Briefing Paper December 2003
Palestine’s War of Independence
Edward W Said
About 10 years ago, the then Secretary of SfoP, Gerry Forsyth, together with Palestinian student, Jahed Khawaja, attended a conference in Edinburgh where the guest speaker was Prof Edward W Said. At the end of the conference the professor was immediately surrounded by his admirers, of which there were many. On the fringes were Jahed and Gerry. Jahed then called out in Arabic, immediately attracting the attention of the professor. There followed a conversation which resulted in the professor agreeing to be Hon President of SfoP.
We never did manage to have Edward Said address a meeting of SfoP. His commitments and, latterly, his illness were always going to guarantee this. His passing, nonetheless, leaves SfoP all the poorer. Our condolences go to Edward’s family.
This Briefing Paper focuses mainly on two articles which dwell upon the health of Israeli society – as it affects Palestinian society under occupation. And, unusually, it starts with a report on some of SfoP’s recent activities:
The Wall Conference, Falkirk
Held on the 8th November, it was widely regarded as being successful, with a good balance of speakers. SfoP members attended from all parts of Scotland with the bulk of the audience local to Falkirk and district. At the end, an Antonine Declaration was issued, to be distributed as widely as possible.
Delegation from Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)
Guests of the British Council (but an indirect result of a petition presented by SfoP to the Scottish Parliament), the PLC delegation spent the second week of November exploring the workings of the Scottish Parliament and the various committees. Emphasis was on the mechanics of changeover – following an election.
Petition to the Scottish Parliament
This successfully passed the second stage at a public meeting in Edinburgh on 12th November where it was agreed that proposals should be submitted to the Parliament’s Corporate Body for implementation. Essentially it was agreed that the Parliament should share its expertise with the Palestinian Parliament through the internet and work shadowing programmes – as long as there were no budgetary implications.
By coincidence, the public meeting coincided with the visit of the PLC delegation, who were in the public gallery to witness the proceedings.
Inbal Pinto Dance Company
This Israeli dance company performed at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal on the 11th November. A few days prior to this, SfoP managed to obtain a statement from the company dissociating itself from the occupation and condemning the occupation. Not only did this statement, issued in a SfoP Press Release, help defuse the public demo, but it was the basis of a relatively informed article in The Herald. In addition, the statement received front page banner headlines in the local Jewish paper – hopefully a source of debate within its columns.
It is debatable to what extent Israeli and US decision makers ever believed their own propaganda in attributing the diplomatic impasse to Arafat’s supposedly sinister agenda and magical powers of manipulation, rather than the fundamental injustice of the situation and the imbalance of power that perpetuates it.
Editorial MEI 26/09/10
What is unacceptable is the present situation, where Israel has military control over us while we are expected to crack down on the opposition and run the schools. This fits Sharon like a glove. It cannot continue.
P A Minister
Middle East International 26/09/03
On occasion, Israel’s action is so remote from the interests of security that it assumes the character of punishment, humiliation and conquest
Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights 30 Sept 2003
“Israel has an active interest in making sure the road map doesn’t succeed,” says Michael Tarazi, a legal adviser to the PA. “Israel knows the best way to get out of a lull in so-called violence is to assassinate. I’m not even going into the 22 Palestinians killed during the cease-fire, the [Palestinian] homes and businesses demolished and the number of settlement outposts remaining.”
The Christian Science Monitor August 22, 2003
Eyes Wide Open
Jonathan Cook Al Ahram Weekly (Egypt) August 22, 2003
Recently the left-wing Israeli academic and journalist Ran HaCohen argued that most Israelis had almost no idea what their government and army were doing in their name in the occupied Palestinian territories. “The Israeli public is kept in the dark about what is happening just a 20-minute drive from Tel- Aviv, or just across (and even within) the municipal borders of Jerusalem,” he wrote in an article headlined “Eyes Wide Shut”.
HaCohen’s usually admirable qualities as an analyst of the situation inside Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza appear to have deserted him on this occasion. Let us examine how plausible the assumptions he is making about the “Israeli public” really are.
