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Hidden History of Zionism

Ralph Schoenman

The Hidden History of Zionism

Chapter 10
The Prevalence of Torture

9. Second Occupation   |   11. Prisons


The use of torture in Israeli prisons has been the subject of extensive inquiry. In 1977, the London Sunday Times conducted a five-month investigation. Corroboration was obtained for the evidence adduced. The torture documented occurred “through the ten years of Israeli occupation since 1967. The Sunday Times study presented the cases of forty-four Palestinians who were tortured. It documented practices in seven centers: prisons within the four principal cities of Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron and Gaza; the interrogation and detention center in Jerusalem known as the Russian Compound or Moscobiya; and special military centers located in Gaza and Sarafand. [135]

The investigation resulted in concrete conclusions: Israeli interrogators routinely ill-treat and torture Arab prisoners. Prisoners are hooded or blindfolded and are hung by their wrists for long periods. Most are struck in the genitals or in other ways sexually abused. Many are sexually assaulted. Others are administered electric shock.

Prisoners are placed in specially constructed “cupboards” two feet square and five feet high with concrete spikes set in the floor. And maltreatment, including “prolonged beatings,” is universal in Israeli prisons and detention centers. Torture is so widespread and systematic, concludes the Sunday Times, that it cannot be dismissed as the work of “rogue cops” exceeding orders. It is sanctioned as deliberate policy and all Israeli security and intelligence services are involved:

Patterns of Torture in Post-’67 Occupied Territories

Each detention center features interrogators with “apparent predilections.” The Russian Compound [Moscobiya] interrogators in Jerusalem “favor assaults on the genitals, besides endurance tests such as holding a chair with outstretched arms or standing on one leg.”

The specialty of the military center at Sarafand is to blindfold prisoners for long periods, assault them with dogs and hang them by their wrists. The specialty at Ramallah is “anal assault.” Electric shock torture is used almost universally. [136]

Fazi Abdel Wahed Nijim was arrested in July 1970. He was tortured at Sarafand and set upon by dogs. Arrested again in July 1973, he was beaten in Gaza prison. Zudhir al-Dibi was arrested in February 1970 and interrogated in Nablus where he was whipped and beaten on the soles of his feet. His testicles were squeezed and he was hosed with ice water.

Shehadeh Shalaldeh was arrested in August 1969 and interrogated at Moscobiya. A ballpoint refill was pushed into his penis. Abed al-Shalloudi was held without trial for sixteen months. Blindfolded and handcuffed while at Moscobiya, he was beaten by Naim Shabo, an Iraqi Jew, Director of the Minorities Department.

Jamil Abu Ghabiyr was arrested in February 1976 and held in Moscobiya. He was beaten on the head, body and genitals and made to lie in ice water. Issam Atif al Hamoury was arrested in October 1976. In Hebron prison the authorities arranged his rape by a prisoner trustee. [137]

In February 1969, Rasmiya Odeh was arrested and brought to Moscobiya. Her father, Joseph, and two sisters were detained for interrogation. Joseph Odeh was kept in one room while Rasmiya was beaten nearby. When they brought him to her she was lying on the floor in blood-stained clothes. Her face was blue, her eye black. In his presence, they held her down and shoved a stick into her vagina. One of the interrogators ordered Joseph Odeh “to fuck” his daughter. When he refused they began beating both him and Rasmiya. They again spread her legs and shoved the stick into her. She was bleeding from the mouth, face and vagina when Joseph Odeh fell unconscious. [138]

The patterns of torture reported by the Sunday Times are similar to those found in hundreds of testimonies published by Israeli lawyers, Felicia Langer and Lea Tsemel, by Palestinian lawyers Walid Fahoum and Raja Shehadeh, by Amnesty International and the National Lawyers Guild and the series of accounts this author documented from former prisoners. [139]

This record is established in the West Bank as early as 1968, one year after the occupation began. Although the International Committee of the Red Cross does not, as a rule, make public declarations, it had prepared in 1968 a finding of torture. Its Report on Nablus Prison concluded:

A number of detainees have undergone torture during interrogation by the military police. According to the evidence, the torture took the following forms:

1. Suspension of the detainee by the hands and the simultaneous traction of his other members for hours at a time until he loses consciousness

2. Burns with cigarette stubs

3. Blows by rods on the genitals

4. Tying up and blindfolding for days

5. Bites by dogs

6. Electric shocks at the temples, the mouth, the chest and testicles. [140]

The Case of Ghassan Harb

Ghassan Harb, a 37-year-old Palestinian intellectual and journalist for Al Fajr, a prominent Arabic daily, was arrested in 1973. He was taken by Israeli soldiers and two plain-clothes agents from his home to Ramallah prison where he was held fifty days. During this time he was neither interrogated nor accused. He was denied any contact with his family or a lawyer. [141]

On the fiftieth day, Ghassan Harb was taken with a sack over his head to an undisclosed place. Here he was subjected to sustained beating: “Fifteen minutes, twenty minutes beating with his hand across my face.”

Stripped naked and a bag placed over his head, he was forced into a confined space. He began to suffocate. He managed by moving his head against the “wall” to remove the bag and found himself in a cupboard-like compartment some 2 feet square and 5 feet high [60 cm. and 150 cm. respectively].

He could neither sit down nor stand up. The floor was concrete with a set of stone spikes set at irregular intervals. They were “sharp with acute edges,” 1.5 centimeters high. Ghassan Harb could not stand on them without pain. He had to stand on one leg and then replace it continuously with the other. He was kept in the box for four hours during the first session.

He was then made to crawl on his knees on sharp stones while being beaten for an hour by four soldiers. After being interrogated, Ghassan Harb was returned to his cell and the routine was repeated: beatings, stripping, forced to crawl into a dog kennel two feet square and then the “cupboard.” While in the cupboard at night he heard prisoners pleading, “Oh my stomach. You are killing me.”

Ghassan Harb’s ordeal has been corroborated independently by four people. Mohammed Abu-Ghabiyr, a shoemaker from Jerusalem, described the identical courtyard with its sharp stones and dog kennel. Jamal Freitah, a laborer from Nablus, described the “cupboard” as a “refrigerator” with the same dimensions. It had “a concrete floor with small hills ... with very sharp edges, every one like a nail.”

Kaldoun Abdul Haq, a construction company owner from Nablus, also described the courtyard and the “cupboard” with its floor “covered with very sharp stones set in cement.” Abdul Haq was hung by his arms from a hook in a wall on the edge of the courtyard.

Husni Haddad, a factory owner from Bethlehem, was made to crawl in the courtyard, the sharp gravel underfoot, and was kicked as he crawled. His box too had “a floor which had spikes like people’s thumbs but with sharp edges.”

Ghassan Harb was released two-and-a-half years later, never having been charged with a crime or brought to trial. His lawyer, Felicia Langer, succeeded in taking the matter of his maltreatment to the Israeli Supreme Court. No full statements were taken or admitted into the court hearing; no witnesses were called. The court dismissed out of hand all charges of torture.

The Case of Nader Afouri

Nader Afouri was a strong, vital man, the weight-lifting champion of Jordan. When he was released in 1980 after his fifth imprisonment, he could neither see, hear, speak, walk nor control his bodily functions. Between 1967 and 1980, Nader Afouri was held ten and a half years as an administrative detainee. Despite the brutal treatment and torture inflicted upon Nader during five imprisonments, the Israeli authorities could neither extract a confession nor produce any evidence with which to bring Nader Afouri to trial. [142]

The First Imprisonment-1967-1971:

“I was arrested initially in 1967, the first year of the occupation. They took me from my home in Nablus, blindfolded me and hanged me from a helicopter. All the people of Beit Furik and Salem villages near Nablus witnessed this.

“They brought me to Sarafand, the most harsh prison, a military prison. I was the first man from the West Bank or Gaza to be brought there. When they set the helicopter down, they pushed me out and ordered me to run. I heard gunfire and ran as they were shooting at me.

“They took me to a large room full of red, yellow and green lights. I could hear screams and the sounds of beatings. I heard a man yell: ‘You’ll have to confess.’ Then I heard a man confessing. Soon, I discovered this was a recording meant to intimidate me.

“Then they took me to the interrogator. They tied me with chains to green doors. Each door had a pulley. They opened the doom, spreading my hands and legs, then wound the pulleys till I fell unconscious.

“They made me get up on a chair, tied my hands to chains hanging from a window and slowly removed the chair. My muscles tore as the weight of my body pulled on my hands. The pain was terrible.

“There were five or six men. They all beat me. They hit me with blows on the head. They chained me to a chair. One would beat me and some of the other men in the room would say ‘Stop.’ Then they would change from one to the other, each hitting me in turn. I was kept chained in that chair and never allowed to stand up.

“They kept torturing me. An interrogator sucked on a cigarette. When it was red, he placed it on my face, chest and genitals – all over.

“One shoved a pen refill up my penis while the others watched. As they did this they asked me to confess. I started to bleed from my penis and was taken to Ramle Prison Hospital but was soon brought back again to Sarafand for further interrogation.

“I was in Sarafand twelve-and-a-half months and was interrogated continuously. No one can endure twelve-and-a-half months. On four occasions my friends in the other prisons were informed officially that I had died.

“The first month in Sarafand, I was always blindfolded and had chains on my hands and legs. After one month they removed the hand chains and blindfold. But I wore leg chains for twelve-and-a-half months. Day and night I had chains on my legs. The marks are still on my ankles.

“This was the routine: They would beat me, interrogate me, then throw me in the cell. I would rest awhile; then they would take me again.

“The cell was 3 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet high [1 meter by 1.3 meters by 1.3 meters]. My height is 5 feet 6 inches [1.7 meters]. I slept crouched with my legs up against my stomach. There were no windows in the cell and no furnishings, only a pot for shitting. I had two blankets. The stones on the floor were very sharp. They punctured my feet when I walked.

“They began to bring other prisoners. They gave us army clothes with numbers on the back. I was number one. They would only call me by my number, never by my name. They were always insulting me, yelling ‘Maniuk (Faggot), I will fuck you.’ When we were chained outside they brought savage dogs. The dogs jumped at us, grabbed our clothing and bit us.

“Over thirty people were arrested after my own detention and all underwent the same torture. All, however, broke down under torture and wrote confessions and are in prison for life. I didn’t confess. The torture destroyed my penis and I could only urinate drop by drop. I could not walk for three-and-a-half months when I finished the interrogation. But I did not confess. I never spoke a word in twelve-and-a-half months.”

Nader Afouri was sent to Nablus Prison where he began a hunger strike demanding his freedom. He took only water and a little salt. After ten days he was promised his release. Ten days later when Nader Afouri had not been released, he renewed the hunger strike for yet another week. Again the Administrative Vice-President of Nablus Prison promised to release him. When there was still no action after twenty-five days, Nader Afouri announced another hunger strike.

I was sent to the cells of Ramle prison after twenty-two days of this hunger strike. Dr. Silvan, the director there, brought several soldiers with him. They beat me on the head. I passed between life and death. They chained my hands and forced a tube in my nose. It was like an electrical shock. I began to shake. I became hysterical when the food reached my throat and began to scream constantly. They gave me an injection in the hip and I relaxed.

When this torture failed to make me talk I was placed in the Prison Hospital at Ramle and then sent back to Nablus Prison.

Each time a confession was extracted from another prisoner incriminating him, Nader Afouri would be called for interrogation. Often he did not even know the people who spoke against him. But still he did not confess, nor was he brought to trial.

Nader Afouri was well respected in Nablus and became a leader of the prisoners. When Abu Ard, an informer, accused him of leading the other prisoners, Nader Afouri was sent to Tulkarm prison.

On his arrival at Tulkarm, he was beaten on the face by Major Sofer and thrown into a cell with thirty-five other prisoners. Nader Afouri had had enough. When Major Sofer later approached Nader to hit him again, Nader Afouri punched Sofer through the bars of the cell door. When the Prison Director later struck him, Nader Afouri grabbed an ashtray and hit the Director on the head. The army was called. Nader Afouri described the consequences:

“Fifteen soldiers came in and beat me on the head with a chair. I fell unconscious. They put my shirt in my mouth and beat me more. I became hysterical as I was gagging. They gave me an injection and I fell unconscious. I awoke alone in the corridor. I couldn’t see.

All Tulkarm Prison went on strike and the prisoners met with the Director to speak about me. He promised he would release me the next day if they stopped their strike. The Director came the next day and shook hands with me and said: “I swear by my life that you are a man.” They brought me socks and a jacket and promised me a private visit with my family.

Nader Afouri was not freed. Instead he was sent to Bet Il prison from which he was eventually released in 1971. His four years of imprisonment were without trial and labelled administrative detention.

Only a few months lapsed before Nader Afouri was detained again. His second imprisonment lasted from 1971 until 1972 and a third from November 1972 until 1973. 

The Fourth Imprisonment: Nov. 1973 – Nov. 1976:

“Hebron, Moscobiya, Ramallah and Nablus: I stayed three months in a cell in each of these four prisons and the interrogation and torture continued.

“It was snowing during the interrogation in Hebron. They stripped me and put me outside in the cold. They tied me with chains to a pole and poured ice water over me. They let me down and brought me to a fire to warm up only to bring me outside again for the ice water treatment.

“Iron balls were put into my scrotum and squeezed against the testicles. Pain just enveloped me.

“One of the investigators, Abu Haroun, said he would turn my face into a bulldog’s. He was scientific. He hit me with rapid punches for two hours. Then he brought a mirror and said: ‘Look at your face.’ I did indeed look like a bulldog.

“In Nablus they burned me with cigarettes and again pressed the metal balls against my testicles-squeezing the egg against the iron. They used pliers to pull out four of my teeth.

“I was detained three years administratively. During that time as an act of revenge, they also dynamited my house.”

The Fifth Imprisonment: November 1978 – 1980:

“They arrested me again in November 1978 and sent me directly to Hebron. They greeted me, sneeringly, declaring: ‘We will make you confess from your asshole.’ I told them I speak from my mouth, not my asshole.

“At first they spoke nicely to me because they knew torture wouldn’t work. Then they brought the men in charge of interrogation: Uri, Abu Haroun, Joni, the Psychiatrist, Abu Nimer who has a finger missing, Abu Ali Mikha and Dr. Jims.

“They chained me to a pole and concentrated their beatings on my chest. They lay me down on the floor and jumped high in the air landing on my chest. Uri did this seven or eight times. It was savage, unending torture for seven days. They smashed their boot heels on my fingernails, breaking my fingers.

“It was snowing so they poured ice water on me. They handed me a paper and gave me two hours to confess. I said I knew nothing. They chained me to a chair. All of them began to beat me with their hands and feet. I fell down. My head was on the floor. I saw Uri fly through the air and I felt his karate chop on my head. This was the last memory I had for two years.

“I have been told that I was dragged back to the cell. The other prisoners had to feed me, clean me and turn me over. I was incontinent and shat on myself. I could not move my hands or walk. I could not hear. I could not recognize anyone. Only my lips could move and I would swallow whatever was put in my mouth. People had to move my head. They had to move my limbs from under my body. My weight fell to 103 pounds [47 kilos].

“Two years later, I woke up in a mental hospital. I had five fractures in my hips and I couldn’t walk.”

His friends were able to arouse public concern throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories. Israeli officials and journalists wrote that Nader Afouni was “feigning” and that he was an excellent “actor.”

But the prisoners who had taken care of him and the journalists and sympathizers who visited him when he was finally transferred from prison to a hospital, as well as the hospital staff that eventually treated him, bore witness to his condition. Nader Afouni became a cause celebre for the Palestinian people, a symbol of the torment inflicted upon them and of the heroic dimension of their resistance.

The Case of Dr. Azmi Shuaiby

Azmi Shuaiby, a dentist, was an active member of the El Bireh City Council in the West Bank and an elected representative to the National Guidance Committee. Since 1973, Dr. Shuaiby has been arrested, brutally tortured and imprisoned seven times. Between 1980 and 1986 he was forbidden to leave the limits of El Bireh and was confined to his house after 6 p.m. In 1986, he was again imprisoned and then deported from the West Bank. [143]

He has never been accused of armed actions or of promoting violence. But Dr. Shuaiby refuses Israeli demands that he collaborate. He has written articles against the occupation and settlements and in favor of an independent Palestinian state.

In 1973, when first arrested at the age of twenty, Azmi was told: “We have been watching you. You were first in your class at the University. We can make you a very rich and powerful man in the West Bank. You must cooperate with us and join the Village Leagues.” Upon his refusal, the series of arrests and savage torture began. Dr. Shuaiby described the methods of torture, both physical and psychological to which he was subjected.

They used heavy batons. They put my legs between chair legs so I couldn’t move. Then they beat the soles of my feet. My feet swelled. After one minute I could no longer feel my legs. The pain was excruciating. I was unable to stand.

They would stand behind me. I couldn’t tell if anyone were there. Suddenly, the interrogator clapped his hands over my ears with great force. It caused sudden, terrible pressure in my nose, mouth, and ears – a loud ringing which went on for five minutes. I lost my balance and hearing.

They used a giant guard to punch me constantly. He said: “You are a dentist? Which hand do you use? If we break your hand you will no longer be a dentist.” Then he beat my hand until I felt it break.

They tied my hands behind my back and suspended me on a hook. They spread my legs and beat me on the testicles with sticks. Then they squeezed my testicles. I cannot describe the agony produced by squeezing the testicles. You feel stabbing pain in your stomach, in all your nerves. You want to faint.

They put me outside in the winter, naked and fully exposed, with my cuffed hands suspended from hooks. I was hung this way from 11 p.m. at night until just before sunrise. Then I was returned to my cell. They had put water on the cell floor so that I couldn’t sleep.

They told me I must collaborate with them and that when I did I must tell neither the Red Cross nor anyone else that I was working for them. I replied: “OK, I will tell them that you said I must not tell anyone you want me to work for you.” I refused to collaborate. They beat me endlessly.”

In 1980, the Israelis introduced new techniques. Dr. Shuaiby designates these methods “psychological torture”; he found them harder to endure than the physical torment. “Your brain is affected.”

Dr. Azmi Shuaiby was subjected to the following ordeal:


“No one was allowed to speak to me, not even the soldiers. The cell was 4.5 feet by 5.5 feet and 9 feet high [1.5m by 1.8m by 3m]. In one corner was a stinking hole used as a toilet. There was only a tiny window near the floor. I could never see the sky. The bare light was on day and night. I had nothing to read. I heard no voices. Food was put in the corner and the door opened very slightly. I had to strain to reach for it piece by piece.

“The bedding consisted of a plastic cover less than one half inch [1 cm.] thick. It was always wet. Once a week I was allowed to go out for a few minutes to air the bedding. No soldier was permitted to speak to me.

“To maintain my sanity I collected small pieces of orange peel and made shapes with them. I would ask myself questions and then answer them. I also pulled threads from the blanket and knit them together.”

The Cupboard:

“I was entombed for four days and nights, squeezed into a bent but standing position in a cupboard 20 inches by 20 inches [50cm. by 50cm.]. It was very dark. A filthy sack had been tied over my head. My hands were handcuffed behind my back with special cuffs. If I moved my hands in any way the cuffs automatically tightened. I was unable to move in the cupboard. I had to sleep while standing. I slept a minute at a time, awakening abruptly, convinced that I was suffocating.”

The Interrogators:

“The interrogation and torture were carried out by a team. All were officers and captains, their names Gadi, Edi, Saini, Yacob and Dany. The interrogation room is their kingdom; no one can enter.

“During the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the interrogation team was sent to Lebanon and a new staff brought to the West Bank prisons. The ‘new staff’ consisted of former torturers. One man had been an interrogator ten years before; now he was a businessman.

“Captain Dany returned from Lebanon during my imprisonment. Captain Dany is a very tall, handsome man of thirty-five years. He is very crude, constantly yelling ‘Fuck your sister, fuck your mother.’ He would force my mouth open and spit in it. In 1973, he tried to force a bottle into my anus. When he saw me on his return from Lebanon, he said: ‘Oh, Azmi is here,’ and proceeded to tell me about the young children in Ansar. ‘I interrogate children 10, 11 and 12,’ he began, giving me accounts of their beatings.”

Dr. Azmi Shuaiby was imprisoned three times in 1982. Between December 7, 1981, and January 16, 1982, he was kept in isolation during the General Strike in the West Bank and the closure of Bir Zeit University. From April 1 to May 3, when the Israelis disbanded the West Bank City Councils, Azmi was placed in the “cupboard” and then again in isolation. He was kept in isolation throughout the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Recently they told me: “We will destroy your clinic by jailing you every alternate month. Our computer will determine when you are scheduled to be imprisoned again.”

In 1986, Dr. Azmi Shuaiby was deported.

The Case of Mohammed Manasrah

Mohammed Manasrah was a trade union activist, secretary of the Bethlehem University Student Senate and is currently a writer and journalist. He was imprisoned three times for a total of four-and-a-half years and then placed on additional probation for two years. His torture during interrogation was unrelenting, resulting in sexual dysfunction and hearing loss. He also endured numerous additional briefer detentions as well as house arrest and town restrictions. [144]

The First Imprisonment:

“I was nineteen years old in 1969 when I was arrested for the first time. I was taken with a group of people and held in the Moscobyia [the Russian Compound in Jerusalem] for six months, where I was interrogated about demonstrations, publications and organizations.

“Moscobiya was barbaric. They took our clothes and covered our eyes. They cuffed our hands and chained ten of us in a row. We were stripped naked. They threw water on us. Then they beat us in turn, using sticks on our heads and on our sexual organs. They would alternate throwing water on us and beating us on our sexual organs. We would hear them filling the buckets and brace ourselves, but no matter how we tried, we could never prepare ourselves for the beatings.

“My friend, Bashir al Kharya, a lawyer, has been in prison since 1969. They beat his head with heavy sticks for three days. His head became green from mold and was infected with bacteria for five years. He is still held in Tulkarm Prison.”

The Second Imprisonment:

“In 1971, the authorities accused me of membership in both the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and Fatah [Yasir Arafat’s group in the PLO] even though one couldn’t be a member of both organizations.

“The security services lacked any evidence but they gave me the choice of being charged with membership in an illegal organization and being sentenced to prison or voluntarily moving to Amman [Jordan]. I told them I would rather be imprisoned for a lifetime than be exiled. I confessed to membership in the United Student Council, the council of all student organizations which had been declared illegal. I was then imprisoned for one year in Ramallah and Nablus prisons.”

The Third Imprisonment:

“In 1975, they raided my house in Dheisheh camp and confiscated all my books. They brought me to Bassa Police Station where they beat me for two days. They asked no questions. One interrogator stood in front of me and another behind me. Suddenly the one behind would clap his hands with great force on both my ears. Blood flowed from my ears and mouth. I suffered brain damage. One prisoner, whom they were trying to terrify, fainted when they brought him to where I was being tortured.

“They imprisoned me for three years. I was held in Hebron, Ramallah, again in Hebron, Farguna, Beersheba, again in Hebron and then again in Beersheba. They would transfer me for ‘security reasons’ as punishment after hunger strikes.”

Torture in Hebron Prison:

Mohammed Manasrah was taken to Hebron and tortured in many different ways:

They tied me upside down and beat me endlessly on the feet with a piece of wood. You can’t imagine how much they hit me. My feet swelled to a huge size and turned blue. I bled under the skin.

They stripped me of my clothes and hung me by chains with my hands above my head and my feet barely touching the ground. They beat me constantly on the feet, always concentrating on my feet. Sometimes they would let me down and put my feet into a basin of filthy, stinking cold water. This would relieve the pain. Then they would hang me up again. I had to sleep chained up, with my hands above my head. This went on for fourteen days.

Maisara Abul Hamdia was with me. For every blow I received, he got two. Maisara would be hanging when I entered the torture room. Then Maisara would find me hanging when he was brought to the torture room. [Maisara was later deported to Jordan.]

After fourteen days, I would lose consciousness constantly. I was put in Cell #5. It was 5 feet 3 inches by 2 feet and 5 feet 6 inches high [160cm. by 60cm. by 168cm.]. It was as high as I am tall and its length was such that I had to put my legs on the wall when I lay down.

The only sound I ever heard was that of the keys. I became terrified whenever I heard that sound. I don’t know exactly how long I was there. It was somewhere between five days and one week.

I was beaten all night when they transferred me from Cell #5 to Cell #4. They used wide sticks and beat me on the head and sexual organs. They pulled my hair and hit my head on the wall. I have a permanent problem with my sexual organs and have had many X-Rays taken of my head and sexual organs.

I was brought to the military courtroom early in the morning and made to wait all day. But there was no session. Instead, Abu Ghazal, the famous interrogator, came. He grabbed my hair and swung me around the room, smashing me against the wall. My hair was pulled out. He threatened to send me to Sarafand or “Akka” [a secret prison used in 1974 and 1975] if I didn’t confess within two days.

I was put in a cell and slept the entire time. I didn’t know if it were day or night, two days or ten. I still feel cold when I recall this period. I get chills in my legs.

After two days, ten soldiers rushed into my cell and started to beat me. They dragged me along the floor to the torture room. They told me that my friends and comrades had confessed. I said: “Bring them to me.” I knew these were lies. They brought two types of people to me in order to make me confess: kind, weak people who couldn’t bear to see how I was being tortured and “asafir” [spies].

Now they initiated other methods – alternating between beatings and soft talk in the hope that I would crack and “confess.” They accused me of being a member of the PFLP, Fatah and the Communist Party. They would change their accusation, but one thing remained constant: after each accusation they would beat me savagely.

They brought two Majors to see me who lectured me for six hours – about the Soviet Union’s crimes against the Jews and China’s oppression of its national minorities. They accused me of being a communist because they found books on Marxism in my house. I told them there couldn’t be peace here without self-determination for the Palestinian people. They asked me to write this down and sign it and I did.

After forty-six days of interrogation and detention they sent me to a military court in Ramallah. I was accused of having carried out actions against the authorities. My lawyer, Ghozi Kfir, asked for specifics. The court responded: “This is a revolutionary and a deceiver.”

Before the hearing my lawyer and the prosecutor had worked out a deal. I was to be released without charge if I did not speak in court about how I was tortured. But the judge ignored the agreement and sentenced me to five years. I served three years and was placed on probation for two.

House Arrest and Municipal Restriction:

The Shin Bet harassed Mohammed Manasrah after he was released from prison. They approached every employer for whom he worked and told them to fire him. Mohammed Manasrah lost four jobs before becoming a full-time trade union organizer.

On January 7, 1982, Mohammed Manasrah was ordered to return from Bethlehem to Wadi Fukin, the small village of his birth located inside the pre-1967 border. He was placed under house arrest in Wadi Fukin for six months. He had no income and had to depend upon his neighbors’ help.

The authorities and the Village League [collaborators] threatened Mohammed Manasrah, his family and all with whom he came in contact. His house was raided many times; books and papers were taken. His family was prevented from travelling to the West Bank. His brother’s work permit was removed. His sister-in-law was attacked by the Village League when they mistook her for Mohammed’s wife.

The Military Governor threatened every family whose sons visited him. The young men were investigated. Three teachers from the elementary school were interrogated after such visits. “They installed a siege around me: economic, social and psychic.”

Mohammed Manasrah, in defiance of the municipal restriction, returned to Bethlehem where at least his wife was able to work. “My brother and his child were arrested in order to pressure me to return to Wadi Fukin, but I remained in Bethlehem.”

His house arrest was eventually transferred to Bethlehem. “I couldn’t stay home long. I went here and there. The soldiers grabbed me and took me to prison.”

On December 1, 1982, a new military order permitted him to move within the municipal borders, but he was not allowed to work. He was obliged to report to the Military Governor each day and remain there until noon.

After a year, the restrictions ended. Less than one month later, the Military Governor ordered a further six-month municipal restriction.

Imprisonment Again:

Mohammed Manasrah entered Bethlehem University in 1983 to study sociology. He was soon elected Secretary of the Student Senate. In November 1983, he and other members of the student organization were imprisoned after sponsoring a Palestinian cultural exhibit.

Torture of Palestinian Youths

Torture is routinely administered to Palestinian youths, whether they are Israeli citizens or residents of the Occupied Territories. Himsam Safieh and Ziad Sbeh Ziad, from the Galilee, were arrested on a charge of raising the Palestinian flag on the first anniversary of the massacre of Sabra and Shatila. Six months later they were released, having been acquitted when no evidence against them could be produced and a confession could not be extracted. In court, the youths spoke of the torture to which they had been subjected while in detention.

They were sprayed with cold water and left naked in a cold room. They were beaten over their entire bodies, including their genitals. Electric torture was used. Ziad, his hands tied behind his back, was thrown back and forth from one interrogator to the next. He was beaten on the face and neck. He refused to sign a confession. [145]

Mu’awyah Fah’d Qawasmi, son of the assassinated mayor of Hebron, Fah’d Qawasmi, and his cousin, Usameh Fayez Qawasmi, were among the 17,000 Palestinian youths detained by the Israelis during the recent uprising in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli interrogators poured water on them, hooked clips attached to electric wires to their feet and then turned on the current. Mu’awyah lost consciousness three times during half an hour of electric shock torture. [146] Lawyers who regularly defend those accused of “security” offenses declare unanimously that the Military Courts in Israel and the post-1967 Occupied Territories “collude in and knowingly conceal the use of torture by Israel’s intelligence services.” [147]

Should defense counsel challenge the validity of the confession or present evidence of torture, a “little trial” or “Zuta” [Hebrew] occurs. The prosecution produces the army or police officer who took down the confession. But, as the Israeli lawyer, Lea Tsemel, observes: “The officer takes the statement, indeed often composes it for the prisoner. But this officer does not conduct the interrogation or perform the torture. Hence he can state that the confession was freely accepted.” [148]

Interrogators and warders can rarely be identified and brought to court because they use assumed Arab names such as Abu Sami and Abu Jamil or nicknames such as Jacky, Dany, Edi, Orli, etc. Even when a prisoner succeeds in bringing his torturer to court, there is no result. Lea Tsemel described how, after enormous effort, in which countless obstacles were overcome, the interrogator who had tortured her client was brought into the courtroom. “He just looked at the defendant and said he had never seen him before in his life. That ended the matter.” [149]

Wasfi O. Masri succeeded in having five confessions ruled inadmissible – for which he is much admired among lawyers in Israel and the post-1967 Occupied Territories. This, however, does not assure acquittal. The five were from “a total of thousands.”

House Arrests and Town Restrictions

Under Regulation 109 of the Defense Emergency Regulations, a Military Governor may force any person to live in any place he designates. He may confine people to their homes or towns. Travel and association may also be restricted. Such penalties are issued for six months, but they can be renewed repeatedly. In some cases, people have been restricted “until further notice.”

Those placed under house arrest, town or travel restrictions are neither formally charged nor brought before a court of law. The Military Governor issuing the order is under no obligation to specify the nature of the offense. Although the restricted person has the right to bring his or her case before both a Military Appeals Committee and the Israeli Supreme Court, it is rare for the Court to challenge any decision based upon grounds of “security” and difficult for the victims and their attorneys to prepare a case. The Military Governor will not specify the details of the charge or the evidence supporting it.

Regulation 109 has been used against Palestinians in Israel as well as the territory occupied since 1967. It has been used against intellectuals, journalists, teachers, artists, lawyers, trade unionists, students and political figures, many, but by no means all of whom were outspoken in their criticism of Israeli policies and in their support of self-determination for the Palestinian people. Between January 1980 and May 1982, Amnesty International noted that 136 restriction orders were issued, affecting 77 people [150]; 100 restriction orders were issued in September 1983 after events commemorating the first anniversary of the massacre of Sabra and Shatila [151]; and the policy has continued to date.


135. London Sunday Times, June 19, 1977.

136. Ibid., p.18.

137. Ibid. (also the citation for the above case-studies).

138. Ibid. For Rasmiya Odeh’s personal account, see also Soraya Antonius, “Prisoners for Palestine: A List of Women Political Prisoners”, Journal of Palestine Studies.

139. Lea Tsemel, Political Prisoners In Israel – An Overview, Jerusalem, November 16, 1982. Lea Tsemel and Walid Fahoum, Nafha is a Political Prison, May 13, 1980, and a series of reports (May 1982-February 1983). Felicia Langer, With My Own Eyes, (London: Ithaca Press, 1975). Felicia Langer, These Are My Brothers, (London: Ithaca Press, 1979). Jamil Ala’ al-Din and Melli Lerman, Prisoners and Prisons in Israel, (London: Ithaca Press, 1978). Walid Fahoum, two books of case histories, available in Arabic. Raja Shehadeh, Occupier’s Law: Israel and the West Bank, (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1985). National Lawyers Guild 1977 Middle East Delegation, Treatment of Palestinians in Israeli-Occupied West Bank and Gaza, (New York: 1978). Amnesty International, Report, October 21, 1986. Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone, Prisoners of Israel: The Treatment of Palestinian Prisoners in Three Jurisdictions, (Princeton, N.J.: Veritas Press, 1984) (Prepared in an abbreviated form for the United Nations International Conference on the Question of Palestine).

140. National Lawyers Guild, p.103.

141. Case Study: Ghassan Harb, Ramallah. London Sunday Times, p.19.

142. Case Study: Nader Afouri, Nablus. Schoenman and Shone, pp.22-26.

143. Case Study: Dr. Azmi Shuaiby, El Bireh. Schoenman and Shone, pp.30-32.

144. Case Study: Mohammed Manasrah, Bethlehem. Schoenman and Shone, pp.33-36.

145. Al-Fajr Jerusalem Palestinian Weekly, March 14, 1984

146. Al-Fajr Jerusalem Palestinian Weekly, January 10, 1988.

147. London Sunday Times, p.18.

148. Ibid.

149. Ibid.

150. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, The Bitter Year: Arabs Under Israeli Occupation in 1982, (Washington, D.C.: 1983), p.211.

151. Al-Fajr Jerusalem Palestinian Weekly.


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