Thirteen defendants, including five minors aged 14 to 17, were indicted on charges of incitement to violence and terrorism Wednesday by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for their conduct at a wedding celebration on December 7, 2015.
The revelers were caught on video dancing with guns and attacking photos of the three Palestinian victims of the infamous July 2015 Duma terrorist arson attack.
The indictments, in what became known as the “Hate Wedding Affair,” were filed by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office after approval by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and head State Attorney Shai Nitzan. Among the accused is the groom, Yakir Eshbal, from Yad Binyamin.
The minute-long footage of the celebration, broadcast by Channel 10 last year, horrified the public and Israeli politicians across the spectrum. It showed young men wearing white skullcaps dancing while waving knives and guns.
A variety of politicians criticized the display at the time, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said: “Israel is a land of the rule of law. We will not tolerate a situation where a particular group refuses to accept the laws of the state and carries out acts of murder.”
Following the announcement of the indictment, MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) called for what took place at the wedding to be “unequivocally condemned, and the way to do this is clearly by prosecuting those responsible to the full extent of the law. Whoever can wave knives and stab photos of a baby is not a Jew, not Israeli and not a Zionist, and he does not belong with us.”
However, after all of the condemnation, a criminal indictment for incitement was never a foregone conclusion, and had required Mandelblit’s approval. In fact, Honenu, which defends right-wing activists in court, issued a statement condemning the indictment as showing a double standard against right-wing Jews as opposed to Israeli Arabs.
The statement said that Israeli Arabs frequently fire into the air and display guns at weddings and other communal gatherings and frequently engage in incitement without consequence.
Asked how it compared Israeli Arabs shooting into the air with no specific anti-Jewish message to the actions of the defendants, Honenu did not address the issue.
Jerusalem District Attorney Yifat Pinhasi, who filed the case along with prosecutor Erez Pedan, released an unusual public statement regarding the indictment, calling the incident “a grave incident of incitement to violence and terrorism.” She said that “the actions absolutely crossed the line from being legitimate free expression into the area of criminal incitement offenses.”
Pressed on how the defendants’ actions, however condemned, could be incitement when they occurred at a private event, a Justice Ministry spokeswoman responded that some 500 wedding guests removed the event from being considered private. The indictment accuses Eshbal of being in control of the incitement that occurred in the presence of a such a large audience.
A statement by the ministry noted that, shortly before the wedding, investigators had arrested several suspects in the Duma terrorist attack, possibly making the display of hostility toward photos of the Dawabsha family a related response to the arrests.
The indictment also stated that, shortly before the wedding, some of the defendants distributed photos of Saad, Riham and 18-monthold Ali Dawabsha, along with the message: “Revenge.”
The photos were attached to cartons and boards so they could be waved as banners at the reception.
During the wedding ceremony, defendant and wedding singer Sinai Tor of Ramat Hasharon sang the song “Let us rebuild the Temple,” but added the words “that the Mosque should burn” as well as “that the Mosque should be blown up.”
During the song, defendant Daniel Moshe Piner of Kfar Tapuah joined the dancing wearing a shirt bearing the message “There are no Arabs, there are no attacks” while waving a yellow shirt on which was stenciled the symbol of the outlawed Kach movement.
Next, Tor started singing songs about vengeance against God’s enemies, changing biblical references to the Philistines to Palestine, and several defendants along with dozens of other attendees, including minors, started dancing while waving pictures of the Dawabsha family and brandishing two M-4 rifles, one M-16 rifle, pistols, fake firebombs, and knives. One of the M-4 rifles belonged to IDF soldier Menachem Cohen.
Some of the celebrants danced with their faces covered with skimasks and some of them repeatedly stabbed, burned and tore the photos of the Dawabsha family with knives, fire and their bare hands.
The indictment said that these actions were not only consistent with encouraging and supporting incitement to violent racist and terrorist actions, but there was a “concrete possibility that they would lead to violent and terrorist actions” against Arabs.
One 15-year-old defendant was separately indicted for property damage with racist motivations in which he and others raided and destroyed private property belonging to Palestinians in June.Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post staff and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.