THE HANDSTAND

JULY 2007

 
Ha'aretz, An Israeli Newspaper Atlast Publishes the Criminal Military Tortures of the Israeli Defense Force

Now you Are Paralyzed As We Promised
By Gideon Levy

"We have to make you do a little sports," the Shin Bet interrogator said, launching four successive days of questioning accompanied by brutal physical torture. The result: Luwaii Ashqar can no longer stand on his feet. He sits in his wheelchair, dressed in a fashionable quasi-military suit, super-elegant, new Caterpillar-brand shoes on his paralyzed feet.

"I love this color," he says about his uniform. "It's the color of the soldiers who came to arrest me for the interrogation that did all this to me."

His smile is captivating, his Hebrew rich and incisive. He is a young man whose world fell apart. He entered prison sound of body and mind and emerged a broken man. For four days and four nights nonstop, he says, he was interrogated and subjected to torture of the most brutal kind. The result is the person we see before us in the wheelchair, in the elegant home high in the village of Saida, north of Tul Karm, which was placed at his disposal by a friend after he was released from Israeli prison a month ago.Was there a judgment by the High Court of Justice? There was. It banned precisely the types of torture he underwent: the "banana posture," the "shabah" (body stretching with hands tied to a chair), "invisible" blows and the "frog posture" (being forced to stand for hours on the toes in a crouching position) - all the way to a vicious kick to his chest that bent his body backward while he was tied to a chair with his arms and legs, and which was the probable cause of the partial paralysis of his legs.

Throwing up with the vomit entering his nostrils, losing consciousness and being given only saltwater to drink, relieving himself in his pants, not sleeping or resting - all of that for four consecutive days and nights.

What does the interrogator Maimon tell his children when he goes home? What do Eldad and Sagiv tell their wives about their daily labors before they turn in? That they tortured another helpless prisoner until they turned him into a cripple? That they beat this charming young man brutally and that at the end of the interrogation he was tried for only marginal offenses? And where is the Supreme Court, which in 1999 prohibited precisely the chain of torture that Luwaii Sati Ashqar, 30, who was married three years ago, underwent in the Kishon detention facility?

Ashqar is not alone. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel has just issued a new report containing the testimonies of nine torture victims (English version: www.stoptorture.org.il//eng). As the authors of the shocking report say, the testimonies "paint a dismal picture in which can be discerned various categories of secret-keeping collaborators, who, in keeping silent, protect the [Shin Bet] system of torture." ...

On the wall is a picture, a fine drawing of a kneeling prisoner, his head between his knees. The caption: "I am in the darkness of the prison, living on your memory. I am far from you, lying in my bed, my spirit cruising your land all night. God will release all the prisoners, the strong will triumph."

Ashqar is sitting in his wheelchair, his left leg completely enclosed in a cast, his right leg shaking nonstop. When he tries to get up and lean on his crutches, he threatens to topple over. "I was married in 2004, and I started to work in aluminum in the village to provide for my new household. On April 22, 2005, at 2:30 A.M., the soldiers came and started to throw grenades and to shout for everyone in the house to go outside. They blindfolded me with whatever they use and handcuffed me. I was taken in a jeep to prison and I was examined by an army doctor. He looked over my body - no operations, doesn't take medication, no illnesses. Again I was taken in a military jeep, this time to Kishon. 'Yehuda, incoming,' the warder said and transferred me to the interrogation office. They opened my eyes: Good morning. An excellent morning. One of the interrogators, Maimon, told me: I am responsible for your file. What file? The one you were arrested for. This is the major, and this tall guy is the colonel, this is Sagiv and this is Eldad. Eight interrogators.

"They said: We have no time, it will soon be our Passover and you have to finish everything in a short time. Finish what? You have to tell us what you have. I don't have anything to tell you. I begged. They said: We know all that nonsense. We are talking about security. Plans for terrorist attacks at Passover. I said: I don't understand what you are talking about. They said: The suicide bomber was at your place. What suicide bomber?

"After two hours of talking they said to me: If you don't give everything you have, we will have to take it by a different way. What is the different way? Did you hear of a military interrogation? You might leave here with your body battered or crippled. I was taken to a military interrogation. Here you pray to God that you will die, they said, but we won't give you that. We will let you die only after you spill out what we are looking for. He gave me a prison uniform and I told him that if I was going to die, I preferred my own clothes.

"They sat me down on a square chair without a back, which was attached to the floor and had sharp metal ends [sticking up]. My legs were tied to the legs of the chair with metal cuffs and my hands were tied behind my back with metal cuffs. One interrogator sat behind me and the other in front of me. The interrogator opposite me said: We have to give you a little sports, so you will be able to hold out in the military interrogation. The sports was that they pushed me backward by the chest, a backward somersault, and I would hold myself so my bones would not break. After a minute or two I would automatically fall on the floor, but the interrogator behind me would put his foot on my chest and press, and the interrogator in front would grab my hands and pull and pull behind the chair. They kept on like that until I don't know what happened to me, heat in every part of my body, puking everything I had in my stomach and it would go into my nostrils. I would wake up when they poured water on my face. When I woke up, we went back to the same situation. It went on like this 15-20 times an hour.

