FOOTNOTES IN GAZA!

Sacco makes a forgotten and bloody crime in a refugee camp from 1956 that left 111 Palestinians dead the basis for Footnotes in Gaza – a 400-page behemoth telling the history of Gaza from that moment to the present day. He immersed himself in the daily life of squalid Rafah, scene of the massacre and notorious place for bitter conflict, and tells the story through everyday Palestinians; fugitives, schoolchildren, widows and sheikhs.

“I heard torture stories that were unusually harsh, but I decided not to use those kinds of stories, and instead something less shocking, something more of an “everyman” experience. I think it’s the “everyman experience” that people can relate to. It’s harder to imagine; harder to put yourself in the picture of someone who is being humiliated.’

Read more about Sacco
Eyeless in Gaza

Colleagues laughed when a young journalist in Palestine announced his intention to tell the story of that region though cartoons. Twenty years later, Joe Sacco is one of the world’s leading exponents of the graphic novel form…

Ref: Guardian

Read about the israeli “reaction” to grasp how real Sacco´s work is.

Graphic novel on IDF ‘massacres’ in Gaza set to hit bookstores

The American-Maltese artist’s latest book, “Footnotes in Gaza,” chronicles two episodes in 1956 in which a U.N. report filed Dec. 15, 1956 says a total of 386 civilians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers – events Sacco said have been “virtually airbrushed from history because they have been ignored by the mainstream media.”

Israeli historians dispute these figures.

“It’s a big exaggeration,” said Meir Pail, a leading Israeli military historian and leftist politician. “There was never a killing of such a degree. Nobody was murdered. I was there. I don’t know of any massacre.”
Sacco’s passion for the Palestinian cause has opened him up to accusations of bias.

Ref: Haaretz


VIDEO: Tortured Law (Welcome to the American doctrine)

Tortured Law, a new 10-minute documentary by Alliance for Justice, examines the role U.S. lawyers played in authorizing torture. Join those calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to release the report of the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility, and hold accountable those who ordered, designed, and justified torture.

You can join the call by signing Alliance for Justice’s petition: http://ga1.org/campaign/release_tortu…

And by signing up to host a screening in your area: http://www.afj.org/films-and-programs…

Psychologist Accused of War Crimes Opposes Investigations

As a conflict has arisen as to whether the nation should seek accountability for torture and other human rights abuses during the so-called “War on Terror,” the public and media have largely ignored the spectacle of those, like Richard Cheney and John Yoo, who are likely targets of human rights abuse investigations. Potential investigations are denounced as political attacks that will gravely damage the country’s security. The media have largely ignored the self-serving nature of these denunciations.

The latest human rights abuse target to join the anti-accountability chorus is former Guantanamo intelligence psychologist Col. Larry James (retired), about whom questions have been raised regarding unethical or even illegal participation in war crimes. In a press release from Wright State University, where he is now Dean of the School of Professional Psychology, James –– has come out against Attorney General Holder’s limited criminal investigation of CIA torture:

“To reopen cases that were adjudicated as legal may be harmful to the mission and morale of the intelligence community,” said Col. (Ret.) Larry James, now the Dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University. “That said, I agree with President Obama’s statement several months ago to ‘turn the page’ and move on with regard to the interrogation of detainees of the Global War on Terrorism.”

James said the outcome of appointing the special prosecutor could have negative repercussions on the intelligence-gathering function.

“Being an interrogator is a stressful, challenging and dangerous job,” he said. “If there is new evidence that suggests crimes have been committed, then it would make sense to move forward with an investigation. However, since at the time of the interrogations they were deemed legal and acceptable by that sitting administration, I do not believe the investigation is warranted or necessary. I advise the president to be supportive of our current mission and be very careful as he moves forward in this sensitive area.”

James has previously made clear his belief that intelligence professionals should close their eyes to possible abuses outside of their immediate sphere of action. Thus, when asked by an Associated Press reporter to comment on reports of a secret Camp 7 at Guantanamo, James replied:

“I learned a long, long time ago, if I’m going to be successful in the intel community, I’m meticulously _ in a very, very dedicated way _ going to stay in my lane…. So if I don’t have a specific need to know about something, I don’t want to know about it. I don’t ask about it.”

Like so many others arguing against torture investigations, James may have reason to desire a shut down of torture inquiries. Last month, the Canadian Centre for International Justice and the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed to the Canadian government for a criminal investigation of James for potential involvement in war crimes:

“Allegations of abuse during Dr. James’ January to May 2003 deployment include beatings, religious and sexual humiliation, rape threats and painful body positions. Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is one of the prisoners who has alleged brutal treatment in the spring of 2003 when he was only 16 years old.

