Yesterday, I reported that Yediot Achronot published a story about an Israeli prisoner who, according to informants in the prison service, had no name, no identity, no contact with the outside world or fellow prisoners. He seemed truly to be a disappeared person in the midst of a country that likes to think of itself as a democracy. And true to form, the article about Mr. X, as the article dubbed him, disappeared! Yesterday, I agreed with Israeli blogger Yossi Gurvitz in conjecturing that the article had run afoul of the intelligence services who secured a gag order banning publication of any information about him.
An Israeli journalist today reports to me that a source, also within the prison service, confirms Yossi and I were right. Not only is there a gag order against publishing anything about Mr. X, there is a ban on revealing that there is a gag order of any kind. It’s a kind of double-bind theory of Israeli spookdom.
The source described Mr X as “a terrorist from one of the organizations.” This would likely mean that Mr. X was either a Palestinian from Israel or the West Bank, either accused of terrorism or belonging to a proscribed organization like Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah or Hamas.
Now, think about this. A man is imprisoned for no one knows what. Not only can’t any Israeli report on who he is or what he has done. You can’t even report that he EXISTS. We’re talking Scaresville here. But Israel has become such a hardened national security state that almost no one there would find anything wrong with this picture.
If we in the U.S. want to conjecture where outrages like Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, etc. can lead we should look no farther than Mr. X. No matter what this man may have done (and again, we don’t have a clue whether he is guilty of anything), society–whether Israel or the U.S.– is totally corrupted when it disappears people in such a way.
I’ve absorbed my share of body blows from the pro-Israel far-right and now it’s happened at the Israeli gossip site Rotter, which has a section called Scoops. I post some of my newsworthy Israel reporting there. A member responded to a message which linked to my last post about Mr. X, with this tender endearment:
Perhaps you’ll stop flacking your anti-Semitic site, Silverstein?
You’ve never published a single thing in your whole sordid life. You’ve stolen from other sites and taken credit in order to flack for your leftist, jihadist, murderous, extremist, fly by night, uber-radical, sick site.
I do so love the smell of napalm in the morning! When they hate you like this you know you’re striking a nerve and a blow for a democratic and just Israel.
This is the stuff of nightmares. No country can hold its head up when it engages in or tolerates this kind of Draconian practice. What kind of minds are running things now, in so-called democracies?
[comment deleted for comment rule violation–racism not permitted]
Enough already with the self-righteousness, there is an entire sector in Israel that decided to destroy the State of Israel.
We have to do everything to prevent them. in order to maintain democracy, we must sometimes act in a way not democratic (it’s a sentence from the American history, the world’s largest democracy).
Whoever does not like it feel free to live in Others “democracies” , such as: Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon and other Arab states “enlightened democratic state.”
Richard Silverstein says
What are you talking about? If you’re referring to the BUsh administration, we’re in the process of sorting out the mess he made. We haven’t completed the process due to hesitation on the part of our supposed progressive president. But you certainly have no right to pride yrself on yr anti democratic tendencies using us as yr example.
I’m afraid you will continue to have to confront all these troublesome citizens who don’t share your authoritarian tendencies until you can forcibly expell them & so rid yr country of those undesirables. And thanks for showing us all the ugly face of Israel (or at least a portion of Israel).
i posted a comment somewhere and its has disappeared or was not approved.
will comment briefly, then, FWIW.
While you are on to the lack of basic human and civil rights of Israelis recently, another practice comes to mind. In cases when fundamental rights are violated, often the spin is that the accused/snatched/arrested is a “mossad/gss agent”. this statement alone guarantees that no further inquiry is made. However, the status of an “agent” can be applied unilaterally and ad hoc, and sometimes to unwitting person. Recruitment and handling practices should be looked at carefully, more so recently in light of what is exposed in the Mabhuh assassination.
Rechavia Berman says
Good work, Richard. Interesting, if he’s Palestinian, that they’d put him in Ayalon instead of one of the security prisons like Ofer or Meggido.
I don’t think they can hide him (or her?) like that in one of the security prisons, they are not made for that.
Years ago (1970s?), when I joined the ACLU ($25/year?) the line was, you’ve got to protest EACH violation of civil liberties no matter how small because each violation of civil liberties (no-one spoke of human rights then) is the beginning of a SLIPPERY SLOPE.
