Is the Duma indictment credible?

Tuvia Brodie,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Tuvia Brodie
Tuvia Brodie has a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh under the name Philip Brodie. He has worked for the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College and American Express. He and his wife made aliyah in 2010. All of his children have followed. He believes in Israel's right to exist. He believes that the words of Tanach (the Jewish Bible) are meant for us. His blog address is He usually publishes 3-4 times a week on his blog and 1-3 times at Arutz Sheva. Please check the blog regularly for new posts.

On January 3, 2016, Israel’s Ministry of Justice issued indictments against two Jews in connection with an arson attack in the Israeli-Arab village of Duma on July 31, 2015. Three Arabs were murdered in that arson.

Those identified in the indictment were Amiram Ben-Uliel, 21, and a minor, 17, whose name will not be published because he’s underage (“Ministry of Justice: Indictments for Murder of the Dawabshe Family in Duma”,, January 3, 2016). The indictment charges Ben-Uliel with three acts of murder as well as attempted murder, arson, and criminal conspiracy with racist motives (ibid). 

The minor is charged with criminal conspiracy (regarding Duma) and other offenses with racist motives. Presumably, part of the ‘other offenses’ includes an arson attack against a church called Dormition Abbey (ibid) that had occurred on May 26, 2014.

Both are charged with belonging to an unnamed “terrorist organization” (ibid). This ‘terrorist organization’ appears, from the indictment, to be a group called, ‘hilltop youth’, or an offshoot of ‘hilltop youth’. The indictment wasn’t clear.

There are problems with this indictment. One problem is that the indictment identifies Ben-Uliel as the sole perpetrator of this attack. This is a problem because all eyewitnesses said there had been more than one perpetrator—and an IDF spokesman had said (immediately following the attack) that two individuals were perpetrators, not one (Uri Kirshenbaum, “The questions surrounding the Duma indictment”, HakolHayehudi, January 3, 2016). He also said these two individuals had their faces covered [emphasis mine](ibid).

You’ll see in a moment why ‘faces covered’ is a problem.

Another problem is the language of the State’s formal indictment. The indictment narrative doesn’t sound credible.  

Here’s the narrative: Ben-Uliel went to Duma carrying a bag with two bottles filled with a flammable liquid, rags, a lighter, a box of matches, gloves and a can of black spray-paint. He tried to meet up with the minor (above), but failed. So, the indictment narrative continues, he decided to do this act alone.

Alone, Ben-Uliel reached Duma. At Duma, he tied his shirt around his head to hide his face [emphasis mine]. He put the gloves on his hands.

The problem here is that the IDF (above) hadn’t described the perpetrators as hiding their faces. He described them as having their faces covered. In the commission of a crime, there’s a huge difference between hiding and covering. These two words have two very different meanings.

The indictment is not consistent with the IDF description. How problematic is that? You tell me.

Once inside Duma, Ben-Uliel went looking for a target to fire-bomb. The indictment says he looked for a home that was inhabited.

When he found such a home, he’s alleged to have spray-painted the words "Revenge" and "Long live the King Messiah" on the walls. After that, he threw a firebomb through one of the home’s windows.

The indictment suggests that Ben-Uliel realized the burning house was empty. Picture that scene. He’s just set a house on fire in the middle of an Arab village. He’d be in trouble if caught. Would you expect him to stay in the village?  

The indictment says he stayed in the village, despite the reality of the fire he’d just set. According to the indictment narrative, he didn’t just stay. He lingered.

He walked next door to a second house, that of the Dawabshe family, the ultimate victims. He carried a second firebomb “in his hand” (ibid).

He went to a window. His intention was to throw the firebomb into the house (ibid).

Firebomb in hand (according to the indictment), Ben-Uliel discovered that the window wouldn’t open.

Again, picture what the indictment describes. Ben-Uliel is carrying a firebomb in his hand. A fire  burns next door. He can’t get a window open in a second house. He’s in a hostile Arab village.

What does he do? According to the indictment, he walked away from that window to look for another window.

He finds a second window. It, too, won’t open (ibid).

Picture the scene: the fire next door burns. Do smells of something burning fill the air? If yes, he doesn’t care. He continues to linger.

He walks to a third window. This window opens. It was a room in which Dawabshe family members slept.

He still lingered. He took time to light the firebomb. He threw it into the house. The indictment states that this is when he finally fled the village.

That fire killed three Dawabshe family members. It seriously burned a fourth, who is still hospitalized five months later (ibid).

There’s a problem here. The accused spends too much time in the village.

Why is this a problem? It’s a problem because these boys—part of that ‘hilltop youth’ ‘terror organization’—have been repeatedly accused of attacks across Judea-Samaria. But the one distinguishing fact of these attacks is that, while virtually everyone in Israel’s security sector ‘just knew’ these boys committed these attacks, the police couldn’t link the boys to most of them.

This lack of evidence suggests that if these boys were indeed responsible for these attacks, they were very, very careful criminals. They were more than careful. They were elusive. They were stealthy. They moved like ghosts in the night. They never lingered long enough to be captured.

Suddenly, one of these boys decides to change everything. He won’t write graffiti. He won’t firebomb a church or a mosque. He’ll commit murder.

That would indeed be a whole new ballgame for a Jewish terrorist. How will he do that?

Will he continue with his so-called group’s stealth ways? No: as he increases the seriousness of his crime, he will decrease his organization’s commitment to stealth.

That doesn’t make sense.

In fact, his behaviour appears completely unlike anything the police had seen before from these ‘hilltop youth’. ‘Hilltop youth’ will be careful with graffiti—but sloppy with murder?  

Then, there are these questions: 

-What about torture allegations made by the defendant’s attorneys? Were the State’s interrogation techniques torture—or legal procedures?

-Are confessions from those interrogations legal—or illegal?

-Which account of the attack should we believe, eyewitness accounts or the State’s account?

There seems to be many questionable issues coming out of this case. Everything we hear about this case makes the defendant(s) seem forever guiltier, not innocent.  What we hear seems all one-sided.

Is Ben-Uliel innocent? I don’t know. Is the indictment credible?  I don’t know that, either. But I do know that, if Israel is a democracy, Ben-Uliel must be presumed innocent until proved guilty. That hasn’t happened. Why?

So far, this case does not smell legitimate. That odour raises its own question: can the State of Israel give this accused a fair and open trial?

Stay tuned.