Proving Torture: No Longer Necessary in Israel
Allegra Pacheco, Esq.
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel
March 4, 1999
…[D]espite the current predicament of Israel and the pressing need to prevent terrorism, Israeli
investigators are never, and have never been authorized to use torture, even if such use might possibly
prevent terrible attacks and save human lives. Likewise it is forbidden to use cruel, inhuman or degrading
procedures of interrogation...
Last month, attorney Shai Nitzan from the State’s Prosecutor’s Office representing the Israeli security services ("Shabak"),
stood before a nine judge panel of the Israeli High Court of Justice and told them that the "Shabak" will improve interrogation
conditions by introducing regular chairs instead of footstools, "relatively comfortable handcuffs" and ski goggles. Nitzan was
responding to six petitions submitted by several human rights organizations including the Public Committee Against Torture in
Israel of which I represented, demanding the court to outlaw the use of torture in Israel.
Nitzan stated that the Shabak recognized that some of its interrogation methods were quite onerous but they were lawful since
they did not amount to torture. However, recognizing the difficult circumstances Palestinian interrogees faced under
interrogation, the Shabak decided to "inject a bit a relief". No more stinking army sack urinated upon by policemen or laden
with vomit from prior interrogees to wear continuously over the head for weeks. Instead, tight plastic ski masks/goggles around
the face blackened so that the Palestinian interrogee will see only darkness for 24 hours a day for weeks on end. No more
handcuffs on the feet that are made for wrists only and which tear the skin and cause enormous swelling and nerve damage. No
more slanted footstools to shackle the interrogee into contorted positions – now it will be a regular chair.
Thus, the Shabak will continue to use, albeit with gentle handcuffs, "moderate physical pressure" against hundreds of Palestinian
interrogees and remain well within the confines of Israeli law and jurisprudence. When one Israeli High Court Justice asked the
State Attorney about the UN Committee Against Torture’s determination that these interrogation methods constitute torture,
Nitzan quipped and stated, "we all know quite well how the United Nations decides when it comes to Israel." No justice
requested a further explanation.
Moderate physical pressure applied in Israeli interrogations against hundreds of Palestinian interrogees is legal in Israel. The
following is a list of Shabak interrogation methods that fall within the Israeli definition of moderate physical pressure. Most of
these methods are applied in the aggregate for prolonged periods of time lasting for days:
1.shackling interrogees in contorted painful positions on a titled footstool (known as shabeh),
1.chaining in bent positions to pipes protruding from the wall,
1.tying or holding in painful stretching positions with hands raised behind the back on a table (qas’at a-tawla),
1.forced exposure to extreme temperatures of cold or heat,
1.forcing the interrogee with kicks and blows to bend forward on the tips of his toes with his hands handcuffed
behind his back, (qambaz),
1.stretching over a backless chair causing enormous pressure on the stomach until vomiting begins.
All this in addition to subjecting the interrogee to blaring loud music 24 hours a day, sleep denial for days, and covering his head
with a thick army sack for nearly the entire interrogation period. Enhanced moderate physical pressure includes body and head
shaking -violently rattling the interrogee’s body and head until at times the interrogee falls unconscious. This last method has
been linked to the death of Palestinian interrogee Harizat during his interrogation in the Russian Compound.
This past Sunday, I met with five Palestinians who had just finished their interrogations with the Shabak. Not only were their
heads covered with the rancid thick sacks for weeks, but they were shackled to footstools, pipes and tables, and handcuffed so
tightly that they lost circulation in the arms and legs. None of the bits of relief discussed above had been implemented. Indeed
one Palestinian interrogee was taken to the hospital during his interrogation after his entire leg swelled and developed internal
bleeding from the tight handcuffs. Two others to this day still do not have full sensory ability in their hands. And they spoke of
other interrogation methods which apply severe pressure to sensitive areas of the body like the neck, throat, genitals, chest and
head. The interrogators are so well-versed in torture that in one case the interrogator put band-aids on his fingers so they
wouldn’t slip as he tightly gripped the interrogee’s neck, pressed his thumb and index fingers into his throat and lifted him up
from the floor.
