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.”
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.
“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.”