Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

WATCH: Israeli police snatch Palestinian flags from protesters in Jerusalem

If the Palestinian flag is legal, why do Israeli police view it as such a threat?

In East Jerusalem, the city Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state, waving the Palestinian national flag is becoming verboten. Over the past year, activists have noticed an increase in police attempts to confiscate the flags during demonstrations across the city.

The latest example came earlier this month, during a protest against the eviction of the Sabag and Hamad families from their homes in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. A video published by Israeli activist Guy Butavia shows group of Israeli police officers walking into a crowd of Palestinian and left-wing Israeli activists (including +972 writer Orly Noy), many of whom are holding small Palestinian stick flags. The officers proceed to confiscate the flags, one by one.

At first, it almost seems like some kind of game; the protesters appear bemused, as if they know they are actors in some kind of bizarre political theater. Once it becomes clear, however, that the officers are intent on taking every single Palestinian flag in sight — one officer even climbs a tree to get the job done — the demonstrators grow angry. “Why are you so bothered by seeing a Palestinian flag in Palestine?” asks activist Sahar Vardi through a megaphone. By the end of the video, it appears the police have all the flags in their possession.

Prior to the Oslo Accords, Israel considered flying the Palestinian flag — still referred to in Israel as the flag of the Palestine Liberation Organization — a criminal offense. The scene at Sheikh Jarrah was reminiscent of the days of the First Intifada, when videos showed Israeli soldiers removing Palestinian flags from public buildings across the West Bank and Gaza in the years of the mass uprising.

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

As part of the Madrid peace talks, Israel recognized the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and in the Oslo years decided there was no longer any public interest in enforcing the ban. Moreover, as Adalah Attorney Mohammad Bassam noted in 2016, the flag is no longer considered the PLO flag, but “is recognized and flies at the United Nations as the official flag of the Palestinian Authority and there is nothing on the law books forbidding one to fly it....

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Tzipi Livni couldn’t save Israel because Israel doesn’t want to be saved

Tzipi Livni, who bid farewell to politics this week, won’t be Israel’s de Gaulle. She will not be the leader that shakes us out of our collective slumber. Today, it is difficult to imagine any other Israeli leader having the desire to even try.

It’s strange to consider that a mere decade ago, Tzipi Livni and her Kadima party won the Israeli elections. Yet 10 years after Benjamin Netanyahu pushed her into the opposition back benches, Livni tearfully announced on Monday that she will not be running for the upcoming Knesset elections. Polls show her Hatnuah party wouldn’t make it past the election threshold and running anyway could potentially siphon votes from a center-left bloc that seeks to overthrow Netanyahu.

Following her resignation, Israel’s liberal commentators commended her undying commitment to a two-state solution to preserve Israel as “both Jewish and democratic.” But beyond the left-leaning intelligentsia, her resignation went on with little fanfare. At a time when the right’s twin policies of endless occupation and creeping annexation go entirely unchallenged, it is hardly surprising that few are rushing to write Livni’s requiem.

After all, in every election since 2009, Livni was a politician who, try as she might, simply couldn’t get things to go her way, jumping from party to party and forging puzzling alliances in an attempt to hold on to political relevancy. Yet when it came to what my colleague Dahlia Scheindlin calls doing the “politics of politics,” Livni failed time and time again.

Had things turned out differently, her life story would have been the stuff Hollywood kitsch is made of: born to right-wing parents who fought in the ranks of the Irgun terrorist group during the 1948 war, Livni went on to serve in the Mossad and become a member of Knesset on behalf of Likud. That is, until she realized the effect the occupation has on Israeli society, and particularly its threat to Israel’s ability to preserve a Jewish majority and still call itself a democracy.

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

One would be remiss, however, to view Livni’s departure from politics simply as a bookend to a storied political career. It is also a symbolic moment for a society that has neither a desire to talk about nor consider an end to its five decades of military control over millions of Palestinians. Ten years ago, when Livni was on...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Settlers to Palestinian laborers: 'Work with human rights groups and lose your job'

Flyers posted in villages near Gush Etzion warn Palestinian laborers they will be banned from nearby settlements should they cooperate with anti-occupation groups.

Settlers in the southern West Bank posted flyers warning Palestinian laborers not to cooperate with Israeli human rights activists or organizations if they want to keep their jobs.

