Shin Bet Questions Israeli Activists Linked to Upcoming 'Fly-in' Protest

Several Israelis have been questioned at length by the security service in recent weeks regarding Sunday's planned 'fly-in'; activists' lawyer says Shin Bet is attempting to deter people from taking part in legal activities.

The Shin Bet security service has interrogated four left-wing Israelis involved in preparations for Sunday's "fly-in." The activists, members of Anarchists Against the Wall, said they have been questioned over the past two to three weeks.

Two of the activists said they were questioned at Ben-Gurion International Airport upon returning from a trip abroad. Two others received a written summons to the police station on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv.

Flytilla - Milrod - 12.4.12
Moti Milrod

The four were questioned by a man who called himself "Shavit" and said he was chief of the Shin Bet's department in charge of the extreme right and extreme left.

The activists said they refused to speak to him or answer his questions, which prompted him to tell them they were under close surveillance. He told them the Shin Bet knew many details about their private lives, not only about their activities (which they report about in full on social media).

They said Shavit stressed the meeting was not an interrogation but a conversation. But when some of them asked if that meant they could leave, he said no.

Two other activists received summonses by telephone and another received a written one too late for the scheduled meeting. All seven are also members of the Anarchists Against The Wall group. Some have been summoned to interviews with the Shin Bet before.

The activists' attorney, Gaby Lasky, said "the summons is illegal and outside the Shin Bet's authority. Under the guise of a 'friendly conversation' the Shin Bet is trying to deter people from taking part in legal activity with Palestinians."

The Shin Bet said the decision to call in the seven "was made by the power invested in the service and the duties imposed on it by law, in order to convey messages designed to thwart illegal activity."

The first activist to be questioned was Lihi Rothschild, 27, a translator, on her return from London three weeks ago. She said that at the airport in London she was physically examined and told to undress. Her clothes were screened and all her possessions inspected, she said.

At Ben-Gurion airport, Rothschild was interrogated for more than three hours by Shavit, a man who said his name was Reshef and a woman they called Karin, who kept silent the whole time.

About a week later, on April 2, Kobi Barkan, 35, a mathematics teacher, was interrogated. He told Haaretz that Shavit "made sure to remind me of the report Lihi had posted about her interrogation on the leftist website +972."

Shavit mentioned the sexual harassment issue Rothschild had written about. She wrote "Reshef said I didn't look like an anarchist, while checking my clothes and commenting on each garment. Shavit warned him it was sexual harassment. They tried to persuade me to meet for a friendly conversation over coffee. I continued to remain silent."

Barkan said Shavit mentioned the issue as a way of bringing up the issue of sexual harrassment in the territories and, in some cases, among the peace activists. He said that at the end of the 20-minute meeting, Shavit said he could write about the conversation "anything you like."

Rothschild, in contrast, had been advised to keep the interrogation a secret, she wrote on +972, saying "that's one motive to publish the story."

Shavit told Rothschild that while her activity was legal, Palestinians whom she was in touch with could use her to transfer terrorists or bombs to Israel. He said she must understand the risk and be careful, she said.

He said investigators wanted to understand what drove her to become an activist and asked if she was active in the "flytilla," flotilla or the march to Jerusalem, and what happens at the meetings of Anarchists Against The Wall.

She said they offered her help in obtaining permits for demonstrations or in passing messages to soldiers in the West Bank about their treatment of the demonstrators.

Shavit said the Shin Bet sees Rothschild as a leader who could be deemed responsible for illegal acts other people would commit. The responsibility issue was brought up in the other activists' interviews as well.

One activist, a 23-year-old student and animation editor, said Shavit told her "I know you're very active and you should know many new activists see you as a an example. You [all] are upstage, very dominant and people look at you and are influenced by you. Be careful."

Shavit telephoned the activist for two weeks, telling her to come in for questioning, but she refused to go without a written summons.

"He told me he heard about the sexual harassment in the left and said 'it troubles us very much,'" said the animation editor.

He said the Shin Bet was also troubled by boycotts against Israel and asked her if she did not think she was endangering herself at the demonstrations. He warned her of being exploited by people she thought she knew but really didn't.

Barkan said Shavit kept mentioning names of people he had interrogated before him. He also mentioned the name of a Palestinian friend who attended a meeting in Tel Aviv (the meeting was reported on Facebook, with photographs ). He said the security forces had broken into the Palestinian's house at night and confiscated his computer and telephone.

He also mentioned the names of French activists organizing the "fly-in." "He said helping them was borderline legal," Barkan told Haaretz. "Although these are people who instead of lying are telling the border police the truth - that they want to visit the West Bank."

Shavit questioned another activist after midnight at the airport, after he returned from a trip to Paris. The activist, a student, 28, said Shavit tried to get him to talk for three and a half hours.