No one except civil liberties die-hards can remember such delicate concerns today, when the USA arrogates to itself (that is, VP Cheney and his like, such as, sigh, President Obama) the right to execute anyone on earth, anywhere, any nationality, for any reason or for no reason at all, by assassination, often by guided missile, upon the unsupported claim of some minor functionary (likely a CIA contract worker from Xe / formerly Blackwater, or the like) that the “target” is a “terrorist”. (And never forget how expansively the USA has defined the crime of “material support for terrorism”.)
Wonder if it’s somebody the Americans, or Russians, or British want, but who knows things Mossad would prefer the Americans etc. not to know?
It does seem possible that he’s actually been in their hands for a while, if it’s true that the previous occupant of the special cell was actually moved circa 2006. That might make the detainee someone they came across in Lebanon. This greatly expands the possibilities of who it is. Not only to include Hezbollah and other Lebanese militias, but also “terrorists” from other parts of the world, there to trade drugs for arms or whatever. There’s quite an open-ended list of innocent businessmen it might be, too.
If Yigal Amir was moved in 2006 it doesn’t follow that the present occupant of his cell was moved in immediately after.
I think Ollie North is on a book-promotion tour, so it can’t be him.
Maybe it’s Osama? Think about it. He is worth far more alive than dead. And it’s far more plausible to believe that he has been captured than not – what with the US’s massive wealth and military capability. Announcing his detention in Israel would pose a huge security risk – hence the complete isolation and secrecy.
There’s a saying in Hebrew that goes “run and tell the guys”. It was originally applied to men who like to tell their friends who they had sex with. But it also applies to the Israeli defense organizaitons’ tendency to make a lot of every achievement, even before it’s clear that a success has actually been won (eg the assassination of Mabkhukh).
What I’m trying to say is that if Israel would have captured a seriuos terrorist, they would publicise it all over the world.
It would make more sense that they are hiding someone who had done very little that can be considered a crime. Perhaps an attempt at whistleblowing?
If the prisoner were Osama, there would have to be elaborate arrangements for kidney dialysis and so on. Widely believed to be provided for him by the Iranians, with his relatives picking up the bill. The Afghans and Pakistanis insist that they’d have noticed if a very tall man had passed them with a dialysis machine on a donkey in the past nine years.
It seems to be a fairly fit prisoner with extraordinary security arrangements, but no gossip-worthy medical or cultural requirements.
For an actual Israeli to be “disappeared” without his mother/sister/friends/neighbours making a racket is quite unlikely. Secrets in Israel are more like Anat Kamm’s: everyone knows, everyone has an opinion, everyone whispers. Every individual in israel I know, old or young, male or female, knows someone in the “family” who is mossad/shin bet (try one shoe if the other doesn’t fit). Whether they are or aren’t is beside the point. It’s enough for one to hang out in Thailand a bit too long before the whispers get going.
Lat I heard, everyone’s relative is on the infamous list of the 32 mossad operatives, who, with great fanfare and flair for the transparent, managed to get the vaunted mossad’s clay feet to be exposed. After all, those pictures of the mabhoud assassins look like israeli everyman/woman.
What I am suggesting is that were it an Israeli “detainee” – someone who actually grew up in and lived in Israel, he would be hidden in plain sight. neither is it likely to be an Israeli Arab as they have absorbed the value of rackets all too well. Ergo, it’s an outsider of some sort, whose whereabouts are less likely to glare so brightly.
You are assuming that somehow “the system works”. That the shin bet couldn’t possibly disappear someone without everyone hearing about it. I think we are way past the “shin bet couldn’t possibly” point.
Threaten his family? Suppress the fact that they are making a racket? Convince his family he’s dead?
Even if we look at the far fetched possibilities, it’s nothing we can rule out.
The scary thing is that it’s odd. Israel snaches or kills people all the time. You’d think a terrorist/activist/spy wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow. Whoever he is, he’s one of a kind.
agree. the description by Dana is very sweet but totally false. I suspect that those good ol days when everyone knew someone etc, never actually existed. Its part of a spin that for too long obscured the miserable human rights standards in israel. I also suspect that the vilest crimes and human rights violations are and have been committed against Jews (while the massive, routine vioaltions are against Arabs). the “x-prisoners” were Jewish, the “suitcase” prisonders were all Jews, mostly dupes of this or that security organization. I think Dana’s response is very important because it is the tried and old spin on the facts, to make it all appear benign, “in the family”, “not serious”, Yiddishe joke, and take the edge out of inquiries. I dont buy that, and its time to expose this spin for what it is.
