NOTE: Last week, I published a new piece for Mint Press News, which critiqued Israeli and western opinion polls which profess to find major support within the Muslim community for ISIS and other Islamist groups. Such findings are based largely on deliberate or unconscious misinterpretation of Muslim views. My newest Mint Press piece, exploring Sheldon Adelson’s purchase of Nevada’s largest newspaper at a hyper-inflated price; and his intent to create a pro-Israel, pro-GOP media empire–is out today. I hope you’ll read and promote them on social media.
The Dawabsheh arson murders and the investigation in their aftermath offer a lesson in the abject failure of the Israeli security system in dealing with Jewish terror. It is a system built, not on the normal standards of policing in the western world in which evidence is gathered, witnesses interviewed, scenes reconstructed; rather, the emphasis is on extracting confessions, often by brute force. In the case of Palestinians this will often work because the system is entirely stacked against them. Even if they refuse to confess to a crime for which they aren’t guilty, they know they will go before a judge who will never reject the “evidence” offered by the Shabak and prosecution. So essentially, they have a choice: either they confess and accept a “deal” (on the State’s terms); or they maintain silence and are convicted on much heavier terms.
But it’s different with Jewish suspects. Ironically, Justice is supposed to be blind. But in Israel it is judges who turn a blind eye to the ravages inflicted on Palestinian prisoners. But when it comes to Jews, they can see 20-20. They might disregard claims of torture by the defense if there is a confession. But without one, they will likely refuse to accept the trumped-up dossiers normally offered in the cases of Palestinian suspects and routinely accepted by judges as confirming guilt.
That doesn’t work with the Jews. Even the terrorists. Because they’re Jews, after all. They have rights, even the bad ones. So a judge will not accept a manufactured body of evidence in the absence of some other definitive admission or proof of guilt. The Jewish accused, even minors like some of those in this case, know this. They know that if they keep their mouths shut they can beat the system.
If Shabak and the Israeli police were a competent force they would muster the investigative skills necessary to prove this case. But either they don’t have the skills or they refuse to use them. What have the arson experts done at the scene of the crime? Where are the police officers interviewing potential witnesses? I doubt much, if any of this is done in such cases. I know for a fact that Israeli police never question Palestinian witnesses regarding such crimes. Another quirk of Israel’s racist legal and policing approach.
That is why, according to news reports and claims by Defense Minister Bogie Yaalon, the State’s case against the four murder suspects is foundering. Yaalon has, I thought with rather too much of a smirk, said that the State doesn’t have sufficient evidence to prove its case. This is, on its face, preposterous. When four terrorists burn a house down and kill three people, there are reams of evidence. If they can’t solve this case with real evidence and policing techniques they’re either the worst police force in the world, they’re just phoning it in, or they don’t want to solve the case (or all three!).
Yaalon is part of a powerful campaign by the settler lobby seeking to quash the investigation. This is a political movement which controls many levers of power in Israeli society and reaches into the most senior ministerial offices. Yaalon is one of them, as are many, if not most other ministers in this government. They say the crime was heinous. They say they have no tolerance for it. But out of the other side of their mouths they do all in their power to sabotage the investigation.
What I find especially odd about all crimes of Jewish terror is that the ideology that underpins it is essentially rejection of the (secular) State. The attackers in this case have very publicly expressed their hate for both the State and Zionism. The ideological godfather of the latest iteration of the “Jewish Revolt,” Meir Ettinger (Meir Kahane’s grandson), believes (like many extremist terrorists) that by mounting enough terror attacks against Palestinian targets, it will prove the state to toothless and eventually lead to its downfall. The fall of the secular state, so this narrative goes, will lead to the founding of a Torah-true theocratic State, a Davidic monarchy
Shabak released its own statement about their motives:
It is an extremist anti-Zionist ideological group whose purpose to exploit violence to destroy the established order, by means of terror attacks which would advance their goals.
