Getting Away with Torture in Israel

Risking Nuclear Armageddon
August 25, 2012
Inventing an Iranian Threat
August 26, 2012

Getting Away with Torture in Israel
by Stephen Lendman
Torture is illegal at all times under all circumstances with no allowed exceptions. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled both ways. 
On the one hand, it banned torture. On the other, it permitted physical force in “ticking bomb” cases. At the time, Court President Aharon Barak claimed it saves lives. He authorized use of the “necessity defense” to get away with lawless practices.
He let Israel’s attorney general determine guidelines. They constitute an a priori authorization to torture. International law is clear and unequivocal.
The UN Convention against Torture calls it:
“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain and suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity….”
Israel and America are the only modern states officially sanctioning torture. Doing so contradicts their own statute laws. 
International laws prohibiting torture are jus cogens. They’re higher, compelling laws. No nation may pass laws permitting it. No courts may justify it. Jus cogens prohibitions allow no immunity from criminal liability.
Fourth Geneva’s Article 27 states:
Protected persons “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof….”
Articles 31 and 32 say:
“No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons.” 
“This prohibition applies to….torture (and) to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.”
Fourth Geneva’s Article 147 calls “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment….grave breaches” under the Convention and are considered “war crimes.”
All four Geneva Conventions have a Common Article Three. It requires humane treatment for non-combatants at all times.
Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Its Article 10 states:
” All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity….”
Other international laws prohibit torture and abuse of all kinds at all times. Israel violates rule of law principles with impunity. Israeli gulag detainees confirm egregious mistreatment. Brutal beatings are commonplace. So is extreme sleep deprivation and other horrific practices.
State prosecutors get hundreds of complaints. No criminal charges follow. Grievances go unresolved. Physical and psychological abuse continues. Immunity is absolute.
Torture and other abusive practices continue because practitioners know they can get away with it. Criminals love immunity. They can do what they want without fear of prosecution.
Israeli torture is institutionalized. Critics call it a form of ethical and legal corruption. It’s used to punish and humiliate. Children are treated like adults. Since 1967, the UN condemned Israel 178 times. Doing so falls on deaf ears. Israel does what it damn pleases. Abusive practices continue.
Prison mistreatment is horrific. Palestinian detainees have no rights. On August 16, Addameer headlined “Urgent: Hunger striker Hassan Safadi’s head violently slammed against cell door by prison guards,” saying:
Israeli Prison Service (IPS) guards mistreat Safadi and Samer al-Barq severely. Both men refuse food for justice. On August 20, al-Barq reached day 91. Safadi hasn’t eaten for 61 days. Previously he abstained for 71 days.
On August 14, Addameer lawyer Fares Ziad visited Safadi. He explained the previous day’s abuse. IPS guards entered his isolation room. He shares it with al-Barq. Both men are held lawlessly in Ramleh Prison.
They were told about IPS intentions to move them to the general prison population. They refused. They consider doing so pressure to begin eating by placing them among other prisoners ingesting food in full view.
In response, guards attacked them. Safadi’s head was slammed hard against an iron door twice. He lost consciousness. They dragged him through a hall in view of other detainees. That evening, both men were placed in renewed isolation with no mattresses.
Safadi said he’ll no longer ingest water. Throughout weeks without food, it’s been his only form of sustenance. In solidarity, other prisoners began refusing meals.
Both men are administratively detained uncharged and untried. Doing so constitutes cruel and inhumane mistreatment. Safadi was promised release when his current term expired. Instead, Israel renewed his detention. He can be held indefinitely without charge or trial. Innocence is no defense. A military judge has final say. No ruling has been rendered.
Two other Palestinians also refuse food. On August 20, Ayman Sharawna and Samer Al-Issawi reached days 51 and 20 respectively. They committed no crimes. So-called secret evidence justifies holding them. Hunger striking for justice is their only defense.
Addameer, Al-Haq and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel demand international community leaders intervene on their behalf. Action, not lip service, is essential. Thousands of other wrongfully held detainees also need help. Arab lives matter as much as Jewish ones. Israel operates by different standards. It’s long past time it be held accountable.
June 26 is anti-torture day. Annually, victims, survivors, and family members commemorate it. Each year, over 100,000 victims receive treatment. Global centers provide it. Many other survivors needing care never get it. They and family members suffer.
Last June, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PACTI) organized public protests to highlight “this most horrendous form of abuse.”
Virtually all Palestinian detainees are subjected to physical and psychological torture as well as other forms of abuse. Children suffer most of all. Effects are traumatic and long-lasting. Some victims never recover.
PACTI volunteer Noam Gur and other activists staged a creative street performance in Jerusalem’s Mamilla shopping center. Amidst heavy pedestrian traffic, they positioned themselves on the floor bound and gagged.
Two young women sat inside circles made of police lines. Their body language reflected misery and despair prisoners feel in confined spaces.
A staged interrogation of a Palestinian youth was the main attraction. Israel usually charges them with stone-throwing. Allegations are  usually bogus.
The child lay on the floor bound and blindfolded. An “interrogator” simulated abuse. At the same time, a boombox blared noise. “Did you throw stones,” was screamed repeatedly? “Did you participate in a demonstration?”
“Repeat after me: I threw stones at the demonstration.” 
“I didn’t do it,” screamed the terrified youth at the top of his lungs. “I didn’t,” and added “I am human.”
Passersby were shocked. Some thought they were witnessing the real thing. Others knowing it was staged were hostile. A shopkeeper threatened participants with violence. He called security guards. They called police.
Some showed up but didn’t intervene. They let activists finish their performance and distribute leaflets to shoppers. They were only told not to touch shop windows or decorative statues and refrain from blocking shoppers.
Gur said the action was done to highlight gross mistreatment. Most Israelis don’t know how Palestinian detainees are abused. “This day is significant,” he said. “By getting in people’s faces, we succeeded in raising awareness, even if many disagreed with us or even reacted with hostility.”
Doing so also broke the silence about abusive Israeli torture. Gur called the event “much scarier” than he imagined. It made him aware of how differently Jews are treated.
“On the other hand,” he said, “torture is part of everyday reality for Palestinians. It destroys bodies and souls. It is meant to dehumanize them.”
He added that he always opposed abusive treatment. Participating in a simulation motivated him to become more outspoken.
For decades Palestinians have been ruthlessly persecuted and tortured in detention. International leaders stay silent. Israel gets away with practices no one should tolerate. Innocent people suffer grievously.
Courageous activists are doing their part to help. Many other are needed to help Palestinians gain freedom and justice they’ve been long denied.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
Visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967. He remained there until retiring at year end 1999. Writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or archived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.