For he writes as though Israel’s occupation of the territories is being carried out by Martians rather than by tens of thousands of Israeli teenagers. Military service is compulsory for most Israeli Jews, men and women, for the first two to three years of their adult lives, when they leave school at 18. More than 30,000 young Israelis are conscripted into the army each year.
Alongside them are thousands more men in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are required by law to complete 39 days reserve duty each year. Some of them have been enforcing the occupation since well before the first Intifada. These Israelis observe Palestinian suffering at close hand — more so even than aid workers and journalists — not least because they are responsible for so much of it themselves, whether manning checkpoints, carrying out house-to-house searches, enforcing long curfews on Palestinian cities or guarding interrogation and detention centres.
After all it is ordinary Israelis driving those bulldozers demolishing Palestinian families’ homes, and firing their guns at a speck on the horizon that might be a suicide bomber or might equally be a woman breaking the curfew to get bread for her children. At weekends, these ordinary Israelis go home to spend time in the bosom of their own families. They are husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandchildren, nephews and nieces to the overwhelming majority of the Israeli population. Any Israeli no longer serving in the territories, or too young to serve, has ample opportunity to find out what is really happening to Palestinians — not from the now mainly compliant Hebrew media but from eyewitnesses to the actual events.
The only Israeli sectors not involved in the occupation are Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, the Haredim, both of whom are exempt from military service. In both cases the exemption is a useful way to prevent groups that do not subscribe to the Zionist ethos of the state from seeing — and possibly reporting — the realities of occupation.
Of course, this argument relies on its own very large assumption: that a whole people can be made to conceal the truth, to perpetrate a grand fraud on the rest of us. It sounds like the ultimate conspiracy theory. How could a lie on such a mammoth scale be engineered? It is a difficult question to answer for an outsider, not least because it requires seeing Israel on the same terms as its Jewish citizens — raised with many of their own assumptions about the status and purpose of their people (the Jews) and their nation (Israel) and about the threat posed by the Other (generally Arabs and more specifically Palestinians).
It depends on passing through an education system that transmits historical and moral values of exclusiveness to the religious and the secular alike: premised for the former on a biblical mission to be realised by God’s chosen people; and for the latter on the overriding need to provide a sanctuary for a people blighted by centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust. It also depends on a military rite of passage to adulthood that cements Israelis to their society, itself perceived as their only protection from a hatred, anti- Semitism, to which — if they are to believe their teachers, media and government — every gentile in the world is susceptible. This is their unique fate as Jews — and Israel is their one and only insurance policy.
Israelis who believe this — and almost all do — feel that they have no choice but to submit to the collective good. Not a universal good, one of values shared by all mankind, but a collective good reserved only for Jews. Talk to Jewish anti-Zionists in Israel — a tiny number of people, barely reaching four figures out of a total Jewish population of five million — and most will tell you how hard they struggled to overcome the Zionist training they were given from birth. Many say they are still fighting to defeat their own racist assumptions to this day.
Jeff Halper, an academic and leading Israeli activist against army abuses in the occupied territories, recently described to me the decades-long process of “unlearning” his Zionist responses. Deprogramming is what he called it. The kind of thing we read about in the papers when vulnerable youngsters need to be revived from the dangerous ideas implanted by a cult. But how do you loosen the grip of a cult when a whole nation is under its spell? Even the two groups that serve in the army but are most marginal to the state’s mass indoctrination programme — the small Druze community and the nearly one million Russian immigrants who arrived after the collapse of the Soviet Union — face their own pressures to conform. As outsiders they have the most to prove, and the most to lose if they fail. All sorts of social and financial benefits, from houses and jobs to mortgage benefits, flow from the successful completion of military service.
In addition they watch the same Israeli media incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, they are subject to the same government-promoted climate of fear — what might be termed the cult of the suicide bomb. After each blast, Israelis are asked to kneel before the TV, to fetishise the endless film-footage loops of a burnt-out bus and the charred corpses inside. Is there a voice reminding them that more Israelis die on the roads in a year than are killed by terror? Is there any debate about Israel’s appalling road safety record, one of the worst in the world? You bet not. Israelis are far too busy watching the TV-loop.
For the doubters among you, consider two recent news stories.
