Israeli TV Exposes Suppressed Video of Botched Prison Inspection, Which Resulted in Death and Maiming
**for the English subtitles, watch the video on Youtube and click on the Closed Caption icon located to the right of the Flag icon.
The Only Democracy in the Middle East™ has yet another event (Hebrew) for which it should be proud tonight. Channel 2 news has exposed a shattering video recorded by Israeli Prison Service personnel of a 2007 riot in Ketziot Prison, which its own staff initiated during a surprise inspection. The operation, which the prison warden admits was done primarily to “raise morale of prison staff,” so frightened the sleeping prisoners–who must’ve thought from the sounds of weapons being fired that they were under attack–that they rioted, igniting fires in their prison units.
At that point, the operation went from being one confined to inspecting a single unit for contraband, to suppressing a major riot in the entire facility. At a key juncture, soldiers are seen outside a row of tents in which prisoners have confined themselves and refused to exit. As a soldier attempts to negotiate in Arabic with a leader of the prisoners, another soldier shoots wilding and blindly directly into the tents housing the prisoners. When the prisoner negotiator returns to speak with his fellow inmates about surrendering, he too is shot and wounded.
Finally, a soldier shoots another round into a tent and wounds a prisoner with a head shot. A soldier is seen commanding the man, clearly incapacitated and under a blanket, to arise and walk. We learn that this prisoner, Mohammed Ashkar, severely wounded, was transferred unconscious to a hospital where he was handcuffed to his bed and died, still manacled to his bedpost. He had not participated in any way in the rioting of the other prisoners. He had been in prison on a several month sentence, which he would’ve completed within a few days. An pointless, unnecessary death.
To this day, no one knows what type of ammunition was used that caused the death and other wounds. Former prisoners show the scars from these wounds on their back to the camera. Even the warden of the prison says he’s “not allowed to know” what weapons caused them.
No one faced any disciplinary action for this botched operation. The prison warden at the time is still warden at Ketziot. A commander in the prison service, questioned by an interviewer, rates the operation a “10,” saying:
Though the operation ended in tragedy, there was no intent that this should be the result. And now such night searches are a routine tool to maintain prison security.
When the interviewer asks whether it is worthwhile initiating such a operation solely to boost morale, the commander again answers evasively:
A prison warden needs to understand that his job is important, that he protects the homeland in the way he performs his role. Any attempt to show conciliation to the other side is received by them as an opportunity to achieve more of their own goals.
The most chilling dialogue occurs at the end of the report as soldiers are filming the prison on fire with shrieks of prisoners echoing in the background along with explosions or shots fired. The videographer and another soldier have the following “colloquy:”
Isn’t this lovely! Film it, film it [soldier laughs loudly]. It’s a real model home believe me.
Yes, yes, you’re right.
Come closer. Let’s get a better shot of the fire so people will see what happened here.
[Another soldier begins singing a song commenting ironically on the riot] “They say they had a good time here before I was born.”
The narrator interjects his own ironic comment at this point, noting that the goal of the operation was achieved in elevating the morale of the staff, as the following dialogue confirms:
A good time, eh? Today is a good day.
This is what I wanted.
Sure, bro. It’s great!
The news report documents that Yaara Kalmanovich of the Public Committee Against Torture was the first to become involved in this case. She discovered that an unconscious dying prisoner had been handcuffed to his bed, which is a clear violation of the man’s civil liberties even as a security prisoner. Smadar Ben Natan (Dirar Abusisi’s former lawyer) became involved when she worked with Ashkar’s family to investigate the cause of his death. She helped mount a court challenge demanding release of the document. No less than the ominously named Minister for Internal Security himself, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, forbade the release of the material on grounds that it endangered the security of the state. The Israeli censor believed just the opposite and never made such a finding. The Beersheva regional court agreed with the minister and frustrated every attempt by the TV channel to release the materials.
It then turned to the Supreme Court and after a time the State prosecutor told the station that the minister had decided to remove the seal on the document and release it to the media. However, Ben Natan’s private case brought on behalf of the victim’s family to release the entire film (not just the excerpts aired) to them is still pending. It seems likely that the State will agree to release to the family only those portions already aired on TV, which in effect means that the victim and his family have rights that are only derived from the Israeli media and have no independent rights of their own as human beings.
