‘Torture Them’

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

Do we want a Vice President who endorses illegal detention and torture of Palestinians? Anthony Cordesman, a national security type frequently deployed as a television pundit, recently posted a paper on the website for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies recommending that Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority engage in just these practices to repress the latest intifada. “Halt civil violence,” Cordesman counsels, “even if it means using excessive force by the standards of Western police forces.” But this is only a warm-up.

“Halt terrorist and paramilitary action by Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” Cordesman continues, “even if this means interrogations, detentions, and trials that are too rapid and lack due process.” Still not clear enough. “Effective counter-terrorism relies on interrogation methods that border on psychological and/or physical torture, arrests and detention that violate the normal rights of privacy, [with] levels of violence in making arrests that are unacceptable in civil cases, and measures that involve the innocent (or at least the not probably directly guilty) in arrests and penalties.”

In other words, protected only by the weasel phrase “border on,” Cordesman urges that Israel’s security forces return to the torture techniques that were finally abandoned under High Court order a year ago. Joe Lieberman is one of the senators belonging to the CSIS Middle East Task Force. Thus far, despite explicit requests for comment, he has not disavowed Cordesman’s prescriptions, which have been condemned by Amnesty International USA. For two months now Israel has laid barbarous siege to Palestinians throughout the occupied territories.

The Israeli Army is busily cordoning Palestinian areas behind trenches and barbed wire, making Gaza and the West Bank one vast prison-or rather, many separate prisons, all barred from communicating with one another. The policy of “closure,” initiated after the Gulf War, continued unabated during the so-called Oslo peace process, in violation of Israeli government obligations.

The strategy of apartheid and imprisonment is now accelerating, accompanied by bombardment of heavily populated areas, as well as incessant attacks from settlers (all courtesy of the US government, as always, with vast new military subventions rolling in after the Al-Aksa intifada began).

Even the relatively better-informed mainstream accounts fail to convey the brutality of this policy. There are a number of excellent news outlets for those who want unjaundiced reporting. The website for Middle East Research and Information Project is trustworthy (http://www.merip.org), as is the Electronic Intifada (http://electronicintifada.net/new.html). For the latter, the intro essay by Nigel Parry gives a useful overview of media coverage. Electronic Intifada also has links to other sites, as does ZNet’s Mideast Watch (http://www.zmag.org/meastwatch/meastwat.htm). Particularly comprehensive is Birzeit University’s site (http://www.birzeit.edu/links).

Footnote: Meanwhile, the Hebrew language newspaper Haaretz features an interview with a sniper in the Israeli Defense Forces in which he says, regarding the targeting of Palestinian youths, “Twelve and up is allowed. He’s not a child any more, he’s already after his bar mitzvah period.”

Interviewer: “Thirteen is bar mitzvah age.”

Sniper: “Twelve and up, you’re allowed to shoot. That’s what they tell us.”

Interviewer: “So, according to the IDF, it is twelve?”

Sniper: “According to what the IDF says to its soldiers. I don’t know if this is what the IDF says to the media.”

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