“Based on this information, the CCIJ and CCR called on the Canadian government to investigate whether action should be taken against Dr. James or other attendees of the APA Convention who may have been involved in abuse of detainees.”

The two human rights organizations outlined the evidence justifying a criminal investigation in a background document they presented to the Canadian government. At that time, James was in Toronto for the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association [APA], where he became President of the APA Division of Military Psychology Among the serious concerns regarding James’s behavior warranting investigation are that he consulted to interrogators at Guantanamo while isolation was part of the standard operating procedure to make new detainees dependent on their interrogators.

James, however, has repeatedly claimed credit for ending all abuses at Guantanamo, and later, at Abu Ghraib. Thus, his sanitized memoir detailing these claims is entitled Fixing Hell. Similarly, James told a task force convened by the American Psychological Association in 2005 that he and other psychologists ended abuses at detention facilities:

“I am very proud of the fact, it was psychologists who fixed the problems and not caused it. This is a factual statement! the fact of the matter is that since Jan 2003, where ever we have had psychologists no abuses have been reported.” [Emphasis in original.]

James has an idiosyncratic definition of “abuse.” He claims at times never to have witnessed abuses at Guantanamo, where he was deployed as a member of the Chief Psychologist of the Joint Intelligence Group and BSCT #1 [Behavioral Science Consultation Team] in 2003 and 2007:

“When I walk through the camps, I can’t tell you that I have stumbled across a lot of things that are wrong. During my time here, I am proud to say that I have not seen a guard or interrogator abuse anyone in any shape or form,” said James. “These young men and women go out of their way well beyond the call of duty to make sure that detainees are treated safely and humanely at all times.”

James’s account, of course, differs from that of every independent source that has examined Guantanamo and found persistent abuses continuing up to the present. [Even in his own account of his deployment at Guantanamo in his self-justifying “memoir,” James reports witnessing several instances of abuse – abuses which, however, he apparently failed to report to his commanders.]

In his memoir James claims to have had special responsibility for juveniles detained at Guantanamo. Yet, during his deployment there, young Mohammed Jawad [evidently between 12 and 16 when incarcerated there] was subjected to the mandatory four weeks isolation upon his arrival in February 2003. Later that year Jawad was subjected to further isolation and other abuse on the recommendation of a BSCT psychologist; James declined to condemn this abuse to a Newsweek reporter, implying that there were extenuating circumstances. Later, in May 2004, Jawad was also subjected to extended sleep deprivation in the so-called “frequent flyer program” in which, in the words of his military JAG attorney:

“Mohammad Jawad’s arms and legs were … shackled in preparation for the first of 112 moves up and down the hall of L Block, every 3 hours for the next 14 days.”

Also while James was deployed at Guantanamo, adolescent Omar Khadr reported being used as a human mop “because he had urinated on himself during a bout of shackled isolation.” The claim was investigated by the military, which has refused to release any information regarding the investigation. Records released by the Canadian government show that Khadr, like Jawad, was subjected to the “frequent flyer” sleep deprivation program in 2004. Despite his professed concern for the decent treatment of juvenile detainees, other than his Newsweek comment, James nowhere describes his relationship to the Jawad or Khadr cases or comments on the documented abuse these young boys suffered at Guantanamo during and after his deployment.

Does James believe that no investigation of his actions at Guantanamo is warranted as his actions there “were deemed legal and acceptable by that sitting administration”? In other words, was he just following orders?

Due to the secrecy surrounding Guantanamo, we do not know James’s actual conduct at Guantanamo. With his call to stop investigations of detainee abuses, James seems to desire that we never know. If he is innocent of participation in abuses, only an investigation will clear his name. If, however, he did participate in abuses, no defense that “at the time of the interrogations they were deemed legal and acceptable by that sitting administration” should be allowed to obscure the truth, and no claims of damage to the morale of the intelligence community should be allowed to impede an investigation and appropriate criminal and/or professional penalties.

Only the full truth can allow the abused detainees, the nation, and the profession of psychology, to “turn the page and move on.” In the absence of the truth we will be forever looking over our shoulders, wondering just who did what and what did happen during this sorry chapter in our nation’s recent history.

