Almost three weeks ago, a large group of thugs approached the young man who was on his way to study, assaulted him, shoved him into a waiting car, prevented his wife from filming the occurrence, and sped away to a waiting dungeon. These were not outlaws, but agents of the State of Israel allegedly investigating the fatal Duma fire of late July. His family was given no information regarding his whereabouts and he was not, and has not been, permitted access to a lawyer.
Instead, a long process of a “difficult, on-going interrogation”, i.e. physical and psychological abuse, was begun. This happened not once, but to several different people who were rounded up and are being held. Their family members have also been targeted for interrogation and harassment. During this “process” their most basic rights are being denied. According to their lawyers’ statement in court last week, one of them is on regular medication which he is being denied access to. All of them regularly pray with tefillin; they are not allowed to receive them, nor have they been permitted to light Chanukah candles or observe the Shabbat. They are being denied basic religious freedoms and human rights. All of this was raised by their lawyers in court.
This is not the KGB of the 1980’s Soviet Union mistreating the heroic Jewish refusniks. This is the “security services” of the State of Israel. It would be hoped that no democratic state would so badly mistreat its citizens, let alone the Jewish state abuse Jews. But it is happening today and has been ongoing for almost three weeks. And the response has been remarkably different from the days of the Soviet Union. When these sorts of events took place then, world Jewry rallied and protested. No refusnik would have languished this long without a hue and cry from every Jewish leader and wanna-be leader. Today there are few such statements. These young men have not been seen or heard from for almost three weeks and there is a resounding silence. Where are the rabbinic groups, the human rights organizations, the student clubs, and the public figures, representatives from the left, right, and middle? If these young men were chardei, Meah Shearim and Bnai Brak would be ablaze; if they were anarchists evading army service in Judea and Samaria, Rabin Square in Tel Aviv would be packed. Unfortunately they are neither.
Murder is the pinnacle of evil and should be stopped. Murderers should be found and brought to justice. Three human beings died in a Duma fire and the police should do what they can to solve the crime. And if and when the culprits are found, they should be punished according to the law, not beyond. But the crime should be investigated within the dictates of the norms of a civilized society. Solving murders is notoriously difficult. In the US over 1/3 of murders are never solved. As far as the public knows, there is no evidence pointing to who committed the Duma crime. It is possible that it was internecine clan feuding within the village. The occurrence of three other similar torching in the two weeks surrounding the unfortunate incident that resulted in the three deaths might point in that direction. The government has championed the other option, that this was the work of “Jewish extremists.” So convinced are they of this scenario, it seems that basic police investigative work was not done within Duma, the actual crime scene, preferring to leave that to the PA. This indicates either a low level of confidence in our police department, a delusionary perspective of the PA’s intentions, or an indication that the government is intent on finding Jewish culprits.
Unquestionably, the government is now feeling both external pressure, such as the recent statement by United Nations envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov criticizing the “slow progress” in solving the murders, as well as self-imposed pressure. In response they are employing measures of a totalitarian regime that includes the illegal and immortal abuse of detainees. More than that, what is being done now is not only morally repugnant, but useless as far as the stated objective. At this point, anything that is extracted from those tortured individuals will not be admissible in any court of law. Just three weeks ago a three judge panel in the Lod District Court acquitted two suspects of murder because they held that the police had conducted the investigation using illegal methods. Which means that it is pure evil to continue to hold and abuse these young men under the current conditions.
I do not know if the Duma bombers were Jew, Arab, or other. But what is clear is that the hunt for them has become an obsession for the government and in the media and has led to the use of tactics that should not be acceptable in any democracy or in a Jewish state. Their lawyers have described the methods used in this case as unprecedented in the State of Israel.
