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Meir Ettinger at the Israeli justice court in Nazareth Illit, August 4, 2015. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
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Let Meir Ettinger Attend His Son’s Bris

Meir Kahane’s grandson has been held under administrative arrest for more than seven months

Liel Leibovitz
March 30, 2016
Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images
Meir Ettinger at the Israeli justice court in Nazareth Illit, August 4, 2015. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Most likely, Meir Ettinger will not get to attend his firstborn’s bris.

The 25-year-old, who is the grandson of the slain rabbi Meir Kahane, was arrested by Israeli authorities more than seven months ago. He is allegedly suspected of playing a part in underground efforts to overthrow the government and establish halakhic rule in its stead. Despite the weight of the accusation, however, the state has, to date, produced no evidence to support its case, said Yuval Zemer, Ettinger’s attorney. Instead, it placed Ettinger under administrative arrest. A legacy of the British Mandate’s martial laws, this judicial tool, signed by Israel into law in 1979, allows the government to detain individuals for a period of six months, with three-month extensions thereafter for as long as is necessary, without presenting a suspect or his legal representatives with any concrete evidence of wrongdoing. Ettinger, then, remains under arrest, permitted only minimal contact with his lawyer and his family, and now, unless the government has a change of heart, denied partaking in his son’s bris as well.

I’ve been reporting on the Ettinger case for a while for a forthcoming piece. Having met with government officials as well as friends and family members, and having extensively reviewed Ettinger’s public and private writing alike, I’ve found plenty that might upset people who do not share his politics but nothing to suggest that the mystically-minded smiling young man had any concrete involvement whatsoever in planning or carrying out any concrete attacks against anyone. In fact, it is hard, reviewing the evidence, not to conclude that the charges against Ettinger amount to little else but accusations of thought-crimes.

It’s feasible, of course, that hard evidence of real wrongdoing exists, but neither I nor Ettinger and his lawyers have seen it. Sadly, the civil right champions on the Israeli left, who routinely rush to demand justice for Palestinian detainees held under similar conditions, have said precious little about Ettinger’s plight. That is a shame: we owe it to Ettinger—indeed, to anyone—to show him the evidence gathered against him, or, barring any evidence, to grant him a swift release. And in the meantime, at the very least, he deserves the courtesy of being allowed to celebrate his firstborn’s birth.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.