A day after their son was arrested and placed in administrative detention as a suspected Jewish extremist, Mordechai Mayer’s parents held a press conference in Ramat Gan on Wednesday, where they decried the arrest as “undemocratic.”“We are citizens of the United States. We were born there and our children were born there and raised in a democracy,” Mordechai’s mother, Sarah, said. His father, Gedalya, said the family thought they had left one democracy for another.“They knocked on our door last night with a form saying that they are taking our son to jail for six months, without any suspicion or indictment or anything, they just took him suddenly. And now we find ourselves with our son in jail for a half a year, maybe more, we don’t know,” Gedalya said.“We thought this was a state with laws and democracy,” Gedalya added, describing his son as an 18-year-old who studies Torah and lives a healthy lifestyle “in the nature in Samaria and wants a quiet life.”
The family, from Ma’aleh Adumim in the West Bank, is represented by Adi Kedar of Honenu, an organization that assists Jews accused of acts of violence against Arabs. Kedar on Wednesday called the arrest “PR for the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency].”On Sunday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered security forces to put under administrative detention (arrest without trial) those suspected of torching a house in Duma in a suspected “price tag” terrorist attack, which resulted in a Palestinian toddler being burned to death. Three other members of the family, including the baby’s parents and four-yearold brother, were seriously burned in the fire.Ya’alon signed the administrative detention decree for Mayer on Tuesday night, which allows him to be detained for up to six months, after which a judge would need to renew the order.Ya’alon’s spokesman said the order was signed due to Mayer’s “involvement in violent activities and terrorist attacks that occurred recently, and his role as part of a Jewish terrorist group.” The detainment came a day after far-right activist Meir Ettinger – the grandson of Meir Kahane, who was banned from Israeli politics before he was assassinated – was arrested for his involvement in a Jewish extremist group.A third suspect, Avitar Salonim, was also arrested on Tuesday.Salonim and Mayer were arrested last month for their alleged role in the torching of the Church of the Loaves and Fishes at Kfar Nahum, but neither was indicted.In response to their arrests, on July 30 Ettinger wrote a blog post on the Hakol Hayehudi (Jewish Voice) website, saying: “The Shin Bet understands that the activities they chase after...simply grow out of the ground from the most basic and popular understandings that cause people to feel that they need to do something. There is no terrorist organization, but there are lots and lots of Jews, much more than what they think, whose ladder of values is completely different from that of the High Court of Justice or the Shin Bet.”In response to Mayer’s detainment, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On took a stand against administrative detentions, saying she opposes them for both Palestinians and Jews.Her faction proposed a bill to abolish them. “I understand the psychological need to give an immediate response to difficult events – my blood is boiling, too – but I am unable to accept the trampling of human rights in the name of security,” she said. “It cannot be that the solution for the police’s ineffectiveness is arrests without trial and due process.”On Tuesday, Gal-On wrote a lengthy post on Facebook about why she does not think the solution to terrorism is administrative detentions or torture, quoting former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, who said that the state must “fight terrorism with one hand tied behind its back.”Gal-On called on the government to ensure that the police has more resources to gather evidence that can be brought to a court, as well as to stop the funding of extremist right-wing groups that support violence, while investing more in civics and democracy education.
Jewish People Policy Institute senior fellow discusses Jewish terror