How is it that the State Attorney can stand in front of the court and talk about sacks, chairs and handcuffs and the court refuses
to declare that it all must stop? How has the discourse in Israel been so twisted that today, so that all parts of Israeli society and
government refrain from taking any steps to ban torture in Israel? And how can the State Attorney can brush off the declaration
of the highest United Nations committee on torture as anti-semitic or typically anti-Israel? The answer, as will be elaborated
further stems from Israel’s decision to place "state security" as the highest moral value over and above the need for respect of
The Torture Process – Arrest, Interrogation, Litigation: A General Description
A Palestinian is taken into interrogation after he arrested by the Israeli Army or the Shabak generally from his home, at a
checkpoint or at times at a border crossing. Rarely is the Palestinian arrested while committing any offense. After his arrest he is
transferred out of the Occupied Territories to one of the four interrogation centers located in the middle of or near major urban
centers in Israel: The Russian Compound deep in the heart of the club/bar section of downtown Jerusalem, Shiqma prison
located in the industrial area of Ashqalon, Jalema located ten minutes from Haifa and Petach Tikva, also located in the heart of
downtown Petach Tikva. It is in these interrogation centers where the torture occurs.
Despite the fact that the interrogation is carried out in prisons located inside Israel and by Israeli government officials, Israeli law
(which provide numerous rights to a detainee) is not applicable. Instead, Israeli military orders from the Occupied Territories
remain the controlling law. The Israeli High Court of Justice has affirmed this in numerous petitions.
A Palestinian interrogee has the right to see a lawyer if he requests one or if a lawyer is appointed. However, under Military
Order 378 the Shabak interrogator in charge of the interrogation may issue a written order preventing access to a lawyer for
fifteen days if in his opinion it is necessary for the security of the region or for the sake of the interrogation. Access to counsel
can be extended for another fifteen days by a higher officer in the Shabak. It can then be denied for sixty days or longer by
order of a military court judge. Thus a Palestinian interrogee can be held in incommunicado detention for up to ninety days in all.
The criteria for determining what constitutes, "security of the region or the sake of the interrogation" is secret. In tens of petitions
to the Israeli High Court of Justice on torture submitted by PCATI, the court was requested to order the government to
produce these criteria. Until today, the court has yet to demand these criteria.
Generally the prohibition on the lawyer’s visit lasts for three to five weeks. It is during this time that the most intense torture is
applied. The interrogee is in total incommunicado for the entire time, except for a visit after 14 days by a Red Cross official
who is not allowed to publicize the torture of the interrogee.
An interrogee is also brought before a military judge to authorize extending the detention period. The military judge holds
military court in the interrogation center inside Israel. The hearing is in Hebrew with scant translation in Arabic. The security
services submit a secret file to the judge which the defense lawyer is not allowed to see. If the hearing is in the beginning of the
interrogation when there is a prohibition on the lawyer’s visit, then the lawyer cannot even consult with the client about the
interrogation. The lawyer is left with hardly anything to say. The exhausted interrogee generally remains silent. In most cases, the
judge extends the interrogation period for 30 days. This process goes on for approximately 2 1/2 months until the Shabak ends
its interrogation. Then the interrogee is left in the interrogation cell in isolation for another two to three weeks and if there is
enough evidence, he is charged and transferred to an Israeli prison.
Because the interrogee’s rights are dictated by military order, any appeal against the torture or the prohibition of the lawyer’s
visit is directly submitted to the Israeli High Court of Justice which is authorized to review Israeli military actions in the
Occupied Territories. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) embarked on a project two years ago of
submitting petitions to the High Court each and every time there is a prohibition on the lawyer’s visit and/or claims of torture.
These petitions are for an order nisi (show cause order) demanding the government to explain why it will not refrain from
torture or allow a lawyer’s visit. Last year, over 60 petitions were submitted such that in 1998 the Israeli High Court heard
claims of torture at least once each week.
