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One year on: the Hares Boys

The Hares Boys | March 18, 2014

Occupied Palestine – Yesterday the Hares Boys, who are being charged with 20 counts of attempted murder with no evidence whatsoever, have been in an Israeli prison for one year. Now is more important than ever to fully understand the circumstances surrounding the unlawful arrest and imprisonment of Mohammad Suleiman, Ammar Souf, Mohammed Kleib, Tamer Souf, and Ali Shamlawi.

The car accident

At around 18:30 on Thursday 14 March 2013, a car crashed into the back of a truck on Road 5 in Salfit Governorate, occupied Palestine. The driver and her 3 daughters were injured, one of them – seriously. The driver, Adva Biton, was going back to the illegal Israeli settler colony of Yakir when the accident occurred. She later claimed the accident was due to Palestinian youth throwing stones at her car. The driver of the truck, having testified immediately after the accident that he had pulled over because of a flat tyre, later changed his mind and said he had seen stones by the road.

There were no witnesses to the car accident. Nobody had seen any children or youth throwing stones that day.

The arrests

In the early hours of Friday 15 March 2013, masked Israeli soldiers, some with attack dogs, stormed the village of Hares, which is close to Road 5. More than 50 soldiers broke the doors of the villagers’ houses, demanding the whereabouts of their teenage sons. Ten boys were arrested that night, blindfolded, handcuffed, and transferred to an unknown location. The families  were not informed of their sons’ alleged wrongdoings.

Two days later, a second wave of violent arrests took place. At around 3 o’clock in the morning,  the Israeli army, accompanied by the Shabak (the Israeli secret service), entered the homes of 3 Palestinian adolescents. They had a piece of paper with their names in Hebrew. After forcing all the family members into one room, taking away their phones so that they wouldn’t call for help, and interrogating them, the soldiers handcuffed their sons, all aged 16-17.

“Kiss and hug your mother goodbye,” a Shabak agent told one boy. “You may never see her again.”

A week later, Israeli army jeeps again entered the village and arrested several boys, who had just come back home from school. The soldiers lined all of them up, including a 6-year-old, and threatened at gunpoint their uncle who pleaded for the soldiers to at least release the youngest children. The army then randomly chose 3 boys, handcuffed them behind their backs, blindfolded them, and took them away. The families were not informed about either the allegations against their children, or their exact location.

In total, 19 boys from the neighbouring villages of Hares and Kifl Hares were arrested in relation to the settler car accident. None of them had previously had any history of stone-throwing. After violent interrogations, most of the minors were released, except for five, who remain in Megiddo, an Israeli adult prison.

These are the Hares Boys.

The interrogation

The arrested boys were subjected to a series of abuse and ill-treatment that accounts as torture. Upon detention, they were kept in solitary confinement  for up to two weeks. One boy, since released, described his cell: a windowless hole 1m wide and 2m long; there was no mattress or blanket to sleep on; toilet facilities were dirty; the six lights were kept on continuously, leading to the boy losing track of the time of the day; the food made him feel ill. The boy was denied lawyer; he was interrogated violently three times during three days, and eventually released after found not guilty at the trial.

Other boys have also told their lawyers of very similar treatment. They “confessed” of stone-throwing after being repeatedly abused in prison and during interrogations.

The charges 

The five boys from Hares are charged with 25 counts of attempted murder each, apparently 1 count for every alleged stone thrown at passing cars. The Israeli military prosecution insists that the boys consciously “intended to kill”; the boys can face the maximum punishment for attempted murder: 25 years to life imprisonment.

The prosecution’s case relies on the boys’ “confessions”, which have been obtained under torture, and 61 “witnesses,” some of which claim that their cars have been damaged by stones on that same day on Road 5. The latter only appeared after the car accident got a lot of media coverage as a “terrorist act”, and the Israeli prime minister Benyamin Natanyahu announced, after the boys’ arrest, that he “caught the terrorists that did it”. Other “witnesses” include the police and the Shabak, who were not even present at that location at the time. It is not clear whether the 61 “witnesses” have been properly questioned and their claims verified with, for example, hospital admission data, or even if the alleged damage to their vehicles has been photographed or otherwise documented. Such information is not even available to the boys’ attorneys.

The implications

If the boys are convicted, this case would set a legal precedent which would allow the Israeli military to convict any Palestinian child or youngster for attempted murder in cases of stone-throwing.

The boys are now 16-17 years old. If the Israeli military get their way, the boys would only return to their homes and their families at the age of 41 – at best. Five young lives ruined with no evidence of their guilt is a spit in the face to our common principles of justice as human beings.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS?

Almost every stage of this case that could go wrong, did. Local and international law has been mostly dismissed; principles of justice barely fading in the horizon; respect for human beings non-existent.

Consider this:

  • The Hares Boys, as well as thousands of other Palestinian youngsters, are treated in the Israeli military court system as adults. According to international human rights law in general, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in particular, adults are people over 18 years of age. Israel treats even 9-year-olds as adults.
  • The racist system of “justice”: no matter the alleged crime, Palestinians are forced to go through the military courts and are tried under military law, while Israelis fall into the civil court system for the same crimes.
  • Violently arresting children at night without giving any explanation to their families about the reasons behind it, nor informing them about their children’s whereabouts goes against Israel’s own laws which state that minors are to be accompanied by an adult family member when detained or arrested.
  • The denial of lawyer for several days (in some cases weeks) after detention also accounts as a major violation of Israel’s own rules.
  • Children being put into solitary confinement for days on end is a form of torture; It is a severe punishment before the verdict.
  • Abusive interrogations of scared minors is considered torture.
  • The boys were arrested despite a total lack of evidence against them and condemned by the Israeli media as “terrorists”, which goes against the universal presumption of innocence (innocent until found guilty) and delivers a guilty verdict in the highly bombastic public trial, putting pressure on the judges to do likewise.

For more detailed accounts of the initial arrests and interrogations, please see IWPS Human Rights Reports from the ground:

HRR447: Arrest of 10 adolescents in Hares, Salfit (15 March 2013)

HRR448: Arrests of 3 more adolescents in Hares, Salfit: A (17 March 2013)

HRR451: Interrogation of a 16-year-old (21 March 2013)

HRR452: Arbitrary arrests of minors  (21 March 2013)

HRR458: Military court hearing for Hares arrest (9 April 2013)

HRR461: Arrest of three adolescents in Hares  (9 April 2013)

March 18, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shin Bet Arrests Palestinian Journalist Returning from Egypt

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | November 9, 2013

mohammed abu khdeir

Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, secretly arrested by Shabak

Israel’s security services arrested Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, after he returned from a reporting trip to Egypt two days ago. Abu Khdeir, who reports for the Palestinian Al Quds and the Kuwaiti Al-Rai, was arrested at Ben Gurion airport when he arrived on a flight from Egypt.

News of his arrest is under Israeli gag.  Abu Khdeir, as is common in security cases, has been denied any contact with his attorney. During this period, the Shabak commonly “works over” suspects for information, using abusive techniques like sleep deprivation and hours-long stress-inducing interrogation techniques. That is why it’s critical to spread word of his arrest.

The Israeli court system is complicit in this abuse and in this case a Beersheva court has granted the Shabak request for a gag and ordered him detained without charge until November 13th. It’s also usual in these cases for remand to be extended without any real oversight by the court. You can expect the suspect to be detained as long as the Shabak wants him there.

After examples of behavior like this, it should be no surprise that Israel’s rankings on world press freedom indexes are quite low. Unfortunately, one of the few ways to fight such outrageous violations of freedom of the press is to report them here.

It’s entirely possible that this arrest is based on sheer spite, and is certainly entirely arbitrary. A year ago, the Palestinian journalist embarrassed the Shabak by refusing to cover a Hillary Clinton press conference to which he’d been invited. The Shabak agents who provide “security” for such events, demanded only Palestinian journalists pull down their pants before entering the press venue. Abu Khdeir refused along with several others.

An unnamed Israeli official told FoxNews, apparently with a straight face:

…Israel is trying to provide the best possible security for Clinton and that similar procedures are used at Western airports and in secure facilities in Western capitals.

Last I checked, no Israeli reporters were forced to disrobe before entering the White House to cover Bibi’s press conferences. This is a clear case of Reporting While Palestinian.  His recent arrest seems like a good example of payback.

