Jewish gunman was no terrorist, Israel rules

Four Arab Israelis shot dead by a soldier opposed to the closure of the Gaza Strip settlements are not victims of “terror” because their killer was Jewish, Israel’s defence ministry has ruled, and so their families are not entitled to the usual compensation for life.

The ministry concluded that the law only recognises terrorism as committed by “organisations hostile to Israel” even though the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, described the killings by Private Eden Nathan Zaada, 19, as “a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist.”

He shot dead four people on a bus in the Arab Israeli town of Shfaram on August 4 and was then lynched by a mob.

Arab Israeli leaders have condemned the decision. Mohammed Barakeh, an Arab member of the Israeli parliament who lives in Shfaram, said: “The decision raises a strong scent of racism, which distinguishes between a Jewish terrorist and an Arab terrorist.”

The defence ministry proposes to pay the families of the Shfaram victims an undisclosed lump sum instead of a lifelong monthly amount.

But Mr Barakeh says that denies the dead their recognition as victims of terrorism. He noted that Arabs who had committed individual attacks but were not members of armed organisations had still been branded by the Israeli government as terrorists.

Mr Barakeh has proposed an amendment to the law, recognising anyone harmed by “hostile activities by a terrorist organisation” as a victim of terror and therefore entitled to full compensation.

There was pressure to amend the law in 1990 after a 21-year-old Israeli soldier, Ami Popper, shot dead seven Palestinian workers. But it was not approved by parliament.

Another Israeli who killed Arabs in the run-up to the Gaza pullout was charged with murder yesterday. Asher Weisgan appeared in court in Jerusalem after he was declared mentally fit to stand trial for shooting dead four Palestinians, including two of his own employees, and wounding a fifth near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Shiloh.

An American court has frozen the assets of the Palestinian Authority in the US after it failed to pay compensation to relatives of an American citizen, Yaron Ungar, and his Israeli wife who were shot dead in their car in the West Bank in 1996. Three members of Hamas were jailed for the killings.

The Palestinian envoy in Washington says his office has been paralysed by the order. The PA’s assets in the US are estimated at $1.3bn (720m).
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