The first is the confrontation between Israel and Lebanon that escalated dramatically last week, after Hizbullah fired anti-aircraft missiles over northern Israel killing a youth. Hizbullah said it was responding to a car bomb in Beirut — blamed on Israel — that killed one of its veteran fighters. A key context for understanding the simmering tensions on Israel’s northern border is the regular and illegal flights carried out by Israeli fighter planes into Lebanese airspace -low-flying warplanes that intentionally frighten residents with sonic booms.
This is no state secret. Anyone who lives in the Galilee as I do – and there are a few hundred thousand Israeli Jews living here too -can vouch for the sonic booms we hear on an almost weekly basis. They wake us up, usually with a jolt, and rattle our windows. And in Nazareth I am dozens of miles away from where the planes are breaking the sound barrier. What the noise is like over Beirut or Sidon, God only knows.
But the Israeli media almost never mentions these provocative tactics by the Israeli military against a neighbouring country, even though the price would be monstrously high were the region to slip into war. If the Hebrew media refer to the overflights it is always in terms of Hizbullah claims — as though Israeli ears are deaf to the sound of their own planes’ sonic booms. Where are the letters to the Hebrew newspapers from the concerned citizens of the Galilee? Where is the debate about a provocation apparent to all? Do Israelis really believe their national security depends on their collective muteness on behalf of the government?
An even grosser mass deception by Israelis was recently revealed, accidentally, by an Israeli newspaper. Since 1986, the military censor had been excising any mention of one of the army’s most controversial orders, known as the Hannibal procedure, in the media. The procedure was developed after an incident in May 1985 when Israel was forced to release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in return for three soldiers captured in south Lebanon by Hizbullah. It was decided that the price being paid to retrieve kidnapped soldiers was too high.
So troops touring south Lebanon were told their first duty was to prevent the capture of comrades. If that meant killing them, then so be it. Apparently the order provoked a furore in the army when it was first revealed. “At least one battalion commander refused to transmit it to his soldiers, arguing that it was flagrantly illegal, and in a number of units lively debates took place about the morality of the order,” Ha’aretz reported in May, in the first media discussion of the subject for 18 years. “Some soldiers said they would refuse to open fire at their buddies. A religious soldier put the question to his rabbi and was told to refuse to obey the order.” (Incidentally, it is worth pointing out that the immorality of the order in the eyes of many of these soldiers — and the above-mentioned rabbi — was almost certainly the cheap price it placed not on life but on another Jew’s life. For more on Orthodox rabbinical rulings about the superior value of
Israel Shahak’s book Jewish History, Jewish Religion.)
Despite this vehement opposition, the Hannibal procedure is still in force in the Palestinian territories and was in force in south Lebanon until the army’s withdrawal in May 2000. That means tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of soldiers knew of the procedure. Maybe tens of thousands more spouses and parents knew about the order too. And yet not a word slipped out, not even to the international media, which is not bound by Israel’s military censorship laws. Even allowing for the censor’s eagle eye, it is remarkable that so many people managed to keep that secret under wraps for so long. For 18 years generations of army recruits kept their lips sealed and continued to do so after finishing their military service. Their families showed equal restraint.
But when in May this year a reference to the Hannibal procedure slipped through the censor’s fingers and into Ha’aretz, the floodgates were open. Those 18 years of pent-up emotions about an immoral order could finally be released. Israelis could tell all. But a Google search on the Hannibal procedure produces only two references: to the Ha’aretz feature that broke the story and to a follow-up article by the prolific left-wing opinionist Uri Avnery. It seems there was no flood to unleash. Israelis were happy to keep on with their silence indefinitely.
HaCohen is wrong to think Israelis are ignorant of what is being done in their name. They know exactly what happens: their Zionist training simply blinds them to its significance. As long as the enemy is Arab, as long as the catchall excuse of security can be invoked, and as long as they believe anti-Semitism lurks everywhere, then the Israeli public can sleep easy as another child is shot riding his bike, another family’s house is bulldozed, another woman miscarries at a checkpoint. It seems that a people raised to believe that anything can be done in its name — as long as it serves the interests of Jews and their state — has no need of ignorance. It can commit atrocities with eyes wide open.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Israel is anxious, up to a point, to be seen to be making concessions to the Palestinians, while in reality nothing of substance will take place on the ground – – The Palestinian population, meanwhile is kept in a constant state of frustration and anger by a range of Israeli provocations, including recurrent assassinations of Palestinian activists, almost daily incursions by troops into Palestinian population centres, arrests, house demolitions, land confiscation and the continued building of the Separation Wall in the West Bank.
