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Arab Torture in Israel

  • U.S. officials are silent when it comes to Arab Americans tortured in Israel.
Exclusive to The SPOTLIGHT
By James P. Tucker Jr.

Israel is holding 10 American citizens in prison and at least six of them have been tortured but the U.S. government refuses to act.

Israel is the only developed country in the world where torture of prisoners is legal.

These 10 Americans, none of whom have committed a violent crime and all of whom claim innocence, have Arab family names.

Because of State Department indifference, the 10 Americans were identified by Partners for Peace, a Washing ton-based advocacy group. Of the six on whom the group has managed to obtain information, all have been tortured.

The State Department's own Foreign Affairs Manual spells out its obligation: "The consular officers are obliged to assist arrested or imprisoned U.S. citizens with dedicated professionalism, regardless of their own views as to the innocence or guilt of the individuals."

Jerri Bird, president of Partners and leader of the investigation, cited "most disturbing" patterns:

• Israeli detention of American citizens is random, but the victims are almost all very young, all are Arab-Americans and all will inherit land from parents or grandparents in the West Bank.

• "American consular officials accept without protest the Israeli abuse and torture of citizens of Arab descent" even when presented with "visible evidence of severe abuse."

A Jewish American told Partners that he was arrested for demonstrating against the destruction of a Palestinian home by Israeli soldiers. Phil Wilcox, an American consular official, got him out of jail in three hours.

"If you are Jewish, I can get you out in a few hours; if you are 'regular' American, I can get you out in a day or so," the Jewish American said Wilcox told him. "But if you are an Arab-American, forget about it."

"Such duplicity by our own government in the brutalization of our citizens in Israel must not be tolerated," Bird said. "I have been asked by Matt Fin ston, foreign service officer assigned to the Israel desk, to let Arab-Americans know that 'the American passport is no protection for them. Tell them that if they want to be safe, stay at home.'"

Most of the prisoners are second- and third-generation Americans, not new converts to citizenship. Some were tortured -- including being kicked in the genitals -- into signing a Hebrew language document they could not understand. It turned out to be a "confession."

Sleep and food deprivation, filthy conditions, threats of rape and sodomy and pouring hot water on the prisoner are also favored forms of torture.