Torturing Palestinians
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MER FLASHBACK - Published by MER in January 1997
Truly Understanding the Present Requires Seriously Appreciating the Past



[MER - Torture of Palestinians is not only routine and systematic, in it actually sanctioned by the Israeli legal system that has been twisted to serve Israeli policies. Going back to the Shinbet scandal of the early 1980's, even more sadistic forms of torture have given way to the kinds of 'legalized' torture methods outlined in this important article from one of the few independent and courageous media sources in Israel, The Alternative Information Center (AIC). Among the reasons the Israelis get away with such systematic torture of Palestinians is that hardly anyone is willing to protest. The so-called "Palestinian Authority" practices similar and even worse torture techniques, as do nearly all of the Arab governments in the region -- so they are hardly in a position to protest. And the "liberal" American Jewish community has been morally bankrupt about such issues for so long now that to speak up at this point would be to condemn themselves for permitting, and even encouraging in many cases, such Nazi-like behavior by the Israelis for decades.]


A Shining Light Unto Nations?

"The entire Israeli establishment countenances torture..."

First, his head is covered with a thick rancid sack. It’s difficult to breathe. Handcuffed, he is bound in a twisted position to a kindergarten chair with hardly any back support and held there for four days straight. Every time his head falls when sleep overcomes him, he is slapped on his face to wake up. Maybe on the fifth day the handcuffs are removed and he is allowed to sleep in a tiny windowless cell. Music is blaring in the cell around the clock. It is difficult to sleep with noise and the constant glare of the shining fluorescent light. On the sixth or seventh day, his head is covered again with the rancid sack, but this time, he is chained to a pole in the corridor and made to stand there for four more days. Or perhaps, he is handcuffed to a hook a meter from the ground and is forced to squat for three days; three days continuously that is. Or he is undressed and made to sit in front of a blasting air-conditioner for hours. There is no sleep. His hands are swollen from the tight handcuffs; he is vomiting from the prolonged contorted position he is held in. He smells, unshaven, he wants to sleep.

This is ‘moderate physical pressure’ under Israeli law and it is legal. Under international law this is torture and is completely prohibited at all times. This ‘moderate physical pressure’ is routinely used by the Israeli secret police (‘GSS’) to extract confessions from Palestinian detainees under interrogation. The UN Convention Against Torture, of which Israel is a signatory, states that the use of any physical or psychological pressure which causes pain or humiliation is absolutely prohibited at all times.

What constitutes torture and degrading treatment is subjective -- determined by the victims’ sensation of the physical and mental pain caused to him. Sitting in front of cold air may not on its face compare to torture methods like electric shock, but after two weeks of little sleep and sitting in contorted positions, undressed in the middle of the rainy winter, 12 hours of the ‘air conditioner’ feels like hell. One detainee described it as ‘putting the air in a state of war with me’.

Despite the prohibitions under international law, the entire Israeli establishment countenances torture: The Israeli military courts routinely disregard claims of torture and extend the interrogations until the Israeli secret police finish the interrogation; the Ministry of Justice defends the torture in the Israeli High Court of Justice; the High Court of Justice itself puts the stamp of approval on the torture often rejecting petitions that request the court to order the GSS to cease the torture; the Israeli Knesset Ministerial Committee (composed of members of the Labor and Zionist Left parties including Yossi Sarid) consistently renews the license to the GSS Director granting him total discretion to determine when torture beyond ‘moderate physical pressure’ can be used.

The GSS Director has just given his okay for the torture to go ‘beyond moderate physical pressure’. The detainee is grabbed by the shoulders or by his collar and shaken violently for seconds or minutes. His head convulses, rattled back and forth, incessantly, it feels as if it will fly off, he loses his stand, dizziness overtakes him, his body is on fire. Sometimes he falls unconscious; sometimes he just falls to the ground. Or maybe he is beaten.

No one knows what methods constitute ‘moderate physical pressure’ or ‘beyond moderate physical pressure’ since GSS activities and methods are secret and unreviewable by the public. The information we know is derived solely from testimony of former torture victims.

The Perversion of the Israeli Legal System

Two weeks ago, the Israeli High Court of Justice, lead by Justice Aaron Barak, ruled that Muhammed Hamdan, a student from Bir Zeit University, could continue to be tortured. The Court deferred to the secret police’s ‘ticking bomb’ argument -- that torture was necessary to uncover information to an imminent bomb attack. This despite the absolute prohibition against torture under international law and the fact that the imminence was doubtful -- Hamdan had been in Israeli custody for over a month. The High Court gave such deference to the secret police, that one of the justices, Michael Cheshin, rebuked Hamdan’s lawyer as immoral for petitioning the court to stop the torture.

