Guilty of manslaughter, but no prison time for man who fatally shot Bedouin car thief

Schiff quickly became a symbol for frustrated law-abiding Israelis, whose lives have been disrupted by rampant crime in Negev communities.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A man who fatally shot a car thief was found guilty of manslaughter by an Israeli court on Monday.

Aryeh Schiff, 70, pled guilty to the charge under a plea bargain agreement, which will spare him a prison sentence.

He had faced up to 12 years behind bars for the killing, which occurred in November 2020.

Schiff and his wife were sleeping in their caravan, parked on a quiet street in the southern Israeli city of Arad.

Around midnight, he was awoken by the sound of thieves breaking into his car, which was parked in front of the caravan.

Mohammad Al-Atrash and two accomplices, all from the nearby Bedouin community of Mulada, had smashed the driver’s side window of Schiff’s car in order to open the door.

Schiff, a longtime volunteer with the Israeli Police and a licensed handgun owner, stepped out of the caravan with his weapon drawn and repeatedly yelled at the two men to stop what they were doing.

Al-Atrash, in the driver’s seat, did not comply with Schiff’s warning and drove away.

Schiff fired at the vehicle. Al-Atrash was struck in the head by one bullet and died instantly.

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Ynet reported that Al-Atrash had an extensive criminal history, having been convicted of charges ranging from burglary and theft to violently assaulting his wife.

In 2012, he served time in prison for various property crimes. He was incarcerated again in 2017 for threatening to kill his wife.

Immediately after the shooting, Schiff called the police and emergency services. He was later arrested and charged with reckless homicide, which is equivalent to manslaughter.

Schiff quickly became a symbol for frustrated law-abiding Israelis, whose lives have been disrupted by rampant crime in Negev communities.

‘Losing control of the Negev’

Both Jewish and Bedouin citizens say they feel abandoned by the state, as car thefts, home invasion robberies, and even murder have become commonplace.

Schiff received significant support from the Israeli public, and even senior government officials advocated for him to be treated with leniency.

In March 2021, then-Interior Security Minister Amir Ohana visited Schiff at his home. He called for the prosecution to drop the charges against Shiff, calling him an “exemplary citizen.”

“I do not see what is happening now as a problem [that belongs] only to the Negev, but a problem for the whole country,” Schiff told Hebrew language media in March 2021.

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“A country in which a citizen has no right to self-defense, no right to protect his family and property, is actually taking away the rights for any of these things [to exist.]”

“This is an absurd instance in which the victim has been turned into the perpetrator,” the Negev Rescue Committee that is accompanied by Zionist NGO Im Tirtzu said.

“The State of Israel is gradually losing control of the Negev and is providing a silver platter to criminals terrorizing law-abiding residents of the south. Honest people like Aryeh Schiff have become the punching bag of criminals and a weak legal system.”

Ben Schiff, the man’s son, told reporters at the Be’er Sheva District Court that the family was satisfied with the outcome of the case.

“We have reached an agreement that removes imprisonment from the equation,” he said. “We are happy that it is behind us.”