Israelis, Palestinians Among Most Enthusiastic Supporters of Torture, Red Cross Survey Says

Responses put Israelis in a group with Nigeria and the United States in justifying torture of a captured enemy combatant.

One Orthodox right-wing teen is tethered to a metal bed frame with his face covered by a black scarf as part of a protest against the Shin Bet torturing Jewish prisoners, Tel Aviv, December 23, 2015.
One Orthodox right-wing teen is tethered to a metal bed frame with his face covered by a black scarf as part of a protest against the Shin Bet torturing Jewish prisoners, Tel Aviv, December 23, 2015. Moti Milrod

Only in Israel, Nigeria and the United States do more people advocate torture of an enemy combatant than oppose such behavior, according to a new survey by the International Red Cross.

The survey on war covered 15 countries and the Palestinian territories; these included the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Switzerland. Most of the countries are involved in violent conflicts.

Respondents were asked, “Can a captured enemy combatant be tortured to obtain important military information?” Israelis supported the use of torture in such a situation by 50 percent to 25 percent, with the rest unsure or preferring not to answer. The survey’s average was against by 48 percent to 36 percent.

Only Nigerians endorsed torture more enthusiastically than Israelis, at 70 percent to 29 percent, while Americans backed torture by 46 percent to 30 percent.

People from the other countries were against the use of torture by the following percentages: Yemenis 99-0, Colombians 85-15, Swiss 72-18, Chinese 71-15, French 71-26, Syrians in Lebanon 65-20, Russians 62-20, South Sudanese 56-18, Afghanis 56-39, Palestinians 53-33, Ukrainians 52-21, Iraqis 51-44 and Britons 50-26.

Israel was also near the bottom regarding whether torture is wrong or part of war. Israelis said it was wrong 44 percent to 38 percent, while the survey’s average was 66 percent to 27 percent.

The cover of the Red Cross report "People on War," published December 5, 2016.
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Palestinians were the only nationality in which more respondents said torture was a part of war – 52 percent to 35 percent. Once again the United States was the closest to Israel, saying torture was wrong by 54 percent to 33 percent.

The survey did not specify to what degree respondents thought torture was effective.