Ref: Counterpunch

Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He edits the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. He is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, one of the organizations working to change American Psychological Association policy on participation in abusive interrogations. He is also a Steering Committee member of Psychologists for Social Responsibility [PsySR]. He can be reached at: ssoldz@bgsp.edu

Israeli doctors colluding in torture + Doctors demand Yoram Blachar resign as ethics chief over Israeli torture + The UN Committee Against Torture Criticizes Israel

Israel’s watchdog body on medical ethics has failed to investigate evidence that doctors working in detention facilities are turning a blind eye to cases of torture, according to Israeli human rights groups.

The Israeli Medical Association (IMA) has ignored repeated requests to examine such evidence, the rights groups say, even though it has been presented with examples of Israeli doctors who have broken their legal and ethical duty towards Palestinians in their care.

The accusations will add fuel to a campaign backed by hundreds of doctors from around the world to force Yoram Blachar, who heads the IMA, to step down from his recent appointment as president of the World Medical Association (WMA).

More than 700 doctors have signed a petition arguing that Dr Blachar has disqualified himself from leadership of the WMA, the profession’s governing ethical body, by effectively condoning torture in Israel.

The campaign against Dr Blachar has gained ground rapidly since his appointment as president in November. Critics said his alleged complicity in the use of torture in Israeli detention facilities can be traced to 1995, when he became chairman of the IMA.

Until 1999, when Israel’s Supreme Court restricted torture, Israeli doctors routinely supervised the medical treatment of abused detainees, mostly Palestinians from the occupied territories.

During that period Dr Blachar surprised many colleagues by expressing support for Israeli interrogators’ use of “moderate physical pressure” in a letter to The Lancet, the British medical journal. The phrase covers a wide range of practices from beatings and binding prisoners in painful positions to sleep deprivation. It is regarded by human rights organisations as a euphemism for torture.

Despite the 1999 court ruling, a coalition of 14 Israeli human rights groups known as United Against Torture concluded in its latest annual report in November that Israeli detention facilities are still using torture systematically. Israeli doctors are also being relied on to treat the resulting injuries.

Last week, Physicians for Human Rights and the Public Committee against Torture in Israel published a joint report examining hundreds of arrests in which Palestinians were bound in “distorted and unnatural” ways to inflict “pain and humiliation” amounting to torture.

The report noted instances where prisoners, including a pregnant woman and a dying man, were shackled while doctors carried out emergency procedures in a hospital.

According to the report, the doctors violated the Tokyo Declaration, the key code of medical ethics adopted by the WMA in 1975 that bans the use of cruel, humiliating or inhuman treatment by physicians.

Ishai Menuchin, the head of the Public Committee, said his group had been lobbying strenuously against Israeli doctors’ complicity in torture since it issued a report, Ticking Bombs, in 2007, arguing that torture was routine in Israel.

The Public Committee highlighted the testimonies of nine Palestinians who had been tortured by interrogators. The report also noted that in most cases Israeli physicians treating detainees “return their patients to additional rounds of torture, and remain silent”.

In June last year, Physicians for Human Rights drew the IMA’s attention to two cases in which the attending doctor failed to report signs of torture on a Palestinian.

Anat Litvin of Physicians for Human Rights told the IMA: “We believe that doctors are used by torturers as a safety net – take them out of the system and torture will be much more difficult to enact.”

The groups stepped up their pressure in February, writing to Avinoam Reches, the chairman of the IMA’s ethics committee. They demanded that his association investigate six cases of doctors who failed to report signs of torture.

In one case, a prison doctor, under pressure from interrogators, agreed to retract a written recommendation that a detainee be immediately hospitalised for treatment.

Prof Reches promised to conduct an inquiry. However, last month the two human rights groups criticised him for failing to investigate their claims, accusing him of holding only “amicable and unofficial” conversations over the phone with a few of the doctors concerned.

“We have sent to the IMA many testimonies from victims of torture who were referred to doctors for treatment,” Dr Menuchin said. “But the IMA has yet to do anything about it.

“A significant number of doctors in Israel, in detention facilities and public hospitals, know torture is taking place, but choose to avert their gaze.”

This month, Defence for Children International issued a report on the torture of Palestinian children, noting that in several of the cases it cited, Israeli doctors had turned a blind eye. A boy of 14 who was beaten repeatedly on a broken arm reported the abuse to a doctor who, he said, replied only: “I had nothing to do with that.”

The report stated that the group “has not encountered a single case where an adult in a position of authority, such as a soldier, doctor, judicial officer or prison staff, has intervened on behalf of a child who was mistreated”.

Campaigners against Dr Blachar’s appointment as the head of the WMA say its Israeli sister association’s inaction on torture is unsurprising given its chairman’s public stance.