Kalid Amayreh Middle East International 22 August 2003
Inside Israel’s Secret Prison
By Aviv Lavie Haaretz (Israel) August 26, 2003
What really surrounds Camp 1391, more than physical protection, is an entrenched wall of silence. Since the 1980s, when the facility was moved from a more southerly location to its present site, the Israeli authorities have made every effort to keep its very existence secret.
M, who serves in the Intelligence Corps reserves, remembers the first time he was sent to do guard duty at Camp 1391. Before climbing to the top of the observation tower he received an explicit order from the responsible officer: “When you’re on the tower you look straight ahead only, outside the base, and to the sides. What happens behind you is none of your business. Do not turn around.”
M, of course, couldn’t resist the temptation and occasionally snuck a look behind him. From atop the tower he saw the double fence surrounding the camp, enclosing a compound ruled by trained attack dogs; the jeep that patrols inside the two fences; the vehicles utilized by the members of the unit who man the base; and especially the large concrete structure, dating from the British Mandate period, when it was used by the British police, and which now bears a description that carries an aura of mystery: Israel’s secret detention facility.
Some of the people who were interviewed for this article dubbed the camp “the Israeli Guantanamo.” There are in fact certain points of resemblance between the American detention camp in Cuba and the Israeli site, mainly in relation to the legal questions that hover over them and the gnawing doubt about whether they are consistent with the values of democracy. In terms of the exotic, though, we lag far behind.
Whereas the watchtowers of the Guantanamo facility look out over the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea, the secret prison in Israel is situated by the side of a completely ordinary road in the heart of a bustling region in the centre of the country.
What really surrounds Camp 1391, more than physical protection, is an entrenched wall of silence. Since the 1980s, when the facility was moved from a more southerly location to its present site, the Israeli authorities have made every effort to keep its very existence secret. And even now that its existence has been revealed, the state refuses to answer the many questions of the world and of the Israeli public: Where is the facility? Who is being held there, why, and for how long? Were they tried before being locked up in Camp 1391, or are they awaiting trial? What are their conditions of incarceration? In every other lockup in Israel the answers to these and many other questions are open and amenable to external, legal, public and international review.
As far as is known, the 1391 site is the only detention facility whose detainees don’t know where they are. If they ask, the warders may answer, “on the moon,” or “in outer space,” or “outside the borders of Israel.” It is also the only detention facility that the state prevents the International Red Cross from visiting. Nor, as far as can be ascertained, have Knesset members ever visited the place, and many of the politicians who have been asked about it in the past few weeks said they had never heard of it – including some who have held senior positions in the government, such as Prof. David Libai, who was justice minister in the government of Yitzhak Rabin and a member of the ministerial committee that deals with the secret services: “I will not say a single word about the subject, for the simple reason that I am not familiar with it. This is the first time I have ever heard about such a thing.”
If a former justice minister doesn’t know about it, a disturbing question arises: who does? Dan Meridor, another former justice minister and chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, is aware of the facility’s existence: “I’m not sure there’s anything wrong here,” he says. “I remember that as a minister and as one who dealt with intelligence matters, I visited every place I wanted to and everything was always open to me. I know about the existence of this facility, but I was never there – apparently because I never asked to visit it. I don’t want to bandy words about, because I am not familiar with the subject in depth. There are many complex questions of human rights involved here.”
According to attorney Dan Yakir, the legal adviser of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), “A secret detention facility contradicts basic principles of every democracy – transparency and public supervision over the governmental authorities. And those principles are especially important in relation to the deprivation of freedom – which is one of the most severe infringements of human rights. The existence of a lockup like this gives rise to a double concern: first, of secret arrests and `disappearances’ of people; and second, an abuse of power, unfair treatment, violence and torture.”
