Israel subverts human rights for a key critic


9:30 am - May 29th 2010

by Ben White    


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The Shin Bet security service will thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law.
Letter sent by Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, on behalf of Shin Bet, 2007

On Thursday, prominent political activist Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was indicted with serious charges of espionage and ‘aiding an enemy’.

As General Director of NGO-network Ittijah, Makhoul’s arrest and detention is attracting international attention as concern mounts about the increasing crackdown on dissent in Israel.

A second man, natural medicine expert and political activist Omar Said, was also indicted, and both men face a lengthy legal process.

As Ittijah described, the arrests and interrogations of Said and Makhoul “were conducted in gross violation of their fundamental rights to due process”.

Once the gag order was lifted this week, more details emerged:

His hands were cuffed to the back of the chair in a way that stretched his arms and shoulders sharply backward. His legs were folded backwards flanking the chair, with his knees turned toward the floor.

When, after hours of being bound in this stress position while under intense interrogation, Makhoul complained of being in excruciating pain, the GSS interrogators proceeded to cuff his legs to the chair. They also threatened that he would be permanently crippled from the interrogation.

While Israel’s security services have issued denials, there is a track record here. The kinds of techniques used against detainees by the GSS were documented in a joint B’Tselem/Hamoked report in 2007. The annual report for 2009 published[PDF] by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) mentions how “interrogations carried out by the General Security Services are always exempt from the requirement of video documentation”.

A December 2009 report by The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) described how “investigations of complaints of torture against General Security Service (GSS) interrogators” are prevented and that “the system enjoys the acquiescence and encouragement of the law enforcement system for torture that occurs in GSS interrogations”.

The targeting of leaders in Palestinian society in Israel should not come as a surprise.

In 2007, the Shin Bet made it clear – like in the quotation above – that it believes it to be “within its charter” to go after “individuals deemed as ‘conducting subversive activity against the Jewish identity of the state,’ even if their actions are not in violation of the law”.

Meanwhile, a ‘citizenship loyalty’ bill has recently passed its first reading in the Knesset, which “calls on Israel to revoke citizenship or permanent status from any person convicted of terrorist activity or of espionage on behalf of a terrorist organization”.

In January 2009, Ameer Makhoul was briefly detained and interrogated by the Shin Bet, as Palestinians in Israel protested the Israeli attacks on Gaza.

In a press release at the time, Ittijah described how one officer leading the questions said that “next time he will be pleased to see Makhoul imprisoned, that Makhoul’s file is ready”, and that Makhoul “will have to say goodbye to his family since he will leave them for a long time”.
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Facebook campaign page here, and further details and legal documents here.

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About the author
This is a guest article. Ben White is a freelance journalist who has written for Guardian's CIF, Electronic Intifada and others. His book 'Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide' (Pluto Press), was published in 2009.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,Middle East

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Reader comments


1. Nick Cohen is a Tory

This action will be defended by the many right wing bloggers on the site.
But I ask one question if a Labour government brought in the same legislation. What would be your response ?

I’d like and english version of the Facebook page.

My grandfather planted a tree in Jerusalem as a memorial to his family murdered by the Nazis. He would be appalled at this from Israel.

This will not win them any friends or help make Israelis safer. It alienates past friends and enrages opressed people of neighboring countries. It is stupid and disgusting.

Add this to the recent crackdowns on human rights and humanitarian aid agencies, and this looks like a really nasty turn towards authoritarianism. This is disastrous stuff for anyone hoping for more moderation and movement towards ratcheting down tensions in the region. It represents the extreme reactionary, belligerent right consolidating its power and bodes ill for the role of reason and rationality in future Israeli domestic and foreign policy.

Bluntly, the recent history of the region has been one of increasingly deranged and violent behaviour on both sides of the wall cementing the most extreme elements of both Palestinian and Israeli society into positions of power, dragging their populations with them into ever more lunatic, paranoid wingnuttery. Hamas and the Israeli right appear to be entirely dependent upon each other for their legitimacy, and this looks like a mutual spiral into even worse to come.

I’ve long hoped for a collapse in support for the headbangers on both sides and an upsurge in a calmer, more reasonable pragmatism. This is the exact opposite, and it’s horrible all round.

4. Nick Cohen is a Tory

“luntly, the recent history of the region has been one of increasingly deranged and violent behaviour on both sides of the wall cementing the most extreme elements of both Palestinian and Israeli society into positions of power, dragging their populations with them into ever more lunatic, paranoid wingnuttery. Hamas and the Israeli right appear to be entirely dependent upon each other for their legitimacy, and this looks like a mutual spiral into even worse to come.”

