blog_rights_and_accountability-Ismael-Mohamad-UPI.jpg

(Ismael Mohamad / United Press International)

Israeli who revealed “medieval-style” torture of Palestinians faces virulent backlash

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Israeli occupation forces on patrol in the Gaza Strip around 1988 (source)

(Robert Croma)

An Israeli who posted a testimony on Facebook about the “medieval-style” torture of Palestinians he assisted in during his army service in the occupied territories has faced a virulent backlash from fellow Israelis, including threats of violence.

Yuval Lev published the testimony in Hebrew on his Facebook page on 8 November.

“Today I think that the real punishment for a sore conscience is that you simply cannot delete what happened from your brain, and you are sentenced to remembering it forever, with no ability to forget,” Lev wrote.

Lev recounted that “one day two fellows came to the [military] camp looking like Shabak men, and after a short chat with our commanders, took four of us (myself included) to a mission lasting a few days - to secure a secret Shabak interrogation facility, in the heart of one of the violent, rough neighborhoods around.”

Shabak is the Israeli acronym for the General Security Service or GSS, a secret police force notorious for its involvement in extrajudicial execution and toture of Palestinians over many decades.

“Medieval-style torture facility”

“We went gladly, of course, full of pride for having been selected for the important, patriotic mission which would save lives and prevent attacks,” Lev wrote, adding:

Without exaggeration and without even a drop of melodrama for enhancing the effect: we arrived at a medieval-style torture facility.

A long, narrow hallway, white fluorescent bulbs and the stench of bunker air, on the left a row of interrogation rooms, with the shouts of the interrogators and the screams of the interrogatees always coming out of them, and on the right, along a gray concrete wall, stood a line of “detainees.” stood and waited for their turn to be interrogated. Legs shackled, hands behind their backs, a jute sack over their head, standing in absolute silence. As surrealistic as a movie about the Inquisition. At the end of the hall, on a sort of giant metal mesh, another detainee was hung by his handcuffs like Jesus on the cross, with his hands up and to the sides and his sack on his head, groaning with pain, and a soldier screaming at him and beating him with the butt of his rifle.

Lev, who works as a marketing consultant in Tel Aviv, described witnessing other torture practices, some that are well-documented for their use by Israel, including denying victims food, water and sleep, and beating them savagely when they urinated on themselves.

Torture during the first intifada

In Lev’s written account on Facebook, he stated that the events occurred during the second intifada which began in 2000, but in a telephone conversation he told The Electronic Intifada that that had been a typo and the events he described occurred during the unarmed first intifada, around 1989, when he was in the army. Lev said he is now 44 years old, which would have made him about 21 in 1989.

Lev concluded his account by saying that this was the first time he had spoken out:

What I do know is that many people like me saw and took part in terrible deeds, like these and other kinds, by act or by omitting to act. There is no way to justify such conduct toward human beings, whoever they are, for any reason. Even if under the circumstances at the time our conduct was not deemed to be a crime, in the legal definition of crimes, I have no doubt that we committed crimes and sins, towards them and towards ourselves, as human beings and as a society.

Reactions: “Hate and anger”

Lev’s post was followed by hundreds of Hebrew-language comments expressing violent sentiments and condemning him for speaking out. In a comment that garnered 71 “likes,” Mor Isachar quipped, “What do you expect? For them to be given a 5 star hotel?”

“That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen there,” wrote Boaz Lalush, “you weren’t supposed to be there, you should have served [your military duty] in the Qiryah [base in downtown Tel Aviv] you cross-dressing leftist, you.”

Several comments used “cross-dresser” as a homophobic epithet.

Yosef Edri explicitly justified the torture: “First of all, you don’t know who those people who stood before you with sacks on their head, or how much blood they had on their hands, and maybe the information that we maybe extracted from him in a way that was maybe not nice… saved the lives [souls] of some dozens if not hundreds of people.”

For Amir Ben-Haim, torture is the very reason Israel exists: “Dude… such facilities are the reason we have a state… stop being [horrified], there is one path they understand, and that is force!”

This is only a sampling of the comments on Lev’s post, but it is also consistent with the widespread racist and violent anti-Arab sentiments of Israelis on Facebook documented in other instances previously.

Lev told The Electronic Intifada that in addition to the publicly visible comments on Facebook, he had received abusive private messages, some of which were threatening.

“I’m not a political person,” Lev said when asked why he published the testimony, “I wrote it as a personal experience.”