Later on that week, the High Court rejected another petition to order the secret police to stop using torture. In this case, the court ruled that the secret police could continue to deprive Khader Mubarek -- another victim -- of sleep and to cover his head continuously with a rancid sack. The court refused to issue a temporary order to halt the use of moderate physical pressure during the interrogation, but ordered the secret police to refrain from placing Mubarek in painful sitting positions.

The High Court’s decisions sanctioning torture demonstrate how perverted the Israeli legal system has become. In the name of preserving Israel’s ‘democracy’ and existence, the High Court of Justice routinely sanctions trespass on the liberal state’s most cherished assets -- one’s body and one’s liberty. Justice Aaron Barak -- the President of Israel’s Supreme Court, the same justice that is invited and honored by Harvard and Yale Law Schools and the American Bar Association as a leading liberal legal-jurisprudence thinker -- is also the Justice who permits the GSS to torture, physically and mentally degrade others.

Instead of remaining true to the two most alienable principles of most legal systems -- the presumption of innocence and the right to remain silent -- Israeli justices and judges allow the GSS to treat every Palestinian under interrogation as a convicted terrorist and to torture him until he talks. Judge Shlomo Issacson, President of the Ramallah military court1 and a religious Jew, ruled once that the Palestinian detainee in front of him deserved the ‘difficult’ interrogation because he had chosen to remain silent and was not ‘cooperating with the interrogators’ i.e. confessing. He extended the detainee’s interrogation for another 14 days with full knowledge that he was returning the detainee to another round of torture.2 Torture corrupts both the victim and the torturer. Just as the victim remains psychologically and, at times, physically scarred by his traumatic experience, the torturer is mentally corrupted from dehumanizing his suspect and benefiting from his pain and suffering. The GSS torture has already corrupted the Israeli legal system. Cloaking themselves in the moral high ground of security and protecting Israel’s democratic existence, these justices and judges pervert all principles of human dignity and liberty and corrode the very foundation and raison d’etre of a democratic’ legal system. By continuing to permit and defend torture in all its forms, these justices and judges have become a threat to the same liberal and free principles that they were appointed to protect.

‘When the state itself beats and extorts, it cannot longer be said to rest on foundations of morality and justice, but rather on force . . . Just as this situation is one of coercion and submission, so the state itself, which permits it, becomes a state of coercion and submission. When a state employs forceful means which no ends can justify, such as torture, it reduces the moral distance between a governmental act and a criminal act. . .’.3

1 Despite the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank cities, the Israelis continue to operate military courts all over the Occupied Territories. The Gaza military court still functions today as well.

2 In many cases where the GSS cannot obtain a confession because the detainee kept silent, or where the GSS lacks sufficient evidence to bring charges, the detainee is not released but rather sent to administrative detention. The detention is then approved by another military judge and is extended periodically by the military commander upon the approval of the civil administration’s legal advisor.

3 Kremnitzer, Mordechai, ‘The Landau Commission Report -- Was the Security Service Subordinated to the Law, or the Law to the ‘Needs’ of the Security Service?., Israel Law Review, Vol. 23, No. 2-3 1989, at 248.


Allegra Pacheco (Pacheco is an Israeli lawyer at the Palestinian Society for the
Protection of Human Rights (LAWE) and is a member of the Hebron Solidarity Committee
From: NEWS FROM WITHIN December 1996
Published by the Alternative Information Center -- Jerusalem/Bethlehem


January 2006


Talking To The Enemy Indeed
(January 31, 2006)
In Iraq the U.S. is secretly talking with the 'insurgent' enemy... There will have to be actual significant policy changes by the American Empire or else -- especially when it comes to reversing Israeli apartheid and realigning American policies and interests in truly new ways, not just more rhetorical trickery and obfuscation.

Abbas, Shaath, Safieh, Fateh Officials Should Resign or Be Sacked
(January 30, 2006)
The danger of fractricidal conflict and civil war in Palestine -- an under-the-table goal pursued by the Israelis for some time no matter how much they deny it -- is now greater than ever. The major figures representing the exposed and corrupt remnants of Fateh are attempting to manipulate their way one way or another to retain money, guns, and power. Rather than resigning as he should Fateh's top man, Mahmoud Abbas, is using his considerable backing from the U.S., Israel, Europe, and the Arab 'client regimes' to attempt to keep himself and his cronies in power one way or another. It is an unprecedented dangerous political poker game of bluff, counter-bluff, and chicken being played out not just in occupied Palestine but on the regional and world stages as well and with quite unpredictable results at this point. Meanwhile the Iranians are racing ahead to prepare themselves for attack, the comatose 'peace process' is all but finally declared dead, international energy supply concerns and escalating prices could trigger more conflict and economic hard-times, and the Neocon/Evangelical regime in Washington (under unprecedented assault as the second article below suggests) is desperately seeking new ways for possible salvation and resurrection before the November 2006 mid-term election even as the still hesitant impeachment movement might yet gain traction.

