Police have opened an investigation into events surrounding a video released Wednesday showing far-right wing Israeli extremists at a wedding dancing in celebration of the murder of Palestinians, a spokesperson said Thursday.
The video, published by Channel 10 news on Wednesday, drew widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum, though some right-wing lawmakers accused security officials of leaking the video to demonize Jewish extremists being investigated over the murder of three members of a Palestinian family in July.
Police spokesperson Luba Samri said police had begun looking into the video on Wednesday afternoon before it was screened on TV. The clip shows dozens of young Israeli right-wing extremists, said to be linked to the suspected perpetrators of the Dawabsha family murder, celebrating the killing at a Jerusalem wedding last week.
Samri said the video shown on TV was only a small part of the material they are investigating.
“The serious investigative material gathered by the Israel Police, a small part of which was publicized yesterday, is vast, and it was transferred to the state attorney to gain approval for opening an investigation,” Samri said. “Yesterday afternoon, approval was given to the Israel Police’s Nationalist Crimes Unit in the Judea Samaria District to investigate incitement and additional offenses.”
Revelers in the video are seen waving knives, rifles, pistols and a Molotov cocktail. Amid the festivities, a photo of baby Ali Dawabsha, who was burned to death along with his parents in the July 31 firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma, is shown being repeatedly stabbed.
Police claimed to have acquired additional videos and pictures from the event, showing a “lit Molotov cocktail” and people burning and stabbing more pictures of Ali Dawabsha and his family, Israel Radio reported Thursday.
Police also reportedly have a previous video in their possession of the wedding’s groom with a group of friends tying down a dog and trying to kill it by hanging.
Israel Radio reported that at the end of the video, the dog escapes death.
The images immediately sparked condemnation from across the political spectrum.
Both opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the images and the elements behind them. Netanyahu called the video “shocking,” while Herzog termed the revelers “lowlifes.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party told Army Radio on Thursday morning that the video’s release hurts Israel, though she didn’t criticize its contents.
“I regret that the video was released,” Shaked said. “This is something that in the end hurts the State of Israel.”
In response to recent criticism of the Shin Bet security service by right-wing elements with regard to the service’s treatment of suspects in the ongoing Dawabsha murder investigation, Shaked said that the criticism has no foundation.
“The Shin Bet has acted within the framework of the law, accompanied by court orders,” Shaked said. “Some of the stories [of unnecessary force] spread in recent days have no connection to reality.”
Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, who has been criticized for refusing to call July’s attack in Duma “terrorism,” and has slammed the Shin Bet allegedly using unconventional methods in its treatment of the suspects in the case, condemned the video but simultaneously called its release “irresponsible.”
“It looks bad and causes a big stomachache… not Jewish, not Zionist and not corresponding in any way to the world of values that we believe in,” Smotrich said to Army Radio. “But if someone thinks that he will be able to use these pictures to taint an entire public – this will not happen.”
“I fear that someone in the security establishment released the video at this time to try to give legitimization to those same extraordinary investigation techniques that apparently included the use of violence that is unacceptable,” Smotrich said. “Whoever released the pictures is completely irresponsible.”
In a Facebook post Thursday morning, opposition MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) expressed shock at the video, saying that it requires an investigation and goes against Jewish values.
“My hair stands on end and my body fills with pins and needles after seeing [this video]…Those who are happy over murder are also those who will murder and burn Judaism and its Torah, Zionism and its goals,” Peretz wrote.
The suspected existence of a Jewish terror network has made headlines recently as the Shin Bet’s investigation of the Duma attack progresses. The developing case has caused tension within the Israeli right, between those who see Jewish terrorism as a real threat and those who deny its existence or seriousness.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett doubled down on his criticism of figures in the religious Zionist community for their condemnation of the Shin Bet, calling them hypocrites.
“What was done to the Duma detainees is for certain not more, and probably less, than what is done regularly to Palestinian terror suspects,” he said.
Likud MK Miki Zohar, who had previously denied the existence of Jewish terrorism, said on Thursday that after a meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, he had become convinced that such a phenomenon does in fact exist.
“It became very clear to me that Jewish terrorism, in whose existence it had been so hard for me to believe, does exist,” Zohar said. “We are speaking of a very small group of lawbreakers who disgrace the whole settlement movement. Although we are speaking of an extreme, strange handful — it is with pain, shock and deep sadness that I am forced to take back my words that there are no Jews who support the murder of innocents,” Zohar said.