Israel's Shin Bet Arrests Two Suspected of Planning Attacks on Arabs

The pair, one U.S. citizen and another Israeli, allegedly discussed obtaining weapons and violently assaulting Arabs, as well as belief in far-right ideas

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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A cuffed prisoner at an Israeli prison.
A cuffed prisoner at an Israeli prison. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency and the police arrested and questioned two Jews early this month on suspicion that they had been discussing plans to violently attack Arabs.

The pair, a new immigrant from the United States and an autistic Israeli citizen, allegedly used the Telegram messaging service to plan hurting Arabs.

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They were in detention for 10 days, and one of them was denied access to a lawyer for the initial seven days of his custody. Following the 10 days in detention, the two were placed under house arrest and later freed.

An investigation is still open and they are still suspects, but the Shin Bet is no longer involved.

The two were arrested on suspicion of weapons possession, identification with a terrorist organization, conspiracy, preparing to commit a terrorist act and participation in a disturbance. The investigation was prompted by correspondence on Telegram in which they allegedly discussed how to purchase weapons and their desire to attack Arabs.

They also allegedly discussed their identification with the values of the outlawed extreme right-wing Kach organization founded by the late U.S.-born Rabbi Meir Kahane. According to the police, bullets were found at the home of one of the suspects.

Following their arrest, a gag order was placed on the release of any details of the investigation. A lawyer, Lior Ashkenazi, appealed a police request to extend the detention of one of the suspects by three days. After that, the suspect was permitted to meet with a lawyer. The other suspect will also be represented by legal counsel.

Following the pair’s release from custody, one of them was sent to house arrest for eight days and the other for four days. They were barred from having contact with one another for a month or from accessing the internet for eight days. They were also required to post a 3,000-shekel ($950) bond.

The gag order on their arrests was lifted at Haaretz’s request.

The U.S. immigrant does not speak Hebrew and has been living in Israel for about a year. According to his lawyer, after access to an attorney was permitted, he fully cooperated with investigators, gave his version of events and underwent a polygraph test.

“From the first day, his version was that he had never possessed a weapon or planned to possess a weapon,” Ashkenazi said. “He expressed concern over the situation in the country during Operation Guardian of the Walls,” a reference to the war that Israel and Hamas fought in May. “But the entire issue has been blown out of proportion. He didn’t belong and never wished to belong to an extremist organization.”

When asked about the denial of access to a lawyer, the Shin Bet said that “delaying his meeting with a lawyer was done in accordance with the grounds set by law.”

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