Supreme Court Reopens Israel’s Guantanamo
If you’ve ever heard Alan Dershowitz or any liberal Zionist talk about the wonderful role played by the Israeli High Court in protecting democracy and human rights in Israel, do me a favor and quote ’em this post I’m writing. I’m sorry to say that the Supreme Court is little more than a sham; window dressing allowing the State to say it has a supreme judicial body like other western democracies, while its Court is enfeebled and subservient to the interest of the national security state.
The Supreme Court today overturned an injunction secured by the Israeli human rights NGO, HaMoked and former MK Zahava Gal-On, which had closed a top-secret Israeli prison used for the detention and interrogation of high-value foreign prisoners (aka “enemy combatants”). The prison, known only by its number, Unit 1391, is located within a secret Israeli military base called Camp Shlomo (after the name of a former commander of the IDF 504 intelligence unit) near Kibbutz Barkai. Chris McGreal wrote about the detention camp here. Dan Ephron wrote this about it in 2004:
What [Israeli historian Gad] Kroizer had discovered…was the location of an ultrasecret jail where Israel has held Arabs in total seclusion for years, barred visits by the Red Cross and allegedly tortured inmates. Known as 1391, the facility is used as an interrogation center by a storied unit of Israel’s military intelligence, whose members–all Arabic speakers–are trained to wring confessions from the toughest militants. According to Arabs who’ve been imprisoned in 1391, some of the methods are reminiscent of Abu Ghraib: nudity as a humiliation tactic, compromising photographs, sleep deprivation. In a few cases, at least, interrogators at 1391 appear to have gone beyond Israel’s own hair-splitting distinction between torture and what a state commission referred to in 1987 as “moderate physical pressure.”
Let’s call it Israel’s Guantanamo as Jonathan Cook has.
What’s faintly humorous is that Maariv’s coverage of this story makes a major flourish over the secrecy of the military base, when most knowledgeable Israelis know everything I wrote above. They just can’t write it in a newspaper or say it on TV or radio.
The prison is most notorious for the ‘hospitality’ enjoyed there by a Hezbollah operative it housed for eight years, Mustafa Dirani. Dirani was sodomized at Unit 1391 by IDF military intelligence interrogators under the command of Doron Zahavi. Later Dirani sued the State, won a large monetary settlement and his freedom. His cousin, arrested with him, wasn’t so lucky. As a result of his torture, he developed catatonic schizophrenia according to Jonathan Cooke. Zahavi, who surely would’ve been promoted without the glare of publicity shined by the court suit, was drummed out of the IDF only to surface last year as the new Arab liaison for the Israeli police with special responsibilities to ensure the safe Judaization of East Jerusalem (though that’s not how the police describe his job).
This blog exposed Zahavi’s identity, because the country has a quaint tradition of refusing to identify anyone publicly who’s ever been an intelligence agent, even if they’re dead. To Israelis he’s simply known as “Captain George.” I thought that rather ridiculous and that Israel deserved to know the real name of someone who’s engaged in such heroic acts on behalf of his country.
As if all this history wasn’t bad enough, Maariv portrays the maddening legal contortions used by the justices for approving Israel’s latest torture facility. We are supposed to feel reassured because the Court placed “meaningful” limits on use of the facility. It is now only to be used to house foreign prisoners (no Israelis or Palestinians) and only for the limited period of a few days (Dirani was imprisoned there for eight years). Prisoners will be entitled to visits from their attorneys and international organizations “except insofar as this shall be limited by the needs of the investigation according to the conditions of the law” (a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through). In order to detain a prisoner there, the IDF will have to notify the government’s legal advisor of his identity. The judges also directed visitation rights for government and parliamentary delegations “under certain circumstances” (unspecified, natch). These visiting bodies will have authority over the conditions under which detainees are held and ensure they are compatible with the law. Only members of the Knesset intelligence subcommittee will be entitled to participate in these visits (and certainly no one from Zahava Gal On’s party, Meretz).
The justices wrote without a hint of irony:
“We believe that this will provide an appropriate balance enabling parliamentary visits without undermining security considerations which provide the reason for guarding the secrecy of the facility.”
The Court chief justice, Dorit Beinisch, emphasized that the examples provided by the complainants of secret prisons in Eastern Europe to which prisoners were brought through secret rendition were “a very great distance from the matter before it.” She rejected the claim by HaMoked that the secrecy of the location of the prison violated international law saying that the holding of prisoners in detention there would fall under the rules of Israeli and international law.
While the complainants criticized the physical conditions under which the prisoners would be held and the methods of interrogation which would be used, the State claimed that conditions of detentions would be compatible with the law. The government also rejected the claim that forbidden forms of interrogation would be utilized (saying this with a straight face after the Dirani affair beggars belief) except for the fact that prisoners would be blindfolded when transferred there.
