A man looks out of a house badly damaged by a firebomb attack by suspected Jewish extremists in the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank, July 31, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Over the last few weeks, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court has issued several key rulings in the so-called “Hate Wedding Affair.”
The rulings could have a decisive impact on the case leading into next week’s trial, which is scheduled to start on November 11.
The most important ruling was Judge Eitan Cohen’s decision that the prosecution must provide 17 case files to the defendants in which the state did not press charges against Arabs for actions which the defendants say were identical to their actions.
Will these 17 case files show that the prosecution has been tougher against the Jews in the Hate Wedding Affair than it has been on Arabs? If they do, should that get the accused Jews off the hook?
Cohen hinted if there was a tougher line taken against Jews that could be grounds for dismissing the charges even if the defendants were guilty.
In October 2016, 13 defendants, including five minors ages 14-17, were indicted on charges of incitement to violence and terrorism for their conduct at a wedding celebration on December 7, 2015. The five minors were later dropped from the case, but the cases against the eight adults have been ongoing and filled with controversy.
The revelers were caught on video dancing with guns and attacking photos of the three Palestinian victims of the infamous July 2015 Duma Jewish 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 was 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.
Some of the celebrants danced with their faces covered with ski masks and some repeatedly stabbed, burned and tore the photos of the Dawabsha family with knives, fire and their bare hands.
From the get-go, Honenu lawyers representing the defendants 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.
Jerusalem District Attorney Yifat Pinhasi, who filed the case along with prosecutor Erez Pedan, released an unusual public statement in October 2016 regarding the indictment, calling the incident “a grave incident of incitement to violence and terrorism.” She said, “The actions absolutely crossed the line from being legitimate free expression into the area of criminal incitement offenses.”
Part of the debate at trial will be whether the closed cases against Arabs were specific enough regarding incitement against Jews, or whether there was just firing of guns generally.
Another issue will be that the indictment against the Hate Wedding Affair defendants alleges they were responding specifically to the Duma incident and were extremely detailed in their incitement, in a way that differentiated their actions from general hate speech.
The defendants also have against them that the court denied their motion to toss some of the charges which are partially based on classified evidence in the trial against the alleged Duma murderers.
Instead, the court endorsed the prosecution’s view that those aspects of the Duma attack which related to the charges in the Hate Wedding Affair were publicly known from a deluge of media reports, and did not require revealing classified information.
In addition, while the defense found that the prosecution has lost one of the originals of the videos of the wedding, the prosecution appears to have gotten the court to move past this.
It has said that it still retains many original videos and that it has a full copy with chain of custody proven regarding the one missing original.
All of this means that while the defendants have succeeded in embarrassing the prosecution to have to reveal the 17 cases it closed against Arabs, the charges against them will still be very much in play on November 11.
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