Capital punishment in Israel

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In Israel, capital punishment is allowed only during wartime and only for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, treason, and crimes against the Jewish people. The current Arab-Israel conflict is considered a war, and the committing of any of the crimes can result in the death penalty. Israel inherited the British Mandate of Palestine code of law, which included the death penalty for several offenses, but in 1954 Israel abolished the penalty during peacetime with the exception of the said crimes.

Only one person has been executed in the history of the State of Israel — Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann, who was hanged in 1962 after he was convicted in 1961 of participation in Nazi war crimes relating to the Holocaust, was the only person to have been civilly executed in Israel. Others, including Nazi criminal John Demjanjuk, have been sentenced to death but won appeals to overturn their sentences.

It is generally accepted[by whom?] that one of the reasons for Israel's rare use of the death penalty is Jewish religious law.[1] 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. Conservative Jewish religious leaders and scholars believe that the death penalty should remain unused, even in extreme cases such as political assassination.[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[edit]

Executed person Date of execution Crime(s) Under President Method
1 Adolf Eichmann May 31, 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 Hanging

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mishnah Makot 1:10
  2. ^ - Conservative Responsa on the Assassination of Rabin
  3. ^ Moses Maimonides, The Commandments, Neg. Comm. 290, at 269–71 (Charles B. Chavel trans., 1967).

External links[edit]