The government claimed that the secrecy of Unit 1391 would not detract from the prisoners’ rights (except when they’re being tortured or deprived of attorney-client visits during those times when “conditions of the investigation” simply didn’t permit them). The State offered to notify family of the detainee/victim of their detention, but would not provide the location of the facility. Instead it would offer an “address” to which family could turn with its requests. The authorities argued that providing such notice to the attorney would fulfill its obligations.
At a time when the U.S. has abandoned extraordinary rendition and drastically reduced the prisoner population at Guantanamo in an attempt to close it, it’s rather extraordinary that Israel’s Supreme Court is backpedaling on human rights and reopening one of Israel’s most notorious torture chambers. Further, unlike Guantanamo which at least has a known physical address, no Israeli officially knows where the Unit 1391 prison is.
Saying that members of the parliamentary intelligence committee would provide sufficient oversight to ensure protection of the rights of the prisoners is like saying that the House intelligence committee provided sufficient oversight over CIA participation in waterboarding and extraordinary rendition. Again, it simply beggars belief. This from the “Only Democracy in the Middle East.”
20 thoughts on “Supreme Court Reopens Israel’s Guantanamo – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Its a joke, right ?
As an American I think you’d better fight for the prisoners in Guantanamo, where you guys invaded a country 10000 miles away and are holding people there for over 10 years. No court, not rights and no visitors. A country that has never declared war on America. Rather you pick on Israel for bad treatment of people from countries that has declared war on it. While what you call a “shame”, it 10 times better than what you do. Can you refer us to what the supreme court of the US has to say about Guantanamo ?
Typical Hasbara strategy: “why do you pick on Israel and not on . . .”, “it’s worse elsewhere” blablabla.
This blog is about Israel/Palestine so why should Richard talk about Guantanamo ? I’m sure if you want to discuss Guantanamo, you’ll find plenty of blogs for that.
free man: Guantanamo is in Cuba, not in “a country 10000 miles away.” Perhaps you’re thinking of Abu Graib in Iraq? And it’s not “for over 10 years.”
But you are right. These mistaken facts do not exonerate the US from these crimes, which are equal to, if not more horrendous, than those committed by Israel. At the same time, just because the US does it should not be an excuse for Israel to commit these same crimes. Both are guilty. But Richard’s story was about Israel’s Supreme Court, not the US’.
Blah, blah, Hasbara, blah…Deflect the subject. Good technique for diversion. But it doesn’t work here. I write about Israel, not Guantanamo. There are around 100 prisoners left in Guantanamo after 600 or more have been relocated or repatriated or released. This policy was initiated by a right wing Republican. The current president is trying his best (well, maybe not his best, but he’s trying) to undo it. There are many things about current U.S. policy I disagree with & say so. But Israel is equally guilty of awful human rights violations for which they will receive my strong criticism regardless of what you think or prefer that I write.
Israel holds in its prisons Lebanese farmers who were kidnapped during the 2006 war in the hopes of doing a prisoner exchange w. Hezbollah. Did these poor farmers “declare war” on Israel? Did the hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisoner without trial declare war on Israel? How would you know? You never even tried them.
This is a very stupid, ignorant statement. Yr use of hyerbole is pathetic.
The U.S. SUpreme Court, whose rulings I often oppose, gave Guantanamo prisoners a whole set of rights they didn’t have under the Bush administration. They haven’t yet ruled on the legality of Guantanamo as far as I know. I don’t believe based on those rulings, that if the Bush administration had asked it to rule on Guantanamo’s legality as the Israeli Court did here, that it would approve the prison. But that’s speculation.
If you want to critisize another country, I think you should first look at what your country does. I call it reason and logic.
going into personalize insults like “stupid, ignorant and pathetic” only shows how right that statement is.
When you have no point to make, just insult the other person. All your friends will hail you for that.
If personal insults are not enough, lets try diversion: you call Mustafa Dirani a “lenanese farmer”. We all know he was nothing but a farmer.
This article discusses Unit 1391 in great detail. The title of the article implicitly suggests that it is analogous to the U.S. detention facility Guantanamo.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reports that about 7,000 Palestinians are being imprisoned in jails on the Israeli-side of the Green Line. In total, the Department of Defense reported to the Courts that they had imprisoned under 800 prisoners at Gitmo (but only 558 were still being held when DoD finally released the list of detainee names). It released the names of 645 prisoners that had been held at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. It reported that at its peak in November 2007, the US had held 26,000 Iraqi prisoners. By March of 2009, that number had dropped to 13,000, of which only 2,500 were being prosecuted. By the end of that year, the remainder were transferred to Iraqi control or released under an agreement that had gone into effect on 1 January.
