Screenshot from police footage of clashes with settlers in Yitzhar, July 19, 2018.
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) on Sunday revealed details of a serious case of suspected terrorism. Three Jewish minors are being investigated as suspects in the death of Aysha Rabi, a Palestinian woman and mother of nine, who was hit in the head by rocks when the car she was driving was pelted near the Tapuah Junction in the West Bank.
The agency’s statement said that the minors studied at Pri Haaretz Yeshiva in Rehalim, near where the incident occurred, adding that on the day after the Friday incident, a group of Yitzhar residents drove to Rehalim – despite being Shabbat observant – to instruct the youths on how to handle the Shin Bet questioning.
Further details revealed a video of the burning of an Israeli flag, a placard bearing the inscription “death to Zionists” and a swastika on an Israeli flag which, according to the Shin Bet, were connected to some of the suspects. These were obviously presented to indicate that the youths oppose the state out of extremist religious ideology.
The families of the detainees have complained that the rights of their children are being brutally infringed upon and that the youths are being held and interrogated in harsh conditions. Itamar Ben-Gvir, a lawyer for one of the suspects and well known for his support of far-right causes, complained that the youths had not had initial access to legal representation and had been traumatized by their treatment at the hands of the Shin Bet.
The Shin Bet statement said the interrogations have been carried out in accordance with proper procedure, supervised by the state prosecution and with court oversight.
“Since the arrests, the Shin Bet has identified a continuous and active effort from interested parties to slander the organization and its agents and to delegitimize its activities,” the agency said.
“This attempt should be condemned and should not be assisted, and nothing should be done to weaken the Shin Bet from continuing its efforts to thwart terror in any form – Jewish or Palestinian. All of this is based on the values of the state and for the sake of national security.”
Here lies the rub. Terrorism is terrorism. The state cannot treat cases of suspected Jewish terrorism any less seriously than similar incidents of Palestinian terrorism. Every effort must be made to find those responsible for the death of Rabi, no matter what age or religion they are.
Similarly, allegations of improper procedure by the Shin Bet also cannot be ignored. A false confession is a double wrong, harming not only the person from whom it is extricated but also allowing the true perpetrator to wander around freely.
The state needs to do everything it can to find who threw the rocks that resulted in Rabi’s death and also find and arrest those behind other serious hate crimes, including arson attacks.
This is not only a moral imperative – to arrest those guilty of abhorrent crimes – it is also essential for security reasons.
Should an act by a Jewish extremist in a so-called “price-tag” case result in serious harm or a fatality – whether they were acting on their own or within a very limited circle of zealots – the result could be the spark that sets off another spate of Palestinian “lone-wolf” attacks.
Terrorism cannot be justified. The state must continue to fight it, regardless of the identity of the perpetrator. The huge difference between the cases of Jewish terrorism and Palestinian terrorism is found in the numbers and usually in the response of the broader community.
To properly fight terror though, Israeli politicians and rabbis need to show the difference between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Authority. While it is no secret that the Palestinian leadership fosters a culture of martyrdom and pays salaries to terrorists and their families, Israel – the Jewish state – is supposed to take the moral imperative.
Politicians need to denounce acts of terrorism even if they are isolated, to ensure that they remain beyond the pale and do not become the norm. Until now they have been quiet, likely a result of the upcoming elections. It is time for them to speak up.
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