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Torture is a gruesome symptom of military occupation

Israel’s use of torture is part and parcel of the occupation, and an inseparable part of maintaining the military occupation of Palestinian territories and Jewish hegemony in those lands.

A Palestinian youth, arrested and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers during the closure on Hebron. (photo: Activestills)

Illustrative photo of a Palestinian youth, arrested and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers. (photo: Activestills)

A new report about torture at the Israeli Shin Bet facility Shikma is, rightfully, making headlines. The details are horrendous. The report, penned by HaMoked and B’Tselem, is also significant because it points to the close collaboration between Israel and the Palestinian Authority — essentially reminding that the former is outsourcing its dirty work to the PA.

While the report is new, we shouldn’t forget that torture in Israel is not. Palestinians have long suffered under the apparatus of the military occupation, with word of the practice surfacing in the 1970s — 40 years ago. Israeli human rights attorney Lea Tsemel says she was first exposed to accounts of torture in 1972, during the “Haifa Trials.” In a report on the issue for Adalah, Tsemel writes:

The Haifa Trials were only the beginning of my exposure to torture cases, because subsequently all manner of very cruel tortures – indeed those classic tortures that you read about in books and hear of in Guantanamo and Iraq – were used here very often. There were so many detainees to interrogate using these methods that they had to shorten the interrogations in order to process more people.

It is estimated that some 700,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel since the occupation began in 1967.

Tsemel continues:

Of course, the vast majority of the interrogations of thousands of Palestinians took place in the GSS centers. Today, the fact that most of the interrogations of political detainees involved torture or ill-treatment during the first 32 years of the Occupation [before the High Court’s 1999 ruling] is no secret. Almost every Palestinian who was interrogated can tell you about the sleep deprivation, the denial of access to a toilet or shower, the hunger, the physical pressures, including being made to sit tied to a small stool for days, the beatings and the kicks, the threats, the hanging, the bending, the shaking (sometimes to death), etc.

She also points out the fact that the Israeli public has known about the widespread phenomenon since 1977, when the London-based Sunday Times press published dozens of Palestinians’ accounts of the torture they had experienced in the hands of Israeli forces.

In the book Palestine Speaks, a collection of narratives about life under Israeli occupation, Palestinian attorney Abdelrahman al Ahmar recounts the torture he experienced at Israeli hands in 1984, when he was just a teenager. After Israeli soldiers took him from his parents’ home in Dheisheh refugee camp in the middle of the night — a practice that is still commonly used against Palestinian children today — al Ahmar was brought to the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. It was a cold, winter night and the interrogation began thus:

…they took off all of our clothes, stripped us naked. Then they tightened our handcuffs, took us outside in an open area, and put bags on our heads. The snow was coming down, and we were naked out there. I couldn’t see the others, but I could hear their teeth chattering, and the sound of the handcuffs shaking was so loud…. This is where we stayed for forty-five days between interrogations. Our bodies turned blue, we were out in the cold so long.

Al Ahmar recalls the grim details of the interrogations that were conducted by Israeli authorities:

[T]hey beat me, and there was loud music playing the whole time. We were allowed to go to the bathroom just once a day. They would tie our hands to the pipes… If I lost consciousness, they would throw water on me or slap me so I’d wake up… Sometimes they would keep me awake for many days straight before they gave me four hours of sleep. And with the pressure of sleep deprivation, I started hallucinating…

Today, al Ahmar’s body still bears the signs of torture. He has a scar on his wrist, he explains, because “[t]he handcuffs were so tight they cut to the bone. I still have marks on my legs from the beatings.”

For almost 40 years, the Israeli public has known about these practices. The same is true of the international community. Yet the horrific violation of human rights that is torture continues. And nothing will change until torture is understood as a gruesome but entirely unsurprising symptom of military occupation and Jewish privilege, both inside Israel and beyond the Green Line.

Sadly, it seems that the gross violation of human rights isn’t enough to make Israelis and the Jewish diaspora reflect critically on these practices. So, here’s another tack: torture can also be understood as an unfortunate but necessary tool to maintain the military occupation of Palestinian territories and Jewish hegemony in those lands. As such, it is the duty of all Israelis and Jews to ask themselves if a project that necessitates such brutal tactics is worth continuing and, if so, are we willing to pay the bill that inevitably comes in the wake of such atrocities. Because pay, we will, in blood and spirit.