I’ve seen plenty of other articles on this website about the double lives of AIPAC employees that spy on the US government; the influence of Neocon-Israel-advisors and Christian Zionists on elected US officials in promoting sanctions and illegal wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran; about US officials, like Bush & Cheney endorsing torture; and about Obama’s cluelessness and failures. If you don’t know about those stories yet, then by definition, you’re ignorant.
The Negroponte Doctrine, spelled out that any Israel-related UN resolution had to criticize some other party in order to win a US vote or prevent a veto. If you think that doctrine applies to personal blogging, then by definition, you really are stupid. Since you claim you aren’t ignorant or stupid, then perhaps you missed all of those other articles here because you’ve sunken so low that “the good ones” go over your head?
In any event, everyone here isn’t from the United States. Regardless of where the Jewish readers come from, the government of Israel makes claims and takes actions that are supposedly carried-out on our behalf. It does that without worrying about the possible consequences that its actions might have on us. That is called a “Moral hazard”. For example, Israel transferred land and immovable properties from the Palestinian Arab owners to itself or one of its own parastatal organizations. They claim to hold the title to the land and property “in trust for the Jewish people”. In many instances, Israel owes compensation to the Palestinians. It has attempted to employ the assets of Jewish refugees from Arab countries to offset the amount it will owe in any final settlement, despite the fact that (a) many of those Jewish refugees aren’t citizens or residents of Israel in the first place; and (b) wouldn’t dream of legally assigning their rights and claims to its government. If Israel is really worried about the threat of antisemitism everywhere else, it should stop making foreigners disappear into secret detainment centers and quit using its fundamental laws of state to incite racism and discrimination among its own citizens.
As much as I enjoy reading this blog, most of the time I read other stuff. BTW I just found out about it a month or so ago. If this makes me stupid, I’ll wear this badge proudly.
As for the claim that Israel is doing things in your behalf, it is a misconception and somewhat arrogant of you.
Israel is a state, it does what it does for its citizens. You on the other hand are not an Israeli. Israel does nothing in your behalf. As for the claim “in trust of the Jewish people”, it is a false claim as well. Any Jew will be welcome here to join us and flourish here with us. In case a Jewish community will be in trouble, we will do our best to help them. However, we are no gate keepers for any Jew, we dont represent the “Jews” in any way and our actions are for Israelis and no other considerations are taken.
I do understand that as a Jew, you feel for what other Jews does in the wold and that you are concerned about what the only existing Jewish state is doing.
That is nonsense & belied by statements fr. the mouths of Israel’s politicians & spymasters virtually every day. They speak not only on Israel’s behalf but on behalf of “the entire Jewish people.” You can reject this & I would hope you do. But this is what they believe & the premise of their policies & behavior.
For someone who calls himself “free man”, you’re very biased.
You apparently have no idea of how the State of Israel interfers in internal affairs in other countries, pretending to represent “the Jews”.
You should look into the politics of AIPAC and CRIF (the French AIPAC). Every diaspora Jew who criticize the State of Israel is literally harassed by some organization pretending to represent the local Jewish community, but in fact directly linked to Tel Aviv.
And what about the compensations for Holocaust-survivors, mostly going to the State if Israel ? Or the Israeli opposition to the presence of Marek Edeman – a Polish non-Zionist Jew and the real hero of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising – during Holocaust commemorations in Poland ?
PS. I’m NOT Jewish but if you don’t like “Others” to interfere in your “internal affairs”, you better blog somewhere else, and, by the way, don’t forget to tell the US that you don’t want their money and vetos in the UN either.
I have to curb my inclination to jump all the way to the end of my chain and hurt myself whenever I think about Alan Dershowitz + torture; the Israeli HCJ + bargaining chips + torture; enforced disappearances + imprisonment of persons; Palestinians being illegally transferred to ANY prison (whatever) on the Israeli side of the Green line; Unit 1391; the Guantánamo Bay detainment facility; the Bush era (Star Chamber) Executive Orders; the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005; the perverse (Star Chamber) modifications to the UCMJ & the effective repeal of the 1996 War Crimes Act contained in the 2006 Military Commissions Act.
Any one of those would require me to exceed the reasonable daily comment quota limits here. Besides, the officials and individuals concerned wouldn’t have changed their opinions, policies, or practices – even if a “Voice from Heaven” had defined torture for them in the first place.
this is a reply to “Deïr Yassin”:
Yes, I do not want American money. Nor do I get it.
Years ago it was true, but not for a long time now.
It is an urban legend that has long been circulating. So here it how it goes:
America provide Israle with coupons to buy American weapons and army goods. Israel can spend those coupons only on American soil. That, my friend is in other words, a way to give a head start to American industry over other countries.