As will be seen, attorney Yakir’s concerns are well founded.
Camp 1391 is an Israel Defense Forces facility. Agents of the Shin Bet security service and other security branches visit the site and since the start of the intifada have apparently made greater use of it than in the past, but the facility belongs to the IDF. One of the reasons for the wall of secrecy that surrounds it is the fact that it is located in the center of a military base that belongs to one of the secret units of the Intelligence Corps – Unit 504 (according to foreign sources the unit’s name has recently been changed). Unit 504 gathers intelligence by means of the human factor – “humint.” Most of its work is done by using agents outside Israel.
The officers in the unit, which is not large, are known as katamim (acronym for “officers for special tasks”) and undergo two-track training. Some of them handle agents and the others – former members of the unit say they are those whose skills the system isn’t wild about – are directed to the hakshabim track (interrogators of prisoners). The unit commander is an officer with the rank of colonel. The attitude toward the unit is characterized by duality: on the one hand, this is a small, seemingly elitist unit, which carries out sensitive missions; on the other hand, as one of the unit’s members says, “We are the stepson of army intelligence. Sometimes you look at some of the officers and you ask yourself whether these are the standards the IDF assigns to these posts.”
The same individual adds, “There is also a problem about the impact of long-term service on their mental state. To be an interrogator you have to start out with some kind of scratch on the brain. But the handlers, too – after a time they also start to be handlers in their private life. You see it in their attitude toward women, with the family, even in the interaction between the people in the unit.”
Along with operational successes, which have naturally remained far from the public eye, the names of some of the unit’s members have been linked to dubious affairs in recent years. One of the unit’s commanders became criminally entangled because of a romantic affair. Another accidentally discharged his pistol during a meeting with the command personnel. Jean-Pierre Elraz, who last year was accused of murdering Yitzhak Kvartatz, the security coordinator of Kibbutz Manara, is a former member of the unit (and afterward served in the Shin Bet); so is Major Yosef Amit, who was convicted of aggravated espionage and contact with a foreign agent.
During the IDF’s 18-year presence in Lebanon, the members of Unit 504 were especially active across Israel’s northern border. To this day the Lebanese press occasionally runs stories about the arrest and trial of local agents who operated in the service of Unit 504. In November 1998, a Lebanese court convicted no fewer than 57 citizens of collaborating with Israel via the unit. The penalty for this offense: death. The unit’s extensive activity in Lebanon placed Camp 1391 at the center of affairs. It became the entry gate to Israel for Lebanese, especially those who were suspected of membership in Hezbollah, who were transferred to the southern side of the border. Some of them were captured in battle, others were abducted at Israel’s initiative. The most famous of the abductees are Sheikh Abd al Karim Obeid, who was seized in 1989, and Mustafa Dirani, who was brought by force to Israel in 1994. The helicopter in which members of Sayeret Matkal, the ultra-elite reconnaissance unit, took Obeid from his home in the town of Jibsheet, took him directly to the gates of Camp 1391. The next time Obeid left the camp – apart from medical checks and to appear in court when his detention was extended – was 13 years later. Last summer Obeid and Dirani were moved to Ashmoret prison, near Kfar Yona in the Netanya area.
However, well-known anti-Israel activists such as Obeid and Dirani are not the only abductees who have been thrown into Camp 1391. When the soldiers of Sayeret Matkal entered Obeid’s house in the dead of night they encountered a few other people, too, among them some of Obeid’s relatives and his bodyguard. Hashem Fahaf, then about 20, who happene to visit the sheikh that day to receive his blessing and decided to stay overnight, was especially unlucky. The soldiers bundled him into the helicopter, too. He spent the next 11 years incarcerated in Israel, initially in Camp 1391 and afterward in Ayalon Prison in Ramle. During this entire period he was not tried or accused of any crime. In the first years of his incarceration, Israel denied he was in the country and refused him any contact with the outside world.
In April 2000, Fahaf, by now 31, was released by order of the Supreme Court. Together with him another 18 Lebanese, who according to the official version were being held as “bargaining chips” for the missing air force navigator Ron Arad, were also released. The group included two men who had been kidnapped and brought to Israel when they were teenagers aged 16 and 17, as well as Ghasan Dirani, a relative of Mustafa Dirani, who developed catatonic schizophrenia during his incarceration in Israel. At one stage or another, all of them were held in Camp 1391.