"After that they made me crouch on my toes, not letting me lean on the back of my foot. I was in that position for 40-50 minutes, maybe an hour - that was my estimate - until I felt my soles swelling and they turned blue and there was tremendous pain. After that, stand up, and they tied my hands and pressed as hard as they could on the metal handcuffs until the metal dug into my hand. Here are the signs, you can still see them. Because of the pressure, the key of the handcuffs didn't always work and they would bring huge metal scissors, like they use in construction, and tear off the handcuffs and then bring new ones, to go on. The color of my hands changed to blue, and when they opened [the handcuffs] my hands shook. The interrogator stood on the table and pulled me with a chain of handcuffs. When I fell, they pulled me by the hair.

"I would cry, beg, shout, and they came back to me with words, that it was impossible to stop, only after you start talking about what we want. I said to them: Tell me what you want. Tell me I am responsible for the attack on the Pentagon, I am ready to confess to everything, just tell me what. I want to end this death."

"There were always four interrogators and two rotated every four hours, day and night. The new ones would tell me they were stronger than the ones before, that the ones before were a joke, we are the strong ones. And that was true. The new ones tied me and started to beat me all over my body. One interrogator pressed hard on my testicles and on my feet with his shoes. When they slapped me and I tried to pull back, the major would say: What are you doing? If you move back, I will break your nose, and if you move forward I will rip off your ear. Be strong and take it sportingly, because you are a soldier and a fighter. They broke this tooth."

Ashqar suddenly stops talking. He turns pale and his face is covered with beads of perspiration. His father, Sati, quickly wipes his face with a damp cloth. "Every time I try to remember I get dizzy, even when I am alone." Quiet descends in the room. It will take Ashqar another few minutes to pull himself together.

"I was taken into detention on Friday morning, and that was the last light of day I saw before the interrogation. I came out for the first time on Monday night or before dawn on Tuesday morning. On those long days I sat in a chair and did not even go to the toilet. So you won't kill yourself, they said. I urinated in my clothes, and a terrible stench started. For four days I didn't eat anything. They told me: If we give you something to eat, something will happen to your stomach and your intestines. Maybe they will explode under the pressure of the food when we push you backward. You will drink only half a cup of saltwater. That is what they gave me every time after they bent me and I vomited. Why with salt? I asked. Give me without salt. No, so nothing will happen in your stomach and intestines. I would drink it and vomit.

"On Monday evening, they told me that five witnesses had testified that Luwaii had transported a wanted man. I told them that there was a famous wanted man named Luwaii Sadi, but my name is Luwaii Sati, and maybe they had mixed us up. He said to me: Are you saying the Shin Bet is that stupid? We know exactly what we're doing, and it is all correct. I said: Put me on trial for whatever you want. He said: Ya'allah, sports again. He pushes me backward in the chair. I will help you become a story in Palestinian history. He is talking to me and my head is down below. He pushes strongly with his leg and presses on my chest. I felt something like an explosion in my body. Like something broke. After that I don't know what happened. I woke up and they were pouring water on my face. Again they pushed me backward and again I fainted.

"He said to me: Stand on your feet. I felt that my legs were cold, like pins and needles in the legs. I said: I can't. He said: Now you are paralyzed. I said: I guess I am. He said: That is what we promised you and that is what you want."


"I discovered I had a wound in the back and it was bleeding - because of the sharp chair - and one of my bones was protruding. Because of the blood and because of the urine of four days there was such a stench that the interrogator could not come close to me. He said: Why do you stink like that? I told him: That is your perfume. A warder took me to the shower and threw me on the floor and said to me: Ya'allah, you have two minutes to shower. I looked at the faucet up above and I could not reach it. I pulled down my pants and the underpants stayed in place. I tried to pull them down - I could do it in front but behind it was stuck to my back. The two minutes went by and the warder started to pound on the door. Time's up. I told him: Give me another two minutes, I can't reach the faucet. He came in and asked: What do you have on your back? I said: I don't know.

"He called the interrogator and said: Come and see the prisoner. The interrogator came and asked: What do you have, Luwaii? I said: I don't know what I have on my back, I can't pull the underpants down and I can't reach the faucet. He said: Ya'allah, we will go up and finish the story and take you to the doctor.