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    1. carmen

      Am Yisrael Chai – paid in the blood and land of Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Am Yisrael Chai.

        No matter what our enemies try to do to stop our existence we will exist so long as humanity exists.

        We live or die together if you get my drift. No solution exists which would end with only our death while our haters celebrate. Such a solution will never happen.

        Am Yisrael Chai.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Oh hey, I’m glad we agree. Now do you think a one state solution* exists which would end with only the Palestinian indigenes’ humiliation and subjugation in apartheid bantustans while their haters celebrate or do you think such a solution will never happen?

          *The two state one is dead:

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Oh no Benny-leh you and I never agree.

            You want me to spell out what I meant? Think about it, Benny-leh.

            The Arabs will never realize their wet dream (and yours) of defeating us. In the highly unlikely event that they would, then they would aim to bring about a second holocaust. That is their wet dream (and yours) but what they don’t realize is that instead of them celebrating such an event, they won’t be around to celebrate.

            So, what I was trying to say is that unless they are suicidal, they should aim for a win-win outcome rather than a lose-lose outcome.

            I am sure you don’t agree Benny-leh. But you just don’t matter.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Oh no Benny-leh and I never agree. Oh my we could never have that could we, children? In my fairy tales that is just not possible! There are simple villains and simple good guys. It’s all perfect. Now about The Hundred Years War with the Very Bad Bennies of this World and the very Good Little Boy named Gustav…”

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Benny is criticizing but forgets to look at himself.

            In Benny’s simple little world we Israelis are eeeeevil and butter wouldn’t melt in the mouth of his darling Arabs. Just read his repetitive posts here. That’s what he tells us every day.

            But then he gets upset when I show him what his darling Arabs are really like. I don’t have to try hard. For 100 years they have been acting like we are some kind of vermin and their Allah given duty is to cull us.

            You don’t believe me, Benny? Then just ask them and look at their history. Here, look at this…

            “Shooting and stabbing attack on bus in southern Jerusalem neighborhood (Armon Hanatziv). Two (ages 60 & 45) killed, 15 wounded, several seriously. Police shot and killed one of the 2 terrorist perpetrators and apprehended the second (both from Jabel Muqaber). One of the injured victims (76 year old Richard Lakin) died of his wounds two weeks later.”

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            “Benny is criticizing but forgets to look at himself.”

            That’s just childish. You’re very quick to judge but have never shown any ability for self-reflection and self-criticism. It’s always the “Palestinian Arabs” or antisemitism. Really seriously clueless. You can dish it out but you sure can’t take it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            I’ll see your simplistic out of context cartoonish stories about us Banny, and I bid real life documented atrocities committed by your Arabs so that normal people can at least understand what we have been facing from your darling Arabs for nearly 100 years. Here is another one…

            “Two killed in stabbing attack near Lion’s Gate. Aharon Banita-Bennet (22) was stabbed to death on the way to the Western Wall in the Old City on Saturday evening with his wife and two young children. His wife and two-year-old son were wounded. Rabbi Nehemia Lavi (father of seven), who came to the aid of the Banita-Bennett family, was attacked and stabbed to death. Police shot and killed the attacker.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            That’s an interesting perspective you have there. So please tell me what is simplistic, cartoonish and out of context about the account of creeping annexation detailed here:

            (And please actually for once answer the question. Someone here said you never actually answer my questions but always skirt them with canned Hasbara responses. They are quite right, you do that habitually.)

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            I never answer your question, Benny? Funny that and here I was thinking the very same thing about you not answering my questions. Well, there ya go…

            Now for your article. I noticed that in that article which you obviously cuncur with since you asked me to comment on it, the author says…

            “First, we must distinguish between annexation and occupation. International law recognizes the legitimacy of an occupation, i.e. a state in which one power occupies a territory where a local population lives….”

            Now, Benny, I seem to recall that you and I once argued about this. You talked about “ILLEGAL OCCUPTION” and I chastised you for it. I said, there is nothing illegal about the occupation. I reminded you that the occupation came about because of Arab aggression and that the occupation can legally continue until such time as your Arabs sign a peace deal and promise not to commit aggression again…

            … but Benny dear, you dug your heels in (don’t you always? LOL) and you kept on insisting that the occupation is illegal…

            So, in view of the above, have you changed your mind now?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            He does it again! Skirts the question with canned hasbara! Combined with the oh-so-convenient manipulative edit! Another Gustav standby. Here’s what Gustav snipped off oh so precisely:

            “…But the assumption of international law is that occupation is a temporary affair; the occupier is considered to be a trustee who maintains what he has conquered until the conflict is over. Furthermore, the occupier is not allowed to make long-term changes in the region. Annexation is a unilateral takeover by a state of a territory by use of force or threats of it, and is impermissible under international law — a result of lessons from the Second World War on which so much of international law is built.”

            Obviously, Israel has made massive, blatantly illegal long-term changes, among them the illegal transfer of its civilian population into the occupied territory. And egregiously violated the “temporary affair” assumption. Very old ground, which I and especially ‘Yeah Right’ have definitively covered. Put a fork in that one!

            But notice when one says certain magical words Gustav suffers sudden, inexplicable attacks of mutism or doubles down on question skirting. The magic words? There are several, but “Shadmot Mehola,” and “annexation” immediately come to mind.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            And you too have done it again, Benny. I asked you, is occupation per se, legitimate or not? Your own referenced article certainly thinks so. But don’t bother answering my question, I am used to your dodges.

            As for your question to me. These are the facts.

            1. There never was a sovereign Palestinian Arab state. Never in the history of mankind.

            2. Therefore, the future designated Palestinian Arab state which we are all talking about, has not yet got defined borders.

            3. If you claim that the 1967 boundaries are THE borders, then you are either mistaken or you are lying (probably the latter) because those lines are just the 1949 armistice lines. Arbitrary lines where the fighting stopped in 1949.

            4. So what are Palestine’s Israel’s borders? They are yet to be negotiated as per UN SC Resolution 242 which were formulated right after the 1967 war. The resolution stipulated that Israel had to withdraw to SECURE and RECOGNIZED borders which implied that such borders needed to be negotiated.

            5. But since the Arabs refused to negotiate face to face for many years, Israel’s security interests dictated that it had to take unilateral steps and build the so called settlements. Were our actions wise? Maybe, maybe not. That is debatable. Were they illegal? Not at all. We did not formally annex any other place than East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. So at least theoretically, all the rest are negotiable. And there are various potential solutions available to resolve any objections which may come up. If only there would be a serious peace partner. But we don’t have one. So the mess continues.

            One eyed propagandists like Benny and his favorite extreme leftist journalists blame us for the mess. We, the majority of Israeli Jews, on the other hand blame the Arabs for their intransigence and obdurate behavior. Others can judge for themselves as long as they don’t lie about the facts.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            As I said, ‘Yeah Right’ and I have dispatched every fraudulent assumption in your reply. Many times over. Been there, done that. There is no such thing as “occupation per se,” there are only specific occupations in specific circumstances. The Israeli occupation is not a “per se” occupation. The 500,000 settlers and their settlements are not per se occupiers in per se places committing per se theft and per se crimes against per se indigenes and per se landowners. (The annexations of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights by the way are recognized by no country on earth and are “negotiable” to say the least. Gustav, because you happen to think something does not make it real. Because Israel asserts something does not make it true and does give it standing. I know you can not be reasoned with, at all, about this, and that’s OK, I understand. It’s not my job to argue with you. I have never been attracted to exercises in futility.)

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Now you see why I avoided your initial question? Coz as soon as I do, you do two things.

            1. You become emotive.

            2. You lie and distort what I said.

            For the record. Israel never took other than crown lands to which we had as much rights as your Arabs. Any privately osned Arab lands which were taken for security reasons, we paid for. That is also something that is legal under international law.

            As for you, putting words in my mouth, yes there IS occupation. The Arabs are an occupied people, occupied by us. Their privately owned lands ARE occupied. The crown lands on the other hands are not occupied.

            Now you either wanna talk about it by backing your claims up with facts, like I do, or don’t complain if I ignore your stupid questions.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I did not be become emotive. I did not lie and distort. Your saying I did does not make it true.
            Crown lands. Chuckle. The latest chaff. It used to be from you “oh we want to withdraw the occupation we really do but it’s just not safe yet.” Now it’s “Well, we only took ‘crown lands’ so we get to keep ’em!” At least you admit you “took.” Now you’re feeding in “well, yes withdraw but not really, its ours too and we have a right to keep what we took!” As I said, I’m not going to interminably argue with you, it gets nowhere, never has.
            Some day maybe you’ll just honestly admit to yourself there are two people in this land and it has to be shared and shared fairly. Seems like people like you want to take the longest hardest road to having that lesson beaten into everybody. I know, you see it very differently. Enough.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Notice how this little propagandist is unable to refute anything that I said in my post. He just blusters attempts to mock and attributes false claims to make me fit his stereotype of what he thinks Zionists say…

            Now, Benny-leh, again…

            Tell me the last time that Palestine was a sovereign Arab state? The answer is never. Therefore the future Palestine’s borders are yet to be determined through negotiations…

            …those negotiations were mandated by UN SC Resolution 242 which talked about Israel’s withdrawal to secure and recognized borders, not the 1967 boundaries which were not borders but the armistice lines where fighting stopped in 1949.

            Anyone can google the above and verify my claims. Benny knows that. That’s why he blusters, mocks, obfuscates and attempts to blur the edges. The one thing, he will never do though is to try to prove my above points as erroneous coz he knows that he can’t. LOL.

            Now Benny-leh are you happy? Have I answered your pointless question?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Typo correction: does not give it standing

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Whatever Benny-leh. You are true to form. You use lotsa words but you say nothing. You just deny and pretend …

            Oh and the occupation will end when your Arabs will sign a peace deal which will contain our terms too, not just their demands.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Lewis from Afula

      What about torture of people suffering from burns, amputations, head injuries, nerve damage etc after experiencing Hamas bombings?

      Whose torture is worse? Those responsible for the bombings (PLO-Hamas-6 day war initiators-Arabs) or their victims (the Israelis)?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      The disgusting torture of teenager Abdelrahman al Ahmar and others took place in 1984, before the first or second intifada. Well before the suicide bombings. This is what Israel did to maintain an occupation in the pursuit of an illegal land grab and the maintenance of Jewish hegemony. This is what Israel did to fuel fury and hatred. This was done in your names, Israelis. You did this. You did this to maintain an occupation. You did this “as a gruesome but entirely unsurprising symptom of military occupation and Jewish privilege, both inside Israel and beyond the Green Line.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        BEN:”The disgusting torture of teenager Abdelrahman al Ahmar and others took place in 1984, before the first or second intifada.”

        This is Benny’s way of trying to pretend that before 1984, there was no Arab terrorism and violence against Jews. But he is lying again. Here is just one example of a terror attack against us in 1984…

        “Eli Haze’ev, an American-Israeli from Alexandria, Virginia, was killed in a PLO attack on Jewish worshippers walking home from a synagogue in Hebron.”

        And it goes back way, way before 1984. Benny’s darling Arabs started their terrorism against us in the 1920s and they committed numerous massacres of Jews since.

        But according to Benny, we are disgusting and “them poor, poor, poor…poor Palestinian Arabs are just victims.

        Benny you better stop your incessant vilification of us because every time you’ll do it, I’ll keep on reminding you in graphic detail about what your darling “innocent” Palestinians have been up to against us. So I hope you won’t complain if I’ll call them disgusting too? You won’t mind if I use your attitude against against us in the same way against them?

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          I said torture was disgusting. But I know you’re itching to personalize as you always do and call them and me disgusting so go right ahead. Anything but grapple with the truth about occupation and torture, Gustav? You think this is a card game? Where we pull out cards on atrocities committed by each side and “say oh yeah?, I’ll see your torture and raise you one atrocity! That means we get out of jail free and get to occupy Ariel! And we get to torture to maintain it! And if you say occupation one more time I’ll say Jerusalem is eternal and united!”
          This is Gustav’s way of trying to pretend that occupation and torture didn’t exist in 1984 and doesn’t exist in 2016 and hasn’t existed every year since 1967. Gustav alternates between “oh we’d just love to withdraw but it’s not safe, you see” and “well, anyway, we took ‘crown lands’ so we get to keep ’em! So there!”