Excellent points.
Many of these problems were exasperated when moderate Israelis and more secular Palestinians in Fatah were undermined by MOSSADs support of HAMAS purely in a divide and conquer effort in the 90’s.
I have always said the region needs left and right wing secular organisations such as the international trades unions movement and microsoft to open top schools with resources tha blow the others out of the water and with the simple proviso to parents is that their offspring are educated with others from other races.
Only 4 schools in Israel are mixed.
The trouble is going to get a lot worst because Israel is becoming less secular. The moderate jews who mainly came from Eastern europe with a socialist secular leanings are now been pushed out of the political scene by more aggressive religious right wing jews from the US, UK, North Africa and Russia. The palestinians are also moving more towards the fundamentalist right.
Very, very depressing

An excellent article, exposing the unscrupulous and inscrutable hold that Mossad, Shin Bet and Israel’s whole security apparatus have on the country, and with its military echelon enforcing a brutal stranglehold on the Palestinian population on both sides of the green line, now including all dissidents, evidence of a descent into a clear definition of a neo-fascist state. If the US’s continual support of Israel’s impunity and its unabashed extreme rightist and racist government continues unchecked, it bodes ill for any progress towards a peace with justice, and this, with Israel’s unchallenged nuclear armoury, can only lead to a catastrophe in the Middle East.

6. Margie in Tel Aviv

Makhoul is charged with disclosing to his country’s enemies what the location is of its most sensitive installations.
Would the UK accept that from one of its citizens?
Is it only because it is Israel that you object or is it that you object to any country having information subject to an Official Secrets’ Act?

Makhoul is charged with disclosing to his country’s enemies what the location is of its most sensitive installations.

Being charged is one thing – because frankly they can charge him with whatever.

Where’s the evidence for it? And why are they using torture?

Sunny Hundal

Please prove that “they” are using torture. beside the accused saying this, what proof do you have?

And have you stopped beating your wife?

…evidence of a descent into a clear definition of a neo-fascist state.

I think it would help take a lot of the heat out of the issue if people could restrain themselves from dropping the F-bomb on each other for five minutes.

Makhoul is charged with disclosing to his country’s enemies what the location is of its most sensitive installations. Would the UK accept that from one of its citizens?

He’s charged, not convicted. The UK would certainly jail anyone it convicted of espionage, but would hopefully do it without worryingly proactive and independent security services getting all cloak and dagger. Further, if it did so in an already fiery atmosphere of McCarthy-lite paranoia and nationalist, fearmongering outrage and loyalty oaths, that would be seen as a serious, retrograde step towards authoritarianism.

What’s most worrying of all is that these measures appear to enjoy broad support within the populace. You don’t get majority support for crackdowns like this… http://tinyurl.com/2u8se5p …Without a determined and deliberate propaganda campaign aimed at stamping out dissenting voices.

This isn’t football and it isn’t necessary to give either side unconditional backing. The bad, godawful craziness that’s been going on all decade in Gaza doesn’t excuse this kind of stuff. It should be clear that none of it is moving the region in a calmer and less ultraviolent direction. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Oh look – the nutjobs from CIF Watch are here. Why not take off the tinfoil hat, and read the article again?

11. Margie in Tel Aviv

”the nutjobs” very classy response: Well done.

Makhoul is charged – the court will decide on his guilt or innocence – however your charges of ‘torture’ are made in the court of public opinion, in which no proof is needed.

12. Clap hammer

Sunny Hundal asks ‘And why are they using torture?’

Obvious answer Sunny. CiF tells me all the time that torture doesn’t work so if follows that Israel would use it all the time.

Such is bThe Guardian World View. Topsy Turvey and, the main point, presented as fact and not opinion.

the nutjobs” very classy response: Well done.

Clearly not as classy as the smear-mongering they do on that site. But don’t let little things like that bother you.

14. Yurrzem!

No charges of anti-semitism yet? I’m surprised.

15. Nick Cohen is a Tory

Oh dear the right wing shits from HP such CRAP HAMMER and AKUS have joined you. Sunny you will have to get the site cleaned.
I thought they were still popping champagne corks celebrating the Tory victory with Nick Cohen, Chas Newkey Burden and David Toube
The old USSR use to imprison people for talking to the opposition (eg any American).
Just because you talk to a group you dislike doesn’t mean your a spy.
Also as the Israeli security services have recently stolen UK passports to carry out state sanctioned murder I think a little bit of torture and framing opponents would be small fry

Wow

It’s Ben !!

And look Sunny is shining.

So who wants to bet their lives on this guy being innocent?


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  12. Ben White

    Year before his arrest, Ameer was told by Shin Bet his file "was ready" & he should "say bye to his family" http://t.co/nijzIFfP #FreeAmeer

  13. AzulSuenos

    Year before his arrest, Ameer was told by Shin Bet his file "was ready" & he should "say bye to his family" http://t.co/nijzIFfP #FreeAmeer

  14. Ben White

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  15. AzulSuenos

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  16. Talkoholic

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  17. Ikke

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  18. Laid Back Farmer

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  19. Laid Back Farmer

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  20. Waqaas

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  21. Saina Behnejad

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