LAWLESS WORLD Erupting Thursday in London
(January 30, 2006)
"...likely to cause a fierce new controversy on both sides of the Atlantic" the new edition of this damning book LAWLESS WORLD will not be published until Thursday in London, just hours after President Bush's State of the Union 2006 address to Congress at 9pm tomorrow. Major pressures are now building in both Washington and London to actually attempt to remove from power those who brought about the Iraq war through such chicanery and duplicity. But if the pressures really get too strong expect the tension with Iran to escalate further and maybe explode into military exchanges and/or another major 'terrorist attack' either from the pertrators most expect or from the underground manipulators connected to those in power whom many now suspect with considerable damning circumstantial evidence

Assassination Backlash - Hamas Landslide
(January 26, 2006)
When the Israelis released the founder of Hamas from prison some years ago they did so because they had attempted to assassinate in Amman the man who today heads Hamas from Damascus and they needed to provide King Hussein an excuse to give them back their caught and endangered Mossad henchmen. Then, a few years later, they assassinated Sheik Ahmed Yassin, a blind paraplegic who founded Hamas in the late 1980s, as he emerged from a Gaza Mosque one morning -- this on top of an ongoing anti-Hamas assassination campaign designed to dismember and weaken 'The Islamic Resistance Movement'. The actual result however is what happened yesterday in a sea of Hamas green.

Hamas Wins Big
(January 26, 2006)
There's a long history to why Hamas has been so victorious in occupied Palestine. And whatever the Israeli p.r. spin about what has happened they and the U.S. are really the midwives.

Iran Crisis
(January 25, 2006)
This day was destined to come sooner or later. With the Israelis having a considerable arsenal of nuclear weapons and the ability to delivery them tactically to the battlefield as well as strategically by submarine and airplane a gross imbalance has been there in the region for some time already. Furthermore there should be no doubt that Israel's apartheid and bloodletting policies toward the Palestinians have been a major force enflaming Arab and Muslim sentiments throughout the region; while militant neo-imperialist U.S. policies on top of the American-Israeli alliance and the rise of Christian Fundamentalism have fueled the raging passions and led to today's imbroglio.

Hamastan Indeed
(January 24, 2006)
Hamas is not taking power tomorrow in occupied Palestine; it is instead asserting power in what can be seen as a kind of historic political blowback for so many awful years of miserable corruption, gross ineptitude and dastardly co-optation by those whom the U.S., Israel, and the Arab 'client regimes' pushed so hard to date to lord over the millions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Call it as well a kind of democratic payback for the Israeli/U.S. assassinations of the senior generation of Palestinian leaders including in recent years the founder of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and the long-time Chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat.

Questions About 9/11 That Don't Go Away
(January 23, 2006)
So much of what is happening now in our world can be traced back to the year 2001 when Bush/Cheney and the Neocons came to power in Washington, Ariel Sharon came to power in Israel, and what we all now simply call 9/11 happened. But just what did really happen? Nagging questions not only are not going away, they are surfacing from credible people and need to be very seriously and independently investigated.

U.S. Caught In The Act In Occupied Palestine
(January 22, 2006)
American credibility has rarely been lower; American duplicity has rarely been higher; and the exposure of American lies and hypocrisy has rarely been more evident than in the lead story in today's Washington Post.

Torturing Palestinians
(January 21, 2006)
From MER in January 1997: Torture of Palestinians is not only routine and systematic, in it actually sanctioned by the Israeli legal system that has been twisted to serve Israeli policies. Going back to the Shinbet scandal of the early 1980's, even more sadistic forms of torture have given way to the kinds of 'legalized' torture methods outlined in this important article from one of the few independent and courageous media sources in Israel, The Alternative Information Center (AIC). Among the reasons the Israelis get away with such systematic torture of Palestinians is that hardly anyone is willing to protest. The so-called "Palestinian Authority" practices similar and even worse torture techniques, as do nearly all of the Arab governments in the region -- so they are hardly in a position to protest. And the "liberal" American Jewish community has been morally bankrupt about such issues for so long now that to speak up at this point would be to condemn themselves for permitting, and even encouraging in many cases, such Nazi-like behavior by the Israelis for decades.