Just to give you an example I was part of:
I worked in an inovative Israeli company, selling software to companies world wide. Companies like Intel, Texas-Instumenets, Samsung, Simense, IBM,….
The Israeli army wanted to buy this software as well, but they asked us to sell it though our American branch, cause they had no internal budget to buy it. We refused to do monkey bussiness ending by loosing that account to an infirior product by an american comapny. The only reason we lost was due to the so called money America “give” to Israel.
In fact the only guys happy about it are the top millitary officers that buy more “advanced” aircrafts to fight single handed terorists. Aircratfs we will do much better without.
You ‘forgot’ to address the rest of my commentary such as the automatic US veto in the UN when it comes to Israel.
Your country does & therefore by extension you do. $5 billion in arms deals and other forms of aid EVERY YEAR. I don’t care how the IDF spends it or what hocus pocus is goes through to do it. But it does it. The IDF, in case you didn’t know, represents you as your national army.
I know that my army get the money. I did not contest that. The opinions I present here are my own. What I think is that Israel will do much better without that money, and I try to explain why I think so.
I also want you to see that there are substantial gains for the US from that money.
I grant you that.
The reality is far removed from the situation you portray.
Israel and the US government setup free trade areas years ago which gave Israeli firms access to US markets at the expense of many domestic interests. Israel has never returned the favor. I suppose that an Israeli company can legally set-up a business entity and process invoices to itself through little more than a P.O. box, but the U.S. government does not require Israel to account or report on its offset or other purchases. The offsets you describe are usually imposed on subcontractors by US contractors.
Congress long ago stopped asking or expecting Israel to repay the amounts drawn from its US Foreign Military Sales and Emergency accounts. Nonetheless, Israel uses Alice-In-Wonderland mentality to impose FMS offset allowances on participating U.S. contractors. It requires them to purchase components and materials from Israel. So, Israel recoups about 40 percent of the imaginary costs of the weapons it “buys”. As you might imagine, US purchases in Israel amount to quite a bit more than Israeli expenditures on US goods and services. Companies like yours benefited by selling software to US firms that market and sell their own competing products. That sort of thing is a common practice in commercial contracts but, in the words of the U.S. General Accounting Office, offsets on FMS sales to Israel are “unusual” because FMS is intended to actually “sell” U.S. goods and services to foreign countries, not give them away.
Israel uses the money however it likes and has even financed its own weapons industry R&D. The US government has been directly subsidizing the Israeli arms industry ever since President Carter authorized $107 million in foreign aid funds in 1977 so that Israel could manufacture the Mereva tank. Israeli production runs are too small to be profitable, so Israel entered the international arms market. The US government ineffect subsidizes Israeli firms that compete directly against the sales of US companies. That competition is also compounded at home because Congress has allowed Israeli firms to bid on domestic DoD contracts, given them access to sensitive defense data, and prevented US firms from selling their own advanced weapons to Arab countries without Israeli approval.
You could also include the aid to Egypt in that bill too, because that is indexed at par with aid to Israel under the Camp David Accords. They only reason it amounts to less because the rest is hidden elsewhere or kept off-budget.
There are entire chapters devoted to the costs to the US taxpayer in dollars, lost manufacturing jobs, & etc. in Former Under Secretary of State George Ball’s book “The Passionate Attachment”, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s “The Israel Lobby”. If you don’t have access to those, there is an AMEU article on the subject here http://www.ameu.org/printer.asp?iid=97&aid=134
Name:Close The Israeli Guantanamo Facility (1391) أغلقوا غوانتنامو إسرائيل
Category:Common Interest – Beliefs & CausesDescription:لدعاة والمدافعين عن حقوق الإنسان في فلسطين و العالم العربي و الإسلامي و العالم ضد السجون السرية و التي من أبرزها و أكثرها إثارةً للجدل في العالم غوانتانامو إسرائيلي المنشأة رقم (1391)
Join us to end the misery of the prisoners families in The Israeli Guantanamo (Facility 1391).
To say “NO” for Human Rights violaters :”NO MORE GUANTANAMO FOR HUMANITY’
This is our active group on Facebook
How did “this blog exposed” Major George’s name when the ACRI did it in February of 2010, five months before you? Your fantasy of Israel as a police state seems pretty ridiculous given ACRI’s open publication of the name. The fact that Ha’aretz chose not to is on it. Moreover, “Captain George” was some media fantasy, the actual pseudonym was “Major George” which you would know if you ever bothered to read the court documents in the Tel Aviv case.
ACRI named Doron Zahavi, but didn’t connect him to Captain George. My Israeli source and I did that. Nice try though.