Tazpit News Agency, a settler-aligned English-language news outlet, reported earlier this week that Israeli settlers in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc have been posting these intimidating flyers around Palestinian villages nearby. The flyers threaten to ban Palestinians who cooperate with human rights groups from working in settlements there.

According to the flyer, which was printed in Arabic, Palestinians who want to “provide a living” for their families must refuse cooperation with the organizations and people listed. The flyer includes photos and names of prominent Israeli and Palestinian activists, and singles out Ta’ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights, two organizations that accompany and protect Palestinians in the occupied West Bank from threats of settler violence.

settlers

The flyer reads:

“Do you wish to keep working in the settlements? Do you want to provide a living for your families from the Jews? Whoever cooperates with any one of these individuals and organizations (Ta’ayush and Rabbis for Human Rights) will never be allowed to enter the settlements for work. Be warned!”

“On the one hand this is a classic divide and conquer tactic,” says Guy Butuvia, an Israeli activist with Ta’ayush, an Israeli-Palestinian volunteer grassroots group founded during the Second Intifada. “They want to create a division between Palestinians and human rights workers who support the Palestinian struggle to remain on their land, so as not to disturb the land theft that is taking place.”

“On the other hand,” he continues, “over the years, the occupation has made it difficult for Palestinians to make a livelihood, whether it’s by taking their land, resources, water, or strangling their economy. Now those who are forced to work in the settlements are being threatened. This is part of an attempt to limit the rights of Palestinians as well as their access to legal recourse.”

Since the Second Intifada, Israeli authorities have significantly limited the entry of Palestinian laborers into Israel. In West Bank settlements, however, Palestinian workers are able to...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

'To be Ethiopian in Israel is to be constantly struggling for something'

The shooting of Yehuda Biadga reignited tensions between Israel’s Ethiopian community and police, who have long been accused of using a heavy hand against the country’s minorities. ‘Police brutality is a result of racism against black people in this country,’ Ziva Mekonen-Degu says.

For the third time in as many years, thousands of Ethiopian citizens of Israel demonstrated against police violence this week. On Jan. 18, officers gunned down Yehuda Biadga, a 24-year old Israeli of Ethiopian background, who was wandering the streets of his neighborhood in the city of Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv.

According to family members, the young man, who suffered from severe PTSD after his release from the Israeli army, was distraught and carrying a knife when he left his home in the evening hours of that fatal day. The family immediately called the police, informing them that Biadga suffered from a mental illness and had not taken his medication, but that he did not pose any danger.

Police took just over 50 minutes to arrive and commence searching for the young man. It was during the belated search that police said one of the officers saw Biadga approaching with a knife and ordered him to stop, but he ignored the officer’s warnings. The officer, who reportedly said he had reason to fear for his life, fired two shots at Biadga’s upper body, killing him. Police officials rejected accusations that the officer opened fire because Biadga was black, claiming instead that the policeman’s life was at risk.

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department — an external agency meant to investigate and prosecute officers — has launched an investigation. Police placed the officer on leave, per his request.

The shooting reignited tensions between Israel’s Ethiopian community and the police, who have long been accused of using a heavy hand against the country’s visible minorities, particularly citizens of Ethiopian descent. Over 15,000 Ethiopian Israelis and their supporters marched in the streets of Tel Aviv on Wednesday, blocking the Ayalon Highway, one of the country’s main arteries, and calling for an end to “racist police violence,” which they say is a daily experience for them.

Despite the large turnout, members of the Ethiopian community are in despair over police brutality. Biadga’s killing is just the latest, most extreme incident, says Efrat Yerday, a prominent Ethiopian-Israeli activist, but it is...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Activists pulled off bus for protesting racial profiling at Israeli hospital

Security guards remove the activists for protesting a new policy that singles out Palestinians on a public bus line in southern Israel.

Security guards at an Israeli hospital detained 10 Arab and Jewish activists Sunday for an act of civil disobedience protesting a policy to single out, remove, and inspect Palestinians on a public bus line in southern Israel.

The activists, from the grassroots protest movement Standing Together, were removed from the bus at the entrance to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, after refusing to show their identification cards and demanding to know why non-Arab passengers weren’t asked to show theirs.

For several months now, security guards at the hospital have been asking passengers deemed to appear Arab to show their IDs. If they are Palestinian, the guards make them step off the bus and are only allowed back on as it leaves the hospital premises, Local Call first reported last week. The hospital and bus company both confirmed that the new practice is taking place, but insisted it is “carried out respectfully.”

