Editorial: A punishment that doesn’t fit the crime

Central government must be dynamically involved in helping reconquer dangerous areas of Tel Aviv, Eilat and Arad.

By
September 25, 2010 21:28
3 minute read.
SOUTH TEL AVIV is absorbing African asylum-seekers to a degree that is simply inconceivable to more

Asylum seekers south Tel Aviv 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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The Tel Aviv District Court last week sentenced 29-year-old Eritrean illegal Ya’acub Bashir al- Fadel to eight years behind bars for killing 68- year-old Tel Avivian Esther Galili last February and for attacks on three other passersby whom he had encountered earlier that same evening while on a drunken rampage.

Fadel’s earlier victims were lucky. They escaped alive, if battered and bruised. Galili, struck on the head, did not.

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The leniency of the sentence was explained by the fact that Fadel is alone in this country, isn’t known to have a prior criminal record and expressed regret.

Surveillance cameras showed him assaulting Galili, then leaning over the body. He claimed he tried to help her. Galili’s family says he emptied her purse.

Fadel crossed into Israel illegally from Egypt. Nobody knows precisely who he is and what his past was, criminal or otherwise. Nonetheless, Fadel was described in much of the media as a “Sudanese refugee.”

This combination of adjectives is apparently geared to arouse sympathy, even if undeserved, and justify a derisory sentence that constitutes a travesty of justice.

Such subliminal sympathy perhaps accounts for the lethargy with which the prosecution handled this case and its pronounced reluctance to appeal the sentence, despite the public shock and outcry.

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Diminished capacity due to inebriation isn’t and shouldn’t be considered a mitigating circumstance. We expect all individuals to maintain control of their faculties.

If they surrender such control voluntarily, they must bear the full responsibility for their intoxication.

An eight-year sentence – which, with a third-off, could mean that Fadel might be back on our streets in little over five years – constitutes an inadequate deterrent for others tempted to surrender self-control and go on lethal binges. It should not be necessary to stress that Galili, a respectable veteran Tel Avivian, shouldn’t have paid for Fadel’s bender with her life.

A higher, more proportionate price must be exacted for homicide, particularly because too many of our cityscapes are being expropriated from law-abiding citizens. The Neveh Sha’anan section of Tel Aviv, where Galili was murdered, is a case in point.

Much of this quarter has been all but ripped out of the city and commandeered. It has become a near-lawless ex-territorial entity where few Israelis dare to tread.

Neveh Sha’anan, where the erstwhile central bus terminal once dominated, incongruously means “placid oasis.” Today it is alien, squalid and foul. This is Tel Aviv’s seamy dark underside – the city’s worst crime hotbed, incomparable to anything known elsewhere in the greater metropolitan area. Many scores of robberies and violent rapes were reported there in the past year alone. Numerous others probably went unreported.

Galili, slain on Rehov Hagra, around the corner from the home she had inhabited for decades, was the last Israeli on her street. All the others had fled in panic; even illegals resident there fear for their lives.

Ironically, on the very day in which Fadel’s sentence – widely decried as preposterous – was handed down, the police belatedly opened a station in the area to restore a modicum of law and order to this anarchic section of old Tel Aviv.

The police keeps warning about the proliferation of particularly aggressive migrant-perpetrated crime around the old bus station. It repeatedly urges that the scourge be “thoroughly tackled” once and for all because it’s fast spiraling out of control.

But in all fairness, the process of wresting the heart of yesteryear’s Tel Aviv back from the rampant felonies and seedy sordidness that have taken it over should not be left exclusively to the local constabulary.

Central government must be dynamically involved in helping reconquer these dangerous areas of Tel Aviv – and similar neighborhoods in Eilat and Arad – from those, notably including sub-Saharan illegals, who are abusively dominating them.

But the judiciary’s role here is indispensable too.

And inordinately light punishment, unbefitting brutal crime, as in the case of Ya’acub Bashir al-Fadel, will make things worse – not better. We can only hope that the prosecution will appeal the outrageously inappropriate sentence handed down in this case – for its own sake, and for the critical wider deterrent value.

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