Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Wafaa Canaana’s murder might have been prevented, had a judge been less lenient
“It’s a cliché,” wrote the daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, "but for Wafaa Caanana, the writing was on the wall.” The judge who released her ex-husband – a man guilty of violent crimes and threats against his family – ignored that writing, as well as turning down a police entreaty that the man be denied entrance to the city for a month and a half. The result was a brutal murder in Arraba, a city of 25,000 in the lower Galilee region.
Her brother, Amjad Abahara, told a reporter that the end was foretold. “She suffered from threats, acts of violence and burns,” he said. “She went to a shelter and returned, she fought. We were not surprised by the murder. We both knew it would be the end of her journey. The is no law, no enforcement, no police, no social workers. There is no welfare system. They are not even missing – they never existed.”
In a small country like Israel, Wafaa had two choices: to flee the county or to await her fate. The police even promised her protection, but the promises vaporized and she was left with papers and talk.
The last time he was arrested, Wafaa’s ex – Revi Caanana – was held after she filed a complaint that he had assaulted their daughter and refused to return her home according to the terms of his allotted visiting rights – a legal obligation. It was one of numerous complaints she had filed. In light of his known criminal past and violent activities, the police recommended he be banned from entering Arraba for 45 days, be placed under house arrest and be charged a deposit to ensure he would abide by the ruling.
The judge handed down a decision with no explanation: Revi was released on the recognizance of himself and his brother, each of whom paid a 5,000 shekel deposit, and he was instructed to stay away from his ex-wife and family for a period of five days. The city of Arraba was open to him.
Revi murdered Wafaa 33 days later, stabbing her repeatedly with a knife and fleeing. He left behind five orphans. The police conducted an extensive search, but concluded that after he abandoned his car, he fled in another car driven by an accomplice and is hiding somewhere in the Palestinian Authority. The police have rounded up his family members for obstructing a police investigation.
The women and men who met to protest this brutal murder placed a good deal of responsibility with the judge, Zaid Salah, who has a history of leniency with men accused of violence.
Samah Salaime, Head of Na’am-Arab Women in the Center, who participated in the protest, -- physically and in an anguished post -- was interviewed for the article: “How are women to obtain justice in a legal system that places no value on their lives or their security?” she asked. She described a judge who has never lived with the terror of abuse or experienced the kind of violence that the women standing before him undergo daily. He sees no need to take away the freedoms of men who are convicted of violence. “The system needs to check itself where gender-based violence is concerned,” she added. “What is a judge meant to think when a woman comes to him and tells him she is living under threat? When her fate hangs on the decision he is about to hand down?”