In aerial photographs of the area in which Camp 1391 is located – as is the case with aerial photos of other securitysensitive sites in the country – the facility and the large building in its center are nonexistent. Most maps of Israel also do not cite the facility, though on a few maps of the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, it is marked by means of a letter, with no further explanation. There is no sign on the main road directing the curious to the camp. After we drove around the base a couple of times and stopped a bit to take pictures, a security vehicle was sent out to follow us for a few kilometers. At the first opportunity, two armed and surly security men got out of the vehicle and barraged us with questions.
Anyone entering the camp has to negotiate two iron gates draped with barbed wire. The first gate closes after the visitor enters and only then does the second gate open. The detention and interrogation section is located not far from the mess hall. A person who served on the base recalls with a smile that a poster spelling out the main points of the Geneva Convention hung on one of the walls of the dining hall. The cells proceed along a corridor; they abut one another but are separated by thick concrete walls. The detainees can communicate by knocking on the walls, “and they often shout to one another,” relates an officer who served in the facility. “That is forbidden, but we didn’t always have the energy to deal with it.”
The detainees are led into the facility blindfolded, to prevent them from knowing where they are. Their personal effects are taken from them, as are their clothes and they are given blue pants and a blue shirt. The cells are pretty much identical, though there are two levels of detainees: those who are in the middle of being interrogated, who get the worst cells and worst conditions; and those whose interrogation has been completed.
The doors of the cells are made of heavy steel, with a small crack – which can be opened only from the outside – being the only opening to the outside world. The cells measure about 2 x 2 meters and are made entirely of concrete on the inside. There are no windows or any source of external light. Abutting one of the walls is a concrete platform that serves as a bed, with a mattress and a blanket on it. On the wall opposite is an orifice, a kind of pipe through which water flows, but the tap is controlled by soldiers outside the cell. Below the water source is a hole in the floor that the detainees use to relieve themselves. That, it turns out, is a privilege. In some of the cells, apparently those used for detainees under interrogation, there is no place at all to go to the toilet: the prisoners have to use a large plastic bucket, which is emptied only once every few days.
There are ventilation openings in the upper part of the cells, but the main testimony to their existence is the noise they make when they are turned on. A lamp protected by heavy glass casts a dim light 24 hours a day. The detainees have no way to tell night from day. Most of the cells are also under supervision by means of cameras that send the images via closed-circuit television. The majority of the prisoners are incarcerated alone, though some of the cells have two concrete platforms and in some cases hold two prisoners.
Once a day the detainees – those whose interrogation has ended – are allowed out for one hour in a small inner courtyard of sand and vegetation. The conditions of imprisonment, says a person who served in the facility, are relatively reasonable. Similarly, attorney Zvi Rish, the lawyer of Obeid, Dirani and many of the other Lebanese who were incarcerated in the facility in the 1990s, confirms that his clients had no special complaints about the conditions – referring only to to the period after their interrogation had ended. What goes on during the interrogation process is another story altogether, one that sheds light on one of the darker corners of Israel.
On Friday evening, July 28, 1989, the adrenaline was coursing through Camp 1391. In a well-planned operation, Sayeret Matkal succeeded in grabbing Sheikh Obeid from his bed in the town of Jibsheet, about eight kilometers north of the Israeli border. Obeid was considered a spiritual authority in Hezbollah, but despite the high hopes, his abduction did not further the search for Ron Arad, who had been missing since his plane was downed over Lebanon three years earlier.
Soldiers who served in the facility at the time say that in the course of time they developed good relations with prisoner no. 801260. They taught him Hebrew – he reached an impressive level of fluency in the language – and he taught them Arabic. Obeid is described as the spiritual mentor of the prisoners and even of the warders. “With him everything was done quietly and with restraint, with grace and decorum Even the warders treated him almost like `your honor the rabbi,'” recalls an officer who served at the facility.
