Torture under a different name

The New York Times pontificated on 1 May that Israel long ago realised that torture was, well, torture:

Reading about the Bush administration’s convoluted attempts to justify torture takes me back to reporting I did 12 years ago on the anguished debate in Israel over its secret service’s use of violence in interrogations. That was two years before the Israeli Supreme Court banned the practice. “This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it,” wrote the president of the court, Aharon Barak.

I had interviewed Justice Barak for my article, and I recall with some shame my righteous certainty in those days that I came from a country that would never stoop to such methods.

An internationally respected jurist and a deeply patriotic Israeli, Justice Barak was acutely aware of the competing demands of what the ruling called “the harsh reality of terrorism” and a “democratic, freedom-loving society.” Certainly nobody would question the reality of the threats faced by Israel. And none of its foes share its scruples about torture, as many critics furiously pointed out to the high court (and to me after my article appeared).

Until the ruling, Israel, like the Bush administration, had insisted that methods of torment permitted in interrogating detainees were not torture and, therefore, not in violation of international and national law prohibiting the use of torture. Those methods included violent shaking, shackling prisoners to a low and tilted stool, covering their heads with urine-drenched hoods and sleep deprivation.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that the Jewish state tortures Palestinian prisoners to this day.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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