The video footage, however, is a powerful piece of evidence for a civil suit by the family against the government. One hopes that they will at least bring a financial reckoning to the State even if there is no moral one.
In case one ever needs proof about why its vital to have an NGO community inside a country to monitor and expose violations of human rights and democratic values, this provides yet another example. It also offers proof of why the Israeli far-right hates people like Kalmanovich and Ben Natan and would just as soon expel them from the country as traitors if they could.
In its review, Haaretz wrote about this report:
Prisons are the repressed subconscious of society. We don’t want to know what happens there and from our perspective–let ’em burn. Even moreso the security prisoners who those same citizens of the state would be just as happy if they could be fed to mad dogs, or lacking that–to a special unit of the Israeli prison service…
24 thoughts on “Israeli TV Exposes Suppressed Video of Botched Prison Inspection, Which Resulted in Death and Maiming – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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This is sadism, and it’s Murder. It should warrant much more than a civil suit. It should be referred to the ICC.
This isn’t just the Israeli government, it’s our own.
There will come a day of reckoning and I hope the TV airs the Nuremberg 2.0 trials live.
Vittorio Arrigoni journalized his experience of being kidnapped by Israeli soldiers and jailed in deplorable conditions. More importantly, he wrote of the conditions under which Ethiopian, Eritrean and Sudanese were imprisoned:
“Us three internationals were lead into a prison at Ben Gurion, followed by another one in Ramle, where we immediately went on a hunger strike to ask for the immediate release of the Palestinian fishermen, which eventually took place.
I was held for six days in that Israeli jail in terrible conditions, in filthy and claustrophobic cells, crawling with insects and parasites that feasted on my skin. But coming from Gaza, I was used to being held under chain. Through Israel’s will, Gaza is the biggest open-air prison in the world. All the industries have had to close down, over 80% of the population survives under the poverty line and the highest rates of unemployment in the world are recorded in Gaza. There’s no electricity or fuel. Hospitals need medicine, the vast majority of the population need food and the bare essentials. The Israelis only conducted me from one open-air prison to another of their own smaller ones, where at least, unlike in Gaza, they regularly serve rations and both electricity and drinking water are available almost daily.
But I was denied the most basic of human rights, such as the faculty to contact my attorney or consulate at my own discretion rather than my jailers’. Furthermore, I am keen to speak out against the prison of Ramle, twenty kilometers from Tel Aviv, where hundreds of African refugees, mostly Ethiopian, Eritrean and Sudanese, are virtually buried alive. They have perfectly valid UN visa passes; in any self-styled civilized country they would have been assigned accommodation and the bare essentials to survive. They’re fleeing from war – they’re no terrorists. But once again, when it comes to human rights, and more generally to international law, Israel have demonstrated that it’s just a bunch of hollow words to them outside their borders, as well as within them. I’ll do everything in my power to let the inhuman conditions of my inmates be known – I promised them I would.”
Bessam, very unfortunately Mr Arrigoni came to find out that there are worse forms of imprisonment then he found in Israel’s jails and that there are other jailers willing to deprive people of much more basic human rights then the Israelis.
Gaza is not a prison, it’s a mess. Israel must accept a great deal of the blame for what Gaza is and for how the people of Gaza live, but so must several other groups, including those claiming to be Palestinian leaders and those calling themselves allies and friends of Palestinians.
As well, the Palestinian people must recognize that their own choices have been as faulty as the choices made by Israelis.
I find your references to Arrigoni offensive, esp. when couched in seeming sympathy that isn’t real sympathy, but rather a racist lesson in the alleged evils of Palestinian violence.
Gaza certainly is a prison. And there is only ONE party at fault for that: Israel. Hamas bears no responsibility for the siege except that it won an election which an Israeli gov’t approved before it happened.
I find blaming the victim for their own suffering as you have done to be equally offensive. Rapists do that too.
If you want to preach offensive ideas, you won’t go far here.
I couldn’t find any offensive words in Fuster’s replay. It may be that your opinions are different…we also need to concern a sad fact coming out here – a lot of people, from all “sides” of the view, see it as a circle that both Gaza and Israel share the responsibility for. Saying that Hamas is just the party who won the election, is like saying that Netanyahu doesn’t have a word continuance of the siege over Gaza…the question is not who’s responsible or “guilty” – it’s what Both sides can do to really end this.
A nation of Sadists from father to son.
