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April 17, 1992 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-04-17

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Torture In The Territories


Israel Correspondent


ne doesn't -want to
believe that Israel's
domestic intelligence
agency, known as the Shin
Bet, is torturing Palestinian
One doesn't want to
believe that prisoners are
tied up in excruciating posi-
tions for hours, beaten and
kicked on every part of their
bodies, choked, kept awake
for days on end, traumatiz-
ed, at times crippled, in some
cases killed. One wants to
put it down to the lies of an-
ti-Semites, to the propagan-
da of the terrorists them-
At most, one may be will-
ing to allow that this is an
aberration, the work of a
stray psychopath or two, the
kind who turn up in even the
most scrupulous security
forces. Then one reads about
these practices in the reports
of B'tselem. This is a
Jerusalem-based Israeli
organization — not a Pales-
tinian or foreign one — that
monitors human rights in
the West Bank and Gaza
Strip. It has Jewish Knesset
members on its board of di-
At the beginning of April
the organization published a
follow-up to its report of a
year ago on the torture of
Palestinian prisoners since
the intifada began in
December 1987. Both

The numerous reports of Israelis torturing Palestinian prisoners
are too detailed and pervasive to ignore.

reports were based mainly
on interviews with dozens of
former prisoners, who,
separately, recited these
same torture methods, and
even the same nicknames of
these torture methods.
"These techniques have
now become so routine that
we would describe them as
`standard practice' for most
Palestinians who are seri-
ously interrogated . . . A
level of violence and ill-
treatment has become a
completely predictable part
of Shin Bet (and some Israel
Defense Force and police)
interrogation," concluded
the authors, Stanley Cohen,
a professor of criminology at
Hebrew University, and
Daphna Golan, a history lec-
turer at Hebrew University.
On the basis of their inter-
views with prisoners,
lawyers and other human
rights groups, they
estimated that at least half
of the Palestinian prisoners
interrogated for over a week
— some 20,000 since the in-
tifada began — have been
subjected to some combina-
tion of these techniques,
aimed at forcing confessions
out of them.
Unless one totally rejects
these findings, one must face
the possibility, probability
or certainty that loathsome

acts are being committed in
wholesale fashion, out of
sight, in Israel's name.
Mordechai Kremnitzer,
dean of Hebrew University
Law School, a reserve IDF
judge, and one of some 15
legal experts who reviewed
the original B'tselem report
before publication, was ask-
ed whether he believed that
torture of Palestinian
prisoners has become com-
monplace. "I would say
there is reason to think this
is the case," he replied. "I
cannot swear by it, but
somebody will have to con-
vince me that the opposite is
B'tselem found that in the
last year, Shin Bet abuse of

One must face the
possibility that
loathsome acts are
being committed,
out of sight, in
Israel's name.

prisoners held in IDF
prisons has gone down con-
siderably, because of
changes ordered by the
army. Shin Bet inter-
rogators are now under
closer IDF control, and the
prohibition against using
violence or the threat of

violence has been re-
emphasized to soldiers.
These and other im-
provements were ordered by
an IDF investigative com-
mission appointed after
B'tselem's 1991 report. The
head of the commission,
retired Major-General
Rafael Vardi, heard com-
plaints of mistreatment or
outright torture from 16
prisoners, and referred eight
of them to the State At-
torney for criminal in-
Of the IDF's own in-
vestigators, Mr. Vardi said
they "do their work with
devotion and loyalty."
Commenting on the
B'tselem report, an IDF
spokesman said: "IDF in-
vestigators are forbidden to
use violence or the threat of
violence." He added,
however, that the Shin Bet
was beyond his jurisdiction.
(The Shin Bet is under the
direct control of one man,
the prime minister, who has
not said a word about
B'tselem's accusations.
There is no spokesman for
the Shin Bet, which operates
in secrecy; it is against the
law to publish the name of
the director.)
While Palestinians are
safer these days in IDF
interrogation wings,

B'tselem found that Shin
Bet torture has not let up at
its other interrogation venue
— police prisons. Dafna
Golan said that during the
intifada, eight Palestinians
have died as an apparent
result of brutal interroga-
tions, and that all eight have
died in police prisons. From
these deaths, two Shin Bet
interrogators have been
punished: the pair received
six-month prison sentences
for "causing death by neg-
ligence" in the 1989 death of
a Gaza prisoner.
There are a number of
often-heard criticisms of
B'tselem's reports. One is
that the Palestinians'
testimony is worthless be-
cause they are lying, that
they are taught to lie, and
that they lie out of fear of the
intifada's enforcers.
B'tselem freely acknowl-
edges that some former
prisoners do lie or exag-
gerate, and that a number of
testimonies were thrown out
as unreliable, and that there
may be some falsehoods in
the testimony the report
relied on.
But B'tselem found dozens
of individual Palestinians
recalling the same idiosyn-
crasies of the interrogation
methods, the same physical
descriptions of the cells,
even the same noms de
guerre of the Shin. Bet
"If there's a chance that
one or two tried to fool us,
it's impossible that dozens





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