On Sunday morning, a security guard boarded the number 18 bus as it approached the Barzilai Medical Center premises, approached Gadir Hani — a Palestinian citizen of Israel who wears a hijab and is active with Standing Together, and asked for her ID card.

Video footage shows Hani asking the security guard why she was being singled out, and demanded that he ask every passenger to show their ID. The other Arab passengers aboard the bus also refused to present their ID, after which several more security guards stepped aboard.

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

When the activists pulled out signs, the guards told them they were being detained and removed them from the bus. A few minutes later, a more senior hospital official arrived and released them.

“This kind of segregation is exactly what those behind the Jewish Nation-State Law had hoped for: to show Israeli society that there is legitimacy for discrimination in all aspects of life between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel,” said Standing Together activist Uri Weltmann. “We won’t accept racial segregation — not on buses nor anywhere else.”

Standing Together, the activist group behind the protest, published the following video of the protest:

Following the Local Call report on the discriminatory practice, more than 3,000...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Israel's new 'apartheid road' is about more than just segregation

Israel claims the new road, which separates Israelis and Palestinians by an eight-meter wall, alleviates traffic for settlers while helping Palestinians travel around the West Bank. Human rights activists say it will help create Israeli-only enclaves free of any Palestinian presence. 

Israel unveiled a new segregated highway in the occupied West Bank last week, with a giant eight-meter concrete wall separating Palestinian and Israeli drivers on either side. Labeled the apartheid road by critics, Route 4370’s official reasoning is to alleviate traffic for Israeli settlers commuting to Jerusalem, as well as creating a new way for Palestinians to travel between the northern and southern West Bank.

Yet despite the stated reasoning, anti-occupation and human rights advocates argue that the segregated highway is another way to create Israeli-only areas — free of any Palestinian presence — in Palestine. And it is a sign that Israel, and Israelis, no longer view segregation as something to be ashamed of.

“While in the past there was a major effort to conceal segregation from the Israeli public, today it is now perceived as legitimate,” said Efrat Cohen-Bar, a planner and architect with Israeli NGO Bimkom. “In a country where a new discriminatory law is proposed every morning, one short segregated road no longer excites anyone.”

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called the highway “an example of the ability to create coexistence between Israelis and Palestinian while protecting against existing security challenges.”

For Cohen-Bar, the highway cannot be removed from the entire system of segregated roads in the West Bank, which often forces Palestinians to use underpasses so as not to disturb the settler traffic above them. “Highway 4370 should be seen in a broader context as a continuation of [Israel’s] separation policy and the creation of Israeli-only enclaves.”

In the eyes of Daniel Seidemann, an attorney and activist who runs the Israeli NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem, and who has spent the last 20 years monitoring the city’s changing landscape, Route 4370 has a geopolitical dimension as well. The highway, he says, is part of Israel’s long-term strategy of “creating territorial contiguity between Jerusalem and the settlements that surround it,” particularly the highly-contested E1 area, the 12 sq. kilometer area located between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

For decades, Israel has hoped to build up the area with settlements, connecting the settlement to Jerusalem and effectively bifurcating the West Bank.

Moreover, says Seidemann, the road is...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

IDF admits teen didn't commit crime, locks him up for Facebook post anyway

The Israeli army is holding Anwar Makhtoob in administrative detention for two six-month-old Facebook posts. The military prosecutor admits there isn’t even a suspicion that he had committed a crime.

The Israeli army arrested Anwar Makhtoob, an 18-year-old Palestinian, over several old Facebook posts two weeks ago. The military prosecutor readily admitted that there wasn’t even a suspicion that he had committed a crime, but instead of releasing him, as one might expect, the prosecution and the judge decided to keep him in prison, so that he could be put in administrative detention.

On December 31, 2018, Mahktoob’s uncle and little brother were driving through an Israeli military checkpoint near their West Bank village of Al-Qubeiba. The Israeli officers there asked about Anwar, and then called his father and demanded that he bring the teenager to the checkpoint for questioning.

When the two arrived, the Border Police officer in charge asked Makhtoob about two photos he had published in July 2018, six months earlier: one, a photo of weapons, and the other, a keffiyeh-clad man in a flak jacket holding an assault rifle. According to Makhtoob’s attorney, Khalil Zaher, the teenager found the photos online and decided to share them.

