A dear friend of mine of 35 years lives in my Jerusalem neighborhood. He taught several of my sons; my children and his children are the same age; and they learned together in the same classroom for years.
Almost two weeks ago, my friend’s youngest son was arrested and imprisoned. For a week, he and four of his friends – all minors studying at a yeshiva in the Shomron – were interrogated by the Shabak without the privilege of speaking with a lawyer. My friend still has not been allowed to communicate with his son.
The lawyers who eventually met with the youths were outraged at how harshly the young suspects were treated – tied to chairs throughout the day, denied sleep at night, yelled and spit at, and threatened with cruel punishments if they refused to admit they threw rocks at a car three months ago that killed the Arab woman driving it.
My friend’s son is being charged with murder and four other terror-related activities. Because he is a minor, his name cannot be disclosed according to Israeli law. But I know his father and spoke with him. Here is what he told me:
“Naturally, as parents, my wife and I are extremely distressed. We believe our son is innocent, and the lawyer who spoke with him assured us that the investigators have no concrete proof against him. From what the lawyer told us, our son has been deeply traumatized by his treatment in prison and being charged with murder.
“I don’t know why he and his friends were arrested. Just because his yeshiva is located in the vicinity of the rock throwing doesn’t mean anything. The perpetrators could have been Arabs who believed that Jews were traveling inside the car. Arabs throwing rocks at cars throughout Judea and Samaria is a regular occurrence.
“I’d like to say that my wife and I both understand and value the work of Israel’s Security Forces and the Shabak. Day and night, in life-threatening actions, they carry out missions to insure the security of our people…. Therefore, we are against blanket condemnations of their work and the name-calling that has surrounded the arrest of the five boys and their persistent illegal actions against what the media labels ‘hilltop-youth.’
“Nonetheless, it appears to us that the so-called Jewish Division of the General Security Services has stepped out of line in the case of my son and his friends, and in many similar cases. It seems that they carry out false and damaging arrests in order to justify their salaries and the existence of their department. Or else they do it to placate the Arabs or due to orders from someone on high….
“It may very well be that a handful of Jews sometimes take the law into their own hands, committing acts of revenge – we know of such cases. However, acting in an illegal manner, arresting innocent minors and forcing confessions from them through physical and psychological torture while ignoring their basic rights, is a practice that must be uprooted and banned.
“The prime minister is the official head of the GSS [General Security Services]. He cannot, on the one hand, complain about his own personal unfair treatment by Israel’s law establishment, claiming they are hounding him without cause while he condones illegal actions against minors and other citizens of the country.
“Responsibility for the illegal and immoral actions of the Shabak’s Jewish Division lies with the prime minister. If, G-d forbid, an innocent youth suffering from the trauma of torture and long incarceration commits suicide in prison, the prime minister cannot hold up his hands and claim he did not shed his blood. We call upon Bibi Netanyahu to shut down the anti-Jewish Division of the GSS and put an end to its barbaric and illegal behavior – now.”