Bennett: Jewish Terror Suspects Treated as Harshly as Palestinian Ones

Minister refutes torture allegations, says Jewish extremists want to bring down the state.

Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett addresses the press, December 21, 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

The means the Shin Bet security service has been using in investigating the Jewish suspects in the deadly West Bank arson are justified, Education Ministry Naftali Bennett said Wednesday morning. 

The Shin Bet’s methods are no harsher than those used when questioning Palestinian terrorism suspects, Bennett said, calling the deeds allegedly perpetrated by the suspects “terrorism that is designed to bring down the house on our heads.”

“I am closely supervising the actions of the Shin Bet,” he told a audience of religious Zionist school principals at a conference organized by the Besheva newspaper.

“What is being done to them is certainly no more than is done against Palestinian terrorists,” Bennett said, refering to the methods being used to interrogate the suspects in the arson, which resulted in the death of three members of the Dawabsheh family in the Palestinian village of Duma.

“Because that’s how it works. You have a Palestinian suspect who you know knows how to reach a terrorist. Do you deprive him of sleep, of a lawyer, in order to obtain that information and save human life? I believe the answer is yes it is not easy to deny sleep and a lawyer and use extreme methods.”

It is unpleasant for the suspect, but that is how to prevent repeats of the Duma attack, Bennett said.

The leader of the Habayit Hayehudi party said he personally looked into the interrogation of the Jewish suspects. “I checked [the methods] in depth and so did the justice minister. Nobody’s being hung upside down, there are no sexual assaults, there have been no suicide attempts," he said, referring to allegations that the detainees are being tortured.  

"Everything is supervised and overseen as tightly as possible,” he said.

“If there is unpleasantness – why? Because they are staying silent, because we want that information, we want to get to these terrorists. I ask: Who would you rather believe, [right-wing activist and lawyer] Itamar Ben Gvir or Ayelet Shaked, justice minister of the State of Israel, and the state institutions?”

"Everybody in the land has seen Whatsapp text messages" about torture being used on the Duma suspects, Bennett said – “about children being hung from their ankles, about a boy trying to slit his wrists, about torture with sexual aspects, all this happening to the Duma terror suspects.

"I said terror suspects and I meant it. These are terror suspects, because what is the definition of terrorism? What distinguishes between terrorism and ordinary crime? Terrorism is the use of violence against civilians in order to advance a political goal, or heaven forbid, to stage a coup. All the conditions I just describe apply to Duma. It was use of force – the worst kind, burning a family alive in its sleep – to advance a political goal or to force the state’s hand. In this case the goal was much deeper – to dismantle the state. I know whereof I speak.”

Regarding the group to which the Jewish suspects under arrest belong, Bennett said, “[its] goal is to overthrow the structure of the state, its ability to rule, and to build a new establishment. That requires operating outside the rules of the establishment being overthrown. The purpose is to bring down the institutions of the State of Israel See, the murder in Duma was just a means. They want to bring down the house on our heads. That is their goal. It is antithetical to the substance of religious Zionism. They want to dismantle the State of Israel. They are terrorists, and the government made the decision to treat them as such.”

Regarding religious Zionism’s view of the Duma murders, Bennett said, “We are currently in the middle of a highly significant event for religious Zionism and the State of Israel. I think this is a critical point here, and if I had to reduce the whole event to a single word I would say it is ‘responsibility.’ What we face today is whether to accept responsibility. Responsibility for the State of Israel to abandon the stance of victimhood. We aren’t les misrables. I am overseeing every action by the Shin Bet very closely now. We want leadership – we have to be responsible. It is our responsibility to catch those people and we will.”

Remarking on allegations that the Shin Bet was torturing the Duma suspects, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday commented that all the Shin Bet’s actions comply with the law and are closely supervised by the attorneys general of the state and Justice Ministry, and the courts.