After answering the Israeli officer’s questions, Makhtoob was released and sent home with his father. Two hours later, Makhtoob’s father received another phone call from the Israeli officer, who asked that he return with his son to the checkpoint in order to sign a few documents. After another round of questioning, they arrested Anwar.

Makhtoob was taken to the Israeli army’s Ofer military prison, where he remained until January 3, when he was finally brought before a military judge. The prosecutor asked the judge to extend his remand by 72 hours to give time for a senior IDF commander to issue an administrative detention order. Administrative detention is a practice Israel uses to hold Palestinians indefinitely without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence, often in the absence of a crime.

Administrative detention orders are reviewed every six months, and can be renewed indefinitely. The detainees and their lawyers are usually not told of what crimes they are being accused or shown the evidence against them. The result is that it is virtually impossible to defend oneself against an administrative detention order. Under international law, administrative detention should only be used in the most extreme cases but Israel...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

'Israel's permit regime isn't about security, it's about segregation'

The permit system for Palestinians allows Israel to recruit informants, suppress political activity, and create an opaque system of segregation and control. Just don’t say it’s about security, says Yael Berda.

The image should be familiar to every person with even the slightest bit of knowledge about Palestine. Hundreds of middle-aged men huddled together at ungodly hours, waiting in interminable lines in corridors enclosed by concrete walls, turnstiles, guard towers, and armed soldiers. Young boys mill about selling Arabic coffee in miniature disposable cups as the men lurch forward, one by one. The men hand their entry permits to the soldiers, and are let through.

The checkpoint is perhaps the image most closely associated with Israel’s military rule in the occupied territories, where tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers pass through to work in Israel on a daily basis. For most Israelis, the checkpoints are a tool Israel uses to protect its citizens from terrorism. For Palestinians, particularly Palestinian laborers, it is part of a system of control, one so many are forced to accede to in order to provide for their families.

For Yael Berda, assistant professor of sociology at Hebrew University, the checkpoint is what she calls the “black box of the occupation,” concealing as much as it reveals about the true nature of Israel’s labyrinthine permit regime. For the past decade, Berda, one of the foremost experts on the permit regime, has tried to unpack that box.

Her 2017 book, Living Emergency: Israel’s Permit Regime in the Occupied West Bank, based on interviews with Palestinian laborers, Israeli officials, contractors, and archival research, is an in-depth look at the various ways in which that regime — run by the Shin Bet, the army, the government, and the Civil Administration — holds hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the palm of its hand.

An attorney by training, Berda never set out to become an expert on the permit regime. When she opened her own law office amid the violence of the Second Intifada, she began to receive calls from Israeli contractors looking to obtain permits for their workers. “I began hearing story after story about workers who had been with these contractors for over 20 years who are suddenly barred from entering Israel for security reasons,” she says. “It was madness.”

Berda sought the advice of Israeli human rights workers, whom she assumed would be able to explain how...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Gaza march leader to conscientious objectors: 'Turn your words into weapons'

The leader of Gaza’s Great Return March holds a rare conversation with Israelis who refuse to serve in the army because of the occupation. ‘Those who refuse to take part in the attacks on the demonstrators in Gaza — they stand on the right side of history.’

By Edo Konrad and Oren Ziv

It is difficult to imagine today, but meetings between Palestinian and Israeli activists used to be routine. The younger generation of Palestinian and Israelis, however, were born into a world of walls, fences, and segregation, where even a simple conversation can be complicated, and at times, impossible.

That stark reality was on display two weeks ago when dozens of Israeli activists, including past and soon-to-be conscientious objectors held a rare conversation with Ahmed Abu Artema, one of the main organizers behind Gaza’s Great Return March. For many of the younger conscientious objectors, the Great Return March served as an inspiration for their personal reasons to refuse enlistment in the Israeli army.

“It is very nice to meet people who decided to take a stand, listen to their conscience and refuse to be part of the oppression of others,” Abu Artema began, his often-flowery Arabic translated by Israeli activist Neta Golan, one of the leaders of recent solidarity protests on the Israel-Gaza fence. “Those who refuse to take part in the attacks on the demonstrators in Gaza, who express their natural right to protest against the siege, those who refuse to take part in the attacks on Gaza’s citizens — they stand on the right side of history,” Abu Artema told the crowd.

