Thirty People of Conscience stood across from the Israeli Consulate on Second Avenue @ 42nd Street in NYC at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 22. It seemed the sky was weeping with them as members of Americans for a Safe Israel/AFSI were joined by friends and family members of one of the boys being interrogated harshly by the Israeli Shabak or secret service. The severe questioning, and possible torture is being inflicted to secure confessions in the arson deaths of three members of the Dawabshe family in Duma, Israel this past July 31.
Passersby were stunned to learn about a situation in Israel which hasn't received any publicity in America. Although the Israeli investigation against suspected Jews has been going on since August, no evidence has been found to charge the boys, all minors, for the crime. There are suspicions that internal Arab feuding might have caused the arson attack, but that investigation is being left to the PA to conduct. Administrative detention and a gag order, denial of access to attorneys, punitive judges, all seem to be part of the pattern denying human rights and an orderly justice system to the suspects.
The message AFSI was delivering today was simply that the boys must be judged INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. That is what is expected in a democracy. Tragically, according to a suspect's aunt, Ilana Odess, and grandmother, Blumi Odess, the boy is being condemned and subjected to torture while the determination of his guilt still has to be made. We were told that his mother and another aunt are also being harshly interrogated by the Shabak. His aunt, an educator, has been warned that she might lose her job if she doesn't cooperate in getting a confession from her nephew.
AFSI decided to hold this Vigil to mirror the many demonstrations taking place daily in Israel. Many high level government officials, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Jewish Home Chairman Bennett and Justice Minister Shaked among them, have come out in support of the Shabak. However, the information supplied to us by friends in Israel as well as the family of the boy referred to above, (who is a US citizen as well as an Israeli) and who is being detained, convinced us that this was the moral thing to do.
The speakers included Helen Freedman, AFSI's Executive Director, Robin Ticker, AFSI's Brooklyn Chapter Chairman, Ilana Odess, and her husband, attorney Steve Newman. Glenn Richter, AFSI's right hand man at all times, took the audio tapes and the interview with the grandmother, Blumi Odess. Charlie Bernhaut provided the professional looking signs, and AFSI's Co-Executive Director Judy Kadish, and Research Director Jonathan Grauman served as organizers and photographers. As always, we are grateful to the NYPD for accommodating us on very short notice.