Shin Bet Rendering 'Price Tag’ Protagonists Incommunicado

Security service denies suspects contact with lawyers in attempt to reveal their partners in crime, with few positive results.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Since the Shin Bet security service has deemed “Price Tag” activities an “unpermitted association,” it has released a relatively high number of orders rendering individuals incommunicado. In essence, this has been the only result of the Shin Bet’s declaration.

In the past, an act of injury-causing violence, such as murder or firebombing, was necessary in order for the Shin Bet to issue such an order. In recent years, for example, such orders were issued against Yaakov Teitel, who was ultimately convicted of the murders of two Palestinians, as well as to Chaim Pearlman, who was suspected of murdering three Palestinians, but was eventually released without charges.

The State Prosecutor’s office has employed a new policy, however, by which incidents of arson, which can endanger lives, can warrant orders to render such incommunicado orders. Acts of vandalism in holy sites or puncturing tires, however, do not warrant such orders. The Shin Bet generally tends to question suspects on a wide range of crimes, including arson, which makes it possible to issue such orders against them.

Yakir Eshbal, an 18-year-old resident of Yad Binyamin, was questioned by the Shin Bet on numerous suspicions, but was eventually released without charges. He was held incommunicado for 10 days. Another minor, who was questioned over vandalizing vehicles in Abu Ghosh, was also forbidden from communicating for 10 days. Three brothers suspected of spraying graffiti on the monastery in Beit Jamal were not allowed to communicate for a few hours, until the State Prosecutor’s office ordered that they be allowed to contact an attorney. Three minors who were ultimately convicted of vandalizing vehicles in Gush Halav were held incommunicado for 24 hours.

In these cases, the tactic did not yield significant results for the Shin Bet. Only in one case did a suspect break down under questioning. Last February, three youths from Havat Gilad were arrested on suspicions of setting vehicles on fire in a nearby Arab village. One of them, Yehuda Landsberg, was prohibited from meeting with a lawyer, and he implicated his two partners in crime.

Honenu, the national legal defense organization, which has represented some of the suspects mentioned above, stated in response to the Shin Bet’s policy, “the Shin Bet’s use of prohibiting contact with attorneys for Jews suspected of damaging Arab property is outrages and a gross violation of their rights. Questioning Arab suspects in the murder of Shelly Dadon, conducted under similar prohibitions, only proves the hysteria surrounding the Shin Bet’s war on the so-called ‘Price Tag’ events. While it prohibits contact for Arabs suspected of murder, Jews are questioned under similar or even harsher conditions, on suspicions of damaging property. We continue to wonder why Jews are discriminated against in the State of Israel.”

In the West Bank, the Shin Bet’s default action is to issue non-communication orders. The draconian laws in the West Bank allow the Shin Bet extraordinary powers in terms of non-communication orders. Suspects can be prohibited from contacting lawyers for up to 90 days.

In the past, The Movement for Freedom of Information and Yesh Din petitioned the Shin Bet to release information on the number of Palestinians held under such orders. The Shin Bet refused the petition, and the Supreme Court upheld the Shin Bet’s position, stating that revealing such information could harm national security.

Lawyers representing Palestinians have stated that issuing such orders is common practice. A suspect with any kind of connection to terrorism is issued such an order for at least a few days. Longer orders have been issued in the past.

In October 2010, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel released a report on the issue, which claimed that at least 80 percent of security prisoners are held under such orders.