Pity the Poor Interrogator

No one is denying that Captain George, a former IDF interrogator, committed contemptible acts, but no one is appalled by them either.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

A new victim is born: Doron Zahavi, better known as Captain George.

An earlier Zahavi, Yaron, one of the heroes of the “Hasamba” series of adventure books for juvenile readers, died long ago. In 1966, Yigal Mossinson, author of the series, appointed him to serve as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces as a member of SOC, short for Special Operations Command.

Today’s Zahavi, Doron, served in a similar military unit, with the hush-hush number 504; the unit is today known by the euphemistic name Human Military Intelligence Formation. Nearly 20 years ago, in an interrogation facility with another hush-hush number, 1391, Doron Zahavi interrogated Lebanese militia operative Mustafa Dirani in an effort to learn the fate of missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad. Whether or not he actually inserted a baton into Dirani’s rectum, Zahavi-George is suing the State of Israel for damages on the grounds that the state tarnished his reputation. This week, Captain George’s true identity was revealed – at his own request.

In a coincidence that could be called poetic justice, two lawsuits against the state are now being deliberated in the courtroom: George’s and Dirani’s. In an installment of Channel 2’s investigative journalism program, “Uvda,” which was broadcast in late 2011, video clips of Dirani’s interrogation were screened: Captain George, who says the state besmirched his “good name,” can be seen in those video tapes in an arrogant Israeli pose, his feet on the desk, sitting opposite Dirani, who is in his underpants, hunched over, looking humiliated and frightened. The commander, Col. S., threatens to sodomize Dirani; the soldier who will commit the act of sodomy is on his way. “What a lovely skirt you are wearing, you mother-fucker … just open your legs wide” is the utterance made in the name of the State of Israel when Dirani is forced to stand on a chair, naked, before the watchful eyes of his investigators. At Base 1391, Israel’s version of Guantanamo, this was – and perhaps still is – just a routine questioning session.

According to testimonies that have become public over the years, a chilling picture of Base 1391 emerges: a canister of shaving foam emptied into the interrogated person’s mouth, water mixed with ash that Dirani and other people being investigated were forced to drink from an ashtray, along with the usual repertoire of sleep and food deprivation, beatings, abuse and other acts intended to humiliate the subject. This is how the work was carried out. There are still some people around who defend it. This week, Israel’s singer-philosopher, Idan Raichel, called on Instagram for the IDF to award Zahavi a medal of honor.

The bottom line today is that despite all of the sophisticated and disgusting “acts” performed by the interrogators, their actions made no contribution whatsoever to the efforts to find out what happened to Arad. However, one cannot remain indifferent in the face of the campaign to clear Zahavi’s name; the big interview on “Uvda” is already in the works.

Today Zahavi is an adviser on Arab affairs with the Jerusalem District of the Israel Police. His lawyer has stated that his client is a “talented individual” and that the “Israel Police has benefited, and will continue to benefit, from his fine skills and from his understanding of the population with which the police must deal.” Whether or not the Israel Police really benefits from Zahavi’s services, this expert on Arab affairs has already referred to the “well-developed Arab imagination” that gave rise to Dirani’s accusations about the baton allegedly inserted into his rectum. “If there are so many complaints,” Captain George once boasted, “that’s a sign that I was doing my job diligently.”

Zahavi the victim says that he received full authorization and permission to do what he did. The video tapes prove that Col. S. also wallowed in that garbage. Even Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad personally visited the interrogation rooms. We are left with only one unequivocal fact: The abuser has become the victim and the victim has become a senior officer with the Israel Police.

No one is denying that Captain George committed contemptible acts and no one seems appalled by them. Chief Superintendent Zahavi is today an expert on Arab affairs, advising the commander of the Jerusalem District police how to “deal with” Arabs. Need anything more be added to this depiction of the mood that prevails today in Israel, this Georgetown, this district of filth and decay?

Mustafa Dirani undergoing interrogation. One of the figures facing away from the camera is "Captain George."Credit: Channel 2 Television

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