Not quite. But it's best to behave yourself hereabouts.

A while ago the stories were about Shin Bet interrogators who had tortured Jewish youths accused of burning an Arab home in the West Bank, killing three members of a family, and other crimes. Relatives and other supporters of the accused went so far as to assert that Shin Bet sodomized the kids. One relative described a decent young man as thoroughly broken by the experience.
Those complaining seemed less concerned about three dead Arabs, including one small child, and another child seriously injured.
This week the news includes a police search for clues about those who helped the Tel Aviv killer escape and hide out in his home village, Ar'ara. Channel 10 showed a three minute segment of what remained of a family home and car after the search. 

It's hard to accept the claims of sodomy heard from friends and supporters of Jewish extremists. Tough treatment to be sure. Israeli courts have allowed whatever might be understood by "moderate physical pressure" during interrogations associated with national security. "Torture" is one of the slipperiest concepts in the language. It's a curse often used by those wanting to condemn what they do not like.

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The police or Shin Bet search of the home in Ar'ara, seems to have combined some measure of looking for clues as to who helped the killer, the motives of the killer, or his connection with one of the Palestinian terror organizations, as well as police punishment of a family associated with an act of terror.

Any decent car thief or cop should know how to slip open a locked car. In this instance, however, those searching pried open the door in a manner that did enough damage to the door, roof, and other body parts that may produce a verdict of total loss.

Among the explanations for the country's obsession over the course of a week and more with the killing of two Jews and one Bedouin taxi driver is the concern that Israeli Arabs crossed a line by joining the wave of terror done mostly by Palestinians of the West Bank and Jerusalem. The clip showed what remained after the police left the family home with Arabs screaming curses at the police, with the mildest being that the destruction was a shame on the Jewish people. They also charged that the police had stolen gold and jewels, acquired for the sake of an upcoming marriage in the family.

Those making charges against the police are suspected of participating, or aiding in murder or terror.

An encounter with the Israeli police can be unpleasant, but there are also procedures for complaint, and independent authorities with the capacity to investigate and bring charges for wrong doing.

As noted in previous notes, those independent authorities have been busy with claims of sexual harassment, most of them by police officers against police officers. However, they also have the resources to investigate the more recent allegations mentioned here.

So far there has a been a minimum of public comment about the family's charges.

A destructive search is one thing. The signs have been broadcast for all to see. Police robbery along with a search is something else. If true, it resembles the actions of wayward soldiers who steal personal property when in action among hostiles. There have been inquiries by IDF military police, trials in military courts, and the jailing of soldiers found guilty.

We also hear claims of leftist Israeli and international organizations about additional crimes by police and the IDF. At least some of those charges may be the blather of those who cannot accept anything that Israel does.

Over the course of a decade in the IDF lecture corps, I had two tours in military prisons. Most of the people I met had been judged guilty of going AWOL, including coming back late from a weekend at home. I've wondered if my lectures were part of their education, rehabilitation, or punishment.

It is not easy to judge that search in Ar'ara. Currently, we have nothing more than a few minutes of news film, and complaints made by those suspected of involvement in murder. If there is a formal complaint, it will take time to sort things out. Currently we may wonder, and quarrel, about holding the police to the highest standards of good behavior, and relying on decent ways of gathering evidence, to be presented at an open court, and the capacity of judges to determine guilt or innocence, with rights of appeal. 

Or should we recognize the significance of national security as justifying extraordinary activity by the police and other security organizations?

And if so, what level of extraordinary action, against which threats to national security?

Israel is a country of law, but the laws here are different from those elsewhere, and take account of the country's situation. The tougher provisions have been carried over from the British Mandate, and resemble what latter day British officials used against the IRA.

Unlike the US, where government is limited by the 5th Amendment to the Constitution ("nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb"), the Israeli government appeals verdicts of not guilty, or sentences thought to be too light.

For some time, officials refused to release the body of the man assumed to be the Tel Aviv murderer. They demanded that his funeral be modest and limited to who may participate. This is against the practice of nationalist and religious extremists to use funerals as grand rallies and opportunities for further incitement. At one point the family was asserting its intention to conduct a private ceremony, but intelligence reports were of organizations preparing for their own heroic performances. Their cadres in Gaza and the West Bank had performed mock funerals, involving thousands of participants, in celebrations of the killer's martyrdom for the sake of Palestine.

Now the body is in the ground, with 40 family members allowed to participate in a midnight ceremony.

This can be a tough place. It operates by law, with no shortage of criticism from inside and outside. But they are not same laws that limit officials in unthreatened locales.

Comments welcome

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
[email protected] 
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

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