Thursday, September 13, 2007

Torture In The Holy Land?

Amnesty International charged the Israeli government in the 1990s with torturing its Palestinian political opponents. In its 1993 report, the London-based human rights organization stated the following:

“About 25,000 Palestinians were arrested in 1992 on security grounds, with more than 10,000 imprisoned at any one time. Most were serving sentences passed by military courts or were awaiting trial. Several hundred were administratively detained without charge or trial; over 500 of them were still held at the end of the year. There were Palestinian and Israeli prisoners of conscience, including conscientious objectors to military service. Palestinians under interrogation were systematically tortured or ill-treated. Four died in circumstances related to their treatment under interrogation. At least 120 Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces, often in circumstances suggesting extrajudicial executions or other unjustifiable killings…”

According to Amnesty International, the methods of torture used by the Israeli government “mostly during interrogation,” included “beatings, hooding with dirty sacks, sleep deprivation, and confinement in small, dark cells known as `closets’ or, when cold, `refrigerators’” and “a police unit operating in the West Bank was said to have specialized in interrogating detainees at night with methods including severe beatings with wooden sticks and electric shocks.”

(Downtown 12/22/93)

The Israeli government was accused by Israeli human rights organizations of torturing some of the 400 Palestinian activists it locked up without trial in 1994, on charges of being members of the outlawed radical Hamas organization.

A 1992 Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights Report, Making Women Talk: The Interrogation of Palestinian Women Detainees by Teresa Thornhill, also described how the Israeli government’s General Security Services [GSS]—Shin Beth—apparently tortured Palestinian women during the early 1990s:

“Most interrogation work is carried out by the General Security Services [GSS], Israel’s internal intelligence agency…

“The GSS feel no taboo against using physical violence against Palestinian women…

“Male detainees are regularly subjected to most of the same forms of physical abuse as women. However, it is important to remember that, throughout her time in the hands of the GSS, the female detainee is made to feel sexually threatened. Many women detainees report having been threatened with rape…

“Women are routinely slapped, and kicked during interrogation sessions if they do not readily answer questions. Sometimes an interrogator will bang the woman’s head against the wall…”

The same report concluded that “the stories quoted in the report, although they represent the experiences of a relatively small number of women, suggest that the Israeli practice of torturing female security detainees is widespread” and observed that “the torture of male Palestinian detainees has been widely documented elsewhere by…Amnesty International…”

A Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, Mahmond al-Zahar, in 1994 told a New York Times correspondent: “Is there anyone in Gaza who does not realize that Israel still occupies 40 percent of the Gaza Strip with settlements and troops to protect the settlements [in 1994], that it controls our shorelines, that its surveillance planes patrol the skies, as you can see them now…and that we are locked up in here periodically under curfew [in 1994] whenever Israel feels like it?” (NY Times 12/3/94)

(Downtown 12/3/94)

Next: The Clintons’ 1996 Chicago Democratic National Convention Revisited—Part 1