"WAR on TERRORISM" - Noam Chomsky Lecture on 18 Jan
(January 20, 2006)
This important lengthy lecture was delivered a few days ago in Dublin. Plus information about how to get a unique and now rare video documentary about the start of the "New World Order" -- available now exclusively from MER. At the start of Gulf War I in 1991 -- the beginnings of the Bush-era "New World Order", Noam Chomsky came to Washington and spoke to a huge overflow audience at George Washington University. This video documentary captures the entirety of his speech as well as the extensive question and answer period that followed. This documentary is essential to a serious understanding of U.S. foreign policy worldwide today. Chomsky uniquely provides the background and understanding needed to appreciate what the War in Iraq is really all about as well as the many misrepresentations and lies Washington propogates so often about the Israeli-Palestinian "Peace Process". From the back of the video by Mark Bruzonsky: "There's no one like Chomsky if you want to truly understand the realities of both U.S. policies and the overall situation in the Middle East...

Any Questions or Comments - CHAT at 12pm today
(January 20, 2006)
If you hvae any Questions or Comments about this program or MER use CHAT at 12pm today (Washington, DC time)

Palestinian 'Election' Approaches...Still Maybe
(January 19, 2006)
In the end it may be that the failing remnants of the disgraced 'Palestinian Authority' -- after so many years of miserable corruption and co-optation -- are now too weak and fractured to even manage to 'postpone' the long-promised Legislative election... Now the past is coming back to haunt the PA -- and their godfathers as well.

(January 18, 2006)
Though they run a far more effective propaganda network the Jewish and Zionist establishments don't always get their way and have in fact lost quite a bit of credibility and following. This article from earlier this week in The Christian Science Monitor. And we certainly hope that those in Iraq who are legitimately and so courageously standing up against the US/UK/Israeli invasion/occupation will decide to release the CSM correspondent they are holding hostage, showing that they are sophisticated enough to distinguish between hostile and friendly Christians and thereby giving hope amidst so much despair and bloodletting.

(January 17, 2006)
The cultural and emotional differences between Islam and Christianity and Judaism are considerable -- never more so than in the areas relating to women and sexuality. This interesting but not really adequate article is from today's Guardian in the UK: SEMINAL QUESTIONS - As scholars question the place of nudity in marriage, Islamic clerics are hotly debating exactly what sexual practices are acceptable, writes Brian Whitaker

The Faster March To International War
(January 16, 2006)
Joining the rising chorus is a growing group of sometimes neo-con, sometimes evangelical, sometimes hustling and/or sponsored academics. They are now contributing to the growing 'New World Order' hysteria that now dominates American political life through the pages of associated magazines and newspapers. While Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson for instance is right indeed to be warning about the great dangers now immediately ahead, his analogies and heroes are so misguided and off the mark one has to wonder just who is really orchestrating and behind this kind of thing. This Ferguson article appeared over the weekend in The Telegraph published in the U.K.

Historic Anti-U.S./Israel Crucible of Hatred and Revenge
(January 15, 2006)
One day Pakistan will no longer be lead by a military General empowered by the U.S and manipulated by the CIA. Remember now that today's feared Zawahiri left his Cairo medical practice to oppose the U.S. when he felt Egypt was deceived and co-opted by the U.S. Bin Laden himself, after working with the Americans to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan and working intimately with the American-sponsored Royal Family of Saudi Arabia, turned against the U.S. when American troops on top of the CIA directly occupied his country. And of course Iraq is today a country erupting as a result of U.S. occupation and destruction while Iran is a country today still rebelling after so many years of tortuous rule by the Shah and so much CIA-plotting to control that country.

INFORMATION For Persons Using This Program MiddleEast.Org
(January 12, 2006)
Useful INFORMATION For Persons Using This Program always available at MiddleEast.Org/MER

What Sharon Has Wrought; and What He Has Left
(January 12, 2006)
Understanding what has happened between Israel and Palestinians over the years requires not only expert analysis but considerable memory, ideological as well as political understanding, and an ability to put the historical pieces all together. Meron Benviniste's article today in Ha'aretz is of considerable help in summarizing the situation past, present, and maybe future.

Ariel Sharon - by Robert Fisk
(January 6, 2006)
There are few journalists who have the knowledge and perspective of Robert Fisk. This from his recent book, footnoted at the end and highly recommended.

Chaos and Geostrategic Changes of Historic Consequences Looming
(January 6, 2006)
The Year 2006 is now more ominous than ever.

Sharon's Huge Legacy
(January 5, 2006)
Sharon's legacy is overwhelming, and not for the positive

MER Mark Bruzonsky on Channel 5 Evening News Tonight in Washington, DC area
(January 4, 2006)
MER Mark Bruzonsky on Channel 5 Evening News Tonight in Washington, DC area

Sharon - 'significant stroke' reported tonight in Israel
(January 4, 2006)
Sharon - 'significant stroke' reported tonight in Israel

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