Israel has arrested five teenagers suspected of involvement in the murder of a Palestinian woman.
Ayesha Muhammad al-Rabi – a mother of eight – died after the car in which she and her family were traveling on 12 October was stoned near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. It is suspected that the perpetrators of the attack were teenagers living in an Israeli settlement.
Three of the teens were arrested for terror offenses on 30 December, and two more were arrested on Saturday for reasons still unclear. They all study at Pri Haaretz – a religious high school or yeshiva – in the Rehelim settlement in the occupied West Bank.
The day after the attack, far-right activists from the Yitzhar settlement drove to Rehelim, “violating religious laws that prohibit driving on the Sabbath,” to warn and instruct suspects at the high school on how to deal with an investigation by the Shin Bet, a secret police agency, The Times of Israel reported.
One of the right wing activists was Meir Ettinger, who has a history of leading Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians.
Even the Shin Bet, which is notoriously violent and specializes in kidnapping and torturing Palestinians, has called Ettinger “a violent and dangerous ideological criminal.”
He is a grandson of the late Meir Kahane, who founded the Jewish Defense League, a violent radical Zionist group, in New York in 1968. Kahane called for the total expulsion of Palestinians and inspired a US-born Israeli settler to commit a 1994 massacre in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque.
It is unclear how those right-wing activists knew who the targeted suspects were, or that a Shin Bet investigation was upcoming.
Double standards on torture
Four of the five arrested suspects are being represented by Honenu, an organization that provides legal advice to Israelis accused of harming Palestinians, according to The Times of Israel.
Attorneys were allowed to meet with the three teens arrested in December nearly a week after they were detained, while the two others will only be allowed to do so after Tuesday.
Attorneys stated that the suspects are undergoing “torture” by the Shin Bet while in custody, including being “shackled to a chair, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, in a small cell,” according to Honenu’s Adi Keidar, one of the teens’ lawyers.
Itamar Ben Gvir, another one of the teen’s lawyers and a high profile anti-Arab activist, said his client was “cursed, spit on and even sexually harassed,” the Israeli website reported.
Israeli interrogators routinely abuse and torture Palestinian child detainees, using the tactics mentioned by the lawyers – and more.
In April, a video surfaced showing two Israeli interrogators taunt, abuse and sexually harass Palestinian child prisoner Ahed Tamimi during an interrogation done in isolation by two men, without the presence of a lawyer or guardian.
Ben Gvir sees no problem in these tactics being used against Palestinians, however.
“When a Jew throws a rock at a Palestinian, it is not terrorism. When a Palestinian throws a rock at a Jew, it is terrorism because it’s part of a larger effort to wipe us out from our land,” Ben Gvir said, according to the Israeli newspaper. He added that “extreme” tactics should not be used against Palestinian detainees either.
Meanwhile, Israel’s central district court has thrown out a confession to serious crimes by an Israeli teenager living in a settlement in the West Bank. The decision to reject the confession was taken because Israeli interrogators put the teen under pressure and prevented him from seeing a lawyer.
The teen admitted to “involvement in a terrorist group and to hate crimes that included arson and property damage,” according to the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.
The teen is suspected of involvement in two arson attacks, one at the Benedictine Dormition Abbey in occupied Jerusalem in 2015, and the other in the northern occupied West Bank village of Aqraba.
He was arrested during a search campaign for those responsible for the arson attack on two homes in the village of Duma in the northern West Bank that killed three members of the Dawabsha family, including 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha.
The court’s judge, Michal Brant, cited the boy’s young age and lack of access to a lawyer as the reasoning behind the court’s decision.
Ben Gvir, who is also this minor’s attorney, said that police “humiliated him and threatened him with murder and rape until they got a confession.”
Accusations that the Shin Bet is torturing Israeli settlers are rightly drawing outrage from the defendants’ lawyers.
Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, however, are constantly subject to all forms of torture and collective punishment, without a public outcry.
Last week, Israeli government minister Gilad Erdan announced that Israel will worsen conditions for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Erdan announced the blocking of funds earmarked for prisoner welfare from the Palestinian Authority, reducing prisoners’ autonomy and implementing more restrictions on water supplies, stating that the prisoners’ water consumption is “crazy” and a way for them “to subvert the state,” according to Haaretz. The newspaper did not spell out how much water Palestinian prisoners are alleged to use.
Qadura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, said that the Israeli government’s measures against Palestinians is part of a criminal policy aimed at “depriving the prisoners of their human rights” and reversing “achievements they were able to obtain through blood and struggle” – by means such as hunger strikes.
Fares added that since mid-2018, Erdan has been part of a committee with several Knesset members, as well as the Shin Bet, that determines the conditions of Palestinian prisoners and imposes further restrictions on them.
- Ayesha Muhammad al-Rabi
- Rehelim settlement
- Pri Haaretz
- Shin Bet
- Meir Ettinger
- Meir Kahane
- Ibrahimi Mosque
- Jewish Defense League
- Adi Keidar
- Itamar Ben Gvir
- Ahed Tamimi
- sexual assault
- Ali Dawabsha
- Michal Brant
- Gilad Erdan
- Palestinian Authority
- Qadura Fares
- Palestinian Prisoners' Club