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ISRAEL: Jewish terrorism suspect arrested, alleges conspiracy

July 15, 2010 |  8:42 pm

Israeli security agents and police have arrested a man in connection with a series of fatal stabbings in Jerusalem more than a decade ago.

Haim Pearlman, a young Jewish father of three, was arrested Tuesday on suspicions that he murdered four Palestinians in the late '90s and tried to kill several others.

Police and the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence service, say they've caught a Jewish terrorist, the "serial stabber" that terrorized Palestinians in a chain of seemingly random attacks around Jerusalem. The stabbings appeared to follow the separate murders of two yeshiva students in those years and were assumed to be ideologically motivated revenge, but no one was ever caught.

Pearlman was remanded a second time Thursday, his arrest extended by another week. He denies the charges and says that he's the real victim and that intelligence services have framed him. Political circles on the far right have taken up his cause and are waging a media campaign against the Shin Bet's "Jewish division," the unit they say exists to besmear Jewish right-wing, religious and nationalist figures in Israel.

The case offers a peek into Shin Bet tactics as well as the challenges posed to them by Jewish terrorism.

Pearlman worked with the Shin Bet for a short period a decade ago. He wasn't a suspect then, just a kid affiliated with radical right-wing circles, a young follower of the outlawed Kahane preachings and a classic potential informant. Many in these circles have been solicited by the Shin Bet and made efforts to out informants.

But Pearlman sorted himself out and moved away from racist ultranationalism, say people who know him. Married with three children, he was studying to be a physical education teacher and struggling to support a family.

Just as he was struggling, the Shin Bet appeared in his life again. Relations involved a lot talk and some much-needed cash. His friends say he got hooked on the money and made up information.The Shin Bet says he knew details about the killings and attempted murders that were kept out of the news media and could have been known only to the assailant.

About a month ago, an ad offering a night job caught the attention of the cash-strapped Pearlman. Taking up what he thought was a job, he spent nights mostly talking to a co-worker who appears to have been an agent. It isn't clear at what point Pearlman became suspicious, but he started recording the conversations and gathered about 20 hours of material. Some of the recordings were broadcast Thursday by Channel 2, to which Pearlman had given them on condition they be aired only after his arrest.

In the recordings, a man Pearlman said was a Shin Bet handler he knew as "Dede" kept taking the conversations to nationalism, violence and guns. The handler incited him, he said, and tried to coerce him to, among other things, assassinate Sheik Raed Salah, leader of the radical chapter of the Islamic movement in Israel and a controversial firebrand.

The Shin Bet, for its part, says that it used legitimate methods to gather evidence against a terrorism suspect and that the process had been overseen by the relevant Justice Ministry and law enforcement authorities.

Adi Keidar, the attorney provided for Pearlman by Honenu, an organization that gives legal support to "loyal citizens being persecuted by the Israeli government and court system" in cases like this, says authorities have no evidence against his client, who is barred from meeting with counsel for now.

Dvir Cohen, a friend of Pearlman, told Israel Radio that the man he's known for the last year and a half "couldn't hurt a fly."

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Video: Jerusalem Online news report