On Security Services Dealings
"You'll help us and we'll help you" or "Come hither, go thither"
The State of Israel is signatory to the Geneva Convention. Are the clauses of this convention implemented in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?
Many thousands of the Occupied Territories residents are designated "security prevented". This is used as the grounds for restricting their freedom of movement, they are deprived of permits to enter Israel and to travel abroad. The Israeli Security Services are in charge of their prevention, and it is this authority that determines their fate without any outside supervision, accountability or anyone's ability to appeal. Security prevention blocks access to health services, employment and sources of livelihood, and other vital services that do not even exist in the Occupied Territories. Any Palestinian living in the Territories might suddenly find him/herself on the prevented list under circumstances that are not necessarily his or her own directly. For example: Relatives or even acquaintances of a person killed by the Israeli armed forces are considered motivated to carry out terrorist attacks. They are thus designated as 'potentially dangerous' and marked on the Security Services lists as prevented.
Any contact with the Security Services inevitably involves harassment, intimidation, the exertion of psychological pressure and humiliation.
Since 1967, the Israeli armed forces have recruited thousands of Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories as informers. The Palestinians have to cooperate, among other reasons, for their extensive dependence on receiving civil services from the Israeli administration. In their attempts to recruit collaborators, the military authorities apply methods violating international law, such as allowing services that the occupied population is entitled to under conditions of collaboration, extortion, pressure and tempting offers. Whoever does not cooperate with 'irresistible offers' finds him/herself blacklisted as Shabak (Security Services) - prevented.
People summoned by the Shabak - whom we encounter at the offices of the Civil Administration, waiting at times from morning till evening only to hear that they must return some other day - have the 'privilege' of being 'visited' in the wee hours of the night at home to be asked for their son's phone number, or to be informed of being added to the black lists. When a Palestinian requests a permit to work in Israel or needs to cross checkpoints in a case of emergency - an urgent visit to the hospital, a trip abroad or some personally critical circumstances etc. - he/she suddenly discovers his/her name on the black list. The reasons for a Shabak investigation and its results are never made privy to the person in question.
Psychological torment does not usually create the kind of public echo as does physical torture, although both are equally and categorically outlawed by international norms.
Here are several recent cases:
A Palestinian we met as he waited at the DCO offices, has been trying for a long time now to obtain a magnetic card (mandatory for being issued permits) but he is Shabak-prevented. His ID was taken by the DCO soldiers. We try to inquire where the ID is and hear that the man will be summoned for a Shabak interview. He does not know the reason for this.
Another man has been waiting for a Shabak interview for three hours. We are not surprised. Such long waiting is a daily matter. As we get ready to leave, the man exits, holding his ID and a piece of paper summoning him at a later date. Another workday down the drain, and who will guarantee that he will indeed be interviewed at that later date - only Shabak knows.
Two Palestinians wait for a Shabak interview. The mother of one of them suffers from heart disease and is hospitalized in Jordan. The man is back from visiting and nursing her. When he requested an exit permit to travel to Jordan, he was issued an exit permit together with a summons to report for a 'talk' with the Shabak upon his return.
There are 25 detainees in the pen. Occasionally they are taken in for a talk with the Shabak representative. The wife of one of them and his father wait nearby. The woman, pregnant, tells us she has been waiting for over an hour and is exhausted. Her husband works in Abu Dabi and has arrived for a mere two-week visit.
A 60-year old man approaches us: he has been working for the past 15 years in an Israeli garage. He has never had any problems with the authorities and crosses the checkpoint daily, morning and evening. This morning, upon arriving at the checkpoint he was told he is Shabak-prevented and sent to the DCO, handed in his ID and was told to wait in the waiting room. He has been waiting since 9 a.m. Only late afternoon he was actually told that he is indeed Shabakp-prevented. In his talk with the Shabak 'Captain', he heard that 'you'll help us, we'll help you'. Since the man had nothing to 'help' them with, his permit was denied and thus - his livelihood.
We arrived at the DCO at 14:30. There were five people waiting since 9 a.m. summoned by the Shabak to see the 'Captain'. Their IDs were taken from them as they arrived in the morning, to make sure they remained on the spot. While we were there, one of them was called in and his ID was returned - it had been a mistake, 'we don't need you'. It is the second time this past year that he has been summoned, and at the end of an entire day's wait, he is sent home. Who cares if a Palestinian loses a day's work?
A young man approaches us, and tells us that his brother has finished his medical studies abroad and been employed as a doctor by an East Jerusalem hospital, but the Shabak has demanded that he be willing to act as an informer, in order to receive the required magnetic card.
In the DCO waiting room, about 15 persons have been waiting since morning to be interviewed by the Shabak. One of them, a Hebrew-speaker, told us he came with his son who was summoned from his home in the middle of the night. In addition to his son, a student at the Hebron College, there were another four youngsters there, like him. The summoning process they described is harrowing: soldiers arrive sometime between 1 and 3 a.m., bang loudly on the door, and if not answered immediately, break a window. Blinding lights are turned on into the house, all the neighbors are subject to their yelling, they hand the family the summons note and clear out. No one knows why the summons, what about. Often, when the person summoned shows up on time, he must wait until the end of the workday at the DCO offices only to hear that he must return the following morning or week. Another person told us that when the soldiers came to his house at night, the wanted son was not at home. The soldiers ordered him to report the next morning with another son as well as the wanted son. The three waited all day at the DCO, although it was obvious the Shabak was interested only in one of them.
At the DCO waiting room sat 12 men, most of them waiting for Shabak interviews. One of them addressed us in fluent Hebrew and said he's been waiting since 9 a.m. At 2:30 a.m. a Shabak summons for his son was delivered to their home. The son is not home (he is in Ramallah) and the worried father reported to the DCO to inquire what this was about. He handed his ID in the morning and now he's sitting there and waiting. He has severe back pain projecting into his leg. He happens to have a doctor's appointment today, but had to give it up to report to the DCO. After an hour the man was called in. Five minutes later he came out and told us that all they wanted from him was the son's phone number... He was forced to sit there for almost a whole day!
We met a man who had never had a magnetic card. He came to apply for one, without any hopes of getting it. He was number 4 in the waiting line so that the 'daily quota of magnetic cards for prevented persons' could not have been an issue. Still he was sent home. The man would not give up and we applied to the public inquiries officer of the civil administration. The officer spoke with the DCO and the man was asked to wait. At the end of the day, he told us he was issued a magnetic card. We realized clearly that there is a conflict of interests between the Shabak who want to hold their fists tight, and the civil administration who want to equip the entire population with magnetic cards.
Between a rock and a hard place, if a person needs to be issued a magnetic card, why must he feel that it is a special favor for which he needs to pay 'something extra' beside the 100 shekels required and the entire day of waiting?