Arrest of Settlers On Terror Charges Inflames Hebron

By Elli Wohlgelernter

Published August 01, 2003, issue of August 01, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

JERUSALEM — A pair of Jewish settlers from Hebron, arrested on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist cell, remain behind bars this week following legal maneuvers that have pitted many hard-line settlers against Ariel Sharon’s government.

Yitzhak Pass — father of Shalhevet Pass, the 10-month-old killed by a sniper’s bullet in Hebron on March 26, 2001 — and his brother-in-law, Matityahu Shvu, were arrested July 17 on charges of “security crimes.” The court issued a gag order on the details of the case. Their remand was extended by another week last Monday by Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Noam Solberg, who cited both intelligence and “material evidence” as reasons for keeping them in jail.

The suspects have also been forbidden from meeting with their lawyers. The Supreme Court this week rejected an appeal of this provision, saying the two are suspected of belonging to a terrorist cell.

Jewish civilians are suspected of carrying out about a dozen shooting attacks against Arabs since the outbreak of the intifada in 2000, including several attacks around Hebron. In all, seven Palestinians were killed and 19 wounded in the attacks, which authorities believe are the work of Jewish terrorist cells.

Pass and Shvu reportedly are suspected of involvement in two attacks, both of which took place several weeks after Pass’s daughter was murdered. In June 2001, an Arab vehicle was fired on outside the Jewish township of Ma’aleh Adumim, killing one. Credit was claimed by a group calling itself the “Shalhevet-Gilad Brigades,” named after Pass’s daughter and Gilad Zar, a settler who was killed a few weeks before. Later that month, three Palestinians were killed, including a 6-month-old baby, in an attack on a vehicle near the Arab village of Tarkumiya. An organization called the Committee for the Defense of the Roads claimed responsibility.

If the attacks are the work of Jewish terrorists, it is not unprecedented. In the early 1980s, nearly 30 Jewish settlers, many of them prominent figures in the settler movement, were convicted of offenses ranging from membership in a terrorist organization to carrying out a murderous grenade-and-rifle attack on Hebron’s Islamic University, as well as firing on an Arab girls’ school and conspiring to blow up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Members of the group, which came to be known as the “Jewish terrorist underground,” were sentenced to terms ranging up to life in prison, but all were eventually granted presidential clemency and released.

The Shin Bet General Security Service is said to suspect that a new Jewish underground is forming, but reportedly lacks firm leads.

Naftali Wurzberger, a prominent lawyer who has represented many right-wing militants in the past, argued before the Supreme Court this week that the ban on Pass and Shvu speaking with lawyers is meant to break their spirit through illegitimate interrogation methods.

Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, after questioning Shin Bet agents behind closed doors, said that “the prevention of the meeting of Pass and Shvu with their lawyer is necessary because we are not dealing with an interrogation whose aim is to collect material on criminal activities perpetrated in the past. They are suspected of belonging to a terrorist cell and the investigation is aimed at preventing terrorist attacks in the future.”

Dorner said information supplied by the Shin Bet satisfied the three conditions for barring a suspect’s meeting with a lawyer: suspicion that he may thwart the arrest of other suspects; suspicion that he may prevent police from finding more evidence, and belief that barring such a meeting will prevent crime and save lives.

The arrest and gag order have inflamed the Jewish residents of Hebron against the Likud government, ostensibly a political ally. Settlers insist on the suspects’ innocence and charge a violation of due process in denying the suspects the right to speak to an attorney.

“Itzik [Pass] is a smart guy,” said David Wilder, a spokesman for the Hebron Jewish community. “He knows his family needs him, he knows his wife needs him, he’s got two little children, and after what they’ve gone through, I don’t think he would risk finding himself put away for years.”

Wilder said the government’s procedures were reminiscent of communism.

“I think what they did last week is KGB,” he said, referring to the erstwhile Soviet secret police. “They went to the municipal court without notifying Itzik Pass, without notifying his attorney, and they went to the judge and asked him to extend the remand until next Friday. And the judge agreed to that. The other side wasn’t present, the attorney didn’t have an opportunity to rebut what they were saying or to do anything. He was notified after the fact. That has no semblance of justice to it whatsoever. It shows that the Shin Bet is scared — scared of what, we don’t know.”

Wilder said there are rumors among the settlers that one reason for the arrests is a plan by Sharon to include Shalhevet Pass’s killer among the 540 Palestinian security prisoners to be released shortly.

“They don’t want [Pass’s killer] wandering around when he’s released,” said Wilder. “I personally think that Sharon is trying to say to people, ‘I know how to take care of you.’ He’s obviously serious about continuing with the idea behind the ‘road map’ of a Palestinian state and uprooting the settlements.”

Pass’s wife Oriya, interviewed in the daily Yediot Aharonot last week, flatly denied her husband’s guilt in the killings, but added: “We don’t weep when an Arab child is killed, whatever the circumstances.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.