Over the past few months, Israeli media have given extensive coverage to the abuse and humiliation Israel Security Agency (ISA) interrogators inflicted on the Jewish detainees in the Duma torching case. Interrogation methods involving pain and suffering are unacceptable, unlawful, and there can be no justification for employing them. Engaged, critical public debate is certainly merited when they come to light. And yet, the abuse, humiliation and torture the ISA inflicts on Palestinian detainees on a daily basis is met by both the media and the public with disregard and indifference.
A new report by B’Tselem and HaMoked, Backed by the System, focuses on ISA interrogations. Affidavits collected from 116 Palestinian detainees interrogated at the ISA facility in the Shikma Prison indicate that cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, sometimes amounting to torture, is the rule in ISA interrogations. They include such methods as extended sleep deprivation; incarceration in a small, foul-smelling cell, usually in solitary confinement; painful binding; threats and shouting; insufficient and sub-standard food; and denial of showers for weeks. In addition, the report found that interrogation authorities are also indirectly complicit in torture, by using information they know the Palestinian Authority obtained through torture.
In the report we stress that these interrogation methods are not unique to the Shikma facility and are not just the initiative of a particular interrogator or prison guard. Rather, they are part of a violent interrogation regime deliberately designed by state authorities to break the spirit and body of the interrogee. This system goes beyond the ISA, and is backed by many other authorities, including the Israel Prison Service, the IDF, the State Attorney’s Office and the High Court of Justice.
On 23 Feb. 2016 the military demolished the homes of two families in the Hebron area as punishment for attacks for which individual members of the families have been indicted. The demolitions - which left 15 people homeless, including 9 minors, none of whom are suspected or accused of any wrongdoing - were implemented after the HCJ rejected petitions filed in the matter by the families and HaMoked. Since Oct. 2015 Israel has stepped up punitive home demolitions, a policy the HCJ approves virtually without restriction. Such conduct cannot be considered more than lip service to the notion of judicial review.
Bab al- Majles is a neighborhood in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. Once a rich cultural and social hub, a major route crossed by Muslim worshippers on their way to al-Aqsa Mosque, the neighborhood has been under a chokehold since the police put up a checkpoint at its entrance in the summer of 2014, imposing severe access restrictions, which severely harmed residents’ lives and livelihoods. This is collective punishment of the entire neighborhood. Israel must remove the checkpoints and allow residents to resume their normal lives. Read more on Bab al-Majles and view images on our photo blog.
In at least four cases, the lethal gunfire was entirely unwarranted: In Dec. 2015-Jan. 2016 five Palestinians were shot dead by the military near the Gaza perimeter fence, when protests were underway there. B’Tselem documented 14 similar cases in Oct. and Nov. 2015. B’Tselem found that in 4 of the killings the use of live fire was unjustified, excessive and unlawful. B’Tselem’s examination of the military’s conduct during demonstrations near the perimeter fence repeatedly indicates that though the military prepares in advance and the soldiers face no real danger, they resort to lethal fire without any justification, and no one is held accountable for these actions.
In February B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad wrote to the PM criticizing the HCJ ruling that denied al-Qiq’s request to transfer to a Ramallah hospital on the grounds that it would endanger soldiers’ lives if the security establishment would later seek to detain al-Qiq again. El-Ad notes that “This position reflects a new low in the instrumentalist approach to human beings.” The fact that the Court accepted this argument says more about the justices than about its reasonableness. It was recently reported that on 26 Feb. Muhmmad al-Qiq and the Israeli authorities reached an agreement whereby al-Qiq would now end his 93-day hunger strike, and be released from administrative detention on 17 May 2016.
In Jan. 2016 Israeli authorities stepped up efforts to expel Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills, Ma’ale Adumim area and the Jordan Valley. By the end of Feb. authorities had demolished 88 homes and 84 work structures that were used to generate income, including some donated by aid agencies. Israel recently announced plans to demolish many more structures in Kh. Susiya, expel Abu a-Nuwar’s residents, and reported its failed mediation with Masafer Yatta. All are part of a policy whereby Area C is to serve Israel rather than West Bank Palestinians. Restrictions Israel imposes in Area C force all West Bank Palestinians to live in crowded enclaves without land reserves for building, farming, infrastructure, health and education services or freedom of movement.
In December 2015, Gazan farmers reported that Israel had sprayed their land with herbicides, seriously damaging crops in areas where farmers were supposedly permitted to work. The military frequently changes the scope of the “no-go” zone by the border fence, but does not bother to mark it or inform farmers. Israel cannot treat the Gaza Strip as if it’s part of its territory and ignore the residents. If the military believes that there is a need for a “security zone” along the border, it must establish this zone within Israeli territory.
In mid-Jan, 24 Palestinian families in the Jordan Valley were informed they would be temporarily displaced at month’s end for military training in the area. The evacuation was cancelled due to weather conditions, but the military did conduct training very close to one community, causing panic among residents, especially children, and crushing crops. Military training in the Jordan Valley is illegal. Israel must immediately stop it and all other measures employed in an attempt to force Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley out of the area.