A few days ago, I tweeted: “Either Israel already knows who murdered the Dawabshas and is covering it up or it has made zero effort to find them. One or the other.”That was the day after Riham Dawabsha died of injuries from the horrific firebombing of her family home that killed her son, 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha, in the occupied West Bank village of Duma.
The boy’s father, Saad, died of his injuries in August, leaving Ali’s badly burned 4-year-old brother Ahmed as the sole survivor.
Israel’s conduct turned out to be depressingly predictable.
Haaretz reported today that, according to Israel’s defense minister Moshe Yaalon, “Israel’s defense establishment knows who is responsible for the arson attack that killed three members of a Palestinian family two months ago, but has chosen to prevent legal recourse in order to protect the identity of their sources.”
Yaalon made the remarks in a closed meeting of activists of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party.
The minister later confirmed to Haaretz that the Israeli defense establishment “believes they know who carried out the terrorist attack, but there is difficulty in putting them on trial. I hope that we’ll find the evidence necessary in order to bring the perpetrator [sic] of this heinous attack to justice.”
According to Haaretz, Yaalon “also noted that the perpetrators belong to a group of Jewish extremists that intended to increase tension in the West Bank. Therefore, said Ya’alon, the decision was made to put Jewish suspects in administrative detention, in order to prevent future attacks.”
Witnesses had seen the attackers flee to the nearby Israeli settlement of Maaleh Efraim after the Dawabsha home was set on fire.
Three Jewish settlers, Meir Ettinger, Mordechai Meyer and Eviatar Slonim, have been held without charge since the attack for allegedly plotting and carrying out other violent attacks against Palestinians. But it is unknown if any of them are among the suspects referred to by Yaalon.
Following the attack on the Dawabsha family and intense international condemnation, Netanyahu vowed to find the killers.
But he did not order the army to go on the sort of destructive rampage meted out against Palestinians after the June 2014 abduction and killing of three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank.
Who are they protecting?
Yaalon’s reported excuse, that Israeli authorities had not announced the arrest of the suspects in the Dawabsha murders to “protect the identity of their sources,” makes little sense.
Why would “sources” who had helped apprehend alleged murderers need protection, and from whom? And why couldn’t Israel with its mighty army and all-knowing “security” services provide it?
If the “sources” are from Shin Bet, Israel’s internal spy agency, why could they not testify anonymously as they have frequently done against Palestinians? And even if Israel is worried about their identities being exposed, why is that more important than the lives of Palestinians?
Yaalon’s revelation looks like yet another example of the systematic impunity Israeli soldiers and settlers are granted for attacks on Palestinians.
It would also not be the first time settlers have gotten away with burning Palestinians alive.
The settlers, just like the army, are an extension of the Israeli settler-colonial state that always protects its own and that glorifies the terrorists and ethnic cleansers who established it.