Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, has been using torture against suspects in the arson-murder of an entire Palestinian family, their attorneys and friends allege.
Approximately 15 far-right settlers gathered in front of Israel’s national theater in central Tel Aviv Wednesday afternoon to stage a theatrical protest against Israeli authorities’ alleged use of terror against Jewish minors.
The group repeatedly blindfolded one of the protesters, placed him down on a metal bed frame and mock tortured him — while he screamed and flailed — until he ultimately confessed to some unknown crime.
Lawyers for suspects in the Duma arson, in which extremist Jews murdered three members of the Dawabshe family, have alleged that the Shin Bet is using violent and abusive interrogation methods against their clients. Authorities have been unable to gather enough evidence to try the suspects; they are all being held in administrative detention.
The suspects were allegedly prevented from seeing a lawyer until last Wednesday, prompting a large right-wing demonstration outside the home of Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen Saturday night.
Torture is illegal in Israel but the High Court of Justice has given state security services a green light to use it in certain cases by declaring that torturers can argue a “defense of necessity” after committing the illegal act. There is no shortage of evidence that the Shin Bet uses illegal interrogation methods even when it is not “necessary” but nobody has ever been convicted for doing so.
Wednesday’s protesters were all young teenagers associated with the Hilltop Youth movement — settlers who build illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, and who are sometimes implicated in violence against Palestinians. The teens and young men unfurled banners that read, “Do not stand aside as your brother’s blood is shed,” and chanted “Do not torture Jews.”
The protest managed to attract the attention of a few passersby, some of whom looked on puzzled. Others berated the young settlers for opposing the torture of Jews but not Palestinians.
Israel has long been accused of utilizing torture against Palestinian suspects but it is almost unheard of for those interrogation tactics to be used against Jews.
The 25-year-old organizer of the protest, Tzvi Sukkot, from the settlement of Yitzhar — known as a hotbed of radical settler activity — explained to +972 explained why he thinks state security forces should treat Jewish suspects differently than Arabs.
“We came here to demonstrate what is happening in the Shin Bet’s torture chambers,” Sukkot told me as the group began gathering around us. “The Shin Bet has crossed all red lines. The fact that it is treating our own people more cruelly than our enemies should horrify every Jew around the world.”
According to Sukkot, the suspects told their lawyers that the Shin Bet is hanging them upside down for extended periods of time, placing them on bed frames and stretching them in every direction, repeatedly picking them up and slamming them on the ground, and twisting their arms behind their backs after days of sleep deprivation.
When asked whether he believes these kinds of tactics should be used against Palestinian terror suspects, Sukkot argued that “there is a difference between what is happening to our own people and what is done to the enemy. This is something every Jew should believe.”
“What we’re seeing is not ‘Jewish terrorism.’ It is a response to Arab terrorism,” Sukkot continued, echoing the words of Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, who recently wrote an oped arguing that only violence carried out against the Jewish people by its “enemies” can be classified as terror — not the other way around.
When pressed about whether the murder of three members of the Dawabshe family, who were burned alive in their sleep, was not in fact a terrorist act, Sukkot began to backtrack: “I’m not well versed in the definition of terror. If harming civilians is terrorism then the Shin Bet is using terror. If one is willing to say that the Shin Bet is using terror, then what happened in Duma is also terrorism.”
The Jewish Daily Forward published details about the identity of the suspects on Wednesday, which +972 is unable to publish here due to a sweeping gag order on the case.