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Israel's West Bank torture regime

The slow disintegration of living conditions in the West Bank continues apace. But this is no natural disaster or complicated economic malaise. This is a very deliberately created policy, one designed and implemented by a state – the occupying power Israel.


The Zionist project in the land of Palestine shares much with the toppled South African apartheid regime. But there are important differences. Unlike South Africa, which relied on the black masses as a subservient labour force, ideologically, Israel would simply wish for Palestinians to disappear.

Hence the project of Zionist colonisation that began even before 1948, but reached a peak then, with the Nakba – the deliberate ethnic cleansing of the majority of the Palestinian population through force of arms. This project never ended and continues today.

Palestinians on both sides of the “Green Line” ceasefire line (drawn in 1949) constantly face down direct expulsions from the Israeli terrorist army. A new project of Israeli ethnic cleansing the in southern desert, the Naqab, has been thwarted by a concerted Palestinian protest movement. Or thwarted for now, we should say, since the Prawer Plan is likely to return to the Knesset in another form.

But a less obvious form of this creeping, slow-motion Nakba is the everyday grind of occupation – the deliberate Israeli policy of enforced misery in the West Bank and the siege on Gaza.

A glaring example is the apartheid wall that cuts Palestinian farmers off from their lands. The checkpoints that break up Palestinian life and economic activity – these are monuments to Israel’s inhumanity towards Palestinians, simply because they are not Jews. Israeli checkpoints, with their turnstiles and cages, would not be tolerated in the West as fit conditions for animals.

Israel’s torture regime in the West Bank is very real. Palestinian prisoners are frequently subjected to torture by Israeli soldiers, police and other agents. It is a routine act of Zionism towards Arabs. Israeli torture techniques are well documented by human rights groups such as Al Haq and Amnesty International. The book of essays Threat contains many such accounts, both by Palestinian prisoners themselves, as well as their lawyers.

More recently, Israel has hit on a new physiological torture technique on Palestinians – but it is one carried out on entire villages and neighbourhoods. It affects innocent men, women and children, who are not even accused of a crime. Israeli soldiers do this simply because they can.

They are calling them “training exercises” or “mock raids”. Soldiers invade Palestinian homes and make arrests without explaining what is going on. Lovingly-built homes are upended in apparent searches for weapons. Houses are surrounded with armed soldiers. Children are terrified.

However, the whole thing is a sham. There is not even the suspicion of weapons in the homes in question. The phenomenon is described by the sadistic Israeli army spokesperson as a “navigating run” – it is done as a way of “demonstrating IDF [sic] presence in the area” – an Israeli army spokesperson told the Guardian in November. In other words, so shown them who’s boss.

“We used houses, streets, people like cardboard practice targets,” one former Israeli soldier admitted.

The policy is deliberate, and it is yet another aspect to the ongoing Nakba.

Although the Nakba – Arabic for the catastrophe that befell Palestine in 1948 – is a historical event, it is also a long-term Israeli policy – one that has never ended. This is an important concept, something that was likely first spelled out by the eminent Palestinian academic Joseph Massad in a 2008 essay.

The Zionist project will not be satisfied until every last Palestinian is removed. But it’s a testament to Palestinian resilience over more than a century; that this project has been unable to succeed.

An associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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