HOME  DISINFORMATION  DEMJANJUK   PEOPLE  CRIMES
Neal Sher   Letter 07   17-Dec-1998   Why not contemporary war crimes?
"Ten thousand (if not fifteen thousand, if not twenty thousand) Israelis have done their work faithfully have opened the heavy iron doors of the isolation cell and then closed it.  Have led the man from the interrogation chamber to the clinic, from the clinic back to the interrogation chamber.  They have looked close up at people shitting in terror, pissing in fear.  And not one among them has begun a hunger strike in front of the house of the prime minister.  Not one among them that I know of has said, This will not happen.  Not in a Jewish state." Ari Shavit
  December 17, 1998
Neal M. Sher
Schmeltzer, Aptaker & Shepard, P.C.
Suite 1000
The Watergate
2600 Virginia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC
USA         20037-1905


Dear Mr. Sher:

A substantial proportion of your career appears to have been dedicated to the prosecution of war criminals.  However, it has never been clear why the United States Office of Special Investigations (OSI), at least when under your direction, dedicated itself exclusively to the prosecution of half-century-old crimes documented with stale and unreliable Soviet evidence when it was possible instead to prosecute contemporary crimes documented with fresh and reliable evidence.  Here are a few examples of contemporary events that appear to qualify as war crimes or crimes against humanity:


A thousand-page Save the Children study, The Status of Palestinian Children during the Uprising, exhaustively documented the "indiscriminate beating, teargassing, and shooting of children."  More than 150 Palestinian children have been killed since the beginning of the intifada, including at least 37 below the age of six.  The average age was ten.  A majority, the study found, were not even participating in a stone-throwing demonstration when shot dead, and four-fifths of the gunshot victims were "obstructed or delayed by the army" as they sought emergency medical treatment.  Funerals were "violently disrupted or interfered with" by the army.  More than fifty thousand Palestinian children required medical attention for tear-gas inhalation, multiple fractures, and so on, during the first two years of the intifada; nearly half were ten years old or younger.  The study also found that "the vast majority of soldiers responsible for the child casualties have been neither censured nor punished."  Indeed, only the few cases that received press coverage were even being investigated.

A B'Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) study, Violence against Minors in Police Detention, found that "illegal violence against minors, ... many [of whom] are innocent of any crime, ... occurs on a large scale."  Severe beatings, including "slapping, punching, kicking, hair pulling, beatings with clubs or with iron rods, pushing into walls and onto floors," were said to be "very common."  The study also highlighted more novel methods for interrogating minors:

Beating the detainee as he is suspended in a closed sack covering the head and tied around the knees; tying the detainee in a twisted position to an outdoor pipe with hands behind the back for hours and, sometimes, in the rain, at night, and during the hot daytime hours; confining the detainee, sometimes for a few days, in the "lock-up" a dark, smelly and suffocating cell one and a half by one and a half meters [five by five feet]; placing the detainee, sometimes for many hours, in the "closet" a narrow cell the height of a person in which one can stand but not move; and depositing the tied-up detainee for many hours in the "grave" a kind of box, closed by a door from the top, with only enough room to crouch and no toilet.
Israeli press and human rights reports put flesh and blood on the data.  The 1 April 1988 issue of Hotam reported the case of a ten-year-old beaten so black and blue during an army interrogation that he was left "looking like a steak."  The soldiers "weren't bothered" even when they later learned that the boy was deaf, mute, and mentally retarded.  The 13 July 1988 issue of Koteret Rashit reported the "disappearance of 25 children" and jail threats to their parents for "annoying" the army about the children's whereabouts.  The 19 August 1988 issue of Hadashot featured three photos of a blindfolded six-year-old in an army jeep.  The caption reported that many children his age would be held in detention until "ransoms" of several hundred dollars were paid, and that, as they were carted away, the children often urinated in their pants "from fear."  Under the heading "Deliberate Murder," the August 1989 bulletin for the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights reported that the Israeli army (apparently sharpshooters from "special units") had targeted an "increasing" number of Palestinian children in leadership roles.  "Carefully chosen," the victim was usually shot in the head or heart and died almost instantaneously.  Dr. Haim Gordon of the Israeli Association for Human Rights reported the case of an eight-year-old tortured by soldiers after refusing to reveal which of his friends had thrown stones.  Stripped naked, hung by his legs and brutally beaten, the boy was then pushed to the edge of a rooftop before being released (cited in the January 1990 bulletin of the Israeli League).  The 15 January 1990 issue of Hadashot reported the case of a thirteen-year-old who was thrown into detention after his fingers were deliberately broken and who was then left without any medical treatment or food because his father was unable to pay the ransom of 750 dollars.  The 26 January 1990 issue of Davar reported the case of a sixteen-year-old girl who was beaten by a club-wielding policeman ("He even tried to push the club between my legs") and then thrashed in prison for refusing to sign a confession.  The 29 June 1990 issue of Hotam reported the case of a thirteen-year-old detainee who, refusing to supply incriminating evidence against his brother, was "smashed" in the face, had "bruise marks on his entire body," was not allowed to drink or eat "for hours," and was forced to "urinate and defecate in his pants."

