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Yitzhar Exile Speaks Out

Man exiled from home without explanation accuses Shin Bet of making Judea, Samaria Jews out to be violent.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/12/2011, 10:49 AM

Police at Yitzhar (archive)
Police at Yitzhar (archive)
Yesha human rights photo

Last week, police told Oriya Cohen of Yitzhar that he is not allowed to go home to his wife and two children, due to unspecified suspicions that he engaged in illegal behavior. Cohen sat down with Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language radio station to describe the treatment he has faced since then.

Cohen reported that on Wednesday, he was detained without warning by the Shin Bet, Israel's internal intelligence force, and released only several hours later. “It is really unacceptable. You're already exiled from home, and on top of that they detain you for questioning. If they had any evidence, why didn't they arrest me then?” he asked.

“What we have here is an attempt to portray us as dangerous people who engage in arson all day; they are making up baseless charges against us,” he accused.

Based on comments made by Shin Bet agents while questioning residents of Yitzhar, those exiled from home believe they are suspected of setting fire to Arab cars, a charge which they say is completely false.

During Cohen's ordeal on Wednesday he was taken from Jerusalem to Petach Tikva and questioned at length. “They started to walk with me in the hallways and talk to me. I asked them if this was an interrogation and they said it was... They kept making threats and saying they have evidence against me,” he recalled.

When the questioning ended, “they suddenly asked me how I am getting home. I asked them, I said, you brought me here, aren't you bringing me home? So they gave me money for the bus and released me.”

Cohen made his way back to his brother-in-law's house in Jerusalem alone.

His concern now is for his wife and young children, he said. “One child is three and a half years old, and the other is two. It's hard, the children are confused, Daddy suddenly disappeared.” Cohen explained that he has been staying with various relatives in turn, but hopes to find a more permanent arrangement.

Cohen's story, and that of the other men expelled without warning from Yitzhar, has brought the controversial issues of administrative orders, a leftover from the British mandate, to the public eye. The saga led to common ground between the political right and left, as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) agreed with Judea and Samaria-based rights groups that use of the orders was immoral.

Earlier in the week dozens of Yitzhar residents came together to show their affection and support for displaced community members.