Israeli Officials Defend Shin Bet in Duma Case

Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

As controversy over allegations of brutality in the treatment of suspects in the Duma arson case raged on Tuesday, Israeli officials came to the defense of Shin Bet interrogators.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon denounced what he called the “callous lies” and attempt to deceive the public, as well as the “irresponsible, dangerous manipulations” by defense lawyers, along with certain politicians.

Attorney Itamar charged at a court hearing on Tuesday that his clients had been subjected to “torture,” thus rendering inadmissible any confessions obtained by the state.

“I have met many people in prison over the years, but the vision I saw when I met with my client after 21 days in custody was shocking,” said Ben-Gvir. “He was broken physically and spiritually, and he needs mental help. The Shin Bet interrogators indeed ‘broke’ him, in all understandings of the term. He has been left as nothing more than the shadow of a man.”

Yaalon, however, rejected the accusation. “I have full confidence and I am giving full support to Shin Bet Head Yoram Cohen, to Shin Bet personnel, and to the Shin Bet in general, in light of the despicable attacks they are experiencing in recent days,” Yaalon said.

Furthermore, a failure to bring the perpetrators of the lethal attack to justice would mean allowing them to carry out more attacks and risk “setting the region on fire,” he warned.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu similarly stood by the security agency.

“ISA chief Yoram Cohen and his staff do excellent and important work for the people of Israel and for the security of Israel,” Netanyahu stated. “The attacks on them are unacceptable. We are a country of law.”

“We will not accept terrorism by either side,” Netanyahu said, referring to Jews as well as Arabs.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett told a meeting of his Jewish Home party, some of whom have voiced criticism of the Shin Bet in the case, that he had looked into the torture claims and “the things that were done were legal.”

Bennett’s comments followed a letter of protest sent by Shomron Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Perl, and South Chevron Hills Regional Council head Yochai Damari to Netanyahu on Monday calling for an investigation into the conduct of the interrogators.

Also Monday, hundreds held a demonstration in Yerushalayim against the alleged torture. The Shin Bet denies using torture.

On the Duma firebombing itself, Bennett wrote in an online posting: “When you burn a sleeping family, that is a terrorist attack. With a terrorist attack – you do everything to catch those responsible. You do everything – within the limits of the law.”

He described terrorists as “not one of us.”

Meanwhile, a petition protesting alleged Shin Bet methods signed by about 100 social workers, psychologists and mental health specialists was published on Tuesday.

They expressed shock at the descriptions of torture of “Jews being held on vague suspicions of involvement in the arson murder, with no evidence presented against them.”

“I strongly oppose any harm to human rights and particularly any harm to the rights of minors,” said Prof. Guy Enosh of Haifa University’s School of Social Work, who is among the leaders of the protest.

“Torture so as to extract admissions from suspects only exists in dark regimes…and has no place in a democratic state,” Enosh wrote.

The Shin Bet denies the allegations.