JERUSALEM — The how-to manual in Hebrew reads like a chilling premonition.
Among its recommendations, how to set fire to a Palestinian house: “Stock up with a petrol bomb, preferably of a liter and a half; a lighter; gloves; a mask; a crowbar/hammer; a bag to carry it all. When you get to the village, search for a house with an open door or window without bars.”
The instructions were recently found stored on a mobile device in the car of a Jewish extremist. The text was publicized by Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Bet, on July 29 — two days before the deadly arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma that killed a Palestinian toddler, Ali Dawabsheh, and severely burned his parents and his 4-year-old brother.
The extremist, Moshe Orbach, who is accused of writing the manual, has been charged with incitement to violence and terrorism. Yet after a court hearing on Sunday, Mr. Orbach, 24, was released to house arrest pending a ruling on a request by state prosecutors to keep him detained until trial. He is home on bail, under parental supervision and barred from using the Internet.
Israeli leaders have condemned the firebombing of the Dawabsheh home, believed to be the work of Jewish extremists who left behind Hebrew graffiti, as an act of terrorism, and it has stirred a rare outpouring of self-reproach and soul-searching among Israelis across the political spectrum.
But it has also reinforced the sense that Israeli law-enforcement authorities have for years acted with laxness and leniency toward Israeli citizens.
The arson came on the heels of an attack by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who stabbed six participants in Jerusalem’s annual Gay Pride Parade, a month after he was released from prison after finishing a sentence for stabbing three participants during the same event in 2005. Shira Banki, 16, the most severely wounded victim in this year’s attack, died on Sunday.
Israeli and Palestinian critics have long contended that the Israeli authorities treat Jewish perpetrators of violence with kid gloves compared with the harsh measures taken against Palestinians suspected of similar crimes against Israelis.
The recent events may serve as a watershed for Israel as it faces the quandary that much of the West has dealt with since Sept. 11, 2001: how a state can maintain democratic values while effectively fighting anti-democratic forces and terrorism within its own population.
Gadi Shamni, a former military commander for Israel in the West Bank, is calling for a “root canal” treatment. He told Israel Radio on Sunday that Israel’s battle against extremists like those who set fire to the Dawabsheh house should be the same as that against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
In an initial step toward change, the security cabinet on Sunday approved the use by the security services of “all means at their disposal” to bring the Duma perpetrators to justice and to prevent similar acts.
The cabinet also instructed that “draft legislation on the fight against terrorism be urgently advanced” in Parliament.
Years of sporadic attacks by Jewish extremists against Palestinians and their property — known as “price tag,” a doctrine meant to deter Israeli authorities from taking action against settlements — have resulted in few convictions.
Security officials have cited as obstacles a lack of legal tools for dealing with Jewish suspects; their silence in interrogations — one detainee refused to do anything but sing for two weeks, an official said; and the difficulty of gathering evidence that will hold up in court.
“I ask myself all the time: Where are the teachers, where are the educators, where are the parents, where are the rabbis?” said Menachem Landau, a former deputy chief of Shin Bet, in an interview on Sunday with Israel Radio, denouncing the lack of cooperation on the ground.
“Nobody will convince me that the two or three or four or whoever who carried out the Duma attack — that nobody around them knows about it,” Mr. Landau added.
“The moment they declare this a terror organization,” he said, referring to price tag perpetrators, “all the rules of the game change. They can deal with them the way they deal with Palestinian terrorism.”
Israel has made wide use of administrative detention without charge or trial — a draconian measure — against Palestinian suspects in the occupied West Bank, who are subject to Israeli military law and emergency regulations left over from the British Mandate.
Israel’s security services closely monitor Palestinian activities in what Alex Fishman, the military affairs analyst of the popular newspaper Yediot Aharonot, describes as “ ‘basic coverage,’ which involves collecting information about schools, mosques and entire communities.”
But when it comes to the Jewish sector, Mr. Fishman said, the Shin Bet “doesn’t want to spy on Jews, and the political echelon would never dream of allowing it to build ‘basic coverage’ about yeshivas, rabbis, religious and cultural institutions, regional councils.”
Traditionally, the Shin Bet has typically acted with constraint in dealing with Jewish citizens. In a rare briefing last year, an Israeli security official said that preventing price tag-type attacks entirely was not possible in a democracy because “it really means getting into people’s thoughts.”
Yohanan Plesner, the president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan research center, said in an interview that with Jewish terrorism becoming more common and more lethal, “We need to come up with a different set of legal tools that will help us deal with this new situation, and a new enforcement policy.”
He listed administrative detention, surveillance and more widely available use of electronic handcuffing as examples.
“We do not want to live in a police state,” Mr. Plesner said. “The caution is respected and understood. But the government also has a responsibility toward all the citizens under its jurisdiction. We need to change the balance between these two values.”
The Israel Religious Action Center, a legal advocacy arm of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, said that the attorney general had so far adopted “an extremely restrictive policy” when it comes to ordering investigations or filing charges in cases of potentially inciting statements made by Orthodox rabbis that they claim are based on religious law.
The group said it had been arguing a petition in Israel’s High Court of Justice since 2012 demanding the prosecution of the rabbis who wrote “The King’s Torah,” a book that condones the killing of non-Jews, including babies — so far to no avail.
The manual found in Mr. Orbach’s car, titled “Kingdom of Evil,” offers detailed advice about how to attack mosques, churches and Palestinian homes, as well as how to beat Arabs and render them unconscious.
The Shin Bet revealed the manual’s existence when it announced the arrest of Mr. Orbach and four other members of a Messianic Jewish network suspected of having carried out an arson attack in June that severely damaged the Church of the Multiplication at a revered Christian holy site near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.
The agency said that the shadowy network had been operating since 2013 and “holds to an extremist ideology that aspires to change the regime and bring about the redemption via various stages of action.”
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(via NY Times)