Families are being bought, intimidated and silneced when the PTB pile or gang on someone.
Iris and Duck, you are both misinterpreting my intent – far be it from me to make a joke of what Israeli security agents can do and to whom. Or what they can get away with. I am also not trying to suggest that Israel is a “vibrant and open democracy” or such, as that is the case only for the few privileged ones. neither do I care to defend the ‘system”, what ever it is in israel.
I was merely trying to point out that Israelis are a very interconnected society (both arab and “jewish” segments – each in their own sphere). That’s more of a statement about the tribal-like fabric of interactions, not about democracy – which is something else entirely. Saudi Arabia, after all, is quite tribal too, and no one would suggest it is a democracy. I would also never suggest that predisposition to gossip offers some kind of full proof protection against tyranny, as history would prove me wrong awful quick. But I lived there once and I know from experience that the respect for privacy we take for granted in the US is not on the same level there. People there talk about – and through – each other all the time. The speculate, they praise rarely, condemn often, but mostly they are at it – a lot.
You speak of families that can be intimidated. That’s no doubt true. But there’s a larger circle of friends and acquaintances and colleagues and army buddies. And it’s not possible to silence them all since you first have to find who they all are. It’s not even about who they or what one may sympathize with. In Israel, it’s about talking about everyone else, red lines of privacy be damned. I happen to think that this is exactly how conformity in thought and behavior is reinforced, and conformity is a big part of the reason I left in the first place.
So, for a person to truly disappear, with nary a comment somewhere by someone as to “whatever happened to so and so” is unlikely, unless they were a true lone wolf – an extreme rarity in Israel (though plenty common in the US).
Anyways, I’m just playing detective here – a hobby I share with Richard. Of course, it’s possible Mr. X is indeed an israeli who ostensibly “left” israel therefore severing the tribal bond. Such a person could indeed languish in a jail somewhere without anyone knowing – because once “they” think you really left, they stop caring. Mossad often gives people new, foreign identities, with which they can enter and leave the country at will, with none of the circle of friends any wiser. And here you have it – I am now speculating idly just the way they do in Israel. Somethings, I guess never change.
Thanks Dana, i agree, almost. Interconnectedness plays both ways. In Sicily people get burried in cement and disappear too. Ranting and whispering is not effective in these cases. Same goes for the reign of terror in Soviet ruled societies, where “interconnectedness” didnt help those who went under. In fact the social glue is turned against the subjects.
Its important to investigate the varieties of terror and social control, but lets face it, people do disappear in israel for all practical purposes. It doesnt have to be the dungeon, there are those who are burried alive, as the saying goes here.
There is a “signal” that goes around in the pack, and people isolate the “subject”.
I think what’s worth investigation is the collaboration, all out, of so called “human rights” groups, persons etc. and of course the legal system.
I’m not sure if someone posted this. Ynet acknowledges that there’s a gag order on the story they deleted:
Sorry for the Hebrew.
Two women wrote to Ynet’s customer service asking why the article was taken down. They got an answer – there’s a gag order. So it’s official now.
Leave us alone. No one needs to give you answers. You are also violating the Israeli law by publishing this article. You would not do it if it was the law system of the US.
If he is treated like that it means that he deserves it. Go and check the state of many prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Israel is one of the most generous states in her treatment towards prisoners, even those of the worst kind, who should be sent to the death chamber in many other states.
Richard Silverstein says
Since you don’t seem interested in protecting your own society and civil liberties then people like me will help do it for you w. other Israelis who have views diff. fr. your own. And btw, the pt is that the U.S. does not have a system like yours & so I would never be forbidden fr. publishing such information if it came into my possession. If Israel had such a system it would be a better country for all its citizens, which is why I do what I do here.
Thanks for exhibiting the true nature of Israeli “democracy” for all my readers to see.
“violating israeli law”? israel has laws? or do you mean the law of the mafia? as in ‘some are worth more than others”.
besides, the world has no reason to obey Israel’s “laws” especially as israel sees no reason to obey International law. For example, they practice piracy, murder, torture, kidnapping and identity theft. Did I forget something?
