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Far-right activist Meir Ettinger to be kept in detention

A-G says grandson of Meir Kahane, arrested for involvement in extremist activity, can be held in administrative detention if necessary

Meir Ettinger, the alleged head of a Jewish extremist group, at the Magistrate's Court in Nazareth Illit on August 4, 2015, a day after his arrest. (AFP/Jack Guez)
Meir Ettinger, the alleged head of a Jewish extremist group, at the Magistrate's Court in Nazareth Illit on August 4, 2015, a day after his arrest. (AFP/Jack Guez)

Meir Ettinger, the grandson of assassinated Israeli-American far-right activist Meir Kahane, will be kept in detention following his arrest Monday in connection to extremist activity, officials said Tuesday.

At a closed-door hearing, the magistrates court in Nazareth extended Ettinger’s incarceration until at least Sunday.

At a meeting Tuesday afternoon of Israel’s top judicial officials headed by Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, it was decided that, if necessary, Ettinger could be held without charge, in administrative detention. Such a decision would also need to be approved by Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Weinstein also approved the administrative detention of three other Jewish extremist suspects, Israel’s Channel 2 reported. If utilized, this would mark the first time in many years that administrative detention was used against Israeli citizens, the TV report said.

The Shin Bet security service said it arrested Ettinger for “his involvement in a Jewish extremist organization.” The agency has accused Ettinger of heading an extremist movement seeking to bring about religious “redemption” through attacks on Christian sites and Palestinian targets.

Ettinger’s attorney Yuval Zemer claimed Tuesday his client had been tortured in custody, an allegation denied by security officials.

Security authorities did not accuse Ettinger of direct involvement in last week’s firebombing attack on a Palestinian home in Duma village the West Bank, in which a toddler was burned to death, but the Shin Bet had linked him to the arson attack on the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes last month, the Haaretz daily reported.

Ettinger’s arrest came a day after the cabinet authorized security officials to use administrative detention against Jewish suspects, wherein they are held without trial for renewable periods.

At an emergency meeting Sunday evening, ministers approved the use of “all means necessary” to catch the killers of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha. Ministers also agreed to expedite legislation designed to counter Jewish terrorism, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Zemer accused the Shin Bet of making the arrest for “PR purposes” rather than for a real investigative reason.

He said authorities had arrested his client to appease an Israeli public outraged by the Duma attack, and denied that his client had anything to do with it.

“The difficult incidents of the past few days have 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,” Zemer told Channel 10.

Meir Ettinger, wearing a white skullcap, is escorted by IDF soldiers out of the  West Bank village of Qusra, January 7, 2014. (Rabbis for Human Rights)
Meir Ettinger, wearing a white skullcap, is escorted by IDF soldiers out of the West Bank village of Qusra, January 7, 2014. (Rabbis for Human Rights)

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.

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 for the toppling of 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.

Rabbi Meir Kahane (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Rabbi Meir Kahane (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

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.

AP contributed to this report.

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