The other possibility is that Abu Khdeir may’ve annoyed the Egyptian military junta during his visit by contacting figures from the Muslim Brotherhood. If he did so, Israel too would want to warn him that such contact with Islamists is considered an offense against Israeli state interests. Not that this is, or should be against the law.  But when you’re Palestinian there doesn’t have to be a law. Shabak is the law. You may’ve done something wrong, you may’ve gazed a moment too long into the eyes of the security official at Ben Gurion. There doesn’t have to be a reason.

The only thing we can be thankful for is that Shabak didn’t kidnap him inside Egypt as they did recently in the case of a Gazan who disappeared there and turned up in an Israeli jail, where he presumably still sits. But they knew they didn’t need to since he was returning via Ben Gurion, where they could nab him.

November 9, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The “crime” of solidarity

SocialistWorker | April 29, 2013

On April 24, Frank Barat, a Palestine solidarity activist and co-coordinator of last year’s Russell Tribunal on Palestine, was stopped at Ben Gurion International Airport by the Shabak, Israel’s internal security service, and subjected to four hours of interrogation and nearly a full day’s detention before being deported back Belgium. His “crime”? To have visited Israel while a supporter of Palestinian rights. Here, he describes what took place.

“WRITE YOUR e-mail addresses, your mobile phone number, your house phone, the name of your father and the name of your grandfather on this piece of paper” were the first words the Israeli security officer told me when I sat in front of him in his office.

As anyone involved in solidarity work with the Palestinian people will tell you, landing at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, and having-to-face questioning by the authorities is never an exciting prospect. In the last couple of months, a few activists have been turned back. Due to my work with the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, I knew even before I arrived in front of the immigration desk that I was a likely target for hard questioning from the Shabak, Israel’s internal security service.

I was coming to Palestine to visit old friends and also to take part in a conference on political prisoners organized in Ramallah as part of my role as coordinator for the Russell Tribunal. Due to the fact that Israel controls all the West Bank borders of Palestine, one has to go through Israeli officials in order to reach the occupied Palestinian territories. (Now, only Gaza–via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt–is accessible without too much Israeli interference.)

So I wrote the requested details on the piece of paper in front of me–except that I put an alternative e-mail address, being fully aware that what the officer in front of me wanted was information about other people involved with solidarity work in Palestine and abroad. Mapping networks has in recent years been vigorously pursued by Israel.

The line of questioning, at first, stuck to my travel plans. Six days in Tel Aviv without a travel guide was too much to bear for the man. He then quickly moved to my personal details and asked me to log on to my e-mail account, which is apparently less illegal (in Israel anyway) than I thought (see here and here).

He started to get upset when my inbox opened and there was no message in it. He told me repeatedly, “I know you have another e-mail address. Give it to me.” “I only have this one,” was the answer I stuck with throughout the whole process. I was taken to various offices throughout the whole interrogation process and spoke to a few people, who asked, again and again, the same questions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I HAD to wait for long periods between each interrogation. Palestine and political activity only were raised after about three hours of questioning. I was sort of relieved to hear the word because I knew deep down that the Shabak agent had known about my work on the Palestine issue from minute one. He even asked me at one point, “What will Google tell me if I search for your name?”

The goal, however, was somewhere else. The goal was to exhaust me into giving information about workmates, colleagues and various people I knew in Israel/Palestine. The exhaustion part worked. I was clearly on my knees at 4 a.m., having had no sleep for 24 hours and faced with several unfriendly people questioning me. But they never got what they really wanted–my e-mail account and its content. After four hours of questioning, the verdict came (there were five people in the room, including me, at this time): “You lied to me. So you won’t get in. You will now be deported back. Your flight is in 23 hours.”

Still, right after telling me this, the officer tried one more time, telling me that he was my friend, here to help me and that if I collaborated he might change his decision. I was at this point taken to a room where I was body searched thoroughly (by a young man with an apologetic look on his face), and where my carry-on bag (the only piece of luggage I brought) was fully checked, in and out, approximately three times, including passing through X-rays.