In May 1994 an honorable guest joined the order of the Lebanese prisoners at Camp 1391: Mustafa Dirani. He was another bargaining chip from whom Israel hoped to extract information about Ron Arad, or even to exchange for Arad, but he, too, proved a disappointment. Many months of planning preceded the abduction of Dirani, who was head of the security division in the Shi’ite movement Amal, and as such had been responsible for holding Ron Arad for about two years.
A few days before he was seized and brought to Israel, the interrogators of Unit 504 were given all the intelligence material that had been collected about him. When he arrived at the facility there was a feeling of an imminent breakthrough. In the first days of the interrogation all the ranking members of the defense establishment turned up at the facility – prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, the chief of staff, the director of Military Intelligence and officials from the Mossad espionage agency and the Shin Bet. Dirani’s interrogation began seconds after he was grabbed. In special cases interrogators from Unit 504 accompany a force that operates across the lines, with the aim of taking advantage of the abductee’s initial shock. The interrogation continued in the vehicle that brought Dirani to his cell in Camp 1391 and then for the next five weeks continuously around the clock. The chief interrogators were the unit commander, career and reservist personnel – the latter were mobilized especially for the mission -and above all a major who introduced himself as George.
Still pending in Tel Aviv District Court is a suit filed by Dirani against the State of Israel and Major George concerning two incidents in which Dirani says he was subjected to sexual abuse. In the first case George called in four of the soldiers who were doing guard duty in the facility and one of them allegedly raped Dirani at George’s orders. In another case, Dirani says in the suit, George himself inserted a wooden stick into his rectum The court will have to decide whether these events occurred. A perusal of the affidavits that have been submitted to the court, testimonies of officers and soldiers who served in the facility and evidence given by other detainees who were there paints a picture of a horrific routine in the interrogation rooms of Camp 1391. Within the framework of that routine the interrogators of Unit 504 have no compunctions about making use of extreme measures in order to extract information – information that in a large percentage of the cases was not in their possession.
“Let’s be frank – we cannot destroy Israel. The practical solution is for us to live alongside Israel. The future Palestinian state is not one that is to take the place of Israel.” Ismail Abu Shanab – June 2003. (Abu Shanab (53 yrs), a senior member of Hamas, was killed with two others when their car was hit by five air-launched missiles on Thursday 21st August 2003.)
Quoted by Eric Silver in The Independent 22/11/03
Of Walls and Land Theft
Juliana Fredman Counterpunch 14/11/03
They offered the family a blank check to leave their home to the bulldozers. Muneera and Hani refused and now all they can see is concrete. They tell us the story in a lovely living room, insisting onserving us sweet tea despite their own Ramadan fast. The children, just back from the school day smile shyly and stroke their mothers head. All are gracious, welcoming and friendly if weary from futile repetition of their tale.
The story made international news, although not necessarily front page, as it seemed to encapsulate the insidious nature of the wall that Israel is building inside the West Bank. The village is Ma’sha, well within the 1967 armistice (or green) line, already encroached upon for years by the cancerous growth of the Elqana settlement.
The original route that the wall was to take went along the existing fence of the settlement, between it and the Palestinian village. This would consolidate the land theft through which Elqana was established and add 5,500 out of 6,000 dunams of Ma’sha’s farmland, greenhouses and olive groves to the `Israeli’ side of the fence. This was not enough for the colonial appetite and the settlers demanded the barrier be rerouted further away from their red roofed houses onto Muneera and Hani’s land.
The animal shed next to the house was slated for demolition. In reality the entire house was in immediate danger as anything within 60 meters of the new wall is considered a military zone. The family would be isolated from the village and all services available to them, schools, hospital, mosques, shops, between the wall and the hostile neighbours to their back. Three times a day they along with their five children would theoretically be permitted to enter Mas’ha through one of the brightly coloured glorified cattle gates that have become common fixtures throughout the West Bank. This is not the exception but the norm for the wall which isolates 14,000 Palestinians in the northern west bank alone overall between the wall and the green line, with no rights to Israeli public services and no access to Palestinian ones. This number will be 90,000 (outside of east Jerusalem) if completed as planned. The finished section in the north cuts 20,000 villagers off from their agricultural lands, effectively starving them off of their lands destroying hundreds of thousands of mature olive trees. The story of Ma’sha is in no way unique.
