Denying torture claims, Shin Bet decries ‘slander campaign’

Agency comes out against Jewish extremists for second time this week as Duma case continues to dominate conversation

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Right-wing Jewish activists protest against alleged torture by the Shin Bet security service by reenacting the supposed techniques in Habima square in Tel Aviv on December 23, 2015.(Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Right-wing Jewish activists protest against alleged torture by the Shin Bet security service by reenacting the supposed techniques in Habima square in Tel Aviv on December 23, 2015.(Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Shin Bet security service denied all allegations that it tortured detainees in an ongoing investigation into a terror attack by suspected Jewish extremists, calling the claims “deceitful” and “entirely disconnected from reality” on Thursday.

The families and attorneys of those currently being investigated for carrying out the deadly firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in late July have accused Israel’s internal security agency of beating the suspects, spitting on them, shocking them with electricity and hitting them in the genitals.

Though the security service generally maintains relative silence in the face of such allegations, its announcement on Thursday is the second time in the past week the agency has hit back against the charges and those who make them, following near daily protests by right-wing extremists and a political outpouring of support for the agency.

“Over the past few days there continues to be a deceitful, slanderous campaign against the Shin Bet security service and its workers,” the agency said.

The Shin Bet accused right-wing activists of attempting to divert the public’s attention away from the “heinous terrorist acts” that the extremist group in question has been accused of and make the conversation instead about the “legitimacy of the investigation which uncovered their actions.”

The goal of these lies, the organization claimed, is to “blacken the face of the Shin Bet security service in an attempt to harm its ability to carry out its duty — by disrupting the investigation and ruining the image of the service.”

The Shin Bet affirmed that all of its actions have been legal and approved by the courts, the attorney general, the State Attorney’s Office and other legal officials. There have been “over 100 meetings at various times that have been held on the topic of the suspects from this organization,” the service said.

The Jewish terror organization responsible for the Duma firebombing, which resulted in the deaths of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha and his parents, continued to carry out terror attacks even after the July 31 attack and showed no remorse for their actions, seeing it as “an attack worthy of imitation,” the Shin Bet said.

These Jewish extremists have indicated in their internal documents that they have taken violent steps — including attempted murder of Palestinians — “in order to crown a king, ruin the relationships between Israel and other countries, expel non-Jews and harm minorities,” the Shin Bet said.

At this point, the security service is working primarily to uncover more people connected to the Jewish terror organization that is under investigation and prevent future terror attacks, the Shin Bet said in its statement.

Since the attorneys of the suspects in the Dawabsha murders accused the Shin Bet of torture, right-wing activists across the country have taken to the streets in protest, blocking traffic at the entrance to Jerusalem and demonstrating in front of the home of Yoram Cohen, the head of the Shin Bet.

The agency’s conduct during the investigation has been a contentious topic not only within Israeli society in general, but particularly among the right-wing parties in the Knesset, especially within the right-wing Jewish Home party.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also serves as head of the Jewish Home party, have both defended the Shin Bet, while their fellow party members, MK Bezalel Smotrich and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, have come out strongly against the security service.

According to Channel 2, Ariel wrote on WhatsApp to some of his close associates that the “Jewish Division of Shin Bet needs to be closed, and the sooner the better.”

The Shin Bet’s Thursday announcement was released amid a period of shock and anger within Israeli society following the broadcast of a video showing right-wing activists dancing at a wedding with guns, knives and a Molotov cocktail while stabbing a photograph of the murdered Ali Dawabsha.

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