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Memo to Jon Stewart

Glad You’re Against Torture, So Why’d You Give Israel a Pass?

by ALISON WEIR

Dear Jon Stewart,

I phoned ABC and left a comment for The Daily Show. I hope you got it.

I’m glad you’re against torture. I just wish you were also against torture by Israel. I was pretty astounded to hear you chatting with John McCain last night, nodding along as AIPAC-buddy McCain explained that the US should emulate Israel, "which doesn’t torture people."

Whew!

Jon, you’re a really smart guy. Is it possible that you don’t know that there are 8,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons right now, and that many of them have been tortured, some of them at this very minute? <

Is it possible that you didn’t read the article about Mustafa Dirani testifying in an Israeli court for ten hours about his gruesome torture by Israeli interrogators?

Is it possible you’ve never ever talked to Palestinians, even Palestinian-Americans, and heard their graphic descriptions of the Israeli prison experience?

Jon, I know you’re not dumb, and I’d like to think you’re not hypocritical, so maybe you just really have missed the boat on this one. Therefore, in thanks for all the great laughs you’ve given us, I’d like to help you out a bit and invite you to join us on our next trip to the West Bank and Gaza. That way you can learn about things. The trip’s on us, and the humus is great.

Sure, Israeli forces may kill or injure us, like they did Rachel Corrie, James Miller, Tom Hurndall, Brian Avery, and thousands upon thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children but, hey, they probably won’t.

Cordially,

ALISON WEIR

ALISON WEIR is executive director of If Americans Knew. She can be reached at: alisonweir@yahoo.com

P.S. Below is a news report that I think you missed, Jon, but it wasn’t really your fault. Although this article can be discovered on some websites, almost no American news media actually printed it.

 

Militant Says He Was Abused by Israel

By PETER ENAV
Associated Press

TEL AVIV, Israel – A Lebanese guerrilla leader about to be freed in a prisoner swap testified Tuesday that Israeli interrogators raped him, sodomized him with a club and kept him naked for weeks in a round-the-clock effort to extract information on a missing Israeli aviator.

State prosecutor Shamai Becker said interrogators never touched Mustafa Dirani. The prosecutor said Dirani "sang like a bird" and made up allegations of abuse to explain why he gave Israel information.

Human rights groups have accused Israel of routinely mistreating Arab prisoners, but rarely to the extremes Dirani alleged to a Tel Aviv court in his $1.3 million lawsuit against the Israeli government.

Dirani is one of hundreds of Arab prisoners to be released Thursday in exchange for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers – all kidnapped by the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah in October 2000.

The prisoners to be freed by Israel include 400 Palestinians, 34 people from Arab countries and a German convicted of spying for Hezbollah.

On Tuesday, a white bus filled with prisoners drove into the Sharon Prison in central Israel under heavy guard. Prisoners peeked from tiny wire mesh-covered windows, and some tried unsuccessfully to spread their fingers in V-for-victory signs.

The German-mediated swap is to take place Thursday. Security officials said the prisoners from Arab countries and the German would be flown Wednesday to Germany. Israel will release the Palestinians into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and will hand over 59 bodies of Lebanese militants killed in clashes with Israeli troops.

All the Palestinians had less than three years to serve and were not involved in wounding or killing Israelis, according to a list released Tuesday. About two-thirds were scheduled to be released this year.

Some Palestinians greeted the list with disappointment, noting Israel has often freed prisoners convicted of nonviolent offenses on Muslim holidays or as part of peace talks.

"I look at this like a routine release," said Issa Karake, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Association.

Dirani is among the most prominent of the prisoners named. Israeli forces burst into his home in Lebanon in 1994, kidnapped him and held him without charges for a decade, yet allowed him access to its court system to sue the government for torture.

On Tuesday, Dirani testified that interrogators kept him naked and shackled in a secret facility for a month as six men tortured him, splashing him with hot and freezing water, shaking him until he fainted and sexually assaulting him as they demanded information about missing airman Ron Arad.

Israel accuses Dirani of helping capture Arad, who was caught alive after ejecting from his plane over Lebanon in 1986.

Israeli and international human rights groups say Israel has mistreated Arab security detainees during interrogation by depriving them of sleep, tying them in painful positions and forcing them to wear hoods.

In 1999, Israel’s Supreme Court banned the blanket use of such practices, saying they could be used only in specific instances. Human rights activists said abuse fell off after the ruling but has become more frequent in the past three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

Dirani’s accusations of torture – which he said took place before the court ruling – were far more severe than those usually reported, said Yael Stein, research director at B’tselem, an Israeli human rights group.

"Accusations of rape are not common," she said. "If it is true, it is very severe."

Dirani, 53, limped badly and walked with a cane when he entered the courtroom. He had to be coaxed into giving details.

Dirani said he was interrogated around the clock for a month by six people, including a man known only as George, who threatened him, cursed him and repeatedly squeezed his testicles "until I felt I would die," Dirani said.

One day a uniformed soldier nicknamed "Kojak" came into the room and dropped his pants, and George told Dirani the soldier would sodomize him if he did not talk, Dirani said.

Days later, Dirani was shackled and pushed down onto a bench, he said. "I couldn’t see or resist … I was raped by the soldier. He said he would rape me, and he did," he told the court.

"Two or three days later they started raping me with a police baton," he said. "It’s impossible to describe the pain. I yelled to high heaven."

The interrogators took him to a doctor to stop the bleeding, he said. They also forced him to drink castor oil, which made him incontinent, and gave him large diapers as his only clothing.

Israel’s Channel Two TV broadcast an interview with a person, his face in shadows, identified as the interrogator named George. He denied abusing Dirani, but said interrogation is a competition between questioners and detainees.

"You must be innovative," he said, "and you can’t always run and get permission in advance."

Becker, the prosecutor, denied Dirani’s accusations.

"All the interrogators said you sang like a bird and there was no reason to touch a hair on your head," Becker said as he cross-examined Dirani.

"What’s all this about? You are going back to Lebanon. People will ask how could you give out this and that information. You’ll answer that you are a heterosexual Muslim. This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t tortured and thus forced you to talk," Becker said.