At roughly 4.30 a.m., I was put in a van, alone, and driven to my next destination: the deportation center. Why we stopped, for about 10 minutes, in between airplanes on the tarmac is a question that remains unanswered. He told me before he dropped me off that I would be deported in 23 hours. “You’re lucky,” said the man. “Some people have to wait for a week here.”

The next 23 hours were the longest in my life. With no means to know what the time was, it took forever. My cellmate, a 21-year-old Ukrainian man who spoke no English at all and came to Israel in search of a better future, and I were allowed two 10-minute breaks outside, under surveillance of course, and managed to catch a glimpse of the palm trees and the sunshine that we were at this point longing for. We were then joined by two older Ukrainians as well as a Chinese man.

What I did not know at the time was that a friend in Israel, at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning, had contacted the office of Israeli lawyer Gabi Lasky to ask her to try to get more information regarding my whereabouts–did I enter? Was I being deported? Detained? They did not want to say anything. It took many hours for Gabi to get confirmation that I was in the detention center at the airport. Over the phone, Gabi later told me that the authorities are making life harder and harder for lawyers and that they are being more difficult every day.

I was put back on a plane, escorted by an immigration official, my bag full of security tags, paraded in front of the other passengers, at 1 a.m. the next day. The fact that the main air hostess was Arab and smiled at me when the immigration official handed her my passport felt, I have to say, very good at the time.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHILE THIS was an extremely unpleasant experience, it is crucial to put things into a broader context. The pressure, fear and humiliation I often felt during this time–the scare tactics used by the Shabak (“Tell me the truth, or you’re going to jail right now”) and the short time spent in jail–are nothing compared to what the Palestinians are going through every day. Right now, more than 4,500 Palestinian political prisoners are rotting in Israeli jails. A few of them have started “hunger strikes” and are slowly dying, while the “international community” (understood as the Western states, the European Union and the United Nations) is doing nothing to come to their rescue.

It is crucial to keep highlighting this. The inconvenience felt by a privileged international citizen should not overshadow the reason at the core of his activism: To acknowledge the right of the Palestinian people to resist their far more powerful occupier and to do so until the systematic and institutionalized apartheid system put in place by Israel ends; to expose the active role played by third parties (states, institutions and corporations) in supporting Israel’s occupation; and to highlight Israel’s impunity regarding countless resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council that have been, so far, never followed by any concrete action.

It is our role as global actors involved in a global struggle for justice, freedom and dignity for all people, regardless of their ethnicity, political orientations, or countries of origin, to show solidarity with those people stripped of their rights. The breaking down of human civilization in sub-categories of human beings (privileges come depending on where you were born, while this act was simply an accident of nature), the slow crumbling of any “common decency,” solidarity and compassion showed by people towards others, can be reversed and is not ineluctable.

This can only happen if we all unite towards this goal.

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shabak tortures and ill-treats Palestinian detainees with impunity

By Adri Nieuwhof – The Electronic Intifada – 02/07/2012

The Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) has released a paper on its efforts to hold the Israel Security Agency (ISA) – or Shabak – to account for its practices of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees. In Accountability Still Denied, PCATI reveals how Israel has evaded criminal investigations into all 701 complaints of torture and ill-treatment.

In October 1991, Israel ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Israel should therefore prevent acts of torture. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever may be invoked as a justification of torture, according to the Convention. According to article 4, Israel must ensure that all acts of torture, attempts to commit torture and acts of complicity or participation in torture are made punishable “by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.” However, PCATI found that Israel has hitherto ignored its international obligations to halt torture.

Torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees

Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations have consistently reported about violations of the rights of Palestinian political prisoners. In its paper, PCATI presents a summary of two complaints on torture. In the case of Jihad Mughrabi the Shabak used physical force, beating the detainee’s head and chest with their fists and guns and kicking his legs. The violence produced bleeding wounds and the detainee lost consciousness while being tortured. He was taken to hospital. Shabak agents also exerted psychological pressure by showing Mughrabi detained family members. Mughrabi’s testimony is recorded on video.


Ala’a Salem also filed a complaint of torture suffered during Shabak interrogations. Ala’a was interviewed by Social Television to spread his story. The video is in Arabic with subtitles in Hebrew:

Habib Ph. Jaudy has translated what Ala’a said into English:

“They put me in jail for two days. Then they brought me back to the isolation cell and chained me.

