Yoantan Shapira, a leftist activist and former Air Force pilot who sprayed slogans on the wall of the Warsaw Ghetto, was summoned for interrogation by the Shin Bet.
The interrogation prompted the Association for Civil Rights in Israel to warn Tuesday against a growing trend by security forces to investigate activists for airing their political beliefs.
"We must understand that in any democratic state, a person is never summoned for a talk with security forces because of his participation in a political protest," says Lila Margalit, ACRI's attorney for criminal justice issues.
"If he is suspected of breaking the law he should be summoned for interrogation by the police and, in some cases, steps should be taken against him."
Shapira, who became well known for signing the pilots' refusal letter in 2003, made headlines once again a few weeks ago, when he sprayed the words, "Free all the ghettos" and "Free Gaza and Palestine" on the remains of the infamous ghetto's wall in Poland several days ago.
On Sunday he was summoned for a "talk" with a Shin Bet official in Tel Aviv who, according to Shapira, asked him to describe his activities in favor of sanctions and boycotts against Israel. The activist told Ynet she had made it very clear that he was not a suspect and that there was no intention of arresting him.
But Margalit says it was not the first time a left-wing activist has been summoned for such a talk, and insists such interrogations are not kosher.
"Summoning people for talks with security forces, as a form of warning meant to deter them from participating in political protests, is wrong," she said.
"Even activities which negate the consensus and are perceived as hurtful or controversial are acceptable in a democratic state," she added. "These types of talks… are just signals saying: We've got our eye on you."
Graffiti sprayed on ghetto's wall (Photo: Campanga Palestina)
'Anyone who disagrees is a danger'
Shapira told Ynet he had not wanted to accept the Shin Bet official's invitation when she called him, but preferred to get it over with rather than refuse.
"I realized that sooner or later they would talk to me," he said. "I have nothing to hide, and was curious about what was going on, so I agreed."
The activist claims to have written down the minutes of their meeting, but says the official confiscated the document on the grounds that it was illegal. He therefore jotted down the talk from memory upon leaving the room.
Shapira says the official warned him that many of his activities – such as calling for boycotts and sanctions against Israel – would soon be illegal. She also asked him about his act of vandalism in Poland and his participation in anti-fence protests in Bilin and Naalin.
He told Ynet he had asked her if the Shin Bet was tapping his phone in order to obtain the information they have on him, but that she replied that the authorities had better things to do with their time. Shapira added that she asked him to refrain from publishing the content of their meeting but that he made it clear that he would.
"It was a kind of political investigation," he said. "The Shin Bet is supposed to protect us from security dangers, but it appears that anyone who disagrees with their views is a danger."
Shapira claims the interrogation was proof that his protests have been successful. "We must remember that had I been a Palestinian, I would not have been released so quickly, and I would have been treated differently. Ameer Makhoul is still under arrest," he said, referring to an Israeli-Arab suspected of espionage.
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