Derek Summerfield of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “The IMA under Dr Blachar is in collusion with the Israeli state policy of torture. Its role is to put a benign face on the occupation.”

Dr Blachar told the Israeli website Ynet last week that such criticisms were “slanderous”, saying he and the IMA denounced all forms of torture.

The WMA, with nine million members in more than 80 countries, was established in 1947 as a response to the abuses sanctioned by German and Japanese doctors during the Second World War.

In 2007, the WMA’s general assembly called on doctors to document and report all cases of suspected torture.

Ref: Global Research

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jkcook.net.

Also read > Doctors demand Yoram Blachar resign as ethics chief over Israeli torture and Israel admits torture and Israel’s very own Guantanamos

The UN Committee Against Torture Criticizes Israel

On 15 May 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) concluded its 42nd session in Geneva by issuing concluding observations and recommendations on periodic reports submitted by five states, including Israel.
The Committee, which is made up of 10 independent experts, received written and oral submissions from government officials and non-governmental organisations before and during its review of Israel’s Fourth Periodic Report on 5 and 6 May 2009. Members of the United Against Torture Coalition jointly submitted three reports [1, 2, 3] and over 150 pages of evidence [1, 2] as well as they sent representatives to Geneva to give a presentation before the Committee.

Read more

UN torture watchdog demands access to secret jail – Israel’s Guantanamo Bay

By Jonathan Cook

Nazareth, Israel – The United Nation’s watchdog on torture has criticised Israel for refusing to allow inspections at a secret prison, dubbed by critics as “Israel’s Guantanamo Bay”, and demanded to know if more such clandestine detention camps are operating.

In a report published on Friday, the Committee Against Torture requested that Israel identify the location of the camp, officially referred to as “Facility 1391”, and allow access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Findings from Israeli human rights groups show that the prison has in the past been used to hold Arab and Muslim prisoners, including Palestinians, and that routine torture and physical abuse were carried out by interrogators.

The UN committee’s panel of 10 independent experts also found credible the submissions from Israeli groups that Palestinian detainees were systematically tortured despite the banning of such practices by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999.

The existence of Facility 1391 came to light in 2002, when Palestinians were detained there for the first time during Israel’s reinvasion of the West Bank.

In a submission to human rights groups last week, Israel denied that any prisoners are currently being held at the site, although it admits that several Lebanese were detained there during the attack on Lebanon in 2006. The committee expressed concern about an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that found it “reasonable” for the state not to investigate suspicions of torture at the prison. The panel is believed to be concerned that without inspections the prison might still be in use or could be revived at short notice.

The Israeli court, the committee wrote, “should ensure that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment by detainees in Facility 1391 be impartially investigated [and] the results made public”.

Hamoked, an Israeli human rights organisation, first identified the prison after two Palestinian cousins seized in Nablus in 2002 could not be traced by their families. Israeli officials eventually admitted that the pair were being held at a secret site.

Israel still refuses to identify the precise location of the prison, which is inside Israel and about 100km north of Jerusalem. A few buildings are visible, but most of the prison is built underground.

“We only learnt about the prison because the army made the mistake of putting Palestinians there when they ran out of room in Israel’s main prisons,” said Dalia Kerstein, the director of Hamoked.

“The real purpose of the camp is to interrogate prisoners from the Arab and Muslim world, who would be difficult to trace because their families are unlikely to contact Israeli organisations for help.”

Ms Kerstein said the prison site was an even grosser violation of international law than Guantanamo Bay because it had never been inspected and no one knew what took place there.

According to the testimonies of the Palestinian cousins, Mohammed and Bashar Jadallah, they were held in isolation cells measuring two metres square, with black walls, no windows and a light bulb on 24 hours a day. On the rare occasions they were escorted outside, they had to wear blacked-out goggles.

When Bashar Jadallah, 50, asked where he was, he was told he was “on the moon”.

According to the testimony of Mohammed Jadallah, 23, he was repeatedly beaten, his shackles tightened, he was tied in painful positions to a chair, he was not allowed to go to the toilet and he was prevented from sleeping, with water thrown on him if he nodded off. Interrogators are also reported to have shown him pictures of family members and threatened to harm them.

Although Palestinians passing through the prison were interrogated by the domestic secret police, the Shin Bet, foreign nationals at the prison fall under the responsibility of a special wing of military intelligence known as Unit 504, whose interrogation methods are believed to be much harsher.