By the time a hearing date is set in the High Court, the interrogee has already been under interrogation for 2-3 weeks. If he has
confessed, or it is clear that his case is weak and that is his threat to the security of Israel is marginal i.e. he is a member of
Hamas and gives religious lessons to the village, then the government generally strikes a deal with the defense attorney: If the
attorney withdraws the petition, the government will allow the lawyer to visit and certify in writing that "at the present time, no
physical pressure is being used against the interrogee and he is allowed to sleep reasonable hours." Most petitions to the High
Court end this way.
In about ¼ of the cases, the Government insists on maintaining the prohibition on the lawyer’s visit and refuses to stop the
"physical pressure". The case goes to oral argument in front of the High Court where the government presents a secret file to
the court to justify its actions. If the defense attorney refuses to allow the High Court to see the secret evidence, then the court
takes on the assumption that the government is justified and does not issue the order nisi and closes the case. If the defense
attorney agrees that the court examine the secret evidence behind closed doors, then the attorney leaves the courtroom and the
court sits with the interrogators. The Shabak interrogators then explain why the interrogee is a danger to state security and why
the physical pressure and incommunicado detention must continue. Since I have never sat in I can only assume this is what
occurs. Sometimes the court tries to pressure both sides to reach a compromise - that the defense attorney allow the
government four more days of incommunicado detention and certify no pressure. Where no agreement can be reached, the
court sees the evidence behind closed doors and with few exceptions, does not issue an order nisi and the case is closed. The
government is then permitted to continue the physical pressure and the incommunicado detention.
The Israeli High Court of Justice: The Ghanimat Case
In December 1997, PCATI petitioned the Israeli High Court for an order nisi regarding the torture and incommunicado
detention of Fouad Qur’an (represented by attorney Lea Tsemel) and Abed Ghanimat (represented by myself). PCATI argued
that shackling Ghanimat and Qur’an in contorted positions on a stool with a stinking thick sack on their heads and loud music
blaring (known as "shabeh"), all the while denying them sleep for days was unlawful pressure used to extract information, and
not simply a bureaucratic solution to the "waiting" period between interrogation sessions as the government had alleged up to
then. PCATI asked the court if this was really just a waiting period, then why couldn’t the interrogees wait in their cells on a
mattress instead of in painful shackling and contorted positions? Although these petitions were perhaps the 49th and 50th
petitions submitted by PCATI in 1997 on this issue, the Court suddenly decided to demand an answer from the Government. It
issued the order nisi- the show cause order.
On Jan. 20, 1998 the High Court convened a panel of nine judges to hear the government’s response. Human rights
organizations were encouraged by this and hoped that the High Court would finally take a stand and ban torture in Israel.
During oral argument, the government admitted that in the aggregate, the shabeh method did cause pain and influenced the
interrogee’s mental and physical state but was not applied intentionally to cause this pain. Accordingly, PCATI requested a
second temporary injunction to halt the use of shabeh against Ghanimat (the torture of Qur’an had ended) considering that
Ghanimat had endured over two months of shabeh so far. Despite ten hours of hearings, secret evidence and a slide show
presented by the Shabak behind closed doors, the court failed to issue a decision. In a 5-4 decision, the court also rejected the
request for an injunction to stop the use of torture against Ghanimat.
Five months later, the Court decided to join other outstanding petitions on Shabak torture methods and set a hearing date for
May 20th. Between the two court sessions, nothing was done to prevent the Shabak from continuing to torture Palestinian
interrogees. In the May 20th hearing, the government retracted it’s prior position and admitted that shabeh was part of the
overall interrogation process and not a bureaucratic measure to deal with the "waiting" period between interrogation sessions. In
other words, the government admitted it had lied to the court all these years about its use of shabeh. Again, the court did
nothing; no decision, no banning of torture.
The High Court in response told the government that it would not do its dirty work and legalize torture. It advised the
government to pass a law to legalize these activities or the court would have difficult time deciding the case. The court dragged
its feet for eight months waiting for the government to pass the law. In the meantime, no injunction was issued to stop the use of
torture temporarily until it was legalized.
In January 1999, the court convened another session, part of which I described in the opening of my talk. The court allowed
the government to argue for four additional hours. When it came the turn of the petitioners - the human rights organizations – the
President of the High Court, Justice Barak asked the petitioners’ attorneys how long they planned to argue. The attorneys
stated that they intended to argue for two and a half hours. It was 1:00 pm. Justice Barak responded then that he would
continue the hearing on another day. Until today, no hearing has been convened. Torture continues.
The Landau Commission Report:
One of the fundamental reasons why the court refrains from banning these interrogation methods is because they have been
semi-legalized and internalized by the legislative and legal system. After two scandals in the late 1980’s where the Shabak lied
about its use of torture, the Israeli government established a Commission headed by former Supreme Court Justice Landau to
investigate and report on Shabak interrogation practices. The Commission published its findings in a two section report known
today as the Landau Report. The first part found that the Shabak over the years had routinely lied to the courts denying that it
had employed torture. The second part related to Shabak interrogation practices. Second two, detailing permitted interrogation
methods was classified as secret and made unavailable to the public.
The Landau Commission adopted the Shabak’s position that without some sort of physical pressure, "effective interrogation is
inconceivable." It thus recommended that the Shabak be permitted to use psychological pressure and a "moderate measure of
physical pressure" against Palestinian interrogees. These methods would include:
non-violent psychological pressure through a vigorous and extensive interrogation with the use of
stratagems, including acts of deception. However, when these do not attain their purpose the exertion of a
moderate measure of physical pressure cannot be avoided.
This pressure however, "[m]ust never reach the level of physical torture or the maltreatment of the suspect or grievous harm to
his honor which deprives him of his human dignity" The secret annex to the report contained guidelines detailing permissible
methods of pressure that can be used during interrogations and boundaries not to exceed. The UN committee Against Torture
along with numerous international and Israel human rights organization condemned the Landau Guidelines holding that permitting
the use of "moderate physical pressure as a lawful mode of interrogation is completely unacceptable.
Until the Landau Report, the Shabak utilized traditional forms of torture against Palestinian interrogees including electric shock,
beatings, cigarette burning etc. As a result of the Landau Report’s sanctioning of pressure, the Shabak developed a series of
interrogation methods that do not leave any marks on the body and thus appear to be moderate. (This explains the untraditional
and often bizarre techniques that I described above utilized against Palestinian interrogees.) However, these methods are
designed to cause enormous pain and intense and sometimes permanent internal organ damage to the stomach and back, and
sensory damage to the arms, legs and ears. Further, if wrongly applied, they could result in death as in the Harizat case I
mentioned above who died from the body shaking technique in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. The UN Committee
Against Torture in May 1998 held these interrogation methods constitute torture and/or cruel and degrading treatment and are
The Landau Commission’s secret guidelines define the interrogation methods as moderate forms of pressure and as such (under
the Report’s logic), do not violate international legal standards against torture However, Israel’s penal law prohibits the use of
any force during interrogation. The Commission overcame this problem by expanding the existing defense of necessity under
Israeli law to a prospective immunity which removes criminal liability from any Shabak interrogator who uses force when it is
immediately necessary to save a life or property from serious injury. The Landau Commission’s legal justification for sanctioning
pressure during interrogations can be summed up accordingly: (a) the use of "moderate physical pressure" passes international
legal standards, (b) the necessity defense already exists, allowing the extraction of information by pressure and (c) a confession
thus obtained is admissible in court.
