Torture in Israel
The violations of the human rights of the Palestinians by the Israeli occupying forces have not decreased despite the peace process. The list of the offenses is long: torture, arbitrary killings and arrests, the demolition of houses, the severe restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement by hundreds of check points, violence against Palestinians, land confiscation and the construction of illegal settlements, the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Palestinians from East Jerusalem, collective punishments, such as the total closure of the territories like Gaza, and the bombardments of the people of the Gaza Strip.
In particular, torture in Israel, which is carried out in a systematic manner, has a long tradition, dating back to the “Haifa Trials” in 1972. Western media outlets have only reported sporadically about this widespread phenomenon. The torturers are usually Shin Bet agents (Shin Bet=General Security Service GSS) who run special interrogation sections in some Israeli prisons. The two main bodies that carry out torture are the GSS, which continues to do so up till now, and Military Intelligence. The latter is involved in the interrogation of detainees kidnapped abroad or had infiltrated the country.
Until 1999, thousands of Palestinian prisoners were tortured every year. The Public Committee against Torture in Israel estimates that most Palestinians questioned experienced at least one kind of torture.
“Since the Occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a large proportion of the Palestinian population is suffering from the direct effects of torture and the whole society is indirectly affected." Said Gaza psychiatrist Eyad Elsarraj in a book named “Torture: Human Rights, Medical Ethics and the Case of Israel”.
For years, the Israeli establishment has tried to conceal what happens in interrogation rooms. Even when testimony of torture reaches the public, the system does everything it can to leave the interrogators’ role in darkness. People who have undergone interrogation have described various methods. However, a conversation among interrogators in the presence of several witnesses provided a chance to hear from the interrogators themselves about the kinds of torture used in major cases.
N., a former senior interrogator who was authorized to approve “special means,” insisted that it’s not like Guantanamo; he and his colleagues don’t make suspects stand naked in 10-below-zero weather, he added. He said the methods used are carefully chosen to be effective enough to break the suspect’s spirit, but without causing permanent damage or leaving any marks. They include slapping, back-bending, grabbed by the shirt and shouted at, squatting, raise cuffed hands and so on.
An investigative report by Haaretz in May 2015 found that use of torture was on the rise. The report found that people were being forced to stand for hours with their arms outstretched, kicked for refusing to sit down, tickled with a feather while handcuffed and unable to move, slapped, screamed at in the ear and blindfolded for long periods. Covering the head with a sack for many hours, shaking, tying in the “frog” or “banana” position, sleep deprivation, the denial of access to a toilet or shower, and beating are some other methods of torture.
According to a survey by the International Red Cross, only in Israel, and two other nations do more people advocate torture of an enemy combatant than oppose such behavior. The other states are Nigeria and the United States. Respondents were asked, “Can a captured enemy combatant be tortured to obtain important military information?” Israelis supported the use of torture in such a situation by 50 percent to 25 percent, with the rest unsure or preferring not to answer.
Following a series of petitions filed by human rights organizations and by Palestinians interrogated, the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled in 1999 that torture is forbidden. However, a subsequent attorney general later allowed its use with restrictions. It means that hundreds of suspects, nearly all Palestinians, have been tortured during interrogations. Shin Bet investigators continued using explicitly forbidden techniques, like shaking and the so-called “frog” crouch – methods that cause serious physical harm.
In order to prevent terrorism, Israeli authorities entitle themselves to use psychological pressure and torture against Palestinian detainees. Although, one of the few human rights that are considered absolute is the right not to be subjected to ill-treatment or torture. The authorities have three variations in their reaction to torture: "nothing is happening, what is happening is something else, and what is happening is completely justified." Torture proves that in this small sentence there are three big lies. As Justice Moshe Landau wrote back in 1965, the methods of interrogation are “a reliable reflection of the nature of the entire regime.”