Israel, US Use Similar Torture Tactics

Washington Post

Israel, US Use Similar Torture Tactics: Report

Washington Post 15.6 04

An Israeli committee said torture in Israel is a “routine, carried out in an orderly and institutional fashion.”

CAIRO , June 16 ( – The accounts of physical abuse of Iraqis by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad are similar to the Israeli army techniques in torturing Palestinian detainees, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, June 16.

It cited cases of Palestinian detainees painfully tortured by their Israeli interrogators and placed in stress postures similar to those imposed on Iraqi detainees.

The daily said Palestinian detainees were forced to stand for days at a time or were shackled in tightly contorted positions on low stools, a procedure known as shabah.

The Palestinians were violently shaken, deprived of sleep, bombarded with loud, continuous music, exposed to extremes of cold and heat and forced to relieve themselves in their clothing, according to the Post.

Their heads were often covered with canvas hoods that reeked of urine or vomit, a familiar scene in Abu Ghraib, it added.

New Techniques

Ziad Arafeh, a 48-year political activist who lives in the Balata refugee camp outside the West Bank city of Nablus , recalled he had been detained 14 times over the past two decades.

Each time, he said, his interrogators seemed to have mastered a new technique, said the Post.

Arafeh stressed that at first crude physical and sexual abuse was commonplace.

When he was first detained in 1983 an interrogator put on rubber gloves and squeezed his testicles until he cried out in pain.

On another occasion Arafeh said he was kept in his underwear in a small, cold cell and splashed with water every few hours.

Now the emphasis is on psychological pressure, he asserted, recalling that during his detention a year ago he was deprived of sleep for several days but not beaten.

The Israeli soldiers are often cruel, kicking and humiliating detainees in ways similar to the behavior reported at Abu Ghraib, he told the Post.

Casual Beatings

Anan Labadeh, who was detained at an Israeli military camp in March of last year, said he was familiar with the casual beatings, the humiliations, the trophy photos taken by both male and female guards at Abu Ghraib.

“Three days without food and without sleep and you’re eager to tell them anything. It just shows us the Americans are amateurs. They should have taken lessons from the Israelis.”

Labadeh, 31, became a cause célèbre after he fell from a third-story balcony while being chased by Israeli soldiers during a stone-throwing incident in the late 1980s, said the American daily.

Paraplegic Labadeh said he was routinely punched and kicked by the soldiers who escorted him to a military detention center at nearby Hawara and then by other soldiers at the center itself over three days.

He said he was blindfolded, denied food and water, left outside in the rain and cold, deprived of sleep and forced to urinate and defecate in his clothing, reported the Post.

“For a person like me to be surrounded by a group of soldiers, punched, insulted, peeing on myself, my dignity was insulted,” Labadeh said.

There are around 8000 Palestinian detainees in 22 Israeli prisons, detentions and concentration camps.

New Regime

The latest report by the Israeli committee against torture, covering the period from September 2001 to April 2003, said that detainees faced a new regime of sleep deprivation, shackling, slapping, hitting, kicking, exposure to extreme cold and heat, threats, curses, insults and prolonged detention in subhuman conditions.

“Torture in Israel has once more become routine, carried out in an orderly and institutional fashion,” the Post quoted the report, which was based on 80 affidavits and court cases.

The committee accused the Israeli legal system of effectively sanctioning torture by routinely rejecting petitions seeking to grant detainees access to lawyers.


The Post said although its officials never use the word “torture”, Israel is perhaps the only Western-style democracy that has acknowledged sanctioning mistreatment of prisoners in interrogation.

The paper said that in 1987, following a long debate in legal and security circles, an Israeli state commission established a set of secret guidelines for interrogators using what the panel called “moderate physical and psychological pressure” against detainees.

Although Israel ‘s Supreme Court struck down those guidelines, ruling that torture was illegal under any circumstances in 1999, the security agencies returned to physical coercion as a standard practice after the second Palestinian Intifadah against Israeli occupation in September 2000.

The authorization is similar to the memos in which the U.S. Justice Department had advised the Pentagon that torturing detainees outside the U.S. “may be justified”, and that anti-torture international laws “may be unconstitutional” in interrogations related to the so-called “war on terror”.

But the difference is that the torture techniques the Israeli forces have used command widespread support from the Israeli public.

A long parade of Israeli prime ministers and justice ministers with a variety of political views have defended the security agencies and either denied that torture is used or defended it as a last resort in preventing Palestinian attacks against occupation forces, said the Post.

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