Video celebrating Palestinian baby's death inflames Israel debate on Jewish violence

A Palestinian man standing in the firebombed home of Saad Dawabsheh, in the West Bank village of Duma, on Dec 4, 2015.
A Palestinian man standing in the firebombed home of Saad Dawabsheh, in the West Bank village of Duma, on Dec 4, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (REUTERS) - Video footage of Jewish zealots mocking the death by arson of a Palestinian baby has sparked outrage in Israel, even as some on the far right saw in the leak a possible bid to justify tough interrogation of suspects in the killing.

Aired on Israel's Channel 10 television late on Wednesday (Dec 23), the clip showed a wedding at which one dancing celebrant stabbed a picture of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh while others waved assault rifles, knives and what appeared to be a petrol bomb.

The boy and his parents died when their home in the village of Duma in the occupied West Bank was set ablaze in July in an incident Israeli officials described as "Jewish terrorism".

The arson, and delays in solving the case, although Israel has several suspects in custody, contributed to the outbreak of the worst Palestinian street violence in years.

On Thursday (Dec 24), a Palestinian stabbed and wounded two security guards near the Jewish settlement of Ariel in the West Bank, and was then shot dead, Israeli police said.

Near the West Bank city of Hebron, a Palestinian was killed by Israeli security forces after he tried to stab them with a screwdriver, the army said.

Almost daily stabbings, shootings and car-rammings by Palestinians have killed 20 Israelis and a US citizen since October.

Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 122 Palestinians, 74 of whom authorities described as assailants, while others died in clashes with security forces.

With Israel hinting indictments in the Duma arson may be imminent, some of the suspects' lawyers have accused Shin Bet state security investigators of trying to exact confessions with torture - an allegation they may use to challenge criminal charges in court.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the Shin Bet's methods as lawful and said the wedding video was proof of the need to spare no effort in curbing violent Jewish zealots.

"The shocking pictures that were broadcast ... show the true face of a group that constitutes a danger to Israeli society and to the security of Israel," Netanyahu said in a statement. "We are not prepared to accept people who deny the laws of the state and do not view themselves as subject to them. The pictures underscore how important a strong Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) is to the security of us all."

Netanyahu's condemnation was echoed within his coalition government, though one allied far-right lawmaker demurred.

Bezalel Smotrich, whose Jewish Home party is a powerful partner of Netanyahu's conservative Likud, voiced suspicion about the leak of the wedding video, which Channel 10 said had originally been seized by state investigators.

"My concern is that someone in the security establishment released this clip, at this time, in order to try to grant legitimacy to those aberrant interrogation methods, which apparently include unacceptable use of violence, against people from this group," Smotrich told Israel's Army Radio.

Israeli police said they were investigating whether the actions at the wedding, which Channel 10 says took place in Jerusalem last week, constitute an incitement to violence.