Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bound, blindfolded and beaten – by Israeli troops.

They say troops are led from the front. So this news shouldn't be any great surprise when we have already heard Colonel Itai Virob of the IDF say this:

Last month, Colonel Virob testified in a military court that hitting detained Palestinians could be justified. "Standing them against walls, pushing them, a blow that doesn't cause injury. Certainly, these are things that are commonly used in an attempt to accomplish the mission," he said.
Now, two Israeli officers have testified that Israeli troops beat prisoners who are already bound and blindfolded, some of whom are as young as fourteen.

Both the soldiers, from the Harub battalion, highlighted the tight tying of the plastic hand restraints placed on detainees. "There are people who think you need to tighten the restraints all the way, until no drop of blood will pass from here to there," one soldier said. "It doesn't take much time until the hands turn blue. There were a lot of people that you know weren't feeling anything."

He said about 150 Palestinians, some as young as 14, were bound, blindfolded and detained at the village school during the operation, which lasted from 3am to 3pm. He was told it was aimed at preventing village youths throwing stones against nearby settler roads. It was clear many of the people detained had done nothing wrong, but they were held to gather intelligence, he said.

The worst beatings were in the bathrooms, he said. "The soldiers who took [detainees] to the toilet just exploded [over] them with beatings; cursed them with no reason. When they took one Arab to the toilet so that he could urinate, one of them gave him a slap that brought him to the ground. He had been handcuffed from behind with a nylon restraint and blindfolded. He wasn't insolent, he didn't do anything to get on anyone's nerves ... [it was] just because he's an Arab. He was something like 15 years old." The soldier said he saw a lot of soldiers "just knee [Palestinians] because it's boring, because you stand there 10 hours, you're not doing anything, so they beat people up."

A second soldier described a "fanatical atmosphere" during the search operations. "We would go into a house and turn the whole thing upside down," he recalled, but no weapons were found. "They confiscated kitchen knives."

The first soldier said involvement was widespread."There were a lot of reservists that participated, and they totally had a celebration on the Palestinians: curses, humiliation, pulling hair and ears, kicks, slaps. These things were the norm." He said the incidents in the toilet were the "extreme" and added that the beatings did not draw blood. They were "dry beatings, but it's still a beating".

These stories are obviously not comparative with Abu Ghraib and the horrors of the Bush/Cheney torture regime. They do however highlight the humiliation which Obama spoke of when he recently described the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

We are hearing here of people being beaten simply because the soldiers are bored. Of people being held, handcuffed so tightly that their hands turn blue, despite the fact that they are accused of no crime.

Perhaps the horrors of Abu Ghraib have made this seem like no big deal. Certainly the war on a noun has brought out a cruelty and a callousness towards one's perceived enemies amongst the right wing which, prior to 9-11, would have been unthinkable.

We now have shock jocks on American TV calling for people to be tortured. Indeed, O'Reilly went as far as to say that people who opposed torture were despicable.

So, against that background, the Israelis are only giving these Palestinians a little roughing up.

I wonder though when this became acceptable to us?

When did it become acceptable for a Colonel to talk of, "Standing them against walls, pushing them, a blow that doesn't cause injury" and for large parts of the population not to recoil in horror?

When did we lose our ability to empathise? To imagine how we might feel if were we to be that innocent person being treated in such a manner by people far more powerful ourselves?

Certainly the two Israeli soldiers speaking out realise the fundamental wrong of what they have witnessed.

Why are they the exception?

Why don't Bill O'Reilly and others get it? I genuinely wonder what large swathes of our society have become when I hear people regularly defending the indefensible.

Click title for full article.

No comments: