Category Archives: Israeli terror

Israel’s very own Guantanamos

The “death ride” — welcome to 21st century torture, says Khaled Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem

Palestinians inspect the wreckage of a car hit by an Israeli air strike on Gaza, virtually the largest open air prison in the world


Israeli maltreatment of Palestinian captives and political prisoners has reached unprecedented levels of brutality, according to lawyers, human rights groups and newly-released prisoners.
There are currently as many as 12,000 Palestinian detainees languishing in Israeli detention camps, many of them without charge or trial. They include hundreds of university professors, engineers, school teachers as well as religious and civic leaders, students, resistance fighters and women activists.
Two years ago, the Israeli occupation authorities abducted hundreds of democratically- elected officials, including mayors, members of local city councils, law-makers, and cabinet ministers, many associate with Hamas’s political wing.
Israel employs a set of draconian laws, some dating back to the British mandate era, to torment Palestinian prisoners. The same laws are also used to lend a façade of legality to other harsh treatment of Palestinians, such as house demolitions, land confiscation and deportation.
Normally, the harsh treatment meted out to Palestinian detainees starts in earnest with crack Israeli soldiers raiding a given Palestinian home in the quiet hours before dawn. There, the undisciplined soldiers normally ransack the house, vandalise property and furniture, smash house appliances and terrorise the entire family, before blindfolding and handcuffing their victim and dragging him away to a military truck that takes him to one of the dozens of interrogation centres all over Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Upon arrival at the interrogation centre, the detainee is instantly subjected to an array of harsh treatment techniques designed to shock him and destroy his psychological immunity. These include sleep deprivation and solitary confinement as well as sporadic beating.
Then the victim is made to go through the routine technique called shabh whereby he is forced to sit on a 25cm high stool, with his hands tied to his back. He can be kept in this extremely uncomfortable position for weeks or even months except for short periods to go to the toilet and eat.
The main purpose behind the harsh treatment is ostensibly to extract confessions from the victim. On many occasions, the victims confess to having committed fictitious violations only to escape the harsh and intolerable torture. Eventually, however, if no confessions are extracted, the detainee is sentenced to administrative detention, or open-ended captivity without being charged or tried.
Torture, which the Israeli judicial authorities euphemistically refer to as “moderate physical and psychological pressure”, is officially sanctioned by Israel’s law. Indeed, several Palestinian detainees have recently died in Israeli jails either due to torture or medical negligence. According to the Palestinian Prisoner Club, which monitors Israeli treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, 167 Palestinians have died in Israeli custody since 1967.
However, while torture was normally performed on detainees mainly in order to extract confessions, the Israeli prison authorities have been using torture for the purpose of simply tormenting and humiliating Palestinian detainees.
“Their goal is to make us suffer, to torment us, to humiliate us. They want to punish us further for our survival, for refusing to die and disappear as a people, for refusing to collapse. Perhaps they think that by tormenting us, they get the feeling that they are avenging the holocaust, at least vicariously,” said Mohamed Abu Zneid, from Dura, who was released recently from an Israeli detention camp near the Egyptian borders. “But I can say that such behaviour can only come from a sick people, a sadistic people. Otherwise, why would normal people behave this way?”
“Administrative detention” which is a mere euphemism for prolonged and mostly unlawful captivity as punishment for one’s political thoughts and attitudes has become of late the modus operandi of Israeli treatment of Palestinian prisoners. Today, Israel is detaining hundreds of mostly innocent Palestinians in detention camps all over Israel, such as the notorious Kitziot concentration camp in the Negev desert.
A few years ago, Mustafa Shawar, a detainee at Kitziot, informed this writer that on several occasions he had appealed to the Jewish military “judge” at the Treblinka-like facility to tell him why he was being incarcerated so that he wouldn’t commit the same violation again once he was released. Shawar, a senior lecturer at the University of Hebron, said the judge paid no attention to his just request. “He told me that he wouldn’t grant me the privilege of knowing why I was in jail because, as he said, the Jews are the masters and non-Jews are the slaves and the chosen people are under no moral or legal obligation to explain to the inferiors why they are being mistreated.”
Today, Shawar is still languishing at Kitziot for the fourth successive year, not knowing why he is being tormented by a state that claims to be a “light unto nations” and the “only democracy in the Middle East“.
Shawar is not an exceptional case. He epitomises the fate of thousands of Palestinian detainees and hostages languishing in Israeli detention camps, mostly for harbouring ideas and thoughts that the Ashkenazi establishment deems too dangerous.
Similarly, Azzam Salhab, professor of comparative religion at Hebron University, has been languishing in the same desert concentration camp for eight years on vague charges such as “constituting a danger to the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people.”
According to the Nafha Society, a human rights group defending Palestinian prisoners’ rights, the Israeli occupation authorities issue dozens of administrative detention orders per month.
Earlier, this week, the Israeli army renewed the “administrative detention” for Radi Sami Al-Asi for additional six months. Al-Asi, a journalist from the northern West Bank town of Nablus, was arrested on unspecified charges. However, when it became clear that there was no evidence indicting him, the Israeli military judge decided to sentence him to six months in jail, renewable for as long as the occupation authorities deem fit. So far, Al-Asi has spent more than 38 months in administrative detention without knowing why.
Farhat Asad, a 40-year-old father of three children from Ramallah, was sentenced to a sixth term of administrative detention on 16 June. All in all, Asad has spent more than 100 months in administrative detention.
According to Tawhid Shaaban, a prominent lawyer from East Jerusalem, some detainees have spent nine years in Israeli captivity without charge or trial. “Yes, this happens in a state that claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East.”
The so-called “death ride” is one of the most agonising and nightmarish experiences a detainee undergoes. It starts with a sudden raid of a given ward by the notorious Nahshon squad, which is specialised in repressing Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Then a prisoner or several prisoners are ordered to board an extremely filthy, hot and nearly hermetically sealed white vehicle, allegedly in order to appear before a judge several hundred kilometres away. The hateful vehicle would move very slowly from one prison to the other to carry additional prisoners, including dangerous Jewish criminals. The car would stop every hour for refreshment, while the inmates are sweating in the back chamber.
The nightmarish journey, which could last for 24 hours, is first and foremost meant to make the prisoners suffer as much as possible in the oven-like metal chamber where there is very little oxygen. The prisoners are barred from using toilets for close to 16 hours, and some are forced to urinate and defecate inside the lock-up car.
Saed Yassin, a human rights activist describes the “death ride” as “an intolerable and unbearable form of torture. They don’t treat you as a human being but as cattle or a piece of luggage. People are left to rot and suffer in these oven- like chambers for up to 24 hours without food, without water, and with very little oxygen. And if they want to torment a given person, he is forced to undergo this nightmare every few days.”
In addition to the death ride, the Israeli Prison Authority has been introducing additional forms of punishments, aimed at breaking the prisoner’s will. These include barring family visits for an extended period of times for the slightest and pettiest violation of outstanding instructions.
Moreover, the Israeli occupation authorities have been barring family visits for more than 900 Gazan prisoners in Israeli jails under the pretext of the 18-month harsh blockade which Israel has been imposing in Gaza. The Red Cross asked Israel on several occasions to allow Gazans to visit their beloved ones, but to no avail.
Israel recently resorted to “unorthodox tactics” to harass Palestinian prisoners, including raiding and vandalising their homes and mistreating their wives and children, imposing hefty financial fines on them, and carrying out surprise searches usually after midnight.
Last week, lawyers and newly-released prisoners reported that the Israeli Prison Authorities have naked Jewish women, probably prostitutes, harass prisoners, especially religious inmates, through sexually suggestive behaviour. A spokesman for the prison authorities refused to confirm or deny the revelation.

