Haaretz this week noted that the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel has brought suit before the Israeli Supreme Court on behalf of a Palestinian torture victim. Two police officers allegedly brutally abused their client in a prolonged police interrogation in 2007. After arresting him early one morning near al-Izarwiya, they stripped him naked, repeatedly beat him on every part of his body, kicked him, deafened him by firing a gun next to his ear, shoved a metal key into his eye, pushed his face into a substance smelling like insecticide, urinated on his face and the rest of his body, and for the torture piece de la resistance–sodomized him not once, but twice with a blunt instrument:
W. [the victim] claims he was punched all over his body, kicked, whipped with a coil and struck with a club. Y. was put on forced leave of absence from the police after the incident. W. also alleges that pressure was applied to his eyes, his ears were tied together until he bled, and a firearm was discharged near his ears. He was then sodomized with the use of a metal pole, he claims, and screamed in pain until the abuse stopped when a third person entered the room. W. claims that Y. then led him to a restroom and urinated on W.’s face and clothing. Y. initially denied this allegation, but after he himself was detained, Y. admitted that his urine had come in contact with the detainee, by mistake, he said. Findings from a medical examination of W. conducted some time later allegedly support the contention that he was subjected to violence.
This appears to be a tactic common to such police interrogations as Doron “Captain George” Zahavi’s IDF intelligence unit used on Mustafa Dirani. Dirani has brought suit in Israel against Zahavi supported by a former guard in the facility who confirms the victim’s claim he was sodomized. In his blog, Hani Zubeida notes that the first threat a policeman in a case which is the subject of his post issued to a Palestinian suspect was: “I’ll fuck you in the ass.”
Haaretz calls one of the officers “Y.” and another is unnamed, while it names the victim explicitly. Imagine that a Palestinian male victim is humiliated in the most damaging way a man can be in Arab culture, and reporter, Oz Rosenberg, decides he’s going to expose the victim, but not the perpetrator. Who deserves to suffer shame here? The victim or the police torturers?
Court documents identify the police officers, Yaakov Cohen and Rafi Cohen (apparently unrelated). It’s a schandeh for wrongdoers to stand behind national security considerations and be protected from public exposure. I want the world to know what they’ve done.
Cohen already has a pretty shady police record, as noted by Haaretz:
Y. has been the subject of two prior complaints over improper use of force that were filed with the Justice Ministry unit that investigates police officers. Both prior cases were closed, but he was found guilty on eight occasions of violations of disciplinary regulations.
The victim was incarcerated for a period of time during which military judge, Moti Schiff, held a hearing to determine whether to extend his remand. The victim told the judge he had been sexually tortured. The judge’s response: he agreed to extend his detention, but not, of course to investigate the claims of torture.
The Israeli prosecutor investigated the case and what do you think happened? Guilty? Not on your life. The investigation was closed “for lack of evidence.” Among the many miraculous excuses offered to justify dismissal was that no other police officers heard anything amiss in the interrogation room that night. For some odd reason the prosecutor failed to respond to an appeal filed against the dismissal of the case for a year after its deadline for doing so.
It should be noted that the victim is not a security detainee. He’s a petty criminal. Israelis will often find a justification for the use of torture in pursuit of terror suspects. But this is a perfect example of the slippery slope down which you slide once you allow torture in any circumstance, even the most exigent. From there, torture becomes standard practice in any case, even the most trivial.
There is also an Israeli rightist common theme running through reports like this–the need to bring sexual humiliation on Palestinian victims and their supporters. I’ve noted many times here the use of rhetoric published by commenters here and elsewhere online, which includes references to homosexual acts and the like. I’ve also reported here about incidents like the sexual abuse perpetrated at Anatot against female peace activists. A number of the perpetrators also were off-duty police officers and all were settlers. It should be noted the sodomy torture occurred in the Maaleh Adumim police station, part of an East Jerusalem settlement.
Occupation corrupts and absolute Occupation corrupts absolutely.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.