Shortly after the prison came to light, a former inmate – Mustafa Dirani, a leader of the Lebanese Shia group Amal – launched a court case in Israel claiming he had been raped by a guard.

Mr Dirani, seized from Lebanon in 1994, was held in Facility 1391 for eight years along with a Hizbollah leader, Sheikh Abdel Karim Obeid. Israel hoped to extract information from the pair in its search for a missing airman, Ron Arad, downed over Lebanon in 1986.

Mr Dirani alleged in court that he had been physically abused by a senior army interrogator known as “Major George”, including an incident when he was sodomised with a baton.

The case was dropped in early 2004 when Mr Dirani was released in a prisoner exchange.

Ms Kerstein said there was no proof that more prisons existed in Israel like Facility 1391, but some of the testimonies collected from former inmates suggested that they had been held at different secret locations.

She said the concern was that Israel might have been one of the countries that received “extraordinary rendition” flights, in which prisoners captured by the United States were smuggled to other countries for torture.

“If a democracy allows one of these prisons, who is to say that there are not more?” she said.

The committee examined other suspicions of torture involving Israel. It expressed particular concern about Israel’s failure to investigate more than 600 complaints made by detainees against the Shin Bet since the panel’s last hearings, in 2001.

It also highlighted the pressure put on Gazans who needed to enter Israel for medical treatment to turn informer.

Ishai Menuchin, executive director of Israel’s Public Committee against Torture, said his group had sent several submissions to the committee showing that torture was systematically used against detainees.

“After the court decision in 1999, interrogators simply learnt to be more creative in their techniques,” he said.

He added that, since Israel’s redefinition of Gaza as an “enemy state”, some Palestinians seized there were being held as “illegal combatants” rather than “security detainees”.

“In those circumstances, they might qualify for incarceration in secret prisons like Facility 1391.”

Ref: The nation

Zero Investigations (Israeli apartheid system at work)

Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann presented the following disturbing statistics last Wednesday, the final day of the Knesset’s winter session: In 2005 and 2006, a total of 129 complaints were filed against Shin Bet security services interrogators. Not a single one reached the ministry’s Police Investigations Department (PID). Friedmann, who was responding to a question submitted by MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), explained that none of the complaints “raised the suspicion of a criminal act.”

There is nothing new under the sun (or, in this case, far from the light of the sun). When Edna Arbel was state prosecutor, she told Haaretz that not a single one of the 100 complaints filed with the person in charge of reviewing complaints by interrogated suspects in 2000 and 2001 came in for criminal investigation. A few of the cases were passed on for disciplinary action.

The wholesale rejection of all the complaints must raise the question of a cover-up. “The figure is amazing,” Khenin said to Haaretz, “129 false complaints were made against the Shin Bet and not a single one deserved even to be investigated.” It can be assumed that the reason for zero investigations is that the reviewer works for the Shin Bet. Members of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel claim the reviewer has only two types of responses: There was no basis to the claims, or this was a case of a “ticking bomb” that justified the use of force.

The exemption from external oversight sends Shin Bet interrogators the problematic and dangerous message that they are immune from prosecution. The reviewer is subordinate to the State Prosecutor’s Office. This begs the question of whether the office is fulfilling its supervisory and critical function regarding the reviewer.

In 1999 the High Court banned the Shin Bet from torturing suspects or treating them in a cruel, humiliating or inhumane manner. However, the justice system does not take action against interrogators who apply force in “ticking bomb” situations. The Public Committee Against Torture claims that the Shin Bet’s interrogation methods are gradually returning to the period before the High Court ruling against torture. Is this correct? It’s hard to say. No external organization has checked.

On the other hand, there is no ignoring that many Israelis owe their lives to Shin Bet investigators. Israelis are once again free to shop in the malls and travel by bus safely, largely thanks to the impressive successes of the Shin Bet. But that organization is walking a thin line. The blood, honor and humanity of terror suspects are not at their disposal.

The power to decide on investigating complaints against interrogators must be taken out of the Shin Bet’s hands immediately. One option is to transfer the complaints directly to the PID. Now that there is a commissioner for handling complaints against judges, perhaps the time has come to appoint a commissioner for complaints against the Shin Bet. The post could be filled by a former military figure or someone connected to the Justice Ministry, but it must be someone whose career and livelihood are not dependent on the Shin Bet.

Friedmann promised Khenin that Justice Ministry staff would reexamine a sampling of the complaints. This examination is very important. It should be done soon and thoroughly, and the results should be made public.

ReF: Haaretz