Hamas maintained cease-fire June – November 2008

Former Israel foreign minister gets his facts wrong about Hamas rocket attacks and is stopped by the news presenter Emily Reuben with a “fact sheet” given by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and created by the Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center, (IICC), which is routinely cited on the Israeli government websites.

Students angered by Gaza revive sit-ins

Alexandra Topping

A new wave of student activism sparked by events in Gaza has seen dozens of university buildings occupied in Britain, with some of the UK’s top educational establishments agreeing to set up scholarships for Palestinians or disinvest in arms companies linked to Israel.

Though the assault on the territory ended three weeks ago, lingering anger over the attack has prompted students to stage sit-ins at 21 universities, many organised via blogs, Facebook and text messages.

Students at Glasgow and Manchester are refusing to leave the buildings until their demands are met, after similar occupations at other universities provided tangible results in what is being seen as a new era of highly organised student activism.

Katan Alder, 22, one of 50 Manchester University protesters who have occupied a university building for nine days, said students were abandoning diplomatic tactics in favour of direct action.

“There is a new level of anger among students that we haven’t seen before,” he said. “There is definitely a new confidence among students who are beginning to realise that if they want to achieve anything simple negotiation won’t work, our actions have to escalate.”

Students at Goldsmiths, University of London, ended their occupation yesterday after their demand – two scholarships for students from Palestine’s al-Quds university – was met. The students campaigned for a year without success, but their demands were met within 24 hours after they occupied Deptford town hall, which houses the university management offices, said James Heywood, 21.

“We were getting ignored and patronised, so when we saw what was happening at other universities we took direct action,” he said.

Technology has played an integral part in the protests. Within minutes of starting the occupation students at Goldsmiths were blogging, and a recent protest that gathered 2,000 students was organised almost entirely by viral text messaging, said Heywood.

Student demands include a call to end all investments in arms companies that may trade with Israel, scholarships for Palestinian students and humanitarian assistance.

At King’s College London, students gained scholarships and donations to institutions in Palestine.

A seven-day Cambridge University occupation, which saw students denied access to food before being threatened with a court injunction on 1 February, achieved little in the way of concessions.

But last week 60 academics at the university sent an open letter to the vice-chancellor deploring the “heavy-handed” tactics used to crush the protest and supporting the students’ calls for disinvestment from the arms industry and scholarships for Palestinian students.

Prof Priyamvada Gopal, one of its signatories, said: “It was only when the students became galvanised that we looked at writing a group letter from the academics following the lead of the students.”

She believes the movement is the first signs of a new political awareness. “As yet this is a small but vocal minority, but I think we are seeing an emergence from the froth and apathy of the 1990s.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/14/gaza-student-protests

Israel admits using white phosphorous in attacks on Gaza

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(Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

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The incident being investigated is believed to be the firing of white phosphorous shells at a UN school in Beit Lahiya on January 17

From

January 24, 2009

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After weeks of denying that it used white phosphorus in the heavily populated Gaza Strip, Israel finally admitted yesterday that the weapon was deployed in its offensive.

The army’s use of white phosphorus – which makes a distinctive shellburst of dozens of smoke trails – was reported first by The Times on January 5, when it was strenuously denied by the army. Now, in the face of mounting evidence and international outcry, Israel has been forced to backtrack on that initial denial. “Yes, phosphorus was used but not in any illegal manner,” Yigal Palmor, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told The Times. “Some practices could be illegal but we are going into that. The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) is holding an investigation concerning one specific incident.”

The incident in question is thought to be the firing of phosphorus shells at a UN school in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on January 17. The weapon is legal if used as a smokescreen in battle but it is banned from deployment in civilian areas. Pictures of the attack show Palestinian medics fleeing as blobs of burning phosphorus rain down on the compound.

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CHANGING TUNE

January 5 The Times reports that telltale smoke has appeared from areas of shelling. Israel denies using phosphorus

January 8 The Times reports photographic evidence showing stockpiles of white phosphorus (WP) shells. Israel Defence Forces spokesman says: “This is what we call a quiet shell – it has no explosives and no white phosphorus”

January 12 The Times reports that more than 50 phosphorus burns victims are taken into Nasser Hospital. An Israeli military spokesman “categorically” denies the use of white phosphorus

January 15 Remnants of white phosphorus shells are found in western Gaza. The IDF refuses to comment on specific weaponry but insists ammunition is “within the scope of international law”

January 16 The United Nations Relief and Works Agency headquarters are hit with phosphorus munitions. The Israeli military continues to deny its use

January 21 Avital Leibovich, Israel’s military spokeswoman, admits white phosphorus munitions were employed in a manner “according to international law”

January 23 Israel says it is launching an investigation into white phosphorus munitions, which hit a UN school on January 17. “Some practices could be illegal but we are going into that. The IDF is holding an investigation concerning one specific unit and one incident” Source: Times database

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