Yonatan Shapira, the airman who wrote the 2003 “pilots’ letter.”
Yonatan Shapira, the airman who wrote the 2003 “pilots’ letter.” Photo by Yanai Yehiel
Text size

The Shin Bet security service on Sunday questioned a conscientious objector about his activity in an Israeli group that supports sanctions against Israel as part of its struggle against the occupation.

Yonatan Shapira, 38, a non-active Israel Air Force pilot who authored the "pilots' letter" of 2003, signed by 27 IAF pilots who said they would refuse to fly over the occupied territories, said he was instructed not to disclose any details from the interview.

Shapira told the agent he publishes everything regarding his anti-occupation activity and intended to publish this interview as well as any future ones in full detail, he told Haaretz.

He said he received the impression that this troubled his interrogator, who asked for the piece of paper he was writing on because it was "a recording device and is not legal."

Shapira gave her the paper but after leaving the building wrote down the questions from memory. The agent reminded Shapira the Knesset was expected shortly to outlaw calls for sanctions against Israel, he said.

He said the Shin Bet called him on Sunday at noon, while he was visiting friends in Tel Aviv.

"The caller said she was from the Shin Bet and that she wanted to talk to me," he said. "I asked what it was about and she said it wasn't for the phone. I said if anyone was listening to us it was only them, but she insisted we meet and that it was not an interrogation."

Attorney Gaby Lasky advised Shapira to ask at the interview whether he was considered a suspect and told him he did not have to say anything because such a meeting constituted a political interrogation even if the Shin Bet called it a conversation.

Shapira consulted with Yonatan Polak, who has been summoned many times for Shin Bet interrogations about his activity in the popular committees against the separation fence.

Polak told Haaretz that many of the Israeli participants in demonstrations against the separation barrier have been called in by the Shin Bet for questioning.

Shapira's meeting with the agent took place in the rear building of the police station on Dizengoff Street, not far from his friends' place. A security guard conducted a body search ("quite an intimate one", Shapira wrote on Facebook ), explaining he was checking to make sure Shapira wasn't hiding any recording devices.

The agent said something along the lines of "we wanted to meet you because recently we see you've been very active," Shapira said. He asked whether he was suspected of anything and she said he wasn't, that this was not an investigation and that she "only wanted to talk."

Almost immediately, Shapira related, she began talking about his activity in Global BDS Movement: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine, which supports measures against Israel. She asked what he did exactly, whether it was a Palestinian organization and what he knew about it and its activities.

Shapira said he told her that everything she asked was public knowledge, available on the Internet and in the press. He said he would be happy to deliver a public lecture about BDS to the Shin Bet and the police but would not conduct a political discussion in a Shin Bet interrogation room.

The agent asked if he knew the protests he took part in were illegal, in light of the Israel Defense Forces having declared the area a closed military area on Friday.

When he did not reply, she talked about the graffiti slogans, "Liberate all ghettos" and "Free Gaza and Palestine," spray-painted by Israeli and pro-Palestinian activists on a remnant of the Warsaw Ghetto last week.

She asked Shapira, who was one of the activists, whether the graffiti was his idea, whether it had anything to do with BDS and whether he did not understand that he "crossed a line and hurt many people's feelings" with his action.

Shapira said that he repeated his offer to discuss the issues in public and told the agent that for now she could get all the information from media interviews he had given.

When asked if the Shin Bet was bugging his phone, the agent first said she could not answer, then said, "You won't talk about BDS, why should I tell you?" When he asked her, "If I talk, will you tell?," she said no.

The Shin Bet said in a response that it is authorized, as part of its duty to preserve state security and democracy from terror threats, sabotage, subversion and espionage to receive and to gather information, and that Shapira was told clearly that the meeting was not an interrogation and that he was not considered a suspect.