Israel's Shin Bet Security Service Takes Over Investigation of Jewish-Arab Attacks

Arab suspects held at Shin Bet facilities are denied the right to counsel, as legal rights group expresses concern the move 'could lead to practical martial law' in Israeli Arab communities

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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A burning police car in the mixed city of Lod, two days ago.
A burning police car in the mixed city of Lod, two days ago.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Israel's Shin Bet security service has taken over the investigation of recent cases of ethnic violence, as authorities aim to quell the unrest that engulfed both Jewish and Arab communities over the past week and led to dozens of wounded, some in serious condition.

Legal documents obtained by Haaretz show that Israel Police handed over to Shin Bet the handling of cases of serious violence over the past week, and the agency has been increasingly involved in making arrests.

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Some police units are still involved in some of the cases alongside Shin Bet, which is generally under less legal and public scrutiny than police.

With tensions simmering amid clashes between Israeli forces and protesters in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah and the Temple Mount and a flare-up of violence between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, they spilled into violent attacks by civilians across Israel, targeting both Jews and Arabs.

The Shin Bet arrested a group of Arabs, all Israeli citizens, suspected of involvement in attacks targeting Jews in northern Israel on Monday night. In the town of Kfar Kana, a 50-year-old man was assaulted while driving home, but was rescued by residents and taken to hospital.

The suspects, in their 20s, have so far been denied the right to counsel. Their detention was extended by seven days in closed court hearings. 

One of them was warned in a text message not to take part in any violence, and was arrested after doing so.

Most of the suspects are represented by Adalah, a legal rights group that offered assistance to Arab citizens detained in protests and clashes over the past days.

According to Adalah, Shin Bet involvement in these cases is "part of a deliberate attempt to force a security pretext to justify denial of civil rights."

"It is particularly worrying put together with the prime minister's statements on issuing administrative detention orders, a move that could lead to practical martial law" in Arab communities across the coutnry, it added.

Another suspect held by Shin Bet is a Bedouin from southern Israel who allegedly stabbed a Jewish man at a Be'er Sheva hospital.

Asked about his case, a police official told Haaretz, "We're facing a wave [of violence] that we didn't foresee," and therefore turned to Shin Bet involvement "to lay our hands on the rioters."

Shin Bet said in a statement that under Israeli law, it is responsible "for the prevention of terror threats," which the agency argued "include nationalistic crimes." It opreates to "foil all terror activity, regardless of the perpetrator's identity, nationality or religion," the statement read.

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