It was the first time that Artema had ever spoken in front of a crowd of Israelis. For many of the younger activists, it was their first time speaking to someone from Gaza.

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Last September, Abu Artema exchanged letters with conscientious objector Hillel Garmi, who served 107 days in military prison for refusing to serve in the occupation. “Your decision is what will help end this dark period inflicted on Palestinians, and at the same time mitigate the fears of younger Israeli generations who were born into a complicated situation and a turbulent geographical area deprived of security and peace,” Abu Artema wrote to Garmi in a letter published on both +972 Magazine and Local Call.

Among those present at the event...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Seven hospitalized in settler attack on Hebron activists

Israeli soldiers reportedly stand by during attack on the ‘Youth Against Settlements’ community center in the occupied city.

Israeli settlers attacked a group of Palestinians who were attempting to rebuild part of a local youth center in the occupied city of Hebron over the weekend, sending seven of them to the hospital with minor injuries.

On Saturday, according to eye witnesses, the settlers had demolished parts of a storage room being constructed at the home of local Palestinian activist Issa Amro, which also serves as a community center run by Youth Against Settlements. Amro filed a complaint with Israeli police against the settlers, who he says also tore off a metal gate from his neighbor’s house.

Hebron is home to around 500 radical Jewish settlers, living in the heart of a city that is home to over 160,000 Palestinians. Israeli soldiers are permanently stationed inside the city, implementing a system of segregated roads and creating daily friction with the Palestinian population.

On Monday night, Amro, several of his family members, and volunteers from Youth Against Settlements began rebuilding the walls settlers had demolished. While they were working, Israeli settlers showed up and began kicking the activists and throwing stones at them. The settlers were able to demolish what the Palestinians had built.

Amro and other eyewitnesses told +972 Magazine that Israeli soldiers and police officers who arrived on the scene did nothing to stop the attacks. Seven of the Palestinians were hospitalized, including one who had been bitten by a settler.

A video from the incident shows Amro confronting Hebron settler Anat Cohen, who was present during the attack and has a well-recorded history of attacking Palestinians and international activists in the city. When Amro asked one of the soldiers why he wasn’t doing anything to stop her, the video shows, the soldier responded that he was “against you (the Palestinians), not them (the settlers). They’re my people.”

An Israeli army spokesperson told +972 Magazine that while soldiers did receive a complaint that settlers had damaged the wall to Amro’s home, they were not able to verify that settlers had caused it. “The following day,” an emailed statement from the spokesperson continued, “the Palestinian blocked a path near his home. Settlers who arrived at the site broke through the blocked path. As a result, a confrontation ensued, and security forces...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

'Israelis don't want to hear what I have to say'

What does it feel like to be a target? Jewish-Israeli dissidents and anti-occupation activists have, for the most part, been lucky enough to avoid that question over the years. While Israeli authorities have had few qualms clamping down on Palestinians who openly challenge Israel’s military dictatorship in the occupied territories, Israeli Jews have largely been spared their wrath.

That’s beginning to change. From Shin Bet interrogations at the border to coordinated attacks on prominent anti-occupation activists to the delegitimization of left-wing NGOs, authorities have been making life increasingly difficult for outspoken Jewish Israelis. For more well-known activists, the ad hominem attacks are worn like a badge of honor: proof that laying bare the cruelties of occupation is actually doing something.

Then there are activists like Guy Hirschfeld, who stand little to gain from becoming a target. Over the past few months, it has felt at times like Hirschfeld, 49, is Public Enemy No. 1 for Israeli authorities in the West Bank — and particularly the settlers. A long-time member of Ta’ayush — an Israeli-Palestinian volunteer grassroots group founded during the Second Intifada, and one of the few groups of Israelis that regularly puts their bodies on the line in solidarity with Palestinians — Hirschfeld spends most of his days accompanying Palestinian shepherds in the Jordan Valley, where they regularly come under attack by settlers or the army.

If Hirschfeld’s ideological leanings have made him a target, his brazen, often shocking style does him no favors. His routine chastising of soldiers, in which he often resorts to personal insults,  coupled with a defiant irreverence for conventional norms (he commonly refers to the ideological settlers in outposts as “terrorists”) have landed him in the crosshairs. Since joining Ta’ayush in 2009, Hirschfeld has been arrested or detained between 60-70 times — 25 of them this year alone.