The Landau Report’s conclusions were never ratified as law but they form the basis for most court rulings on petitions regarding
allegations of torture during Shabak interrogations. It is interesting to note, that under the Rabin government, the Israeli
legislature (Knesset) and a special ministerial committee, expanded the Landau Guidelines and permitted the Shabak to use
force categorized as "enhanced physical pressure." This permit has been extended routinely until today by the special ministerial
Legalizing Torture: Terrorism and the Danger for Modern "Democracies"
In Israel today, the debate is not whether torture exists. Rather, the discourse occurs in the realm of justifications for the use of
torture. The Israeli government has developed a set of sophisticated legal and moral arguments rationalizing and supporting
torture. Every major human rights organization and the UN Committee Against Torture have rejected these arguments and have
called on Israel to refrain from using "moderate physical pressure" against Palestinian interrogees. Nevertheless, the Israeli
public, legislature and even the High Court of Justice in hundreds of torture cases brought before it continues to accept the
justifications for this torture and permit its continued use.
The Israeli arguments can be summed up as follows:
1.The interrogations methods do not constitute torture.
2.The security of the state and the fight against terrorism justifies the use of pressure during interrogations.
3.Administrative, legal and legislative controls exist to prevent abuse.
Below are quotations from the State of Israel’s statement to the UN Committee Against Torture on May 1998 regarding these
I. The methods are not torture:
Mr. Chairman Israel has never claimed that its predicament –the struggle against terror- is an exceptional
circumstance justifying the use of torture. Clearly, the very existence of this provision in the Convention,
as well as the absolute terms in which is drafted…require that all of us,… proceed to make an exact and
precise interpretation of the definition of torture Article 1.
Mr. Chairman, this delegation…has gone to some lengths in order to describe the reasoning behind the
provision of the 1987 Landau Guidelines enabling the use of "moderate physical pressure." Permit me
once again to reassure the Committee that such pressure, by definition, does not amount to "torture" or
"cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment…
The definition of torture in Article 1 as inflicting severe pain or suffering indicates that there is exertion of
pressure which does not inflict such pain or suffering and does not therefore constitute torture. The
reference to cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment in article 16 indicates that there is exertion of
pressure that does not amount to such treatment. The dividing lines exist. They are not clear and they
cannot be arbitrarily imposed in a general manner…
I refer to the legal position put forward by Israel that the procedures of interrogation used in order to
prevent acts of terrorism do not amount, by any legal criterion, to either torture as defined by Article 1 of
the Convention, nor to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as wet out in Article 16…
Mr. Chairman, any interpretation of the prohibition of torture and of cruel, inhuman or degrading
procedures of interrogation, according to the Convention must, of necessity, accurately reflect the
restrictive scope of the prohibition as defined in the Convention itself- especially when that definition
makes reference to a specific criterion of severity [emphasis in the original] as a means of measuring the
extent or degree of any physical or mental suffering. Accordingly, in determining the lawfulness under the
Convention of a specific measure, careful consideration must surely be given to the question whether that
measure in fact meets the criterion or degree of severity set out in the Convention…
The question arises, Mr. Chairman, whether the criterion of severity was considered with respect to all
these allegations…How loud does music have to be in order to be considered "torture"…? What is the
nature of a threat in order for it to meet the criteria required in the Convention?
II. Physical Pressure is the only means to stop terrorism:
During the last year, three major terrorist cells were exposed and dismantled. These groups had made
plans and preparations for many horrific acts. ..They planed to seize a foreign embassy…they intended to
send booby-trapped video tapes…
All these attempts were foiled throughout the prompt and careful response of the security forces enabling
them to obtain information as quickly as possible, that was essential in uncovering the planned acts of
terror. The importance of this work cannot therefore be underestimated or dismissed, and to this end, as I
have stated, the Landau Commission determined the criteria of "moderate physical pressure. I must stress
again that this information, essential as it was for the saving of lives, was not attained through means of
torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
I would note here that torture in Israel is used to extract information and my experience along with my colleagues shows that
there is no limit as to the imperativeness of the need for information. Under the Shabak argument, all information is essential to
combat terrorism. The Shabak does not differentiate whether the interrogee is the source of the danger or the source of
information relating to the danger. Nor does the Shabak make any distinction between investigating a past danger and a future
danger. In the Report of the State of Israel Concerning the Implementation of the ICCPR submitted in 1998, to the UN Human
Rights Committee the government stated that physical pressure is used in circumstances:
[I]n which the information sought from interrogees believed to be personally involved in serious terrorist
activities can prevent imminent murder, or where the interrogees possess vital information regarding
the activities of a terrorist organization which could not be uncovered by any other means…"
(emphasis added)… …These guidelines are designed to enable investigators to obtain crucial information
on terrorist activities from suspects who, for obvious reasons, would not volunteer such information…
III. Controls exist to contain the pressure so it won’t be abused:
Interrogees are free to utilize a variety of legal and administrative remedies…on-going real-time system of
judicial review of interrogation procedures…By this unique system, any interrogee under interrogation
who believers that improper measure are being used against him is entitled to petition directly and
immediately to the Supreme Court sitting as a High Court of Justice and demand that the use of such
measure be terminated. If the Court finds that such procedures have been used, and that they constitute
torture or cruel , inhuman or degrading treatment, it has the authority to grant the petition and prohibit
the use of such procedures.
