Israeli Shabak interrogates Israeli activist over BDS & Bil’in protests

A month ago Phil posted on an event here in New York discussing Jewish perspectives on BDS. One the speakers that night was Yonatan Shapira, who spoke in favor of boycott. Shapira recently returned to Israel and sent this update. Translation by Dena Shunra.

I moved back to holy land two and a half weeks ago, and yesterday I was summoned for a chat with the Shabak.

So yesterday, Rona from the Shabak called and asked me to come over for a chat with her at the Dizengoff Street police station. She refused to tell me what it was about over the phone, and explained that I was not going to be arrested, and that this was an introductory or friendly conversation.

I got to the Dizengoff Police Station and was sent to a second-floor office in the back building, where a dude was waiting for me who introduced himself as Rona’s bodyguard. I was taken into some room or other and underwent a rather intimate physical examination, to make sure that I hadn’t installed any kind of recording device on either of my testicles. Having found to be clean, I was brought into the room where Ronna sat. She was a fine-looking young woman of Yemeni extraction, in her early thirties.

Rona said that she knew I am an activist working for BDS and for a general boycott on the State of Israel and wanted to know what else I do within the framework of this activity. I said that everything was well-known and made public on the Internet and in the media, and that I have nothing to add and I don’t intend to talk about it with her.

Rona stressed that there is a law being made in the Knesset and that it is very much possible that my activity will be illegal soon. She continued to try and drag me into a political discussion and asked if I knew that the BDS is actually a Palestinian organization.

Rona raised the topic of the Warsaw graffiti and wanted to know whether it was my own private initiative or whether it was also part of BDS, and if I understood that I had overstepped a boundary and hurt the feelings of many people (and apparently, also hurt the feelings of the Shabak.) I again suggested that she listen to interviews and read articles that had been published on the subject. She said that she had already listened and read, but that she wanted to know more. I told her that I would be glad to give a public lecture on the subject for anyone who wants to hear it, and that I would do so in a public and open manner, but not within the framework of a Shabak interrogation.

Other than the BDS topic, Rona asked if I knew that the demonstrations in Bil’in and Na’alin are not legal, and that the whole region is closed to Israelis and internationals every Friday, from eight to eight.

She spoke at length about how the soldiers feel in these demonstrations and about how they are irritated when I talk to them and also answer them.

Rona said that she had been there in the past, and that she had been hit by stones, and that it is terribly unpleasant, and that the presence of Israelis at the demonstrations inflames the violence of the Palestinians, and that I should think about how the poor soldiers feel, and that all she’s trying to do is for the good of the state and comes from her desire to protect the people living here.

I answered that everything that I do also comes from my desire to protect the people living here, and I inquired about where she has all that information about my activity from, and asked if they are also tapping my phone. She said that she could not answer but that in general, the Shabak had more important things to do. So I asked her what I was doing there, and why I had been invited for some sort of political interrogation if they did indeed have more important things to do. I asked again if my calls were being tapped, and Ronna said that she could not answer.

She asked very earnestly that I not publish the details of our conversation, because she’s not the sort of person who seeks fame… In response I said that as a person dedicated to a non-violent struggle against the occupation I would speak and publish everything, including all details of this conversation, and other conversations, if there are indeed such conversations in future. I documented the entire conversation on a slip of paper until Rona started talking about that piece of paper and about what I was writing it. Finally, she confiscated my dangerous piece of paper, claiming that I was not allowed to bring in a recording device and that it was illegal.

Fortunately, I remembered most of the conversation and Ronna has not yet confiscated my memory.

Maybe she’ll do that at our next meeting.

That’s it, she may have said a few more things, but that was the main deal.

As far as I’m concerned, I understand that what interests them is our activity on BDS, and that they may even be trying to prepare cases for us, so they’ll be ready for the moment when the new law is voted into existence.

Noam Sheizaf adds:

I find this account of the conversation very reliable, and similar to other accounts of political interrogations of Jewish activists I heard of. We should remember that political interrogations of Palestinians are not that friendly or polite.

I also think that Yonatan could be right in assuming the police or the Shabak is putting together files on Israelis involved in the BDS. One of the many anti-democratic aspects of the new Knesset bill [Hebrew document] is that it will be possible to enforce it on past actions as well.

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Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 34 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Bumblebye says:

    I salute Yonatan’s courage and determination. I expect the intimidation does its work on a lot of people who try to speak out.
    But Dena Shunra, I do hope it’s not a “pubic lecture”!

  2. hayate says:

    So in israel, herr himler is a female.

