Confessions obtained under torture are not a substitute for investigation

Those with hidden agendas often take advantage of the fact that most of us forget quickly. Note the Duma and Pearlman cases. Op-ed.

G. van Gelder ,

Site of Duma arson attack
Site of Duma arson attack
Credit: Flash 90

Do you remember this week five years ago?

Here is an example of what made headlines all over the world!

Jewish Arsonists Suspected in West Bank Attack That Killed Palestinian Toddler -The New York Times. July 31, 2015

How about 10 years ago?

Suspect in murder of four Palestinians was Shin Bet agent -The National.ae. July 25, 2010

Similar headlines, but with very different results.

As a result of the “Duma Firebombing” case of five years ago, Amiram Ben Uliel has recently been found guilty of murdering the Arab family and has so far sat in solitary confinement for over four and a half years. Whereas in the “Chaim Pearlman” saga of ten years ago, Pearlman was released after 31-days to celebrate the Shavuot holiday with his family.

What caused the difference?

There is reason to believe that Amiram Ben Uliel’s torture was far more painful as there was much more riding on the case. The Jewish Division of the Shabak (Shin Bet) was under immense pressure. The leadership of the state of Israel, from the president all the way down had bought into their foregone conclusion that the Duma attack was the work of so-called "Jewish Terrorists," but after six months the Shabak had still not managed to indict any of the dozen or more suspects they had arrested ­–– prevented from seeing a lawyer ­–– and tortured to coerce an admission to having executed the crime.

Amiram Ben Uliel was the final hope to prove their case. I believe they felt they could not let this one, and his young assistant, get away as the others had and have to admit that they had come to foregone conclusions about individuals and a supposed Jewish terror group without proof.

Chaim Pearlman, on the other hand, was one man, not considered an organization. The leadership of the state had not joined in the brouhaha to the same extent. He had once worked for a short time as a Shabak agent and the Shabak wanted their pound of flesh when he refused an offer he should not have refused. So they threw the book at him. Pearlman was arrested for the murder of four Arab residents of East Jerusalem who were stabbed to death between 1998 and 2004. The Shabak tortured him for a confession but he did not buckle. He kept silent throughout the 31-day ordeal.

In both cases, there was no clear evidence so everything depended on the self-incriminating confession.

The Shabak Jewish Division has had favorable results with confessions. In the words of Pearlman’s defense lawyer Adi Keidar:

“Our police doesn’t do its job. It doesn’t investigate, it doesn’t corroborate and compare [evidence]. It likes confessions, because it trusts that once one is obtained the courts will ask for nothing else.”

Two possible reasons the Shabak does not investigate before making an arrest.

1. Investigations might not lead to the result they are looking for.- when they have a foregone conclusion

2. It is much simpler and more effective to obtain a confession.

In the Chaim Pearlman Saga, the Shabak was showing Pearlman that they were all-powerful. They had the ability to put him in jail for life. All they required was that he confess. But Chaim was one step ahead of them.

With first-hand knowledge of the workings of the Shabak’s Jewish Division, Chaim was prepared for whatever they had planned for him. He had secretly recorded 20 hours of meetings in which an undercover Shin Bet agent tried numerous times to get Pearlman to incriminate himself.

The agent known as “Dada,” can be heard exhorting him to go to an “Arab village” to “turn it into a fireworks display” and to execute Sheikh Raed Salah, a leader of the Islamic Movement. Pearlman asked his associates to release the recordings to Channel 2 television if and when he is arrested, as he had been threatened by the agent that if he did not cooperate there would be repercussions.

Judge Nahum Streinlicht refused the Shabak’s request to extend the suspect’s remand, saying the 28 days he had been in custody were enough for the state to find sufficient evidence.

In response to the release, the Shin Bet issued a rare statement: “While we have not collected sufficient evidence to try him in court, Pearlman remains the prime suspect in the investigation.”

Now 10 years later, time has proved otherwise.

Consider another headline:

Arrested Jewish teens accused of ’serious terror offences’ including fatally stoning a Palestinian woman Washington Post: January 07, 2019

Is this, the “Aisha Rabi Murder” another blood libel, accusing Jews of crimes committed by others? There seems to be an obsession to find Jewish “settlers” guilty of murder and to have it publicized around the world. The “Aisha Rabi Murder” hinges on the husband of the victim accusing Jews, Yeshiva students from Rehelim, of throwing stones at Arab cars on a Friday night.

Returning to the first case, four weeks after the Duma Firebombing the fifth arson attack took place ­––there would be two more the following year. Sara Beck writing for Maariv on August 29, 2015, was surprised to find that no one was investigating the fifth and most recent arson attack. After asking many questions she discovered that the Shabak prevented any investigation, and she speculated as to why. The sixth and seventh arson were also never investigated.

It should be noted that the lawyer for Amiram Ben-Uliel believes that new evidence in the Duma arson case that came to light after Ben Uliel's conviction will lead to its overturning. The evidence includes testimony from Ahmed Dawabsheh who witnessed the murder of his family, but described it as happening in a manner completely different from that described in the verdict.

The three headline cases discussed above are connected. Why was Chaim Pearlman framed for the murder of four Palestinians and additional crimes? There are those who feel the reason is that he had deeply shamed “Dada.” I suggest therefore, that both the “Aisha Rabi Murder” and the “Duma Firebombing ” are reactions to the extreme shame and embarrassment caused by Chaim Pearlman and his friends when they released the tapes to Channel 2. The Shabak has not forgotten and neither should we.

Readers should remember the above cases when they consider any future headlines accusing “settlers” of murder. In the above cases there was an alternative narrative that contradicted the “official” findings but it required an open mind and investigation on the part of interrogators.

The methods of the Shabak Jewish Division will only change to legitimate and professional investigation once torture is outlawed and confessions are only accepted by a court if they corroborate key evidence.

Over the years and on different occasions, many voices have called for the Shabak Jewish Division to be closed down permanently. Is there a Jewish division of Scotland Yard? A Jewish division of the FBI? A Jewish division of the RCMP? It seems racist to have a Jewish division of the Shabak, one which almost makes it necessary to create Jewish criminals. Once the division is closed down, professional investigative work will lead to the true perpetrators of crimes - no matter who they are - and if that occurs, they can be tried, found gulty if the court deems the evidence sufficient, sentenced and receive their punishments.




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