USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

Vigilantes use force to ‘reclaim’ mixed-faith children for Israel

Posted by uscsjp on October 8, 2006



When eight armed men, wearing Israeli police caps and toting M-16s, burst into Mohammed Merhi’s home last week, they were not looking for him. They were after his five-year-old daughter, Hiba.

“They looked like a real commando unit,” said Mr Merhi, a 39-year-old Palestinian mechanic, recalling the navy blue trousers and flak jackets worn by the men, “but they weren’t.”

They were Jewish vigilantes recruited by an ultra-orthodox group to “rescue” Hiba, whose Israeli Jewish mother is estranged from her father, and take her from the West Bank to Israel.

“The Jewish nation is so small,” said Rabbi Dov Lifchitz, head of the Yad Leahim organisation which orchestrated the operation. “Every Jew is precious to us.”

He said that the group, a charity with 60 employees, deals with hundreds of cases a year in which it helps Jews leave Arab families and mixed marriages. “We want to reach out to these people,” he said. “We want to make sure that Jews remain Jewish.”

He insisted that the 50-year-old group “remained within the law”. But one Yad Leahim member, Mati Dushenski, confirmed that it had dispatched the vigilante group.

“We turned to the police and other services, but none of them was able to help us,” he said. “So we used one of our undercover units. We have done many similar operations in the past.” (continued)


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