While he hasn’t been totally surprised by the negative reactions, “I didn’t expect this much hate and anger,” hold told The Electronic Intifada.

Tortured consciences

Lev’s confession is similar to those by other Israeli occupation soldiers, such as those published recently by Breaking the Silence, in which former soldiers described horrifying and gratuitous acts of cruelty and even killing of Palestinian children.

Lev said that though he had heard of the group Breaking the Silence (“shovrim shtika” in Hebrew) he knew nothing of its work.

While such confessions shed additional light on the decades of abuses to which Palestinians themselves have been the first witnesses, they cannot be a substitute for formal accountability, something that has been absent within the Israeli system and internationally as Israel continues to commit crimes with total impunity.

Full translation of Lev’s testimony and selected comments

With thanks to David Sheen for spotting, and to Dena Shunra for this translation:

Source Yuval Lev’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151138361342005&set=a.118479382004.102263.593002004&type=1

Original status posted:

I will never forget what I saw there.

Today I think that the real punishment for a sore conscience is that you simply cannot delete what happened from your brain, and you are sentenced to remembering it forever, with no ability to forget. But then, when I was a ground forces soldier doing regular military service, in the middle of a Company Commanders’ course, although I felt that what we were doing there was entirely not ok - I did nothing about it, and even cooperated, with nary a word. And maybe it is because I was silent then that I cannot forget to this very day.

So here’s the story: in the middle of an activity in some remote hole in the Territories, somewhere near Ramallah, at the height of the Second Intifada I believe, one day two fellows came to the [military] camp looking like Shabak men, and after a short chat with our commanders, took four of us (myself included) to a mission lasting a few days - to secure a secret Shabak interrogation facility, in the heart of one of the violent, rough neighborhoods around.

We went gladly, of course, full of pride for having been selected for the important, patriotic mission which would save lives and prevent attacks. We were given the explanation that this was a “hard core” interrogation facility, for the most dangerous Arabs in the Territories, but nothing made us ready for what we saw in that basement. Without exaggeration and without even a drop of melodrama for enhancing the effect: we arrived at a medieval-style torture facility.

A long, narrow hallway, white fluorescent bulbs and the stench of bunker air, on the left a row of interrogation rooms, with the shouts of the interrogators and the screams of the interrogates always coming out of them, and on the right, along a gray concrete wall, stood a line of “detainees”, stood and waited for their turn to be interrogated. Legs shackled, hands behind their backs, a jute sack over their head, standing in absolute silence. As surrealistic as a movie about the Inquisition. At the end of the hall, on a sort of giant metal mesh, another detainee was hung by his handcuffs like Jesus on the cross, with his hands up and to the sides and his sack on his head, groaning with pain, and a soldier screaming at him and beating him with the butt of his rifle.

[“]This piece of garbage had the audacity of lying down on the floor as if here were in some kind of hotel[!”] shouted-explained the soldier that I was supposed to replace in the guard duty. Sitting was prohibited and lying down was definitely prohibited, and when they fell to the ground after standing for a few hours or a couple of days (he laughed) [“] you whack them to pieces. Did you understand? [“] I did not answer, but he stopped hitting him.

The air was stifled and reeked of urine. They would deny the interrogatees not only water and food or a visit to the toilet, but also sleep, for days on end, in waiting for the interrogations. And when they’d pee on themselves of fall asleep standing up, from exhaustion, they would be beaten murderously. I remember how once, some soldier grabbed hold of one of the interrogates who had peed on himself, tossed in to the ground and rubbed his head and his hair into the puddle of urine on the floor.

Every now and then one of the doors would open, and an investigator or two would drag out of the white room some broken person, beaten and bruised, and toss him into the hall. We had to re-shackle him, put a sack on his head, and stand him next to the concrete wall for the interminable wait for the next part of his interrogation. The investigators didn’t to talk to us soldiers, neither for good things nor bad, but once one of them yelled at me when I dared let the people awaiting interrogation lean against the wall while standing up.

A few days later people came to replace us. Since our regiment had already returned to the Company Commander School, we were given a ride back beyond the Green Line, and put on a bus toward Dimona. We didn’t exchange any words on this subject, or at all, all the way there; and even when we got to the base, we refrained from telling the rest of our friends what exactly had gone on there.

