Amid what the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs has described as a “frenetic Israeli campaign” against Palestinian authorities’ payment of allowances to Palestinian prisoners in Israel and their families, the committee published a list on Monday of Israelis convicted of murdering Palestinians and anti-Palestinian extremist organizations, who have received financial and legal support from the state of Israel, reported Ma’an News.
Committee head Issa Qaraqe has accused the Israeli government of “supporting Jewish terrorists and their extremist organizations both financially, socially, and legally through organizations authorized by the Israeli government,” calling Israel “the biggest funder of official terrorism in the Middle East.”
A large number of the criminals mentioned on the list were convicted and received life sentences, “but only served only five to seven years in Israeli jails,” according to the committee. Additionally, the Israelis used “deceitful methods” to bypass law and pardon certain criminals, some of them before ever entering a prison cell, the statement added.
Rights groups have meanwhile documented the discriminatory and racist manner in which the Israel Prison Service (IPS) classifies its prisoners, specifically “to violate the rights of Palestinian prisoners defined as ‘security’ prisoners, while at the same time providing benefits to Jewish prisoners also defined as ‘security’ prisoners,” as legal NGO Adalah put it.
The Jewish Underground movement
The first item on the committee’s list was the Jewish Underground, a right-wing terror organization that carried out and plotted a string of attacks in the 1980s, with some of its members being decorated officers in the Israeli army and widely respected in the Israeli settler community.
Members of the group were convicted in 1985 of committing of a number of attacks — marking the first time a group of Israeli Jews were convicted of being part of a terrorist organization.
Among the Jewish Underground’s crimes were car bombings targeting Palestinian mayors: Nablus Mayor Bassam al-Shakaa lost both of his legs, Ramallah Mayor Karim Khalaf lost a foot, and al-Bireh Mayor Ibrahim al-Tawil was saved when the device planted in his car was discovered.
The defendants also plotted to blow up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, attempted to murder three Palestinian college students in Hebron, and booby-trapped Palestinian buses with bombs.
Menachem Livni, Shaul Nir, and Uziah Sharabaf received life sentences defined as lasting 24 years, while the others received terms of imprisonment ranging from three to nine years. Twenty members were released after less than two years, and none served more than five years. The three life sentences were commuted three times, finally to 10 years. With time off for good behavior, they were released in 1990.
The committee’s statement said that all have received monthly benefits, by order of Israeli law, from the Israeli Social Affairs Ministry and from Israeli National Insurance.
Three of the members of the group currently work at Israeli prime minister’s office. Nathan Nathanson, convicted of involvement in the car bombings against the Palestinian mayors, has since been employed as a political adviser for Israeli Education Minister and chairman of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett.
One of the three original founders of the cell, Yehuda Etzion, is the founder and current chairman of the right-wing Jewish group Hai Vekayam, dedicated to allowing Jewish prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
A number of others have since become heads of settlement councils, according to the committee’s statement.
Dani Eizman, Michal Hillel, and Gil Fox
The second group of “Jewish terrorists,” according to the prisoners’ affairs committee, consisted of Dani Eisman, Gil Fox, and Michal Hillel, who were convicted for the 1985 kidnapping and murder of taxi driver Khamis Tutanji, a Palestinian resident of Israel. They were each sentenced to life in prison, but released after serving between five and seven years.
The three also received the usual benefits from the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs and Israeli National Insurance while in prison.
The case was cited in a report, which indicated that unlike Jewish prisoners who are citizens of Israel and perpetrated acts against Arabs or Palestinians based on ideological motives, Palestinian prisoners who are citizens of Israel have yet to receive any real commutation of their sentence or early release.
David Ben-Shimol fired an anti-tank missile at a Palestinian bus in 1985, killing one person and injuring dozens. He was sentenced to life, serving only 11 years of his sentence. He also received benefits while in prison, according to the statement.
After Ami Popper massacred seven Palestinians in 1990, he was found guilty of seven counts of murder and initially handed seven life sentences, before seeing his sentence commuted to 40 years.
He has reportedly been granted furlough more than 100 times in the 18 years since his conviction, marrying three times while in prison custody. He fathered six children while in custody, according to the prisoners’ committee.
The statement said in addition to the usual social benefits, his family has been the recipient of financial support from far-right Israeli NGO Honenu, which is reportedly indirectly funded from tax deductible US donations.