"Two warders took me in a Prisons Service vehicle to Rambam [Medical Center in Haifa]. In emergency, my hands and feet were tied and a Russian doctor asked me: What hurts you? I told him: My whole body hurts from the interrogation. The Druze warder said: Shut up. The doctor turned me on the side and stuck a finger into my ass. I asked him: What are you doing? He said: I am checking whether you have hemorrhoids. Why didn't you ask me first? I am a professional, he said. I said: What about the wound on the back? He put ointment there and dressed it. After 10 minutes I was taken back to interrogation. Again I was tied to the square chair. The bandage fell off and the wound started to bleed again. After that, they stopped the military interrogation."

He was interrogated for another two months, but without physical torture. He was told that his wife had been arrested because of him - a complete fabrication - and he was given a lie detector test ("the falsehoods machine," in his Hebrew). For two weeks he was placed in a cell with stool pigeons. In the end, he was indicted on only two counts, in Prosecution File 2157/05: assisting a wanted person to hide and using a forged document. No ticking and no bomb. Ashqar was sentenced to 26 months in prison and was released a month ago. In the meantime, his younger brother, Osaimar, disappeared. Soldiers came to the house looking for him, but he was not there. His family has not seen him since: He told them that he was not willing to undergo what Luwaii did.

Luwaii is now looking for a way to get medical treatment in Israel or abroad, after his physician told him that he would not be able to get rehabilitation in the West Bank. His lawyer told him that the Shin Bet will almost certainly prevent him from going anywhere.

This is the response received by Haaretz from the Shin Bet:

Luwaii Ashqar was arrested in April 2005, after serious suspicions were raised against him concerning his involvement in terrorism, including possession of weapons and assistance to wanted individuals - terror activists from Islamic Jihad.

One of the suspicions was that he had provided accommodation, ahead of a terrorist act, for Sirhan Sarhan, the perpetrator of the attack in Kibbutz Metzer, who murdered Revital Ohayon and her two children, Noam and Matan, of blessed memory.
The suspect was tried and convicted in a plea bargain, and sentenced to 14 months in prison and another 14 months in prison stemming from a pending conditional sentence, so that all told he was sentenced to 26 months in prison. In addition, he received a 28-month suspended sentence.

His interrogation was carried out according to the rules and directives, with constant review of the interrogation process.

During the interrogation, the above-named put forward medical complaints, which were examined and treated by the appropriate medical authorities, including an examination he underwent in hospital.

It should be noted that during the interrogation he did not cite medical complaints of the same seriousness as those mentioned in the query.

Complaints relating to his interrogation, from, among other sources, the Committee Against Torture and the Red Cross, were referred to the State Prosecutor's Office for examination, which ordered an examination by the Ombudsman of Interogees' Complaints.

The examination of the complaints did not turn up any excesses in the interrogation, and in the wake of this, the official in charge of the OIC in the State Prosecutor's Office decided to close the examination file.

road to Nablus

And now, they kill a fetus

By Gideon Levy

05/21/07 "
Haaretz" -- -- - Memorial posters decorate the walls of the Rafidiya government hospital in Nablus, covering earlier posters of countless young people who have been killed. But this poster is like nothing we have seen before: a fetus covered in its own blood, its tiny head blown up by the bullet that struck its mother, and the caption - "Who gave you the right to steal his life?"

The killing of the unborn child, Daoud, by Israel Defense Forces troops raises a series of moral, legal and philosophical questions. Is the killing of a fetus manslaughter? Is it murder? And how old is the victim? But all these questions are dwarfed by the woman lying stunned and injured in the maternity ward of the hospital in Nablus, in agony, with all kinds of tubes attached to her, refusing to answer a single question.

It is obvious that Maha Katouni is still in a state of trauma. Wounded in the abdomen, she lies in bed, her elderly mother by her side. The tube in her nose makes it hard for her to speak. She is 30 years old and was in the seventh month of pregnancy, a mother who got up in the middle of the night to protect her three small children, sleeping in the other room, from the bullets that were whistling by outside. As soon as she got out of bed, the bullet struck her. Bleeding, she fell on the nightstand by her bed. Maha survived, but Daoud - as she and her husband planned to name their son - was removed from her womb with a bullet wound to the head.??"And babies?" a reporter once asked an American soldier who had taken part in the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War. His succinct answer was just as chilling as the question. "Babies." And now, a fetus.?

The day before, I had been in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, accompanied by the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, comparing the horrors of apartheid to the Israeli occupation in the territories. The next afternoon I was here, in the Rafidiya maternity ward, standing before the bed of the wounded Maha, who had lost her baby.

The biggest hospital in the territories is practically deserted, barely functioning. It has been this way for two months now. Like the other hospitals in the West Bank, Rafidiya accepts only emergency cases, because of the economic boycott of the Palestinian Authority, which also prevents the workers here from being paid. Only 20 of the hospital's 168 beds are currently occupied, and only about a third of the hospital's 380 staff members show up for work. In the emergency room we saw just one patient, who had arrived that morning. The rest of the beds were empty. In the past two and a half months, the workers have received just NIS 1,500 per person, from funds provided by the European Union.

