Israeli sentenced to 9 months community service for killing Arab

Aryeh Schiff was convicted of manslaughter for killing Mohammad al-Atrash in what he claimed was self-defense, but the court rejected these claims.

A gavel in a court of law (photo credit: REUTERS)
A gavel in a court of law
(photo credit: REUTERS)

The Beersheba District Court on Tuesday sentenced Israeli Arye Schiff to nine months of community service for shooting and killing an Israeli-Arab that broke into his car last November, Walla reported.

Schiff was sentenced in a plea bargain over his role in killing Mohammad al-Atrash, who the defendant claimed had been trying to steal his car and that he therefore acted in self-defense. The plea bargain and sentencing follow his conviction in July, where the court rejected his claims of self-defense. In fact, the prosecution said security-camera footage of the incident showed that Schiff was in no danger and was not even in his car when the car thieves arrived.

The prosecution had originally sought a sentence of 4-6 years in prison, but the plea deal averted that, Walla reported.

Dozens had come out to the courtroom to support Schiff, including Religious Zionist MK Itamar Ben-Gvir. 

"Aryeh Schiff should receive a medal, not be prosecuted – and certainly not receive a sentence of community service or prison," Ben-Gvir said in response to the verdict.

Itamar Ben-Gvir head of the Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”) Party attends preparations for the new Knesset on April 5.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Itamar Ben-Gvir head of the Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”) Party attends preparations for the new Knesset on April 5. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

"The ruling sends a message to the residents of the South that they must not defend themselves, or else they will face charges and imprisonment. The huge gap between the sentence and the long prison sentence the prosecution demanded shows the racist treatment shown to Jews forced to defend themselves."

Also coming out against the verdict – saying that it was too lenient – was Meretz MK Mossi Raz.

"The sentence given to Aryeh Schiff is an embarrassment," Raz said in a statement. 

"It's important for everyone to feel safe in their own homes, but we must never allow it to become normalized that citizens can take the lives of others into their hands. I can't help but think that if Schiff was an Arab, his punishment would have been far more severe."

But others welcomed the verdict.

"After many long months of public struggle, we are glad public pressure succedded," the right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu said in a statement.

"There was no need at all to convict Aryeh, but at least the judge understands well that a very clear message must be conveyed that a citizen is allowed to defend himself against criminals. It will take a long time to restore the Negev's security, but at least Aryeh Schiff can have his life back."

Clashes soon erupted outside the courtroom between Schiff's supporters and local Bedouin residents, notably when Ben-Gvir arrived. As the MK came to the court, the Bedouin residents began shouting at him, calling him a racist. 

Ben-Gvir replied that "We came to support and say that Aryeh Schiff is the hero of Israel, and it is time to bring order to the South," adding that, "if the Police had been a deterrent in the South, Schiff would not have had to shoot the burglar."

Other members of the Israeli Right have voiced their support of Schiff in the past.

“The indictment against you should not have been filed, and having been filed, it should be withdrawn,” then-public security minister Amir Ohana told Schiff in March.

“As usual, and despite conventional thinking, the problem is not the law or the wording of the law," he said. "The problem is those interpreting the law. They are giving the law a restrictive interpretation until it is effectively negated," which is generally how the issue of self-defense is treated. "They give themselves the power to fill up or empty the substance of a law.”

Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.