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In Israel, capital punishment is illegal in almost all circumstances. Israel inherited the British Mandate of Palestine code of law, which included death penalty for several offenses, but in 1954 Israel abolished this penalty with the exceptions of conviction for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and treason in wartime [1]. Only one person has been civilly executed in the history of the State of Israel - Adolf Eichmann, who was hanged in 1962 after he was convicted in 1961 of participation in Nazi war crimes relating to the Holocaust. The only other execution to take place in Israel was that of Meir Tobianski, an Israeli soldier in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war who was falsely accused of treason and executed by firing squad after being court martialed and found guilty. Others have been sentenced to death but won appeals to overturn the sentence.

It is generally accepted that one of the reasons for Israel's rare use of the death penalty is Jewish religious law. Biblical law explicitly mandates the death penalty for 36 offenses, from murder and adultery to idolatry and desecration of the Sabbath. Still, Jewish scholars since the beginning of the common era have developed such restrictive rules to prevent execution of the innocent that the death penalty has become de facto illegal. Most modern Jewish religious leaders and scholars believe that the death penalty should remain unused.

"It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death."[2] Moses Maimonides argued that executing a defendant on anything less than absolute certainty would lead to a slippery slope of decreasing burdens of proof, until we would be convicting merely "according to the judge's caprice." His concern was maintaining popular respect for law, and he saw errors of commission as much more threatening than errors of omission.[3]


Executed people

Executed person Date of execution Crime(s) Under President
1 Meir Tobianski June 30, 1948 Treason during the early days of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Tobianski was acquitted in 1949 and posthumously promoted to the rank of captain Provisional Government
2 Adolf Eichmann June 1, 1962 Crimes against humanity and war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people and membership of an outlawed organization involving the murder of many Jews Yitzhak Ben-Zvi

See also


  1. ^ "Jewish Law". Ira Kasdan. Retrieved April 24, 2008.  
  2. ^ Moses Maimonides, Sefer Hamitzvot, Negative Commandment no. 290.
  3. ^ Moses Maimonides, The Commandments, Neg. Comm. 290, at 269–71 (Charles B. Chavel trans., 1967).

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