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            BEN:”I said torture was disgusting”

            I could buy that sentiment if you wouldn’t distinguish between what we do which you consider disgusting and what your Arabs do that is disgusting but you ignore their disgusting things and only talk about us. That is known as vilification and propaganda.

            In this very post you do it when you say a stupid thing like…

            BEN:”I’ll see your torture and raise you one atrocity! That means we get out of jail free and get to occupy Ariel!”

            How did Ariel come into this? I thought we were talking about atrocities?

            You claimed that we commit atrocities. And you tried to pretend that we were the first to commit atrocities.

            I just pointed out your lie. I reminded you that your Arabs were the first to resort to violence and we then responded in kind.

            And this I didn’t say in my last post but I did say it before. And I will say it again…

            …there is no excuse for committing atrocities. But unfortunately atrocities are part and parcel of all wars. That’s why the war should not have been started by your Arabs. That is why they should make peace with us and resolve this mess once and for all.

            But you Benny don’t want that. You are fighting tooth and nail for total Arab victory. You deny what they do and why they are doing it and you try to put all the blame on us to the rest of the world. It won’t work Benny-leh. No thinking person buys into your cartoonish view of the world. The Arabs want war? We will fight your Arabs till they will get utterly exhausted from their own stupidity. Then they will make peace with us and people like you will have to wipe the egg off your faces.

            Am Yisrael Chai!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Just listen to yourself! You’re bug-eyed and hysterical. Crazed.

            “You are fighting tooth and nail for total Arab victory…It won’t work Benny-leh…The Arabs want war? We will fight your Arabs till they will get utterly exhausted…Am Yisrael Chai!”

            You sound completely hysterical. What am I? Laurence of Arabia? Lights camera action! Gustav you got lost somewhere on the way to the Hollywood studio or your doctor’s office or both. Are you going to cast me in a heroic remake of Exodus, as the Arch Villain? Can you please pair me with Natalie Portman and include tempestuous love scenes between us in the script? Thanks.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Funny little man. I hope you are amusing yourself Benny-leh. You amuse no one else except maybe your countless number of pseudonyms under whose names you post your endless tirades.

            Psssst Benny-leh you’ll never get rid of me try as you might. Think of me as your albatross. LOL.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Gustav demands proof! proof! on right wing anti-Semite Prónay but no evidence whatsoever needed to connive about Benny’s supposed “pseudonyms.” Why not? He’s Israeli. What’s the problem? Next?

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Benny pretends that there are no genuine articles like Pronay. Shitty little Na&zis like Pronay who hate Israel and hate Jews.

            So according to Benny, it is “OBVIOUS” that Pronay must be an extreme right wing Israeli Jew who insists on what? Scoring own goals? Poor Benny is just a jerk.

            And yes Benny, I insist that if a seasoned propagandist like you makes outlandish claims, yes I insist that you should furnish proof. Not conjectures. Kapish?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Benny pretends that there are no genuine articles like Pronay”

            This is like those people, who, during the the false memory syndrome epidemic in the U.S. in the 1990s, rightly argued that some people were being unjustly accused of being child molesters based on pseudo-evidence, and were told they were just trying to protect child molesters, or that they must be child molesters too. A really nasty business that ruined innocent lives. Because of misguided people brimming with self-righteousness. “Anti-Semites and child molesters! They’re out there! They’re real! And you must be one of them!”

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            This is like nothing Benny. This is about a shitty little N&zi, Pronay, who posted here telling us how much he hates Jews and Israel.

            You say that “obviously” makes him an extreme right wing, Jewish Zionist Israeli.

            I say that makes YOU a perverse liar unless you can prove your arbitrary claim.

            I say that hating Jews and Israel obviously makes him a shitty little n&zi but you an avid Israel hater don’t seem to be able to (or want to) come to grips with such an obvious concept.

            Ok, your turn… keep making a fool of yourself…

            Reply to Comment
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