Outcry as Israeli Killer Avoids Jail Term

ByABC News
January 22, 2001, 12:44 PM

J E R U S A L E M, Jan. 22 -- What price the life of an Arab child?

That was the question human rights activists, legal experts and one of Israel's main newspapers asked today after a plea bargain deal under which a Jewish settler convicted of beating a 10-year-old boy to death will not go to prison.

"The life of an Arab child equals six months of community service," read a headline in the Maariv daily, summing up the punishment meted out to Jewish settler Nahum Kurman, 36, on Sunday by a Jerusalem District Court judge.

"Arab blood is cheap," read a sign carried in a protest march by several dozen black-robed Arab lawyers outside the court building in Jerusalem.

In the daily dance of violence in which Israeli settlers and Palestinians have been entangled for years, the death of Hilmi Shousha in 1996 was, Kurman said, just a misstep.

Prosecutors told another story. They charged that Kurman, security chief of the West Bank settlement of Hadar Beitar, had hit and kicked the boy after driving into a Palestinian village looking for youngsters who had stoned an Israeli car.

"As a result of the kick, the deceased fell and while he was lying on his back, the accused put his foot on his neck and hit him in the head with a pistol butt," the manslaughter indictment said.

Kurman contended that he had run towards Hilmi and the boy had tripped and fallen unconscious.

"I tried to resuscitate him and called an ambulance My greatest pain, of course, is that the boy died," he said in a newspaper interview days after Hilmi's death.

The boy died long before the upsurge of Israeli-Palestinian violence in which 310 Palestinians, 45 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have been killed since late September.

Acquittal and Reversal

Last August, the Jerusalem District Court acquitted Kurman, saying there was "no logical explanation why the accused would have committed such a barbarous act."

Two months ago, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling and sent the case back to the district court for sentencing a plea bargain agreed by the prosecution and defense, and approved by the judge.