There is a paucity of accurate information, but according to some recent statements, these boys are not suspected of the actual crime; rather they are accused of nothing but associating with people who might (or might not) know people who might (or might not) have committed a triple murder. They are being denied the most basic of human and civil rights and for what? Where is the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise? And if there is evidence, why the gag-order and the violation of civil rights? Extreme measures can sometimes be justified if there is reasonable cause to suspect it can save lives. From what is being reported, in this instance that is not the case.
A foreseeable result of what is taking place is permanent physical and psychological damage to these boys, and a serious disillusionment of a large segment of the population. The government has targeted all “hill-top youth”, most of whom are principled, committed, dedicated citizens. They have a love for the land of Israel and for the people of Israel and are willing to act on those feelings. They would make great soldiers and upstanding citizens of our small country. I cannot imagine that they will have anything but antipathy to everything establishment after this treatment. In an era when the younger generation is at best ambivalent about values and looking for the cheapest yogurt, these are young people with values, which, if properly channeled would be a wonderful asset to society. Instead, they are being trampled as scapegoats for the political elite. They will marginalize themselves, eschew the army, and fail to make the contributions they are capable of making.
There is today fear of a brain drain from Israel; next will come the moral drain. People of morals will question why someone would want to live in a country that tortures its citizens.
The security apparatus in this country is facing an unprecedented onslaught of literally multiple daily terror attacks. There is no question that stopping these jihadist terrorists intent on becoming shahids as they take a few Jews with them and as they are encouraged, praised, and funded by the PLO is no small task. And the establishment has been failing miserable at it. Dedicating additional resources to the fight on terrorism does not mean the stopping of all other investigations. But at the same time that hands are being tied in the fight on terrorism, criminal methods are being employed against Jews.
It is simply unfathomable and should be unacceptable that the Israeli government is using KGB methods against Jewish citizens with no possible upside and only many downsides. Non-stop interrogation for three weeks! No meeting with legal representation of family! Civil and human rights simply thrown under the bus. This is a stain on the Israeli legal system. the lawyers claim that the prosecution actually misled the courts and fed them false information. There are rumors that these guys are undergoing sleep deprivation, nutritional “games”, and other forms of abuse, claims that are wholly believable following the ruthless manner in which they were severally beaten during their arrest and the fact that they were not personally brought before the judge during their hearings, which according to their lawyers, may have been lest he see their sorry state from the abuse. What is taking place now is far worse than anything previously seen. This is not the routinely used “administrative detention.” There is an utter disregard for every basic civil, legal, human, and religious right of these detainees. They are not receiving legal representations, they are being abused physically and psychologically, their religious freedoms are gone, and yet the authorities, who obviously have not yet extracted the information they want, are requesting that this farce continue. the lawyers have argued that the shabak will “do anything and everything” so as to extract a confession.
What will happen following their eventual release is fairly predictable. Most, if not all, will be found to be totally innocent. Yet, similar to what happened to Israeli POW’s held by Egypt and Syria during the Yom Kippur War, they will suffer severe PTSD with long-term repercussions of this irresponsible police behavior. The rest of us will pay the price for their lack of functionabilty and their treatment. They will then sue the police for illegal abuse, as others, such as Rabbi Yehudah Glick, have recently successfully done. Unfortunately, those who ordered this travesty and those who are carrying it out will not be held personally responsible, and we the people will have to pay.
The silence from a broad swath of Israeli society is more than troubling. If these were Arabs, the international and diplomatic community would cry out, especially since one of the detainees is an American citizen and two of the detainees are minors. Where are they? This is not a right or left issue. The legal establishment should be up in arms. Civil, human, and religious rights groups should be protesting. Rabbis should be demanding an adherence to Jewish principles. What is taking place, if permitted to continue, will mark the beginning of the end of a democratic State of Israel.
I have nightmares imagining what those poor boys are being put through. I don’t know how every citizen is not having similar nightmares. The government and the police are supposed to work for the people. We want crimes solves, but using good old-fashioned detective work, not torture. I call upon the government to put an immediate stop to this abusive behavior, and until they do, for there to be a loud public outcry.