TEL AVIV // A Jerusalem court yesterday convicted two Israeli policemen of negligent homicide after they left a injured Palestinian man on the side of a West Bank road to die, in a case that rights activists said reflected Israelis' increasingly hostile approach towards Palestinians.
The officers, Assaf Yakutiely and Baruch Peretz, were found guilty of dumping Omar Abu Jariban, a Palestinian from Gaza who was barefoot and wearing only a hospital gown at the time, on the roadside on June 12, 2008, according to court documents. He was found dead from dehydration two days later.
In his decision, the judge, Haim Liran, said that a "black flag" hangs over the act of the two policemen. He criticised their defence arguments as "embarrassing" and added: "Any person with eyes on his head and compassion in his heart would not take the decision that they had taken."
The sentencing will take place at a later date, although the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the two policemen could face imprisonment of up to three years.
Human-rights activists said the case reflected the antagonism that many Israeli Jews feel towards the Palestinians, especially those from the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Islamic group Hamas. Israel views Hamas as an enemy.
"This case is indicative of the long-time hostility towards the Palestinians," said Hadas Ziv, the director of public outreach at Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, a group based in Tel Aviv providing medical services to Palestinians in the West Bank.
"There is a growing hate discourse and you will find more and more individuals willing to turn a blind eye to them and view them as transparent."
Ms Ziv added that this type of widespread hostility "is indicative of the dangers we are facing in our approach towards the Palestinians". She said: "This is what enables Israel to throw bombs at civilians, occupy land for generations and take lands that are not ours."
The case of Abu Jariban drew media attention in Israel in June 2008, when he was found by a pedestrian on the side of a road, without food or water and clad only in a thin hospital gown that he had been given at the Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv.
The 35-year-old Palestinian had, according to court documents, illegally crossed into Israel from Gaza just days earlier and, together with a friend from the West Bank city of Ramallah, stole a car. Mr Abu Jariban was injured after the stolen car that he drove crashed into another vehicle in Israel and he was taken to a hospital some 10 kilometres from Tel Aviv.
His treatment at the hospital had also drawn criticism by human- rights groups, which accused Tel Hashomer doctors of releasing him too early and in an unfit state of health.
He was diagnosed by doctors with a haemorrhage in his brain, a fractured pelvis, a torn aorta and a broken collarbone. But he was released from the hospital just days later despite a nurse writing on his discharge form that he was partly disoriented and incommunicative, unstable when walking and in need of help when eating and drinking.
Police officials at an Israeli station violated police guidelines by opting to transport Mr Abu Jariban to the West Bank because there was no room left for him at an Israeli prison infirmary, thereafter throwing him out on the roadside between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
In the ruling, the judge wrote that "it was not possible that they did not see, as would any reasonable person, that he was unable to walk unassisted or to aid himself in any way".
Israeli media had quoted medical officials and police as trading accusations over who was to blame for Mr Abu Jariban's release from the hospital.
Police denied doctors' claims that they had recommended the patient receive further treatment at a prison clinic.