  3. virtual lab says:

    Accustomed to poultry perhaps?

  4. pjdude says:

    I find it telling the comments about how this official kept talking about how the BDS was making Israelis feel. Says something about a society that the feelings of those who commit all the crimes listed under the Nurenburg principiles but the actual pain suffering and death caused upon the victims of those crimes doesn’t warrant a mention. you need no prophecy to know the path Israel walks will only end in fire, ash, and ruin.

  5. Yonatan
    You are lucky not being born a Palestinian..You wouldn’t have left their chambers in one piece..Sadly, still, is that they’ll go after you and they’ll get you and the other grains of sands in the machinery of oppression and destruction ..
    Maybe time to leave “holy land”(sic) for your own safety..

    • Here’s an example of what would have happened if you were a Palestinians..From Seham’s links:

      Israel imprisoned my father for nonviolently resisting the occupation

      On 12 January 2010 my father Ibrahim was arrested by the Israeli army and sentenced to two years in prison for organizing and participating in nonviolent protests against the Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank. The wall cuts us off from our land and our olive groves, robbing our family of its livelihood. Saeed Amireh writes from Nilin, occupied West Bank.
      link to

  6. Avi says:

    These are mere attempts to intimidate such activists. It starts with intimidation and escalates from there. That a Jewish guy was summoned for a ‘friendly chat’ with the Shabak is an indication that in a year or two, the “left” in Israel will be nothing but an extreme fringe among a fringe, marginalized and criminalized.

    These are not the types of tactics to which Jews in the state are normally subjected. These are tactics that have been historically limited to non-Jewish subjects.

    I also find the reminder that BDS will soon become illegal rather cynical. On the one hand the Shabak is not known for operating within the realm of a legal framework, and on the other hand, the Shabak is informing him that his activities will soon become illegal. In a cynical way, the interview could be described as a courtesy warning, lest the subject stray from the path.

    • Avi says:

      By the way, Yonatan, if you are reading this, next time you are ‘invited’ for an interview, take a lawyer with you. It might not do much good at that point in time, but at the very least, they’ll know that you’re not some yoyo they can jerk around.

      And when you’re talking on the phone, pretend as though 50 TV cameras are pointed at you, broadcasting your every word to millions of people. That will prevent you from making any incriminating statements that could later come back to haunt you in some secret court proceedings.

  7. lobewyper says:

    Mr. Shapira,

    Your amazing story suggests that Israel has forgotten some of the key ingredients of democracy, while simultaneously trumpeting that it is “the only democracy in the middle east.” To that claim should be added, “which has its own Thought Police.”

  8. VR says:

    The next time I visit and protest I will have to paint two eyeballs on my testicles, I will leave the rest to your imagination :) If there is a good looking lady present I will refuse to strip unless she is in the room…hehe

    Anyway…the deterioration of the so-called democracy is beginning to grow, and soon there will be enough spurious “laws” on the books to wipe your ass with for twenty years. Why don’t they just dress up in crispy uniforms and goose step, why prolong the process?

  9. virtual lab says:

    goose farm, now you are talking business, that himmler was only into chickens

  10. americangoy says:

    Just another normal day in the Soviet Unio… err…

    • Hugh says:

      Specifically in the Soviet Union. The KGB did this all the time. His description of the interview is redolent of their intimidation tactics, the fishing around for admissions, the veiled warnings. I’m surprised it didn’t extend to information about his associates. What made me really sick was the warning that the new law could be applied retrospectively. So much for the only democracy in the Middle East.

      • hayate says:

        Actually, the fbi do this in the usa, and have been doing it for a long time. The israelis have been doing it for a long time, as well. It was one of the things discussed in:

        By way of deception: The making and unmaking of a Mossad Officer by Victor Ostrovsky

        I think the difference now in israel is they are now picking on small fry activists now when before they went after bigger fish.

        • hayate says:

          BTW, cops in the usa will also go around intimidating activists in some parts of the usa. They used to do it a hell of a lot more, but the civil/human rights movement has managed to curtail some of this chronic harassment.

  11. syvanen says:

    Yonatan, more power to you and our prayers are with you. I hope you do not suffer badly with the new anti-BDS legislation, but if the heat gets too bad you are certainly welcome here in the US.

  12. …more evidence that Israel is rapidly becoming not only an apartheid state, but a fascist one as well.

  13. bobasoka says:

    If there were 10,000 more people with Yonatan’s heart and spirit, this all would have been over yesterday.

