Settler kidnaps, tortures Palestinian kid, gets 18 months

The courts convicted Zvi Strock of kidnapping with intent to harm, assault, and killing of a lamb. He got 18 months

Two days ago, the Jerusalem District Court passed sentence (Hebrew) on Zvi Strock. The latter, the son of Urit Strock of the oh-so-ironically named “Human Rights in YESHA *” organization, was convicted on 14th November 2010 by Judge Amnon Cohen of the kidnapping and assault of F (name redacted since he was a minor at the time), a Palestinian shepherd.

The incident took place in 2007; F was 15 at the time; Strock is a settler from the outpost of Esh Kodesh (Holy Fire), which is near the village of Kusra, when F resides. Kusra is surrounded by outposts and settlements, Esh Kodesh being one of the worst. Incidents of assaults by settlers are common, and the Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights organization (which takes testimonies from Palestinians who were attacked or suffered injustice, and tries to present them in court) has received testimonies that that at least once, settlers have set sheep on fire.

According to the verdict, Strock (with another settler, who was not identified), rode a quad bike towards F while he was tending to his flock, along with other shepherds. The second man fired an M-16 into the air, and then attack F physically, striking him with the gun and hands. Strock joined the assault. The two ripped F’s cloths, put him on their quad, and drove off while beating him incessantly. At some point, F passed out. When he woke up, he was wet; he thought the liquid was fuel. He heard Israeli voices speaking in Arabic: “Do I shoot him?”, and heard a negative reply. Later, while blindfolded, he was beaten by other men, who later put him back on the quad, stripped him of what remained of his cloths, and abandoned him.

This was not the first time Strock and F roads crossed. About two months before the incident described above, Strock arrived at the Kusra grazing grounds on a quad with another man (who was also unidentified), walked up to F, screamed this was his (Strock’s) land, and began physically assaulting him and his friends. As a finishing touch, Strock kicked a newly-born sheep kid to death. The court convicted Strock of all charges.

The main article of which Strock was convicted was article 374 of the penal code, “kidnapping for the purposes of grievous bodily harm”: “Anyone kidnapping a person so that he be subject to a grievous assault, and anyone kidnapping a person knowing the person will be so disposed of, are to be sentenced for twenty years”. Even though the assault was Strock’s second one – of F, at any rate; there may well have been others, unreported – and therefore it could not be argued this was his first offense, or an isolated incident; and even though Judge Cohen took care to say he was “deeply shocked and disgusted” when he viewed the photos of F’s wounds, his disgust did not move him to sentence Strock severely: He sentenced him to 18 months of imprisonment (which can be reduced by a third for good behavior), two years of suspended sentence, and a fine of 50,000 NIS (about 14,185 USD).

Now, it may be that Cohen is an exceedingly lenient judge; Unless there are two judges named Amnon Cohen in the same court, he’s the judge who sent the ultra-Orthodox terrorist Michael Naki – who tried to attack the Jerusalem Pride Parade with an IED – to six months of community service (Hebrew). Nevertheless, this is a somewhat extreme verdict. Let’s imagine the opposite scenario: Cohen had to sentence a Palestinian who kidnapped and assaulted – twice! – a 15 years old Jewish settler, and killed one of his sheep for good measure. Let’s just say it wouldn’t be 18 months, but rather something nearer 18 years. Without parole for good behavior.

In his verdict, Cohen notes that Strock’s lawyer cited “a list of sentences, which according to him imposed lighter sentences on more or less similar offenses”. In fact, Strock could say he suffered injustice: If other settlers, like Nahum Korman (who killed Palestinian child Hilmi Shusha) and Pinchas Wallerstein (who killed killed Palestinian child Rabbah Rhanem Ahmed) managed to get away with community service, he is paying an unusually heavy price for kidnapping and assault.

It’s just a Palestinian kid. What’s all the noise about?

* YESHA (Yehuda, Shomron ve’Aza; Judea, Samaria and Gaza) is what the settlers call the occupied territories, a terminology which slowly seeped into military use).

And one more thing: Bashar Assad, his throne twisting in the wind, is desperately promising to end emergency rule in his country, trying to placate the rebels. The same demand motivated the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Israel is under emergency rule for some 63 years now, and very few people seem to mind.