Meir Ettinger, the grandson of murdered Israeli-American far-right activist Meir Kahane, was arrested on Monday in connection to extremist activity, the Shin Bet security agency said.
Ettinger was being questioned by Shin Bet agents for “his involvement in a Jewish extremist organization,” it said in a statement.
Ettinger’s attorney accused the Shin Bet of making the arrest for “PR purposes” rather than for a real investigative purpose.
“The difficult incidents of the past few days has led the relevant authorities to invest in an impression that they are doing something and what’s better than [to arrest] the grandson of Meir Kahane,” attorney Yuval Zemer told Channel 10 in response to the arrest.
Zemer was referring to the deadly Molotov cocktail attack in the Palestinian village of Duma Friday, in which a Palestinian toddler was killed and which authorities suspect was perpetrated by Jewish extremists, and the stabbing attack the previous day at the Jerusalem Pride Parade in which an Israeli teenager died after succumbing to wounds sustained by an ultra-Orthodox attacker. Five other people were also wounded in the incident.
Ettinger, a prominent activist who has been instrumental in the establishment of illegal outposts in the West Bank in recent years has been on the Shin Bet’s radar for some time and security authorities accuse him of leading a series of violent attacks against Palestinians.
In late July, Channel 10 aired a report citing security sources that claimed Ettinger was the head of an “underground cell” that carries out attacks against Muslim and Christian targets and publishes instructions on how to execute so-called “price-tag” attacks.
The Shin Bet had linked Ettinger to the arson attack on the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes last month, Haaretz reported.
Last Thursday, a day before the Duma attack, Ettinger denied any such involvement.
“The truth is I don’t know what they in the Shin Bet wanted me to organize, and they should definitely look for other people to cast in the roles they need for their media spectacle, but this urge of the Shin Bet to create an atmosphere, to put up appearances as if there is some ‘organization’ it exposed, clearly illustrates to us what those in the Shin Bet understand and are so afraid of,” he wrote in a blog post on the website “Hakol Hayehudi” or The Jewish Voice.
“The truth must be told — there is no terror organization, but there are a whole lot of Jews, a lot more than people think, whose value-system is completely different than that of the High Court or the Shin Bet, and who are not bound by the laws of the state, but by much more eternal laws, true laws,” he wrote.
The right-wing activist had formerly been subject to a year-long court order preventing him from entering the West Bank and Jerusalem. He lives in the northern town of Safed.
In 2013, Ettinger wrote a document entitled “the rebel manifesto” which calls to bring down the Israeli leadership.
“The idea of the rebellion is very simple. Israel has many weak points, many issues which it handles by walking on eggshells so as to not attract attention. What we’re going to do is simply fire up these powder kegs,” he wrote in the document.
“The aim is to bring down the state, to bring down its structure and its ability to control, and to build a new system. To do it, we must act outside the rules of the state we seek to bring down,” Ettinger wrote.
“We must break the status-quo. In doing so, we must differentiate between ‘breaking’ the state, an act that would insufficiently shed light on the remains and between ‘taking it apart’ which is the same but with care, and with attention. At the end of the day, the goal is to shake up the foundations of the state until we have a situation in which Jews must decide whether they are are part of the revolution or part of the repression [of the rebellion],” he went on.
In January 2014, Ettinger was held captive by Palestinian villagers for more than two hours, along with several other settlers who had been with him at the time of an alleged attempted “price tag” attack.
Ettinger’s arrest comes as the government cracks down on Jewish extremists. On Sunday, the cabinet authorized security officials to use administrative detention, wherein suspects are held without trial for renewable periods, and all other appropriate means to track down and hold suspects in Friday’s killing of the Palestinian child.
At an emergency meeting Sunday evening, ministers approved the use of “all means necessary” to catch the killers, alleged to be Jewish terrorists, who firebombed the Dawabsha home in the early hours of Friday morning, burning it down, killing Ali Saad Dawabsha, and leaving his parents and brother in critical condition.
Ministers also agreed to expedite legislation designed to counter Jewish terrorism, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
A ministerial committee including Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was established to oversee other requirements to ensure more effective efforts to quell the extremism.
Security officials quoted on Israel’s Channel 2 News warned that a group of Jewish extremists, sometimes referred to as “hilltop youth,” were responsible for a series of hate crimes in recent years, and that these “rebels” and “anarchists” were bent on undermining the rule of law in Israel.
The officials said there had been a reduction in the number of hate attacks of late, but that the attacks themselves were becoming increasingly grave.