Now, said the occupational authorities, how about that move?
The family stays. A peace camp is built at the path of construction in the spring, manned by a constant presence of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals. In late July it is destroyed by the army and moves into the family’s yard. Almost 40 internationals, Palestinians and Israelis are arrested in one day trying to prevent the demolition of the animal shed.
The scene is often the height of absurdity. Have any goats ever had such tremendous photo ops, A.P cameramen crawling in the muck snapping away. Reuters filming Swedes chaining themselves to the gate, facing the chickens unblinking stares. The following day 26 Israelis are dragged away from the site after throwing themselves onto the bulldozer.
It is early August and still the family stays. The animal’s home is demolished, the humans remain.
An October visit reveals the vindictive and punitive nature of the occupation. In front of the home a wall has indeed been erected. As far as the eye can see, in this area, the barrier consists of a network of motion sensor fences, ditches and barbed wire. But 6o meters wide, just in front of the house is a concrete wall, like the one around Attica prison, like the one around Qalqiliya. 20 meters high every window opens onto gray concrete. The sky is almost invisible, the village cannot be seen even from the roof.
So if you won’t leave you will be erased from sight and from memory. And this apparently senseless and spiteful act is much more than this for everything has its purpose.
This wall, like the checkpoints, curfews, arbitrary imprisonments, and roadblocks are designed for a single purpose. To make the Palestinians leave their homes. Where these methods do not suffice particularly vicious settlers can fill the gap such as in the case of the near ethnic cleansing of the village of Yanoon by the terrorism of the lunatics from Itimar.
Crystallized to a single family, a single case, you see what happens when everything is taken away and still people refuse and resist. They stand alone, encircled by armed men, penned like animals, staring at concrete punished eternally for the intransigence of attempting to hang onto the piece of homeland that is left to them.
Information from Amnesty International (extract)
16 Palestinian Administrative Detainees: Rami Fawaz Hassan Hjeili (m), Hussam Hamdallah Abdelqader ‘Odeh (m),
Rasem Khattab Hassan Mustafa (m), Sami Hassan ‘Ali Sous (m), Shadi Ismail Satti ‘Ayash (m), Hani Hamdi Hammid
Rajabi (m), Samer Abdelghafar Fayad Abu Zeina (m), Munther Mohammed Yunis al-Ju’bi (m), Nasser Yusef Jum’a (m), Lo’ai Daud (m), Taha Dweik (m), Samer Bader (m), Raja
Hirzallah (m), Mustafa ‘Abed (m), Ahmad Mishkah (m), Ala’ Hassuni ,Kamal Muhammad Idris (m) and Ghanem Tawfiq Salama (m)
On 6 November, the Israeli High Court upheld the Israeli army’s decision to forcibly transfer Palestinian administrative detainee, Taha Dweik, from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. His forcible transfer is imminent. On 10 November, Kamal Muhammad Idris, whose petition to the High Court was rejected on 4 November, was forcibly transferred to Gaza.
Following a suicide bombing in mid-October, which killed at least 20 Israelis and injured scores of others, the Israeli army West Bank Commander, Moshe Kaplinski, ordered the forcible transfer of 18 Palestinian administrative detainees from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. Most are to be transferred for two years and some for one year. The 18 are alleged to be supporters of the Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad, which had claimed responsibility for the bombing.
The Israeli authorities claim that the forcible transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip falls within the provisions of “assigned residence” contained in Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power may use assigned residence only when absolutely necessary for its security. The commentary to Article 78 states that: “…such measures can only be ordered for real and imperative reasons of security; their exceptional character must be preserved”. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.” Even though the West Bank and Gaza Strip are both part of the Occupied Territories under Israel’s control, they are geographically separate and the Israeli army does not allow Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip access to the West Bank and vice-versa. The forcible transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip contradicts the spirit of Article 49.
It is difficult to see how transferring people, whom Israel considers to be potentially dangerous for its security, to the Gaza Strip can effectively remove or reduce the security danger they allegedly pose to Israel’s security.View all →