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A forgotten Palestinian kidnap victim

Dirar Abu Sisi was once the technical director of Gaza’s only electricity plant. One night in February 2011, traveling on a train to visit his brother in Ukraine he was kidnapped and disappeared. His frantic family could find no word of him.

A month and a half later he turned up in an Israel jail. The Mossad, Israel’s notorious and brutal spy agency, had kidnapped him. The groups seems to have been aided by the Ukrainian authorities, who had intimated to his family they knew where he was being held, but would give no confirmation. The Israeli press, acting under orders from the military censor were gagged from reporting on the case for 45 days.

Abu Sisi has now been in solitary confinement for more than four years. His case has been largely forgotten and there are no western human rights organizations championing his case and calling for his freedom.

The real reason for the imprisonment of Abu Sisi, it seems to me, is that his technical expertise as a civil engineer made it harder for Israel to strangle the Gaza Strip with its unjust siege.

During the 2008-09 war on Gaza, Israel bombed the power plant, but afterwards Abu Sisi helped get it running again. What’s more, he was responsible for refining a new fuel system that made the plant far less dependent on Israeli-supplied diesel.

Speaking to AP in March 2011, while the Israeli press was still banned by the military from reporting on his secret detention, his wife Veronika described him as the “brain” of the electric station in Gaza: “It’s a strategic object and they wanted to disable it.”

The Israelis have long had a policy of “economic de-development” in Gaza, to use the phrase of Harvard academic Sara Roy. The confinement of Abu Sisi is likely another aspect to this policy.

In Gaza right now, due to precise and sadistic Israel limits on everything that comes in and out of the strip, there are severe power shortages. Power cuts are the norm and people generally have three to four hours of electricity per day. Egypt’s military dictatorship has also played a key role in this siege.

When the Israeli military finally lifted the censor’s gag on Abu Sisi’s case, it was only then that they started to make the claim that he was secretly a member in the top ranks of Hamas’s armed wing (something Hamas denies).

But, as Richard Silverstein has shown, these Israeli claims are full of inconsistencies. They simply do not add up.

The Israelis claimed that his studies towards a civil engineering degree in the Ukraine were a front for attendance of a military academy. But, as Silvertstein’s reporting has shown, the academy the Israelis named actually closed down years before Abu Sisi even entered the country.

According to his Israeli lawyer, after his initial detention in Israel Abu Sisi was tortured by the Shin Bet, the Israeli secret police. The use of torture against Palestinians and other Arabs is widespread in Israeli jails. In the end they managed to coerce a “confession” out of him. He was eventually given little choice but to accept a plea bargain for 21 years, having been threatened with life imprisonment if he refused.

It was no more than a show trial, the verdict having been pre-determined by Israel’s powerful secret police and spy agencies.

In September 2012, he managed to get a letter out of jail in which he described the appalling conditions of his solitary confinement: “can you even imagine the feeling of being in a confined cell which you leave for one hour a day, still being handcuffed and shackled and carrying garbage bags … seeing nobody and only seen by your warder. Then returned to spend the rest of that day in your temporary grave, obscured from knowing whether it is day or night, Friday or a Saturday, summer or autumn except the feeling of heat or cold… deprived from seeing any of your loved ones, your own children, or your family … and not seen by anyone.”

The Mossad’s reputation in the West as a just defender of Jews around the world is erroneous. The reality is that this is a brutal gang of thugs which kidnaps and murders at will. They need to be reigned in.

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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