The issue of Jewish terror and how the Israeli state fights or doesn’t fight it is extremely complicated. If you view it from a liberal Zionist perspective, as people like Shimon Peres and most American Jewish leaders do, you only understand part of the problem and you believe–or hope–that Israeli democracy will eventually right itself and enforce the rule of law. But when you understand this issue as a symptom of the rise of the permanent far-right majority which has hijacked Israel and destroyed its democracy, you realize that Jewish terror is not something the State can or will oppose because it is an organic expression of the ideology of those who dominate the nation. No, I am not accusing Bibi Netanyahu of being a terrorist (though a number of Israeli prime ministers were before they dressed themselves in suits and became “statesmen”). I am accusing him of being an accessory after the fact because the Jewish terrorists are the ultimate expression of the wishes of the State.
All this by way of reporting to you about an important article by Roni Shaked, Yediot’s Palestinian affairs correspondent. Shaked’s bona fides are impressive: in the 1970s he “ran” Palestinian agents for the Shabak. As such, he is a Shabak man at heart, though he is now a journalist. That means that he knows the system, knows how it works, know how it fails. What’s even more important: when it does fail he understands why.
His article is an evisceration of the Jewish terror unit of the Shabak. He says the department has made itself a mockery by its inability or unwillingness to address the Jewish terror underground in the West Bank. In addition to the agency itself, he blames the prime minister for being satisfied with such a record of miserable failure.
Here is a summary of the article with my own comments interspersed:
Now in a period of relative calm regarding Palestinian terror is the time Yoram Cohen should be expected to redouble his efforts to address the rampage of Jewish terror that has afflicted Israel: the price tag attack, the 17 mosque burnings, desecration of Muslim graves, destruction of property, racist graffiti scrawled on the walls of Muslim holy sites, and even attacks on IDF bases in the Territories. Not to mention that vast increase in armed attacks on Palestinians.
The latest of these was the brutal “lynch” of three Palestinians by a scores of drunken Israeli ultra-nationalist youth who prowled Jerusalem last weekend seeking victims. When they found their victims they pounded one of them to within an inch of his life. He remains in hospital in a coma. It isn’t known whether he will suffer brain damage. Yediot reported yesterday that Palestinian shop workers in Zion Square called 911 and requested that police be called to stop the incipient mob. A policeman came and told witnesses that there was little he could do. Eventually he left. Shortly thereafter, the main show began and the wilding took its most brutal form. Don’t be shocked. Remember what I wrote above. The job of Israeli police is not to prevent Israeli violence against Palestinians or protect Palestinians. It’s job is to look the other way when that happens and not to prosecute it seriously if that proves necessary. If the leaders, citizens and police, have allowed their nation to become an authoritarian racist regime, this is the natural result. Not an anomaly, as liberals like Shimon Peres or some readers here would argue.
Some readers will argue in defense that the State has arrested eight of the hoodlums. It had little choice. There were scores of witnesses who also stood by and did nothing. But the crime was far too public to ignore. The key will be whether the suspects are prosecuted, convicted and jailed. The key will be how much punishment, if any, they will receive. You know what my bet is.
The State Department has just accepted the inevitable and used the dreaded “T” word in its annual nation report on the terror. What does this mean? Very little–now. But in the future should this pattern continue it would allow Israel itself, conceivably to be labelled a terror state. I know, unlikely. But the problem with terror is that when it is unaddressed it can subsume an entire country. Israel definitely is in danger of becoming such a place. Many would even argue it already has.
The political echelon including the president and prime minister have denounced these heinous acts and demanded that they be stopped. But somehow they’re not. Mosques are burned. Suspects are detained and questioned. A few may even have their movement restricted so they cannot congregate with their ultranationalist brethren in the settlements. But none are charged, none are tried and none certainly convicted. There are crimes that somehow are never solved. Netanyahu boasts that he will use an iron hand to uproot this poison from the land. But in truth the settler terrorists are lords of this land.
91% of incidents of Israeli on Palestinian violence which are investigated do not end with any indictment. Only 3% of crimes against Palestinians lead to an indictment. The rest are closed due to the failure of investigators to identify the suspects or evidence; or with the excuse that the criminal is “unknown,” “insufficient evidence,” or the file was “lost.” These statistics should remove the sleep from the eyes of the Shin Bet, the police and justice system.
What excuse does the Jewish terror unit for its failure? None. It is considered a prestigious post within the Shin Bet. It has no budget constraints and manpower has been doubled and trebled recently. Nor are there constraints on their operations. Despite all this, the unit fails to stop Jewish terror. It doesn’t just fail over a limited period, its failures have extended over a long period.
The excuses offered are varied and unpersuasive: they complain that suspects are schooled in resisting interrogation and cannot be broken. That when confronted by interrogators’ questions instead of answering, they begin reciting verses from Psalms. Shaked correctly dismisses these as irrelevant. What the bosses need to see is results. If they don’t see them either you fire those who are failing or, if you don’t, accept the fact that your society does not want to end Jewish terror because it is somehow intrinsic to the State and its prevailing ideology.
Shaked, who is, while a critic, loyal to the organization and the State, believes that the Shin Bet must begin using new and better tactics. The current methods are like a pleasant tea party. Like “talking to the stones and trees,” in Shaked’s words. Instead, it must treat these criminals as a terror underground and to act against it with all the measures used to stop Palestinian terror (by which Shaked implictly concedes torture and other forms of abuse used to break suspects and elicit confessions). If the Shin Bet refuses, then Israel will soon face a 3rd Intifada.
Unlike Shaked, I don’t think the worst danger is a Palestinian insurrection. I think the worst danger is the death of Israeli democracy. It is already on its death bed. Refusal to address Jewish terror is a symptom of the disease.
On related matter: Haaretz reports (and English) that a Lt. Col. and unit head with 25-years service in the Shin Bet was forced to resign for demonstrating investigatory techniques (i.e. torture) on the body of a 22 year-old IDF soldier who was his subordinate, against her will. This isn’t the first sexual scandal in the agency’s history. In fact, I’ve reported here on a number of them involving very high level officers.
The charges against him ended with his banishment from the Shin Bet for a period of five years. In other words, this choice piece of humanity can return to the service of his country and harrassment of its female personnel once more after this little slap on the wrist.
In justifying its toothless punishment, the court said it was impressed by a letter written by the accused’s commander which credited his “devotion, loyalty and humanity and his many contributions made over the years to the State of Israel.” Apparently being a good torturer trumps being a sexual harrasser in the eyes of Israel’s domestic spy agency.
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