A man looks out of a house badly damaged by a firebomb attack by suspected Jewish extremists in the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank, July 31, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sunday’s Duma ruling, regarding the minor in the case, was about as confusing as you can get for anyone who wanted to draw clear conclusions.
For the two Duma cases, the hope has been that the court would hand down verdicts which would clarify whether the right people were accused and whether the Shin Bet’s (Israel Security Agency) tough interrogation techniques for the case were justified or not.
At first glance, Sunday’s decision appears to be an unsatisfying mishmash.
On the one hand, the minor was not convicted of murdering the Dawabshe family in the 2015 arson murder incident, but he also was not convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the Duma incident.
On the other hand, the minor confessed to a background narrative in which he clearly admits to participating in planning some kind of attack on Duma, specifically including surveillance of Duma.
In addition, for those who say that the minor did nothing but discuss, he was convicted of other arson and price tag attacks (even though they did not involve murder).
Why the minor did not participate in the actual attack – having told Amiram Ben Uliel, who is accused of the actual murders, that he would participate – has never been clarified.
Once all of these points are more carefully delineated, it seems critical that the minor did participate in planning the Duma attacks (and essentially admitted to that in the background facts), but that there was insufficient evidence to prove a connection to a specific murder conspiracy.
The problem with this logic is that most of the public would not be OK with the Shin Bet using enhanced interrogation against all price tag attack offenders (minus murder) like it used on this minor.
Of course, the general public supports some criminal action and probing of price tag attackers, but spraying graffiti is a far cry from terrorism and murder.
Usually, the rule is that the Shin Bet can only use enhanced interrogation to stop an impending ticking-bomb terror-style attack.
So will the Shin Bet be allowed to use enhanced interrogation the next time a major issue comes up with Jewish extremists?
Interestingly enough, the Shin Bet did not use enhanced interrogation in its probe of the 2018 Jewish terrorism killing of a Palestinian woman by throwing a rock at her car.
While the Jewish terror suspects were prevented from meeting with their lawyer for an extended period, an indictment was filed without the need for enhanced interrogation.
One answer is that sometimes creativity, rather than enhanced interrogation, is needed to crack a case.
But another answer is that part of what the minor confessed to was a plot to incite the region into greater conflict. Included with this was the idea that in real time, the Shin Bet was concerned about a line of additional murderous incidents, and so maybe there was a case for using enhanced interrogation.
The bottom line is that it seems the court’s decision provides cover for both sides of the debate, depending on whether you believe the Shin Bet that it was concerned about additional Jewish terrorism.
For those who believe the Shin Bet significantly overreacted under political pressure to solve a prior crime, the lack of even a conspiracy-to-murder conviction supports their narrative.
For those who believe that the Shin Bet was validly trying to block future attacks, the fact that the minor sought to inflame the region – and by more than just graffiti – seems to support that narrative.
Even as convictions come, large aspects of the controversy are likely to live on.