The Case of a Palestinian Accused of Raping a Child Proves the Strength, not the Weakness, of Israeli Democracy

In May, Mahmoud Qatusa, a Palestinian, was arrested on charges of raping a seven-year-old girl who attended the Jewish school where he worked as a janitor. His lawyer compared his case with that of Leo Frank, a Jew from Atlanta who in 1913 was accused of raping a thirteen-year-old Christian. After Frank was convicted and sentenced to death, the governor of Georgia—because of the cloud of anti-Semitism hanging over the case—commuted his sentence to life in prison, only for a mob to break into Frank’s cell and lynch him. The comparison appeals to those fond of bemoaning the imminent death of Israeli democracy. But, writes Evelyn Gordon, the two cases are different in every important way, and Israeli democracy is as healthy as ever:

After [Qatusa’s] indictment hit the headlines on June 17, social media erupted with anti-Arab incitement, including from several politicians who accused him—with zero evidence—of intending the rape as a terror attack. But then, Israeli democracy’s self-correcting mechanisms kicked in. Senior officials from Israel’s independent police and prosecution, who weren’t previously involved in the case, reviewed it and discovered numerous problems. The country’s free press investigated and reported additional problems. On June 25, after top law-enforcement officials concluded the evidence was insufficient, charges were dropped, and Qatusa was freed.

Additionally, while anti-Arab racism undoubtedly exists in Israel, it doesn’t seem to have been a factor in Qatusa’s case. Even the senior legal officials who withdrew the charges remain convinced that a rape occurred and that some evidence points to him, just not enough for criminal conviction. Moreover, he was just one of several Palestinians employed at the girl’s school; many others worked elsewhere in [the Jewish town of Modi’in Ilit]. Relations between [the town and Qatusa’s village, Deir Qaddis] were good, as evidenced both by the Modi’in Ilit residents who publicly protested Qatusa’s arrest and by those who danced at the wedding of Deir Qaddis’s mayor’s son on June 13.

What distinguishes democracies from dictatorships is that democracies have self-correcting mechanisms to address [their] problems. And Qatusa’s case shows that despite a real problem of police incompetence, Israel’s self-correcting mechanisms work; consequently, Leo Frank-style travesties of justice don’t happen. Nor, incidentally, do lynchings.

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Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Israeli democracy, Leo Frank, Palestinians, West Bank


What to Expect from the Israeli Election

Sept. 16 2019

Tomorrow Israelis go to the polls for the second election of 2019, in which the two main contenders will be the Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the centrist Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Neither party is likely to have an easy path to forming the 61-seat Knesset majority needed to form a government, a reality that has affected both parties’ campaigns. Haviv Rettig Gur explains how the anomalous political situation has led to something very different from the contest between left-wing and right-wing “blocs” of parties predicted by most analysts, and examines the various possible outcomes:

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Avigdor Liberman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics