but of basic concepts of law.

At the moment, the legal system seems to be functioning without a double standard.

The police recommended last week that criminal charges be pressed against Rabbi Moshe Levinger of Hebron, one of the most extreme Gush Emunim activists.

He is suspected of shooting to death one Arab and wounding another in downtown Hebron after his car was stoned. The final decision to bring charges against him will be made by the state attorney’s office.

Stoning also was responsible for the incident involving IDF soldiers on Nov. 20.

‘GOT CARRIED AWAY’

A busload of members of an IDF paratroop brigade was passing by the Kalandiya refugee camp, near Jerusalem. A rock smashed a side window, injuring one soldier.

His comrades, just back from a week of active duty in the territories, stormed out of the bus and, in the words of Chief of Staff Shomron, “they got carried away.” They invaded the refugee camp, breaking the windows of at least 20 houses and smashing four cars.

Fourteen soldiers and their senior officer received 14-day jail, but 14 of those days were suspended.

Three other soldiers not directly involved in the vandalism each got a seven-day jail sentence. The platoon commander, a second lieutenant, was jailed for 14 days and relieved of his duties. The company commander was reprimanded.

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