Hospital director Dr. Khaled Salah says that the staff and patients don't come to the hospital because of the difficulties in getting to Nablus and the cost of the trip, which has risen significantly because of the checkpoints. The Hawara checkpoint and the Beit Iba checkpoint, the two checkpoints on the city's outskirts, are relatively deserted, because of the difficulty in getting past them.

Maha lies in bed, her eyes closed. A green headscarf covers her head. Her skin is ashen. Every once in a while she opens her eyes but then quickly closes them again. Once in a while she also murmurs a few words in a feeble voice and then goes quiet again. How are you? Silence. Maha is a resident of the Ein Beit Ilma refugee camp on the outskirts of Nablus. She is married to Rifat, a 36-year-old school janitor, and the couple have three children: Jihad, 10; Jawad, 7; and Jad, 3. Two uncles and her mother watch over her, not budging from her bedside. For the father of the family, it's too hard to be here. He's still in shock.

Last Wednesday was an ordinary day in the Katouni household. The father went to work, the kids went to school, and in the evening everyone went to bed - the parents in their bedroom and the three children in their room in the third-floor apartment. Shortly after two in the morning, Maha was startled awake by the loud sounds of gunfire from the street. She didn't even manage to turn on the light when she got up to run to the kids' room next door, to reassure her three little boys and keep them from getting scared. The gunfire was very heavy. The window of her room was open and her bed was close to the window.

Maha got out of bed, took one step, and then the bullet struck her in the lower back. She fell onto the nightstand. Another bullet struck the nightstand. Soldiers from the Nahal patrol battalion were standing on the roofs of the surrounding buildings. "Wherever we are sent - to there we go," the poet Yaakov Orland once wrote in "The Nahal Anthem," sung by the Nahal entertainment troupe, which also sang "The Song of Peace."

Rifat rushed to call an ambulance. The children, who had awakened, were hysterical, especially the youngest, 3-year-old Jad, at the sight of the blood trickling from the front and back of their pregnant mother, who lay wounded on the floor. The bullet had struck her from behind, passed through the fetus' head and the mother's intestines and exited through the abdomen.

Family members say that about 45 minutes went by before the ambulance from the Medical Relief organization was permitted to approach. In the meantime, Maha's mother, Umm Ibrahim, tried to leave her home nearby to come to her daughter's aid. Umm Ibrahim says that when she tried to leave her house there was gunfire; she hurried back inside. "It's a miracle that I was saved," says the woman in the white headscarf. She could not reach her injured daughter and would not see her until two hours later, in the hospital.

The pain is written all over Maha's face. One of her brothers somehow managed to cross the line of fire and get to her house; he tried to stanch the gaping wound in her stomach with a towel. Her husband, Rifat, was paralyzed with shock. Umm Ibrahim says that her son, who tended to Maha, could see through the hole in her abdomen that the fetus had been wounded in the head and was dead.

The gunfire finally subsided at around three in the morning and they were able to take Maha out to the street, carried by her brother and the paramedic from the ambulance that had parked in the nearby alley. The brother says that on the way to the hospital they were stopped twice by soldiers, who wanted to check the wounded woman's identity and to make sure there were no wanted men hiding in the ambulance. Maha was barely conscious when she reached the hospital, but her mother says she understood right away that she had lost the baby.

The family says the IDF enters the camp nearly every night and that there is almost always gunfire. Umm Ibrahim managed to get to the hospital at four in the morning, when her daughter was in the operating room and the dead fetus had already been removed.

Dr. Ihab Shareideh was the surgeon who was summoned to the hospital in the middle of the night to operate on Maha. He says that her recovery has been more difficult and slower than usual, not only because of her injuries, but because of her traumatized mental state. Fortunately, not many blood vessels were injured, so the delay in getting her to the hospital did not cause further damage. It is too soon to gauge the extent of the damage to her digestive system, or to say whether she will be able to get pregnant again. The fetus died as a result of the bullet that penetrated its brain on the way to the mother's intestines.

The anesthesiologist, Dr. Iyad Salim, a resident of nearby Hawara, roams the hospital corridors. On his cell phone camera is a video of the operation and the removal of the fetus. So close to being a fully developed baby, with a bullet wound to the head. The memorial poster shows the etus bleeding from the head. The image is unbearable.

They were going to call him Daoud, after an uncle, and also after a resident of the camp who was killed. At home they had everything ready: new clothes, diapers and a crib passed down from his older brothers. Daoud was buried in the camp cemetery. Only a few close family members attended the funeral of the unborn baby.

At press time, no response had been received from the IDF Spokesperson's Office.

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