It was like something out of a horror film. His Palestinian interrogators beat him on his legs. They tied him to the ceiling. They denied him food for extended periods and when they gave food it was barely digestible.
When “Sami,” a Palestinian from “Nablus” (names and places altered to protect interviewees’ identities), fell asleep or spent more than a minute going to the bathroom, the interrogators dumped water on his head.
That was the “good” water.
When they got more serious, they dumped scalding water on his chest.
Though the scars from his interrogation are less noticeable than they were around 15 years ago, many are still visible.
Now in his late 30s, Sami recently told his story to The Jerusalem Post. He alternates between depression and an eerie out-of-body separation from the events, both outcomes of surviving extreme trauma.
When five members of the Palestinian version of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) took Sami from his house in the middle of the afternoon in broad daylight during the Second Intifada around 15 years ago, he was a young man.
That was the end of his life as a regular person. “They took all of my life. I can’t get married. I can’t work [jobs which are not on short-term contracts], it is hard for me to speak to people and I always get depressed,” said Sami. Sami is one of 51 Palestinians tortured by the Palestinian Authority for cooperating with Israel who the Jerusalem District Court, in a blockbuster July 19 ruling, confirmed can sue the PA in Israeli courts for damages.
It involves Palestinian citizens coming before the courts of the Israeli “occupation” to get justice for their mistreatment by their own PA law enforcement between the late 1990s to early 2000s.
The decision came after years of testimonies.
Even if Palestinians were cooperating with Israel, if it was to thwart terrorist attacks on Israelis, the court said that the PA is obligated to assist in such efforts under the Oslo Accords. Accordingly, the court said the PA could not treat such Palestinians as criminals, much less torture them.
The majority of the group will now attend hearings before the court on the amount of damages they can expect to receive, as the PA will try to attack the individual’s proofs of their damages.
One of the victims is suing for NIS 74 million and the grand total from all of the victims is projected at between NIS 500m. and NIS 700m. – with the different amounts demanded reflecting the severity and length of the torture.
Elon Moreh resident, lawyer and former prosecutor Menachem Kornvich handled the early years of the case about complex jurisdictional and international law issues. As the case moved toward the details of the individual cases, law partners Barak Kedem, Aryeh Arbus, Netanel Rom and David Zur took over and will continue taking the cases forward.
But there is more to Sami’s personal story.
There was also his trip to the “dentist” to cure his toothache.
Sami said, “My teeth were hurting. They took me to a doctor. The doctor asked, who is he? They told him – he helped Israel. The dentist ripped out some of his teeth – not the teeth that were hurting.
This was because they said I had helped Israel.”
Following this incident, Sami said, “I tried to commit suicide… Everyone was against me. I cut open my body with rocks.”
Then there is “Dani.”
Dani is a good bit older than Sami and is now bearded.
He told the Post that he was taken by the PA security services on his way to his job which was in Israel, also in the early part of the Second Intifada.
Unlike Sami’s eerie passiveness, Dani is angry, tries to dominate the physical space and discussion in the room and is far more paranoid about being discovered.
He said he did not know where the initial location they took him was, as they covered his eyes and put a urine-soaked bag on his face.
He said he did not see sunlight for six days, did not know whether it was day or night, was starved or received inedible food and had to urinate in his cell where he slept on the floor.
They exposed him to extreme cold and hot temperatures until he lost consciousness.
His interrogators caused him permanent bruises on his left arm. Asked how his arm was bruised, he responded defensively, “Do I know whether he stabbed me with a fork or a knife?! It happened while my head was covered.”
Finally, Dani broke and told the interrogators, “What do you want from me? You want me to sign that I work with the Shin Bet. Okay, I did. You want me to say that I sold the Temple Mount, that I collaborated with Israel. Whatever you want.
“They hit me in the teeth and kicked me in the testicles,” making it hard for him to urinate, he said.
In a rising fury that seemed to take him back to the interrogation room, Dani said, “I wanted to take a weapon and shoot them and shoot myself!” Currently, both Sami and Dani live in the center or north center part of the country. Some of the torture victims, like Dani, find work after a period of rehabilitation.
Others, like Sami, can never hold down anything but temporary work.
The issue of whether these victims actually helped the Shin Bet is tricky, and you cannot always know if they are telling the truth.
Eventually, Dani admitted that he had worked undercover as a Shin Bet informer.
Asked how he could betray his people, he said, “I am human. I do not love blood.
If someone causes bleeding, I’ll attack him. I want to save lives. You are not God who can decide to punish people.”
He said he loves Israel because Israel is “trustworthy and if someone helps them, they help you in the future.”
Dani said working with the Shin Bet had been worth it since even as many Palestinians have ostracized him, he now has an income he and his family can live on and because “if you do a good deed… God watches.”