Killer of Palestinian teen praised as “excellent” by Israeli judge

Nadim Siam Nuwara, 17, was shot dead by an Israeli soldier on 15 May 2014. (via Facebook)

A soldier who killed a Palestinian teen has been praised as “excellent” and “conscientious” by an Israeli judge, who sentenced him to a mere nine months in prison.

This conclusion to the trial of Ben Dery for the cold-blooded killing of 17-year-old Nadim Siam Nuwara is another all too predictable episode of how Israel’s military investigation system whitewashes crimes against Palestinians.

“Despite clear and overwhelming video, spatial and sound forensic analysis showing Ben Dery intentionally killed Nuwara, he was charged with a lesser crime and a wilful killing was whitewashed into an accident,” Brad Parker, international advocacy officer for Defense for Children International Palestine, told The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday.

“The lenient sentence announced today is not surprising and illustrates how pervasive and entrenched denial perpetuates impunity even where video evidence shows Israeli forces intentionally killing children.”

Dery, a combatant in Israel’s paramilitary Border Police, was initially charged with manslaughter – already a lesser charge – in the slaying of Nuwara on 15 May 2014 – Nakba Day, when Palestinians commemorate their 1948 expulsion from much of their homeland.

But that charge was reduced even further under a plea agreement to “negligence and causing severe bodily harm.”

“Excellent officer”

Israeli occupation authorities at first denied the use of live ammunition and tried to claim the video evidence was fabricated.

Michael Oren, who had been Israel’s ambassador in Washington and is now a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, even went on CNN to claim that Nuwara and another boy shot dead that day might not really be dead.

But Israeli authorities later indicted Dery with replacing the bullets in a magazine that was intended for rubber-coated bullets and blanks with live ammunition and then using his M-16 rifle to shoot Nuwara in the chest.

In imposing a sentence at the lower end of the guidelines on Wednesday, the Israeli judge described Dery as “an excellent police officer who was conscientious about orders.”

While the slaying of Palestinian children by Israeli occupation forces is a horrifyingly frequent occurrence – Israel has already killed 10 children this year – Nuwara’s case was notable for the amount of evidence available.

This video shows his slaying as captured by security cameras in the occupied West Bank village of Beitunia.

It shows that the boy was shot dead in cold blood, when he presented no possible danger to anyone.

The video also shows the slaying the same day at almost exactly the same spot and in similar circumstances of another boy, 16-year-old Muhammad Abu al-Thahir. He was fatally shot in the back, but no one was ever charged.

Following the killings, the multidisciplinary research group Forensic Architecture conducted a sophisticated analysis of video and other evidence and pinpointed the Israeli soldier who shot and killed Nuwara.

“Israeli justice”

“We are not surprised by the ridiculous sentence. As soon as the plea agreement was signed we knew that this was the direction,” Siam Nuwara, Nadim’s father, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Nuwara contrasted the light sentence received by his son’s killer to the 12-year sentence handed to Ahmad Manasra, who was accused at the age of 13 of attempted murder for allegedly helping his 15-year-old cousin attack a teenager and a man in an Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem in October 2015.

“Meanwhile, Ben Dery who murders – and I am convinced that he intentionally committed murder – gets nine months and in the height of chutzpah I hear that they are considering appealing the severity of the sentence,” Siam Nuwara added.

Nuwara might also have contrasted the nine months received by Dery for taking the life of his child, with the only slightly shorter eight-month sentence meted out to child prisoner Ahed Tamimi for slapping and shoving heavily armed occupation soldiers invading her village.

Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian lawmaker in Israel’s parliament, compared the nine months received by Dery for killing a child with the two-year sentence a Palestinian citizen of Israel recently received for setting fire to a pile of garbage near his home because the local authority had consistently failed to pick it up.

“Israeli justice in 2018,” Tibi commented.

In September 2016, the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq stated that “Since 1987, no Israeli soldier or commander has been convicted of willfully causing the death of a Palestinian in the [occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip].”

Since then there have been two convictions – both in high-profile cases where the slaying was captured on video.

Last year, Israeli army medic Elor Azarya received 18 months for the point blank execution in 2016 of injured, incapacitated Palestinian Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif in Hebron.

That sentence was later reduced by a third.

And now there is the mere nine-month sentence for the killer of Nadim Nuwara.

“My boy was murdered in cold blood and we did the autopsy which was for us as though he was murdered a second time, and all this did not convince the court,” Siam Nuwara told Haaretz. “That’s because in the final analysis we are dealing with an entire system that discriminates on the basis of race and arrives at decisions that are far from just.”

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Israel has no right to kill people who disagree with its apartheid and ethnic cleansing methods so very reminiscent of the white supremacist South Africa government. Israel's immorality is virtually the same and the current right-wing apartheid regime in Israel is doomed to non-existence, we can only hope as quickly as possible.

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I know the Nuwara family personally. I interviewed them in their home soon after their beloved son Nadim was murdered on video by the Israeli Border Police combatant Ben Dery. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done as I cried along with Nadim's parents, brother and sister as they tried to speak about their loss.

Later on I hosted Nadim's father, sister and brother in my home. They came to try to have a respite from the sadness and horror of the aftermath of Nadim's murder and struggle for justice in a system that didn't give a damn about their dead son. I tried to support them in their struggles, while attempting to help Nadim's father understand that no matter how hard he tried, the prosecutor was part of the Israeli system and that justice was going to be difficult if not impossible for the Nuwara family.

The sentence for this crime and the way in which it was handled by the Israeli official from the moment it happened was criminal, deceptive and never about the victim. The family was forced to handle most of the investigation on their own, reporting their findings to the Israeli authorities. Against Muslim tradition they exhumed Nadim's body so an autopsy could be done to prove that he was killed by the use of live ammunition.

Nadim was a wonderful young man who was standing still at a non-violent protest on Nakba Day. Like too man other Palestinians he was used as target practice and shot down without warning or reason. We saw on video the shooter pointing his weapon and watched as Nadim dropped on the ground after being hit by a live bullet, dying on the spot. It was horrific to watch and unspeakable for his loved ones.

The sentence along with encouraging and complimentary words from the judge regarding the shooter are like shooting another bullet in the body of Nadim. There is no consideration for Nadim's family and loved ones in this travesty of justice. They are irrelevant in the Israeli system.

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