    • Hugh says:

      I think the key to it lies in Washington. And sadly if falls on the shoulders of our still relatively inexperienced young President who, because of the unregistered Lobby, can hope for no political cover from the Congress. Of course he hopes to be re-elected. And of course he won’t be a relatively bullet proof lame duck until he is. It’s an American tragedy that “the United States is something which can be easily moved.”

  14. Keith says:

    Folks, let us remember that this rightward drift towards overt fascism is not confined to Israel alone. The US and Canada have moved more than a little way down this path as Lynne Stewart and the G-20 protesters can attest. The pace seems to be accelerating.

  15. Debonnaire says:

    The Nazis wouldn’t grab your balls in a “courtesy interview”, and they’d offer you a cigarette. Time to leave the entity while you still can.

  16. rmokhtar says:


    Yonatan, you’re living in Saudi-Arabia-land now, where eventually you will not be able to do much to support the Palestinian cause without being hauled off to jail, because you won’t have the right to freedom of assembly.

    Israel is a sad, pitiful country, with sad, blind people.

  17. What a frightening tale. Certainly the “Big Brother IS Watching” but that should not be surprising, after all, the developers and suppliers of the IT hardware and software that is used by the U.S. government to record and survey 1.7 Trillion phone-calls and e-mails a day by U.S. citizens in their own country is provided by Israeli IT concerns, some with close Israeli intelligence connections.

    When secrecy is the standard, suspicion becomes the product. That product is corrosive and will degrade everything it is in contact with. Take care of your self, those who would create such surveillance are not to be trusted with your wellbeing; should you ever feel the slightest bit endangered it is time to leave; listen to your body, it will seldom provide false messages to you.

    Israel will not enjoy legitimacy in any form until it addresses the injustice wrought setting aside self determination by all the Palestinian people. Not a square millimeter of the stolen lands will enjoy peace until that is done. It is high time to replace Irgun, Stein Gang, the Haganah and their heirs from the exercise of power and hold those accountable for their crimes. Free Israel Now!

  18. Gaius Baltar says:

    Like the Beatles song, Back in the USSR.

    What would have happened if she declined to meet with Shabak/Shin Bet?

    • Avi says:

      What would have happened if she declined to meet with Shabak/Shin Bet?

      They would have sent a police cruiser to pick him up to further tarnish his reputation in the eyes of his neighbors.

  19. Chu says:

    Yonatan should be worried. The Cheka police started out as a small organization and morphed into a giant killing machine, aimed at counterrevolutionary agitators. He qualifies under the category “workers and peasants who are under suspicion of not supporting the (Soviet) Israeli government”.

    With the rise of right wing fascism in Israel, I would worry when they will see Israeli opposition as part of the Palestinian scourges they wish to eliminate.In Rona’s mind, she’s already charged him with the offense and Yonatan continues to agitate against her veiled threats.

    +”She asked very earnestly that I not publish the details of our conversation, because she’s not the sort of person who seeks fame.”

  20. VR says:

    Let me clue you in on something, and this is only because I have lived in the midst of this all of my life. When you produce a national psychosis with the particularly twisted theme of “never again,” it will never be sated. Bereft of its universal application because all humanity is deserving it will create an atmosphere f anything goes, as long as the perceived benefit accrues to us. So it not only does what it wants with its morbid theme to the weak victims in Palestine, but it practices the same all over the world – wherever it is given the power to do so. It will make “everyone suffer like we did.” So when Finkelstein, as an example, says “they are crazy” he is not kidding – this is the legacy of the Zionist theme, it will sacrifice anyone and everyone.

  21. Kathleen says:

    Adam do you know if Phillip or anyone else will be live blogging or streaming this panel discussion today

    Chas Freeman to go ten rounds with Israel lobbyist at Nixon Center

    by Philip Weiss on July 8, 2010 · 21 comments
    Like 3 0 Retweet

    Send to a Friend Digg Furl

    All we asked for was an open debate. Is it happening? The Nixon Center in Washington has announced a — emphasis mine–

    panel discussion of “Israel: Strategic Asset or Liability?” from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20. Amb. Chas Freeman, Jr., Chairman of Projects International, and Dr. Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, will present their perspectives of Israel’s value to the United States as an ally and, conversely, the costs of close American identification with Israel. Gen. Charles G. Boyd (USAF, Ret.), The Nixon Center’s new Starr Distinguished National Security Fellow, will moderate
    link to

  22. Les says:

    Speaking of Bil’in and Na’alin being closed to Israelis and internationals Friday from eight to eight, what, if any, restrictions did the Germans place on non-Jews doing business in the Warsaw Ghetto?