Mr. Chairman, not only the executive, but also the judiciary have been made aware of last year’s
discussion in this Committee. The High Court of Justice has scheduled for discussion a number of general
petitions concerning the legality of various interrogation procedures, for a hearing to be conducted by 9
judges- a rarity in Israeli law….the special format of the hearing indicates the gravity with which the
Court regards the matter and will consequently give particular weight to its ruling...
Finally, ..the recently proposed bill for the regulation of Shabak activities… This bill provides for the
expansion of checks and controls over the activities of the Shabak. These checks and controls, include
review procedures not only by the Shabak comptroller and the State Comptroller, but also by a ministerial
committee and by a parliamentary committee to which reports must be submitted every three months."
It should be noted that these controls are totally problematic. As has been discussed extensively above, the High Court of
Justice is not a viable check and control on the Shabak. In addition the State Comptroller’s reports and the proceedings of the
ministerial and parliamentary committees are secret, and not subject to any public scrutiny or involvement.
In response to the Israeli arguments, the UN Committee Against Torture concluded (excerpts):
11(b) Since the State party admits to hooding, shackling in painful positions, sleep-deprivation and
shaking of interrogees…the bare assertion that it is not severe isn't in and of itself sufficient to satisfy
the state’s burden and justify such conduct. This is particularly so when reliable evidence from
interrogees, and independent medical evidence made available …reinforce the contrary conclusion.
(c) Given that Israel itself asserts that each case must be dealt with on its own "merits" but that for
matters of security, material particulars of the interrogation cannot be revealed to the Committee, it
follows that the conclusions of breach of article 1,2, and 16 must remain.
12(a) Interrogations applying the methods referred to above in conflict with article 1,2, and 16 of the
Convention and should cease immediately.
b) the provisions of the Convention should be incorporate by legislation into Israeli law, particularly
the definition of torture contained in article 1 of the Convention,
d) Interrogation procedures pursuant to the "Landau rules’ should in any event be published in full.
Once Israel denied using any form of torture. Today, it euphemistically calls its torture methods "moderate and enhanced
physical pressure" and concludes that these methods do not amount to torture or even cruel and unusual punishment because
they are "moderate" and leave no marks. Every Palestinian interrogee knows quite well that these methods are not moderate
and cause enormous pain and at times permanent physical/psychological damage. The Israeli government justifies the use of this
"pressure" in the name of security and defending terrorism. And while once this pressure was supposed to be limited to "ticking
bomb cases" – when a bomb was about to go off and the interrogee knew how to diffuse it - today fighting "terrorism" includes
torturing almost all Palestinians detainees in the Occupied Territories in order to obtain information on Palestinian activities.
Further, under the necessity defense, the Shabak interrogators are immune from criminal liability and face no repercussions for
The Landau Commission’s guidelines attempt to control the Shabak’s use of force. But they have and can not succeed. Once
torture is sanctioned even in the most exceptional case, the taboo is broken and the door is open to violate the sanctity of
person again and again, all in the name of protecting the state.
