Palestinian who converted to Judaism mistakenly killed by IDF soldiers – Crime in Israel

The IDF on Thursday ordered a criminal probe into IDF soldiers who mistakenly killed a Palestinian convert to Judaism near Elazar in the Etzion bloc.

The 63-year-old victim, who the soldiers suspected of being a security risk, was known as David Ben Avraham by Jews who knew him, with his original name being  Saamach Zeitoun, reportedly underwent a conversion by rabbis in Bnai Brak and had been arrested, beaten and abused by the Palestinian Authority for his conversion.

According to an IDF statement, the soldiers shot Zeitoun when his conduct raised suspicions.

However, reports indicated that he did nothing suspicious in particular and that they became suspicious simply from the fact that he got off the bus in a location near where Jews lived and where Palestinians did not typically get off.

They then reportedly checked his belongings and found a kitchen knife in his bag, after which they shot him.

No indications of an attempted attack 

Yet, so far, there were no indications that he attempted to attack them or that he was even holding the knife since they had seized the knife and his bag. Some reports said that after they took the knife out of his bag, he dropped his hands down from being raised, but not that he took any aggressive action.

The soldiers will doubtlessly present a different narrative. Still, the initial reports could hold them criminally liable both for performing an unwarranted search and for shooting an elderly man who objectively did not present an immediate danger.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a suspected terror attack near Elazar, in Gush Etzion, in the West Bank, on March 21, 2024. (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)

Even if Ben Avraham had been a terrorist, the law does not permit using lethal force where a mere arrest would be easily possible.

Now that Ben Avraham is dead, he cannot be asked why he had a kitchen knife in his bag, but having a knife in a bag for self-defense is not necessarily a crime and is certainly not a capital crime.

The incident joins a series of incidents of wrongful mistaken killings of both Jewish-Israelis and Arab-Israelis, which have taken place since October 7 in which, to date, the prosecution and courts have been extremely lenient on the killers. 

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