Amjad al-Safadi was an East Jerusalem defense attorney whose clients were Palestinian security prisoners. Two months ago, he himself was arrested by the Shabak and detained for 45 days. He was charged with aiding Palestinian militant groups and their detainees. During his detention he was tortured by Shabak interrogator goons. Among his claims were that electric shocks were used against him. He was released from prison and placed under house arrest (the same process used in the case of Majd Kayyal). Yesterday, five days after his release, he hung himself at his home and died.
News1, in that breathless credulous way Israeli media has of reporting Palestinian security “crimes,” claims (Hebrew) that four Palestinian lawyers were arrested (the charge sheet was filed on April 4th) after being recruited by a former prisoner to pass messages to arrestees from Islamic Jihad and Hamas housed in various prisons within Israel.
They were accused of “tens” of violations of various security statutes including “contact with a foreign agent,” “serving an unlawful association,” and “obtaining materials to facilitate in acts of terror.” The accused purportedly passed messages from the prisoners to the leadership of the militant groups with which they were affiliated. The attorneys were allegedly paid between $100-150 for each message delivered, with the funds coming from the militant groups in Gaza. The messages were designed to coordinate protests within the prisons against treatment of security detainees, including hunger strikes, attempts to establish “radio contact between Gaza and the prisons,” transfer of funds among the prisons and coordination between the organizations and their imprisoned leaders. The origin of these funds was allegedly an unnamed lawyer representing the organizations in Gaza.
For Israeli TV news coverage of the original arrests, see here.
Anyone who regularly reads this blog will know of my profound skepticism about virtually any criminal charge offered by the security services. While I haven’t been able to delve into the evidence offered, the charges in this case strike me as dubious, if not ludicrous. How some of the most highly surveilled prisoners in the Israeli prison system would’ve been able to create surreptitious radio communication between the prisons and Gaza, how they would have been able to transfer tens of thousands of dollars between prisoners and militant groups on the outside, how specifically the defendants aided in acts of terror–what materials they procured, and who they give them to? It all appears to be an elaborate fictional conspiracy.
These alleged activities began, according to the charge sheet in January 2012 and continued till their arrest. How such a conspiracy involving so much money, equipment and co-conspirators could’ve extended for a period of two years in some of the most secure facilities in the State of Israel beggars belief.
There are always readers who point out the heinous charges against the victims as if they were proven. So let’s keep in mind that not only weren’t the charges proven, the victims hadn’t been tried, let alone convicted. There is a presumption of innocence in most democracies, though my right-wing readers often conveniently forget this when a Palestinian is involved.
Whether or not al-Safadi was guilty of any of the charges, the very notion of torturing a defense attorney in a so-called democracy is beyond repulsive. What does it say about Israel that it’s torturers can make a well-educated professional man kill himself when released? Don’t Israelis understand that when their representatives do such heinous things it reflects on the entire nation? Or do they not care because they can create a wall between “us,” the Jews, and “them,” the Palestinians? What they do to “them” is somehow insulated from “us?”
All this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Israeli ‘democracy’ is skin deep and reserved for the Jewish sector. Among Israeli Jews there is a prevalent notion that their country can be a democracy even with the Palestinian minority being denied democratic rights. The very notion is preposterous and indicates Israel is an ethnocracy rather than a democracy.
I have only been able to find one instance of an Israeli Palestinian prisoner committing suicide in an Israeli prison and none of prisoners killing themselves shortly after release from the torture chambers (there is of course the example of Ben Zygier, who committed suicide in his cell). It’s always thrilling when Israel achieves yet another milestone in its march toward democracy and the rule of law!
I contacted the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and asked what they knew about the case. Ishai Menuchin the director told me that they’d tried to locate Amjad within the prison system twice during his detention without success. They heard he was at the Russian Compound (Jerusalem). When they arrived to see him they discovered he’d been moved to Ramon, a different prison. When they asked to meet with him there they were told he’d been released.
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.