Personally, this is the first time I’m telling about this. Why tell now, and why tell at all? I don’t know, exactly. What I do know is that many people like me saw and took part in terrible deeds, like these and other kinds, by act or by omitting to act. There is no way to justify such conduct toward human beings, whoever they are, for any reason. Even if under the circumstances at the time our conduct was not deemed to be a crime, in the legal definition of crimes, I have no doubt that we committed crimes and sins, towards them and towards ourselves, as human beings and as a society.

Perhaps to remember and never forget is our real punishment. It is not absolution, but for me this scar of memory has always been a kind of warning signal and a constant reminder of the clear red line which, if we cross, we turn from human beings into human animals.

Comments:

[At the time of collecting this post, this had 423 “Likes”, 60 “shares” and 35 pages of comments. Sample comments translated below:]

Mor Isaschar: What do you expect? For them to be given a 5 star hotel? Superfluous post. [71 likes.]

Moran Katz: you’re an idiot, and you’re idiots to publish this. [87 likes]

Maayan Sipser: you hell of a chuzpadik person. “Remember and never forget”… with all due honor, using that sentence in such a connotation, just to get a few more Likes is pretty despicable, in my opinion… you want to make your opinion heard? That’s your right, but not here, and not like this. [72 likes]

Gal Frank: bleeding heart, yuck. Every orderly state treats its enemies like this and even worse. We’re merciful. [20 likes]

Boaz Lalush: That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen there… you weren’t supposed to be there, you should have served [your military duty] in the Qiryah [base in downtown Tel Aviv] you cross-dressing leftist, you. [28 likes]

Or Kaim: Tell me, are you for real?? People abroad can see this, it’s a disgrace to put up something like this!!! Mr. Yuval, go to a psychologist, not to facebook, if you have such a hard time coping. [25 likes]

Yosef Edri: First of all, you don’t know who those people who stood before you with sacks on their head, or how much blood they had on their hands, and maybe the information that we maybe extracted from him in a way that was maybe not nice… saved the lives [souls] of some dozens if not hundreds of people. And stop and think a moment… that maybe the detention or interrogation of one of the people there saved the life of one of your close relatives. So then would you release him and prevent an interrogation? Or would you let him suffer until he opened his mouth [And talked?] [30 likes]

Israel Fayvish: you are for torturing a prisoner, even though there’s a chance that he’s innocent? Excuse me, people, you’re just as bad as the scum of humanity in the Hamas, and the Nazis. [17 likes]

Shay Shwarz: are you aware of the fact that if we didn’t need intelligence information from those prisoners, they would most likely have been given a bullet in the head, because there is no other reason to endanger our soldiers in an attempt to get close to them, when it is known that they are terrorists with evil intent, right? [3 likes]

רוני סיני: go commit suicide you cross-dresser, go look at some pictures of what those scum of the human race did to us in the Ramallah lynch, suicide attacks where children, women, and babies were murdered, that’s the only way to fight those filthy people. Is that hard for you? As I wrote, go kill yourself. [3 likes]

Sha V. Kvetny: [except:] Shabak interrogators don’t play children’s games, and certainly don’t arrest innocent people. […] [4 likes]

Amir Ben-haim: Dude… such facilities are the reason we have a state… stop being [horrified], there is one path they understand, and that is force!

Shiran Tsabari: Whoa, what did I even read here now???? Enough, Jews, with feeling bad for Arabs!!!!! The Arabs don’t care about you at all!!! They don’t care if you’re dead or alive, so halas [Arabic for stop/enough?] with making the State of Israel and the Israeli army look as if it were “bad” when we actually are not!!!!!! The Arabs, their place is not here, and they should be kicked out of her already, and only then we’ll have some quiet her!!!! [2 likes]

Amit Tanoury: You’re harming the State of Israel, what do you think, that Gilad Shalit was playing with them on a Sony [game console]? They are at least brought to trial, as per the law, and get visits from the Red Crescent, academic studies, and are released in transactions. So they got two kaffas [Arabic for smacks?] in interrogations after they killed dozens of people. So they held it in for a while and at worst peed in their pants, after they hung suspected collaborators with Israel in the square, in front of their families. Don’t have pity on them, anyone who stayed in that facility you’re talking about was not just some medical clown. [10 likes]

