The Association for Civil Rights in Israel claims that during the past few months 18 party members have been taken in for questioning by security forces, adding that some of them were made to promise that they would not communicate with Bishara in any way, as this could lead to recruitment into Hizbullah.
The association sent a letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz demanding that the interrogation be stopped immediately.
"During the 50's there were many such stories, but I didn't realize the Shin Bet was still using these scare tactics," Balad's Shefaram branch secretary, Dr. Riad Saliba, said after being questioned two months ago.
The Association for Civil Rights said that the Balad party members were subjected to scare tactics and asked about their contact with Bishara. Then they were told that the interrogation was meant to protect them from becoming Hizbullah agents.
Later, the association claimed, the party members were asked to sign a statement stating that they were aware that Bishara was wanted for questioning due to his ties with Hizbullah, and agreeing that they had been warned by security officials that any contact with Bishara could be an attempt to recruit them into Hizbullah.
'What am I, a kid?'
"The interrogator asked me what our problem was, the Christians, as we have big houses and a lot of money," Dr. Saliba recounted. "Then he tried to scare me by saying that the Muslims will soon gain control. After that the conversation turned to Bishara. The interrogator said that Bishara was a terrorist and I said that wasn't true, that he had been framed, and that soon he would return to Israel."
Ibrahim Shalwhit, a Balad council member, told of his reaction to the questioning: "I laughed. I asked them, what am I, a kid? Do you think that at the age of 50 I am going to join Hizbullah? These scare tactics could work on a 17-year old, but not on me."
In the letter to Mazuz, association members wrote that for many Bishara is still considered an important political leader and an outstanding Arab intellectual.
"The Shin Bet's interrogation," they wrote, "is similar to the actions of a totalitarian regime in that it attempts to scare those it interrogates into believing that big brother is always watching, while denying all democratic principles."
The Shin Bet responded to the accusations by saying that "the purpose of the Shin Bet was determined by the general security law of 2002, according to which it is not required to explain its tactics."