Hirschfeld is an easy target, but his case is exemplary of a larger clampdown on grassroots Israeli activists who struggle alongside Palestinians in the occupied territories. That clampdown was on display two years ago when a far-right group tried to bring down Ta’ayush veteran and Hirschfeld’s mentor, Ezra Nawi. Today, now that Nawi is significantly less active, Hirschfeld has become the primary target of the right.

Rather than deter him, the intimidation tactics have only made Hirschfeld more outspoken. His Facebook following has blossomed over the past two years to over 4,000, including some of...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

'Gender violence pushed Jewish, Palestinian women into a corner — together'

Women across Israel were set to strike to protest the government’s inaction toward gender violence. Samah Salaime, a prominent feminist activist, speaks about building solidarity between Jewish and Palestinian women and why this moment feels so urgent.

Tens of thousands of women in Israel were expected to participate in a general strike and demonstrations across the country on Tuesday, protesting the government’s inaction toward gender-based violence, spurred by the recent murders of two teenage girls.

Over 50 Jewish and Arab feminist organizations, comprising the Red Flag Coalition, declared a national “state of emergency” and organized the protests. Demonstrations are set to take place in dozens of locations around the country, culminating with a large rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Tuesday evening. Hundreds of organizations, corporations, and municipalities have declared their support for the protests.

Since the beginning of the year, 24 women have been murdered by a partner, family member, or acquaintance. Many had informed the police prior to their deaths that they were concerned for their safety. According to the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), 200,000 women in Israel are thought to be victims of domestic abuse, with around half a million children witnessing violence in their homes.

+972 writer Samah Salaime has been one of the central organizers in the struggle against gender violence in Palestinian society inside Israel for years. She spoke to +972 about how the coalition of organizations came together, how it overcame tensions between Jewish and Palestinian feminists, and why this moment feels so urgent.

What was the impetus for the strike?

The strike is happening because of the murder of 24 women this year alone, half of them Arab women. It is happening because the majority of cases of murder of Arab women remain unsolved. It is happening because after the killing of 16-year-old Yara Ayoub in the north and 13-year-old Sylvana Tsegai in Tel Aviv we could no longer remain apathetic. It was time to act.

Crowdfund banner 600px

The strike began as an act of protest organized by a few female social activists which didn’t stand much of a chance. A coalition of Palestinian and Jewish women’s groups was formed a few months ago, in order to organize a huge protest in front of the Knesset. We had...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article

Top court gives Israel even broader powers to use torture

Nearly 20 years after it banned torture, Israel’s High Court is finding new ways to justify using physical force in the interrogation of security suspects.

Israel’s High Court of Justice last week ruled that Israeli authorities’ torture of a Hamas suspect was not illegal and that the Shin Bet interrogators do not need to be prosecuted. The ruling also broadened and effectively removed the strict limitations imposed by a landmark decision by the same court nearly two decades ago, which carved out a “ticking bomb” exception to the prohibition on torture.

“The ruling shows that in the eyes of the High Court, physical abuse is a legitimate and perhaps even the preferable way of carrying out an interrogation in cases of national security,” said Itamar Mann, a law lecturer at Haifa University.

Shin Bet agents have for decades used torture, including moderate and severe physical and psychological abuse, to extract information from Palestinian suspects. The methods have ranged from violent shaking, beatings, sleep deprivation, long exposure to loud music, exposure to the elements, restraining suspects in painful positions for long periods, and covering suspects’ heads in foul-smelling sacks.

Israel ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1986, but never took the next step of actually outlawing the practice in Israeli law.

In September 1999, however, the High Court unanimously banned the use of physically abusive interrogation tactics. The ruling was widely viewed as a bold prohibition on torture and has been lauded and taught around the world. But in their historic decision, the justices also created a significant loop-hole to the prohibition: in the case of a “ticking bomb,” interrogators could avoid prosecution by invoking a necessity defense.

Crowdfund banner 600px

Twenty years later, it is clear just how much the Shin Bet has stretched that loophole. “The ruling could be seen an attempt to hide what the Shin Bet is actually doing,” added Mann.

Since 2001, when the Justice Ministry appointed a special investigator of torture allegations against the Shin Bet, PCATI and other organizations submitted over 1,100 complaints of torture. Of those, only one resulted in a criminal investigation, and it was not directly related to an interrogation.

The ruling also expanded the situations and...

Read More
View article: AAA
Share article