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A Chronicle of Prison Brutality in Israel

Haaretz Editorial
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The incident at Ketziot Prison.
The incident at Ketziot Prison.
Haaretz Editorial

The shocking video from Wing 3 of Ketziot Prison should have set off an earthquake in the Israel Prison Service, police and the State Prosecutor’s Office: Scores of Arab security prisoners were forcibly thrown down onto a concrete floor, sometimes on top of each other, as guards passed between them for long minutes, beating them with batons and kicking them randomly, without any resistance from their victims (as Josh Breiner reported Thursday).

The unrestrained violence is believed to have been carried out in revenge for the stabbing of a guard shortly beforehand near the wing. The guards’ act of revenge, which left 15 prisoners injured, was described by the Prison Service as “gaining control over a riot.” But the evidence clearly shows there was no riot, just the abuse of prisoners. The evidence was an open secret in the Prison Service: Top officials had viewed the video and knew exactly what occurred but acted as if nothing happened. The Prison Service knew that Ketziot’s officers turned a blind eye while at least 10 guards brutally beat the bound prisoners.

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It wasn’t only the Prison Service that looked the other way. In the Israel Police, Lahav 433’s National Prison Investigation Unit did as little as possible to probe the affair: Only one guard was questioned and even though he admitted that he had engaged in gratuitous violence, it wasn’t enough for the police or prosecutors to proceed with an indictment. This was a negligent investigation – with no real effort to identify the guards and no police lineup – which proves that even when such an unusual case of abuse has been fully documented, the police still prefer to sweep it under the rug.

It’s hard to believe that the investigation would have ended this way if the prisoners had been Jews. But in this case, the victims were Palestinian terrorists and security prisoners belonging to Hamas. Therefore, not only was the case closed on the grounds that “the offender is not known,” but the warden on duty at the time, General Avichai Ben-Hamo, was promoted to the rank of major general. The other guards allegedly involved in the incident remain at their jobs.

Now, when the evidence has been revealed to the public, the affair can no longer remain behind prison walls. The state prosecutor must immediately order a thorough investigation that includes all the guards alleged to have been involved, and bring indictments. Any other outcome will only prove that from the state’s viewpoint, security prisoners don’t deserve to be treated like human beings.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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