Groom says ‘didn’t even see’ extremists’ behavior at wedding

Yakir Ashbal, said to be friends with Duma suspects, insists he was unaware of revelers celebrating with weapons, photo of murdered Palestinian baby

Screen capture from controversial Jewish right-wing wedding (YouTube)
Screen capture from controversial Jewish right-wing wedding (YouTube)

The groom at the now-infamous wedding earlier this month where Jewish extremists brandished weapons and stabbed a photo of a murdered Palestinian child said Thursday he had not been aware of what took place on the dance floor.

“I didn’t even see it. At my wedding I was in the clouds, not on the ground at all,” Yakir Ashbal told Channel 10.

He called the footage “shocking,” but insisted that “there were about 600 people at my wedding, and this wasn’t something I agreed to. There were a million people. I don’t control what happens at my wedding. I’m just the groom; I didn’t even pay for the photographer or the singer.”

Ashbal’s father, too, joined the chorus of denunciation Thursday, insisting he would have stopped the revelers calling for “vengeance” if he had seen them.

“We’re not connected [to the extremists]. We’re establishment people, who always teach respect for other people. We reject this and everything that took place,” he said.

The wedded couple were said to be friends of Jewish extremists detained in connection with the firebombing attack.

According to Channel 10, Ashbal belongs to a group calling itself “the rebellion,” which advocates the toppling of the Israeli state and its replacement by a Jewish monarchy. The group also reportedly supports expelling non-Jews from the land.

Both bride and groom have previously been investigated by the Shin Bet.

The video, aired Wednesday by Channel 10, shows revelers at the Jerusalem celebration waving knives, rifles, pistols and a Molotov cocktail during the wedding.

Amid the festivities, a photo of baby Ali Dawabsha, who was burned to death in a July 31 firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma, is shown being repeatedly stabbed by celebrants.

The crowd in the video chants the lyrics of a song which includes a verse from Judges 16:28, quoting Samson, blinded in Gaza, saying “let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes” — but changing the word Philistines to Palestine.

The attack in Duma killed three members of a Palestinian family. Only one member of the Dawabsha family — Ahmed, now 5 — survived the attack, and remains hospitalized in Israel. The 18-month-old baby Ali was killed on the night of the attack, while parents Riham and Saad succumbed to their injuries in the succeeding weeks.

The video from the wedding, which took place earlier this month, has drawn vehement condemnation of the extremists, including from far-right leaders.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon showed the clip to settler leaders a few days ago during a meeting intended to calm concerns over the torture accusations leveled by the detainees against the Shin Bet.

The defense minister said the footage showed the Shin Bet was working to disrupt a well-organized group of dozens of young extremists who passionately supported the alleged Jewish terrorists.

Minutes after the clip was aired on Wednesday, Zionist Union MK and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni spoke before the Knesset and railed against the youngsters in the film, saying “this is the group that wants to destroy Jewish Israel, to destroy this state from within, to destroy the government from within and sow hate.”

Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich condemned the “evil price tag ideology,” referring to right-wing attacks against Palestinians, but attempted to disassociate himself from the extremists, saying it “is not the way of religious Zionism, period.”

“The demonic dance with the picture of the murdered baby represents a dangerous ideology and the loss of humanity,” he said, according the Israel National News website.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog termed the revelers “maniacs.”

“Lowlifes, you forgot what it is to be Jewish. You disgrace the kippah, the prayer shawl, and the name of God. Those who dance at a wedding and celebrate the death of a baby in his sleep are not Jews and not Israeli. They should be locked up as soon as possible,” he said in a tweet.

In a statement, the Joint List of Arab parties said the Israeli government and defense minister, “who let the settlers attack Palestinians without facing punishment, are the first ones to blame for this terror network.”

The party urged Israeli society to “wake up” and see that “the hatred and terror are the inevitable result of military control and occupation of a civilian population.”

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), an outspoken supporter of the settlement movement, condemned the participants at the wedding.

“The clip published by Channel 10 news this evening is shocking and one cannot allow the activity of radical groups fueled by hate,” Ariel wrote on Facebook.

“Violence and support of violence deserve only condemnation. This is not the path of Zionism and this is not the path of the settlement movement,” wrote Ariel, who a day earlier had called for the Shin Bet to close down its division that deals with Jewish terror cases.

The video clip was also denounced by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who said it went against Jewish values. Other religious figures also spoke out against it.

The video comes as the Shin Bet faces criticism from some right-wing activists over claims that it has tortured suspects detained in connection with the Duma attack.

An unspecified number of Jewish suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack, which is being investigated as an act of terrorism. Details of the investigation, and the identity of the suspects, have been withheld from publication by a court-imposed gag order.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett of Jewish Home doubled down on his criticism of figures in the religious Zionist community for their condemnation of the Shin Bet, calling them hypocrites.

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