Wednesday, June 16, 2004
An excellent article in the Washington Post (how often do you get to say that, eh?) about Israeli interrogation techniques. Plenty of annecdotes (some pretty brutal stuff) of Palestinian prisoners being abused, but those aren't the parallels that frighten me the most. The scariest parallels are the societal standards - like the US, Israel officially rejects torture as an interrogation method. A September 1999 Israeli Supreme Court ruling banned all forms of physical abuse. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen:
"The latest report by the committee against torture, covering the period from September 2001 to April 2003, alleged that detainees faced a new regime of sleep deprivation, shackling, slapping, hitting and kicking; exposure to extreme cold and heat; threats, curses and insults; and prolonged detention in subhuman conditions.The court ruling is sidelined by the government - given lip service but essentially ignored. And the government lapse is ignored by the Israeli citizens (A 1996 poll commissioned by the human rights group Btselem found that 73 percent of Israelis condoned the use of force, and given the violence of the second intifada that number probably has not declined).
"Torture in Israel has once more become routine, carried out in an orderly and institutional fashion," concluded the report, which was based on 80 affidavits and court cases.
What is most striking, the [government] lawyer added, is how united the Israeli public is on the subject. "For most people it's not the central story here," he said. "It's not even one of the top ten questions I get asked about the Supreme Court."This really is a bottom up issue. There is strong evidence that much of the US population feels that some coercive methods of interrogation are reasonable (especially in the "ticking bomb" situation). The more terrorism is seen as a real threat to the US (or US citizens in Iraq or elsewhere), the more the US public's acceptance of torture will approach Israel's. How and when torture is used is not determined by the law (especially given the flexible interpretation of it by certain administration figures), but by how the public reacts.
[Anan] Labadeh [a handicapped Palestinian abused by Israeli interrogators] said abuses like those that took place in Abu Ghraib or in Hawara were inevitable when people were subjected to military occupation. That is why the photos from Abu Ghraib did not shock or surprise him.Yes, the camera is always rolling, the question is whether the public (US or otherwise) will react, how much they will accept, or whether they even care to see the film.
"In the end, when you put a person in jail because of political reasons and you give someone power over him, you can expect to see such films," he said. "The camera is always rolling."
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