Zeev Wolf and Gershon Hershkovich
Zeev Wolf and Gershon Hershkovich were convicted of hurling a hand grenade at a market in Jerusalem in November 1992, killing one Palestinian and injuring 20 others, according to the statement which didn’t provide further details on the attack. They were released after serving six years and a half in prison, and received social benefits while in prison.
Israeli settler Yoram Shkolnik shot and killed Moussa Suleiman Abu Abha multiple times at close range while the Palestinian was blindfolded, bound hand and foot, and guarded by Israeli soldiers after allegedly attempting to detonate a hand grenade in 1993. Shkolnik’s life sentence was later reduced.
In addition to the allowances Shkolnik received from the Israeli National Insurance and the Social Affairs Ministry, the prisoners’ committee said the Israeli government “gave him a grant to start a project of his own,” without providing additional details.
According to the committee, Nachshon Wales was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Palestinian woman in August 1990 while she was tending her olive grove. His sentence was twice commuted, and he was released after serving 11 years. He currently works as a security guard in an illegal Israeli settlement, according to the committee.
Bat Ayin Underground
Members of terrorist organization Bat Ayin were convicted of parking a booby-trapped car in the yard of a Palestinian girls school in East Jerusalem in 2002. Some of the defendants remain in custody, receiving social benefits as well as financial support from the right-wing settler organization Elad, according to the committee, as well as from Honenu.
The committee’s statement also mentioned the two Israelis convicted of murder for the 2015 deadly arson attack that killed three members of the Palestinian Dawabsha family in the occupied West Bank.
Amiram Ben-Uliel was charged with three counts of murder, while a minor was charged as an accessory to murder and unnamed by Israeli media due to gag orders on the identities of underage Israeli suspects.
The prisoners’ committee’s statement named Yoram Stenhil to have been found guilty of firebombing and killing the Dawabsha family, though it could not immediately be confirmed if this was referring to the minor convicted in the case alongside Ben-Uliel.
Stenhil, in addition to receiving social benefits from the state, allegedly also is funded by Honenu and received 600,000 shekels ($169,000) in one year, according to the statement.
After being convicted for the 1995 murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Amir was given a life sentence and remains in prison. He has since been married in custody and is allowed to meet with his wife in prison. He receives social benefits and has been receiving “generous donations from extremist right-wing Jewish groups,” including Honenu, the statement said.
Israeli soldier Elor Azarya shot dead Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif in Hebron in March 2016 after the young Palestinian had already been shot and incapacitated by another Israeli soldier for allegedly attempting a knife attack. Azarya was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
The sentence has been appealed by both the prosecution and the defense for being both too lenient and too harsh.
According to the prisoners’ committee, Azarya has continued to receive his salary from the Israeli army, while his father founded a charitable organization and named it after him. The organization has so far received more than 8 million shekels ($2.25 million) in donations, according to the committee.
Bus 300 Affair
Ehud Yatom, a former member of Israeli Knesset and former deputy chief of Israeli general intelligence, was among members of the Shin Bet involved in the Bus 300 Affair of 1984 in which Shin Bet members executed two Palestinian bus hijackers.
Yatom expressed pride over “smashing their skulls” with rocks after capturing them alive.
Yatom, Shimon Malka, and Yosi Genswar were convicted but did not go to jail due to a full presidential pardons.
The committee’s statement also listed the aforementioned Honenu organization for offering financial and legal support to extremist Israelis who have been convicted or are on trial for terror attacks against Palestinians. The group, which raises funds in the US, also receives approximately 6 million shekels ($1.69 million ) from the Israeli government every year, according to the committee.
Dr. Goldstein organization
Dr. Goldstein organization, named after the US-born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein who massacred 29 Palestinians inside Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, “attempts to perpetuate the terrorist Goldstein as a national hero,” the committee said, adding that the group receives direct and indirect financial support from the Israeli government.
Rehavam Zeevi organization
The prisoners’ committee also identified the Rehavam Zeevi organization as an example of Israeli state-sponsored anti-Palestinian extremism. The organization was named after the right-wing Israeli politician who was assassinated by Palestinian gunmen affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Zeevi was known for establishing the extremist Moledet (Homeland) party that advocates for the population transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to neighboring Arab countries.
According to the committee, the group receives direct support from the Israeli government.