Vic Rosenthal's weekly column:
In a dramatic development, a district judge ordered the police and Shabak to release a suspected Jewish extremist who had been held in administrative detention for a month, not allowed to speak to a lawyer for almost three weeks, and who claimed (persuasively) to have been tortured. The police and State Prosecutor refused to obey the court order to release him for several hours, saying that they would appeal the district court’s decision to the Supreme Court, but finally relented. The youth was let go to house arrest on bail.
The detainee (his name is apparently still under gag order) was detained as a suspect in the triple arson murder in the Arab village of Kfar Duma (previous Abu Yehuda posts on this incident are here). But after the authorities finally admitted that they had no evidence of his connection to this crime, they decided to charge him for an assault on a Bedouin that he had allegedly committed two years ago (he says it was in self-defense). The district court decided that this didn’t justify continuing to hold him.
The hysteria – it’s the only possible description – over so-called “Jewish terrorists” that’s overtaken the political Left, Right and Center in Israel and their associates abroad is puzzling. Keep in mind that the arson/murder is unsolved, even after the Jewish suspects, members of the so-called “hilltop youth” have undergone very heavy pressure. There is a hypothesis that Arabs feuding with the Dawabshe clan were responsible, but this line of inquiry has not been followed up.
Yes, a truly horrifying murder was committed in which three members of an Arab family including an 18-month-old baby died. And some people danced at a hilltop youth wedding with weapons and photographs of the murdered child (but it still isn’t clear how the pictures got there). The wedding was reportedly crawling with agents of the security forces, and the Shabak has used agents provocateurs before. The bride’s father, Lenny Goldberg, said,
I really don't know who brought those pictures anyway. Knowing the hilltop youth, I can tell you that photographing pictures and mounting them on signs is not their specialty. If you look closely, everyone dancing is wearing white shirts, but the guys holding the signs are wearing jackets and their faces are blurred.
The official story is that one of the hilltop youth – there may or may not be several hundred in this category – wrote a manifesto in which he expressed a desire to commit terrorist acts against Arabs in a Charles-Manson-like attempt to destabilize the country, so that they could replace the government with one operating according to (their idea of) Jewish law and governed by a king.
According to almost everyone in the government and media including the religious-rightish Naftali Bennett, the Shabak was entirely justified in using exceptional measures including administrative detention and “aggressive interrogation techniques” which may or may not constitute torture, to eliminate this threat. Isi Liebler, usually a voice of moderate Zionism, said the radicals were “like a cancer,” “religious lunatics” and “fanatical thugs,” and, calling for the government to use an “iron fist” against them, wrote that
Despite the appalling disgrace and besmirching of our name by such demonic behavior, this pales in significance to the impact that such horrific acts can have on our society if not ruthlessly expunged.
I’m not so sure. Arcane cult murders are bad things, but they tend to be isolated, not metastatic, like for example the suicidal stabbings of Jews because “Al Aqsa is in danger” which seem to have turned all of Palestinian society into a murderous cult.
Eric Yoffie, former head of the Union for Reform Judaism and a reliable indicator of liberal American Jewish opinion (at least, among liberal American Jews that still have an interest in events in Israel), wrote this:
Suspected Jewish terrorists — in particular, those involved in the killings of the Dawabsheh family in Duma — are now being defended by those who claim that the civil rights of the suspects are being violated by Israel’s security services. As a left of center American Jew, I would like to say plainly: There are times when human rights and civil liberties are not the most important thing for a democratic country that is fighting for her very survival. For Israel, now is such a time.
The question is not: Is Israel violating the human rights of the Jewish terrorists and their supporters who exult in the murder of babies? The question is: Why have the security services not already put an end to this network of murderers and monsters who threaten the very foundations of Zionism?
Leaving aside his unjustified certainty that the suspects “were involved” in the murder, I wonder if Yoffie would have written this if Americans – particularly blacks or Muslims – were being ‘aggressively interrogated’ by the police and FBI? I think we know the answer to this question. Indeed, Daniel Greenfield notes that Yoffie opposed torture of al Qaeda terrorists in Guantanamo.
Yoffie’s sudden lack of concern for democracy and civil rights in Israel is in contrast to the view he expressed several years ago when the question of limiting and documenting the flow of foreign money into left-wing NGOs was first raised:
When rabbis and Jewish leaders speak in communities and synagogues about the Jewish state, what they emphasize, with great pride, is Israel's democratic character. But what will they say if these anti-democratic laws are approved in the Knesset?
What will (American) rabbis and Jewish leaders say about the Israeli democracy that imprisons suspects without charging them, denies them legal counsel and applies “aggressive interrogation techniques?” I presume the ‘progressive’ ones like Yoffie will be on board as long as the suspects are right-wing extremists. But just as free speech in a democratic state is not only for speech with which you agree, civil rights are particularly important for those suspected of having committed crimes.
I may be under-reacting, but the threat of a small group of extremists imposing a theocratic monarchy is not high on my list of scary scenarios. I don’t know a lot of Israelis who would sit still for a coronation. Although three innocent people were murdered at Duma in July, 25 Jews have been slaughtered in Israel since October 1 by Arab terrorists. This doesn’t make it acceptable, but it does put the magnitude of the danger in perspective. And I don’t see how they threaten the “foundations of Zionism” when 99.98% of Zionists (assuming 6 million Zionists and 1000 hilltop youth) reject their goals and their methods.
To those like Liebler who insist that the damage to Israel’s image done by “Jewish terrorists” is enormous, I can only say that far more damage is done by the massive anti-Zionist industry in every Muslim nation, in Europe and in universities everywhere, which is dedicated to besmirching Israel’s image. Here is where the limitations on foreign money feeding the anti-state NGOs that Yoffie opposes would do a lot more to improve Israel’s image than beating up extremists.
So why the hysteria? In my opinion, the cause is an atavistic Diaspora-Jewish reaction to extirpate the source of the shanda fur die goyim [disgrace before non-Jews]. But haven’t we learned yet that self-flagellation just provides more material for the anti-Zionists to use against us?
Let’s calm down. Let’s keep the rule of law, obey court orders and ensure that everyone’s rights, even those of suspected theocratic monarchists, are preserved. Let’s employ careful forensic police work, solve the Duma murders and punish the murderers. Punish the theocratic monarchists too, if they have committed crimes from vandalism to assault to arson and murder. But these people are not ‘ticking bombs’ and there is no need or justification to beat confessions out of them.
Just to forestall the inevitable question: yes, everything I said applies to Arabs too. Although there are a lot more ticking bombs there.
If we are going to tell everyone that we are the only democracy in the Middle East, we ought to be one.