Reporting on the grisly fate of Palestinians as young as fourteen arrested on "suspicion of stone-throwing," the 24 February 1992 issue of Hadashot quoted an inside source at the Hebron detention center:

What happened there ... was plain horror: they would break their clubs on the prisoners' bodies, hit them in the genitals, tie a prisoner up on the cold floor and play soccer with him literally kick and roll him around.  Then they'd give him electric shocks, using the generator of a field telephone, and then push him out to stand for hours in the cold and rain....  They would crush the prisoners, ... turning them into lumps of meat.
Another source inside the center was quoted to the effect that the "tortures recall what is being inflicted in the cellars of Damascus's prisons."
Norman G. Finkelstein, The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis and London, 1996, pp. 47-49.

Recalling his stint as a guard in Gaza Beach, "one of the best" Israeli internment camps for Palestinians, Israeli journalist Ari Shavit expatiated on [his experiences] with rare candor and insight:

Most [Palestinians] are awaiting trial; most were arrested because they were throwing stones or were said to be members of illegal organizations.  Many are in their teens.  Among them, here and there, are some boys who are small and appear to be very young....  The prison has twelve guard towers.  Some Israeli soldiers are struck and deeply shaken by the similarity between these and certain other towers, about which they have learned at school....  ...  Maybe the Shin Bet [secret police] is to blame for this for the arrests it makes and what it does to those arrested.  For almost every night, after it has managed, in its interrogations, to "break" a certain number of young men, the Shin Bet delivers to the [soldiers] a list with the names of friends of the young men....  [Then] the soldiers ... go out almost every night to the city and ... come back with children of fifteen or sixteen years of age.  The children grit their teeth.  Their eyes bulge from their sockets.  In not a few cases they have already been beaten....  And soldiers crowd together in the "reception room" to look at them when they undress.  To look at them in their underwear, to look at them as they tremble with fear.  And sometimes they kick them one kick more, before they put on their new prison clothes....  Or maybe the doctor is to blame.  You wake him up in the middle of the night to treat one of those just brought in a young man, barefoot, wounded, who looks as if he's having an epileptic fit, who tells you that they beat him just now on the back and stomach and over the heart.  There are ugly red marks all over his body.  The doctor turns to the young man and shouts at him.  In a loud, raging voice he says: May you die!  And then he turns to me with a laugh: May they all die!  Or maybe the screams are to blame.  At the end of the watch, ... you sometimes hear terrible screams ... from the other side of the ... fence of the interrogation section, ... hair-raising human screams.  Literally hair-raising....  In Gaza our General Security Services therefore amount to a Secret Police, our internment facilities are cleanly run Gulags.  Our soldiers are jailers, our interrogators torturers.  ...  Thus in the forty months of the intifada, more than ten thousand Israeli citizens in uniform have walked between the fences, have heard the screams, have seen the young being led in and out.  ...  And the country has been quiet.  Has flourished....  Ten thousand (if not fifteen thousand, if not twenty thousand) Israelis have done their work faithfully have opened the heavy iron doors of the isolation cell and then closed it.  Have led the man from the interrogation chamber to the clinic, from the clinic back to the interrogation chamber.  They have looked close up at people shitting in terror, pissing in fear.  And not one among them has begun a hunger strike in front of the house of the prime minister.  Not one among them that I know of has said, This will not happen.  Not in a Jewish state.

Norman G. Finkelstein, The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis and London, 1996, pp. 71-73.

Just as Germans for generations to come would have to bear the burden of Nazism, so Jews for many generations to come would have to bear the burden of Israel's merciless assault against the Palestinian people.  Just as Germany's name was now inextricably linked, not just with Beethoven and Brecht, but with Hitler and Himmler, so the Jewish people's name would now be inextricably linked, not just with Marx and Menuhin, but with Sharon and Shamir.  Israel's terroristic war against the Palestinians had also besmirched the memory of the six million Jewish martyrs.
Norman G. Finkelstein, The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis and London, 1996, p. 16.

Such war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israelis are contemporary and well documented.  The number of Israelis who participated, and who continue to participate, in such crimes is vast.  Many Isaelis who served in Israeli armed forces, or in Israeli police or intelligence units, have emigrated to the United States.  Why then has the OSI never investigated or prosecuted or denaturalized and deported any Israeli immigrant for such crimes?  And, now that such crimes have been brought to your attention, do you not think it proper to inform the Canadian war-crimes unit, for which you work, of the advisability of investigating Israeli immigrants to Canada for possible involvement in such crimes?

In the absence of satisfactory answers to the above questions, the interpretation that might occur to some impartial observers is that the role of the OSI, and of the Canadian war-crimes unit as well, is to draw attention to half-century-old crimes committed against Jews (however weak the evidence for these might be) in order to draw attention away from contemporary crimes being committed by Jews (particularly because the evidence for these is so overwhelming).


Yours truly,



Lubomyr Prytulak

cc: Anne McLellan



HOME  DISINFORMATION  DEMJANJUK   PEOPLE  CRIMES