Dan Efter: The second Intifada started in Rosh Hashanah 2000, were you in regular service then? …I was in Shabak dungeons in the First Intifada, in the Administration Compound in Gaza, March ’88, a bit before discharge: yes, they were handcuffed and shackled, and had a sack on their head. Sitting down! No one was beaten, no one! Anyone who wanted to go to the bathroom, we accompanied him! So it turns out that another way is possible… We didn’t join the Alpine Cycling Unites, we came to fight for Zion, and that comes with a price, but the IDF is still the most moral army in the world, despite the complex tasks it carries. You can always speak excit6edly and say JudeoNazis, and that performs a great service. To our enemies. [9 likes]

Daniel Edri: Elad, you’re an idiot, and Yuval, this is a war, I’d expect Shabak interrogators to be a little more violent than you tell us here. [2 likes]

Rotem Ganor: Can we change the page name to “Arab Tweets”? [7 likes]

Shmulik Naparstek: Thank you and way to go. Don’t stop telling and don’t shut up. [6 likes]

Daniel Edri: Shmulik, a day will come and we’ll have a Rwanda here.

Omri Segev: [except:] “beyond the fact that it’s been many years that the Shabak has not used torture, even when it was customary, they wouldn’t take soldiers any which way, with no connection to anything. […] [6 likes]

Nissim Dvash: Our main problem in the country is the leftists, and then the Arabs, it’s a pity we don’t have a right wing dictatorship, just because of them. [1 like]

Comments

Mr. Ali Abunimah:

What is your take on the controversy about the Israeli Lobby? Is Noam Chomsky right when he he says that its importance has been overrated, that the real problem is with the U.S. government and power structure? Or is he underestimating their influence?

This, and hundreds of other verifiable abuses of human rights on all levels and in all meanings of what humans are and what their rights are, is available to us and inundates us. The zionist entity at times even brandishes its brutality and racism.

Yet in countries like Australia, Israel is celebrated always as the only democracy in the middle east, and the IDF as the most humane army in the world.

The holocaust against the Jews was and will always be an unforgettable crime. The Palestinian Nation of peoples has surely, by any standard of measurement, been living their own holocaust stretching back decades. Innocent( for they were not consulted) Palestinians are being ethnically cleansed from their ancient homelands, they have, and to this day, are still being robbed of all they rightfully own. They suffer the rape of property, the loss of all human rights and dignity, and are forced to live terribly degraded sub standard lives, whilst waiting their turn on the receiving end of Israeli weapons, sanctions, and what passes for Israeli largess. All this whilst locked behind huge prison walls, that requires Israeli permission to enable travel on limited roads populated with endless "checkpoints". Just as the Jews can never forget the holocaust, it is clear, even to blind Yacob and his dog, that no Arab, especially Palestinian Arabs, will ever allow their collective memories to forget atrocities cruelly forced upon them. By their actions Israelis have revealed to the whole World, their true nature and character. Citizens of the U.S. and Australia are complicit in these crimes through support of veto's preventing further action against Israel at the U.N.. Given all of the foregoing, does it not speak volumes of praise and admiration for the lone wife prepared ethically to take a stand against the crimes committed on The Palestinians? And what does anyone think future generations will say and do, either Israeli or Arab Palestinian. And will Israeli's understand the unforgettable threat all this poses in their future?

though there's nothing new there, it does remind us that the zionist state of israel eventually must answer for it's inhumane abuses and mass murder of people.

Of course, you cherry pick only the worst comments from the Facebook thread - and as a Hebrew reader I can see many are shocked by Yuval's story - lest your readers suspect maybe Israelis are not all Arab-hating robots.

that such comments do not show the real face of Zionism. They do. One could look at English cite of Haarez for comments and see a lot like those.
"many are shocked by Yuval's story" - yes, because they prefer not to hear about it, less they feel that they are part of a colonial enterprise that ALWAYS needs such torture and more. (see Battle for Algeria and a French torturer of Arabs telling French journos that if they want "French" Algeria they should know that torture is a way.)

And regarding Zionist love to Palestinians, one only needs to look into new (the same as before, of course) polls of Zionist Jews who demand aparteid or simply see it as "necessary".

So, the BBC reports that Israel admits to torturing Palestinians (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/mid...), and the UK said just this June that Israel continues to torture Palestinian children? (https://rt.com/news/israel-tor...)

I applaud so much honesty and integrity. He should write and publish a book about it. I would be the first to buy it.

Torture hurst the victim but worse it degrades the one that perpetrates it. Such a lack of inhumanity from the hands of those who have suffered it.

What is the point of a high educational level if a human being/torturer can fall so low?