The sons are not guilty of the sins of the fathers unless they themselves commit the same sins.
@Andrew, please, do not generalize like that. There are plenty of decent people in Israel, who abhor violence and feel strongly about democracy and human rights. But there are, unfortunately, many others who find this kind of brutal treatment of fellow human beings justified. For them, they don’t see these prisoners as human, and I think the major reason for that is that they don’t know any Palestinians personally, don’t have Palestinian friends and hence don’t even attempt to understand the Palestinian predicament.
This is truly disgusting. A pointless “operation” which resulted in the worst outcome. The behavior of some of the troops is abominable. The shooter and the officers in charge should be prosecuted to the full extent. Sadly, I don’t believe they will be. These kinds of actions are dark stains on Israeli democracy, and make me slightly ashamed to be born here. The release of the tape all the more emphasize the importance of the work journalists like Richard do against the censorship. Keep up the good work.
Why, thank you. Frankly, I’m impressed & a little surprised to read of your approval of the work of the Israeli media & NGOs who exposed it. Good for you.
I sent a link to this video to a cousin of mine in Israel. He is an intelligent guy, former PhD student, now a software engineer. As I was growing up, he was a role model for me. His father and grandfather escaped the Minsk ghetto and fought in the famous Jewish partisan group in the Nazi-occupied Belarus. This is his reply (my rough translation):
So this is how many Israelis see it. I’m afraid they don’t see anything wrong with this incident.
Ya nachalnik, te durak. Te nachalnik ya durak
If I’m the boss you’re a fool if you’re the boss I’m a fool.
“The logic is binary: either you are the master, or you’ll be spit on”
This is unfortunately true and has more to do with the human condition than the Palestinian Israeli conflict.
I served in Ketziot in 3~6 week sprints from late 1988 and until 1999 approx.Prison warders were constantly changed to avoid the burnout that regular soldiers experienced after six months of continuous service
Our objective was “sheked ta-siati”..keeping a lid on things.
We treated the prisoners as well as we could with the resources available and kept “provocations” to a minimum.
They had their own cooks who were supplied with very plentiful supplies and in truth they ate better than us.
They got good medical attention from the same medics that served us.Seriously sick prisoners were evacuated to Soroka hospital in Beersheva ASAP.
If we needed to search a compound we simply transferred
the prisoners to a vacant compound and searched them and their belongings on the way out and the newly vacant compound afterwards.Our searches were not intrusive.
We never used physical force on a prisoner and for the most part relations were cordial.
The only violence that I witnesses was the tortured bodied
of suspected collaborators which we sometimes found in the open before the morning count.
My prayer is that any Israeli P.O.W. receive the same treatment that we gave the mostly convicted prisoners and some administrative detainees in Ketziot.
As Leonid’s cousin rightly points out, rioting prisoners in most prisons in the world would be treated harshly.
However I cannot justify the death of Mohammed Ashkar
if it came about as described.It served no purpose other than to incite more hatred.
Perhaps SHABAS ( Sherut beti haTsoar~Prison Service)
had a problem with prison warder morale and wanted to reassert its authority.
In my opinion it is healthier to honestly investigate such an incident so that justice will be seen to have be served.
I believe that such incidents are very much the exception and not the norm but it’s been a while since I’ve been in Ketziot.
The Masada unit instigated the riot or did you miss the statement of one of the officers at the end of the Channel 2 report when he said as fires burned around him: “This was just what I wanted.” They wanted a riot & they got one.
Daniel, thank you for your story. I understand things are complicated, people may find themselves in extreme circumstances and it is often unfair to judge their actions without seeing a broader picture.
I often ask myself what I’d do in a situation of life and death. Just last week, in our local library’s book club, we discussed Primo Levi’s book “If This is a Man”, in which he tells about utterly inhuman conditions of his detention in Auschwitz. And then I ask myself: would I act like Janusz Korszak, who voluntarily followed the 190 children of his Jewish orphanage to the gas chambers, or would I become a kapo who abuses his fellow Jewish prisoners in order to survive? Note: I don’t compare this to the situation in the Israeli prisons. I am just talking about difficult choices under extreme circumstances.
But some people seem to enjoy humiliating others when given power over them. From the jokes and words of the guy who shot this video and of some other guys in the video, it looks like they enjoyed the “show”. If that’s what’s required to boost their moral, I can only conclude that the whole thing cannot be morally justifiable.