Starting from there my treatment was beyond description. Naturally during this whole time I was forbidden to meet the lawyer.

I was placed on concrete, with my hands and feet in steel chains.

For the first period, after every eight hours of chaining they’d give me two and a half minutes of rest to eat and go to the toilet. But if you dare to ask to go to the toilet when you are chained [i.e. at a time other than your permitted two-and-a-half minute rest period], the eight hours would be extended to ten or even twelve hours of chaining as punishment.

At one time on the second day in the ‘hotel’ [this must be the interrogation place] there was a crazy Jewish person in the cell next to me shouting for 24 hours. So even if I was dying to sleep in my condition I couldn’t close my eyes. So I asked to go to the toilet, but in vain, I shouted but still in vain. (Video cut at that point.)

The reaction was that five soldiers came in and started hitting me. My nose was bleeding and blood came out of my mouth and I couldn’t do anything as I was chained. At that time I had tears running down my face … firstly because of the harsh pain and secondly because of the feeling that you can’t do anything about it.”

No proper procedure to investigate complaints

The majority of detainees who reported torture or ill-treatment to PCATI’s lawyers refused to submit complaints to the Israeli authorities. According to PCATI, the Palestinian detainees lack trust in Israel’s mechanism of investigation or fear reprisals.

Nevertheless, the Inspector of Interrogee Complaints (IIC) – who is an agent of the Shabak – received 701 complaints of torture and ill-treatment between 2001 and 2010. In 2009 and 2010 the IIC received 52 and 51 complaints respectively. PCATI informed me that the trend in the number of complaints continued in 2011.

Complaints of torture and ill-treatment have to be submitted to the Attorney General, who delegates a senior official within the State Attorney’s office to decide upon the complaints. Instead of opening a criminal investigation, the senior official refers the complaints for a preliminary inquiry to the Shabak Inspector of Interrogee Complaints. PCATI criticizes the inquiry:

Complainants’ testimonies are taken by the IIC during very brief and unannounced visits, It has been common practice for the IIC to falsely introduce himself as a representative of the Ministry of Justice, and complainants’ testimonies have been taken under conditions that replicate the interrogation itself: in the very same room where ISA interrogations take place, and, in some instances, while the complainants have remained shackled for the duration of the meeting.

No complaint of torture criminally investigated

Based on an analysis of its correspondence with the State Attorney’s Office, PCATI concludes that the majority of the complaints of torture and ill-treatment were closed because the authorities denied the facts. Fifteen percent of the complaints were closed because they were categorized under the “defense of necessity” doctrine. In 1999 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the Shabak is not allowed to use physical means of interrogation that are aimed at tiring out or breaking the detainee. The Court did “not negate the possibility that the ‘necessity’ defense be available” to Shabak investigators and empowered the Attorney General to devise guidelines for such “ticking bomb” cases. PCATI writes that these guidelines – issued in 1999 – have served “as the basis for de facto approval of methods of interrogation amounting to torture and ill-treatment in such cases, thereby granting ISA interrogators blanket exemption from prosecution.”

However, the Convention against Torture does not recognize such a “defense of necessity doctrine”. The Convention is unequivocal in its absolute prohibition of torture.

In addition, the Human Rights Committee concluded in July 2010 that Israel “should ensure that all alleged cases of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials, including police, personnel of the security service and the armed forces, are thoroughly and promptly investigated by an authority independent of any of these organs, that those found guilty are punished with sentences that are commensurate with the gravity of the offense, and that compensation is provided to the victims or their families.”

PCATI writes that following the publication of its first report on the topic – Accountability Deniedin 2009, there have been no substantive changes in Israel’s practices of torture and ill treatment. The closure of all 701 complaints of torture and ill-treatment by Palestinian detainees proves that the Israeli authorities protect the perpetrators. Meanwhile, Israel’s violations of Palestinian political prisoners’ rights continues. That is why the BDS Movement must keep Israel under pressure, and human rights organizations, social movements, activists and concerned citizens must call on their politicians, governments and embassies to intervene

February 7, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | Comments Off on Shabak tortures and ill-treats Palestinian detainees with impunity