This is why Ismail and Firas Ghanaim, who were witnesses to a shooting, were shaken violently and tied in contorted positions
for days last November in the Russian Compound in the heart of downtown Jerusalem. Breaking the taboo of the sanctity of
the human person allowed the Shabak to force Omar Ghanimat, 45 years old, to sit in contorted position for five days straight
under a cold air conditioner blowing on his body causing him to defecate blood. Breaking the taboo allowed the Shabak to
torture Omar Ghanimat further by forcing him to squat for hours on his knees causing him permanent disability in his knee. It
should be noted that this taboo was broken for the following information obtained from Omar Ghanimat: He possessed a
handgun three years ago, a gun that he found in a stolen car brought to his village. "Imperative information, vital to protecting the
lives of its citizens"?
A substantive difference exist between the restraining influence of a general, absolute, qualitative
prohibition, and that of a quantitative prohibition concerned only with degrees. It is much easier to accept
and internalize the more convincing norm that the suspect’s body is sacrosanct and its injury taboo, than
to convince oneself of a somewhat arbitrary rule which prohibits the third blow while allowing the first
and second, or which forbids using fists while allowing palms. Psychologically, lowering this barrier may
sweep away the dam. If a suspect’s body is no longer taboo, what is one more blow relative to the sanctity
of the cause?
The Israeli High Court after receiving hundreds of petitions regarding the use of torture and recently hundreds of supporting
documents in the Ghanimat case still refrains from outlawing these practices. The documents submitted include statements from
human rights organizations, decisions from the UN Committee Against Torture from 1997 and 1998 stating that these methods
constitute torture and must be stopped, memoranda of law, and medical opinions on the harmful effects of these methods on
thousands of Palestinians who were tortured. Also submitted was an affidavit from Timothy McVeigh’s attorney who stated
that even though McVeigh was considered a ticking bomb- that the FBI suspected that there were other bombs about to go off
– at no time during his entire interrogation was physical pressure used against him to extract information.
By sanctioning of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the Israeli government has endangered the moral and
psychological state of all its citizens. It has created a population of millions of people who do not protest the use of torture in its
prisons, passively accept it and drink in pubs around the corner from the interrogation centers. The Shabak’s continued torture
and violation of international law is well-known, documented and presented to the Israeli High Court and the Israeli press
almost weekly. No real steps have been taken by the government, the Knesset or by the Israeli High Court to stop this. In fact,
under pressure from the Israeli High Court of Justice, the Knesset is now attempting to legalize the above-mentioned torture
"In a state where it is permissible to break a person’s will by force and to use him as a tool, the social
contract… is weakened. In such a state, where no one can be secure of his person, his liberty or his
dignity, the state whose function it is to protect these interest becomes instead a threat to them.
When the state itself beats and extorts, it can no longer be said to rest on foundations of morality and
justice, but rather on force. …When a state employs forceful means which no ends can justify, such as
torture, it reduces the moral distance between a governmental act and a criminal act…the basis for the
citizens’ faith in the state is undermined… and one may, without risking exaggeration, regard this process
as the self-destruction of the state."
Approximately 1000 Palestinians are interrogated by the Shabak each year and undergo this torture. It is estimated that
between 1987 and 1994 (during the Palestinian Uprising) over 23,000 Palestinians were tortured. There are few rehabilitation
services for these tens of thousand Palestinian young men. When they are released from interrogation or prison, many suffer
from post-traumatic stress syndrome and physical and psychological ailments. Most find it difficult to readjust, and together
with the difficult economic and political situation today including high unemployment, the scars from the interrogation feed their
stress and deepening anger.
The Shabak and its torture methods are the real ticking bomb in Israel and they pose the true security threat to the Israeli
public. Israel’s use of torture on virtually all of Palestinian interrogees leave scars of anger, pain and hostility towards Israeli
society that will take years if not generations to overcome. The case of Israel shows us how much we must remain defiant at all
times when we hear the words "security" and/or the "fight against terrorism" and not allow them to swallow up our fundamental
principles for the respect of the human person and dignity. Otherwise our very existence remains at stake.