I admire you for your honesty and for the fact that you chose to remain human even though you had power over human lives
Hat tip to djonesowens1 for 8 hours of work with Hebrew translator and addition of English Subtitles!
Yes, wonderful work. I’d love to see the full transcript of the English dialogue. YouTube cuts off the dialogue for ea. line. This forced me to do my own translation for the bits that were lopped off at the ends of ea. line.
Strange. What browser are you using? On Firefox there is an interactive transcript where you can see the entire uploaded transcript. Check it out.
Google Chrome. I can see the transcript. What I said is that the ends of every line were missing, simply not visible.
I also tried using Firefox & if you look carefully there are often words at the ends of lines that are missing. It doesn’t happen in every line, but happens often enough to render the transcript truncated.
If we are looking for a direct blame, of course we should blame the soldiers, who were the ones being voilent unnecesary first. However, the real sad fact is that they are not to blame directly, because they are just the poor reuslt of hate-aducation against Arabs. We can actualy compere it successfully to the Palestinian kid being taught to hate jews, and having his opinion going stronger because of events like this. If one wants, one will ALWAYS find reasons to hate the other.
Israel is indeed it’s own destroyer, that says also in the Torah (which says that we get judged because of not working the god – and i take it as working morally and not keeping the Shabbat). Israel indeed needs a change and fast. But a change connot come with blaming the indevidual. We need to find a global-inner state solution.
When reporting events and searching someone to pay the price – we miss the real point of wanting to actualy change something. I’m not saying that there doesn’t need to be a reaction to this horibble case, I’m just saying that in the bottom line it simply won’t work.
If we want something to change, we need to HELP it change, instead of poking it to change.
Anat, I agree with you. How do you think can we help change things? What do you think needs to be done?
I’m glad to hear that someone sees eye to eye with me.. 🙂
I think a change needs to begin within ourselves. To my views, when Israeli people will treat their own “brothers” with respect, then eventually this will reach also treating the same. This is just a social revolution. We need a paper, means of media that are not controlled by reach families (and therefor don’t have an interest to keep the current situation). We need also to try stop talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not that we don’t need to change also there, just that nowadays everyone is judged to a side: either you “protect Israel’s rights”, or you “fight for human rights.” this judgement only leads to a freezing point. It may sound wacky, but we need to let people choose freely, without poking them to. this is pure psychology. If we publish enough a certain social “new/different/better way to treat each-other – and therefore being treated like this”, eventually this has to have enough power to change also our worst weak spots – also this conflict.
I hope my idea was put clear enough..
You want change but you want silence. That’s a recipe for failure if ever I heard one.
Sorry, but we’re way beyond that in terms of the I-P conflict. Maybe in 1968 I’d have felt more sympathy for that perspective. But not in 2011. Israel has chosen that it cannot choose freely the path to peace when give the opportunity. Now peace will have to come by an imposed plan.
Anat, thanks for presenting your point of view. Let me see if I understand you correctly. You seem to say that the Israeli people should learn to respect each other, that they should not be manipulated by the mass media, that we should stop talking about the I-P conflict in polarizing, judgmental, black-and-white terms, that the change should come from within, in a natural “psychological” way, so that the Israeli public will eventually itself arrive at the conclusion that peace and respect should also be extended to all people of the world, including the Palestinians and Arabs.
I must say that I respect your views. I agree that true, lasting changes are those coming from within. I agree that polarizing debate and mutual accusations usually drive people apart, with everyone remaining even more convinced in their own “rightness”.
However, we cannot stay silent while people next door are suffering, are being killed, robbed of their land, their houses demolished, their basic human rights trampled. Our change from within may just come too late for them. I am convinced that exposing injustice, violence, corruption in an open, unprejudiced way is necessary, so that we know what’s really going on.
Yet it is not sufficient. What’s needed is this: 1) we should reach out, tell our strories, listen to their stories, and sincerely apologize to each other for the wrongs we have committed against each other, 2) we should forgive each other whole-heartedly, and 3) we should sit down and solve the contentious issues in a giving, brotherly way.
Some would say that what I suggest is naïve and foolish. To this I can only say this: This will take a lot of courage and good will, but this is how individuals can and do resolve their differences, so why should this be impossible for nations?