Nice guys, indeed, for mafiosi….
It can’t be Vanunu can it? As his lawyer visited him, but still, it’s the same prison… Read this:
18 June 2010
Amnesty International has accused the Israeli authorities of subjecting jailed nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by holding him in solitary confinement.
The 56-year-old, who spent 18 years in prison for revealing details of the country’s nuclear arsenal to a UK newspaper in 1986, was sent back to jail for three months on 23 May on charges of contact with a foreign national, and almost immediately placed in solitary confinement.
Amnesty International has called for his immediate and unconditional release.
“Mordechai Vanunu should not be in prison at all, let alone be held in solitary confinement in a unit intended for violent criminals,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East Programme.
“He suffered immensely when he was held in solitary confinement for 11 years after his imprisonment in 1986 and to return him to such conditions now is nothing less than cruel, inhuman or degrading.”
Vanunu is held in Ayalon Prison in central Israel. His lawyer revealed to Amnesty International that he has been placed in an isolated cell, ostensibly to protect him from other prisoners.
For years, Vanunu has been portrayed by some Israeli media and politicians as a traitor and an enemy of the state for disclosing Israeli efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and he says he has received death threats.
“Mordechai Vanunu is a prisoner of conscience. The prison authorities might claim that he has been put in isolation to protect him from the risk of attack by other inmates, but if the Israeli government is really concerned for his safety it should release him without delay,” said Malcolm Smart. “His re-imprisonment is both harsh and unjustified.”
Vanunu, a former technician at Israel’s nuclear plant near the southern town of Dimona, revealed details of the country’s nuclear arsenal to UK newspaper The Sunday Times.
Subsequently, he was abducted by Mossad agents in Italy on 30 September 1986 and secretly taken to Israel, where he was tried and sentenced to a prison term of 18 years, the first 11 years of which he spent in solitary confinement.
Since his release in 2004, the Israeli authorities have subjected Vanunu to police supervision under the terms of a draconian military order, which is renewed every six months.
According to the order, he is banned from communicating with foreigners, including journalists. He cannot leave the country and is forbidden from approaching foreign embassies. He must also inform the authorities if he wishes to change his address.
“The restrictions on Mordechai Vanunu arbitrarily limit his rights to freedom of movement, expression and association and are therefore in breach of international law. They should be lifted and he should be allowed to start his life again as a free man,” said Malcolm Smart.
Mordechai Vanunu’s brother, Meir Vanunu, told Amnesty International on 17 June: “It is very traumatic for Mordechai to be put again in solitary confinement and subjected to harassment. These are the same conditions he was kept under previously for 18 years and there is no justification for it after 24 years of suffering.
“We fear for the impact this will have on his health. Now is the time for Mordechai’s true freedom he should be allowed to travel and leave Israel. He should never have been put in this situation in the first place.”
The harsh conditions of the dangerous criminals unit in Ayalon Prison mean Vanunu can only leave his cell for one hour every day to walk in the prison courtyard.
He cannot currently make telephone calls from the prison unless he submits information about the person he wishes to call to the prison authorities something he refuses to do on principle. As a result, he has had no contact with friends or family since the beginning of his current imprisonment.
His lawyer Michael Sfard was able to visit him and told Amnesty International: “Mordechai Vanunu is suffering from isolation. He should not be made to pay a price because of the enmity of others towards him.”
I think it could very well be Vanunu. One of my friends met him not long ago and said he is a ghost, not much more. It could be that the Israelis are just trying to finish him off. I honestly don’t know how much more the poor man can take.
I am sad to hear that description of him. I have read reports earlier about how he has prematurely aged in prison and is having a hard time coping, but this little part filled me with admiration for his personal strength:
“He cannot currently make telephone calls from the prison unless he submits information about the person he wishes to call to the prison authorities something he refuses to do on principle.”
He’s being harassed into an early grave. And he isn’t even free to leave the country. All of Israel is a prison for him.
Kathy Crosby says
I believe the prisoner to be “Joseph Moshe”,
I haven’t heard a word about him since his arrest.
i would guess he’s a hamas leader kidnapped to exchange with gilad shallit
has anyone heard from haniye or mishal lately?