Bennett: Duma suspects 'tried to dismantle Israel'

Jewish Home leader defends Shin Bet interrogation of suspects, says they prevented 'Duma 2.'

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Hezki Baruch,

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Etrog Studios

Jewish Home chairperson and Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday morning condemned the Jewish suspects being held in the lethal Duma arson case, after a confession was extracted from one minor suspect under interrogation.

"What stands before us today is whether we take responsibility for the state of Israel," Bennett said at a directorate conference of the Besheva paper and Arutz Sheva in Jerusalem. "We need to take responsibility for the state, we are no longer individuals."

Bennett said everyone in Israel has been exposed to the reported torture the suspects are undergoing at the hands of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), and went on to call the suspects "terror suspects. They burned people in their sleep with the goal of dismantling the state."

The Jewish Home head claimed that the goal of the suspects was "to bring down the state, to dismantle the institutions of the state of Israel. The murder in Duma was a means to bring down religious Zionism and the state of Israel."

Officials had admitted that there was no evidence against the suspects until one minor suspect apparently broke after well over 20 days of interrogation, with his attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir alleging the suspect was sexually abused in addition to other forms of torture. 

Attorney Ariel Atari told Arutz Sheva on Wednesday that the confession can be cancelled as inadmissible evidence if it is proven to have been extracted under torture, with the methods allegedly including extended sleep deprivation.

However, Bennett defended the interrogation on Wednesday, saying it was the way to prevent "Duma 2 or 3."

"Unsympathetic interrogation"

He claimed that the ISA did not hang the suspects by their hands and feet, and discounted the testimony of a minor suspect who told the court this week he attempted suicide and begged for the ISA to kill him because he could not bear the torture any longer. The suspect's arms were found to be covered in numerous scars, providing further backing to his statements.

"The interrogation isn't sympathetic because they are keeping quiet...do you prefer to believe Itamar Ben-Gvir or (Jewish Home's Justice Minister) Ayelet Shaked?," said Bennett, not referencing the scars of the suspect, and offhandedly trying to discredit the lawyer of the suspect who has revealed the abuse reported by his client.

Bennett then tried to distance religious Zionism from the young suspects, saying the movement "is not a group of anarchists. Our responsibility is to raise a generation that believes in the state. We are the state. We are the justice and education ministers. The state isn't perfect and we have responsibility for everything. So let's fix it."

On Tuesday night dozens of protesters demonstrated outside Bennett's home in the coastal city of Ra'anana, calling him a "traitor" after he gave the ISA full backing despite the charges of brutal terror earlier in the day. Bennett's support of the ISA echoed that of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud).

Psychologists and social workers have issued a petition to stop the torture they argue is illegal under Israeli law, and likewise civil rights groups have called to investigate the ISA over the apparently illegal torture. In one case, the ISA was found to have illegally detained one of the suspects, a minor, for longer than the 20 days mandated by the counter-terror law. 

Numerous protests have followed revelations that the suspects have reportedly been refused basic religious rights such as lighting Hanukkah candles and praying, been banned from seeing their lawyers for extended periods, and that at least one was denied medical treatment after being beaten during arrest.