One of the suspects, Amiram Benoliel, explicitly rejected the jurisdiction of the Israeli court according to this Facebook post on the page of the Kahanist Jewish Voice (full Hebrew statement here). He demanded to be tried by a halachic court (beyt din) knowing full well that settler rabbis would never convict him. In fact, he noted that he wished to be tried before Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who was recently quoted as saying it was permissible to kill both Christians and Muslims if they rejected the seven Noahide Laws. Ariel leads the Temple Institute, seeking to destroy the Noble Sanctuary and replace it with the Jewish Third Temple.
Benoliel’s supporters are quoted as saying on his behalf during one of his earlier 2014 Shabak detentions:
“The only to which we are subject is the law of the Torah. We are proud of him for paying the price for remaining true to Torah.”
They further claim that secular judges tasked with hearing his case are “criminals” and “disqualified from hearing evidence according to the laws of the Torah.”
In all other societies which are functional, when a terror network attacks the State itself there is a fast and firm response. The forces of the State unite to attack terror and uproot it. If they do not, they risk undermining the very basis for the State’s existence. That is why George Washington reacted so strongly to Shays Rebellion and firmly put down this farmers’ revolt in Pennsylvania at the outset of the American Republic. It’s also why Ben Gurion commanded Rabin to attack the Alta Lena, which was bringing weapons meant to enable a Lehi militia that would be independent of the Yishuv’s official military forces. To survive, a State needs to enforce discipline and allegiance. Those who reject its sovereignty are, or should be, enemies of the State.
The strange case of the settlers is that they are essentially enemies of the State, but the State embraces them anyway. In effect, and this is the really crazy part, the State turns on itself; eating itself from within.
It will be interesting to watch who wins in this case. Will the settlers prevail and sabotage justice? Is there anyone on the other side fighting on behalf of justice? I have, in fact, queried my usual Israeli sources on this matter and heard silence in return. Who speaks for the victims? In Israel when it comes to Palestinian victims, even murdered ones, it appears no one.
The Shabak is playing some role in resisting the settler narrative. But in this case it may be less because it seeks justice and truth and more because it’s methods of torture are coming under such fierce attack by the supporters of the terrorists.
It’s astonishing for the terror lobby to shrey gevalt about torture. Since when have they ever raised a finger to defend the most widely tortured group within the Israeli security system: Palestinians? Why should anyone give a s*** for them in this their hour of need? At least Israeli Jewish human rights NGOs have denounced torture and other forms of abuse both against Jews and Palestinians. But the terror lobby hates Palestinians so much they can’t abide speaking even a single syllable on their behalf, even when it would support their own cause in the long run.
So just in case the hasbara brigade intends to raise this as an issue in the comment threads, I pre-empt your argument: show me a member of the Jewish terror lobby who’s ever articulated a principled, consistent position on torture. Then we can talk.
My right-wing readers will also blanch at my use of terms like “criminal lobby” and “terror lobby.” But take one look at the group defending virtually all Jewish terrorists: Honenu. Uri Blau, in his masterful investigative series, determined that American Jews sent nearly $250-million over the last five years to support settlements and other illegal and violent acts of insurrection. Honenu has delivered nearly $40,000 to convicted terrorists like Avi Popper and their families. Can you imagine a U.S. NGO raising funds to support convicted al Qaeda or white supremacist murderers in U.S. jails and giving the funds directly to the convicted criminals themselves? What country in its right mind would countenance such behavior? But Israel does.
As an addendum, I’ve e mailed the State Department press office asking for a comment on the presence of American citizens among the circles of the most rabid settler terrorists. That includes Israel Keller, who is one of the four suspected Dawabsheh murderers. I asked also if State would comment on the tax-deduction the U.S. government gives for those $250-million in donations which directly subvert U.S. policy regarding settlements. The message was sent two days ago. Apparently, they’re not hurrying to reply.
There should, of course, be a tumultuous clamor from the international community and Diaspora Jewish groups against the looming failure of the Dawabsheh prosecution. They should, as they did when it appeared earlier that Israel wouldn’t even bring charges, demand transparency and accountability. There should be demands in no uncertain terms that if Israel doesn’t solve the case it will be immediately filed before the International Criminal Court, just as the Mavi Marmara case has been. That would stuff a sock in the mouth of the criminal lobby otherwise known as settlers. Where are those voices?