To the Editor:
In his response to the charge of torture in Israel by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Alan Dershowitz suggests that Palestinians’ reports of torture should not be trusted, since such reports are “self-serving,” However, victims of all types of crimes all over the world testify against their abusers, even though such testimony is almost always self-serving.
When Menachem Begin became Israeli Prime Minister in the 1970s and saw reports in the British press about Israeli torture, he ordered it stopped. Palestinian claims of ill-treatment soon diminished. This suggests that Palestinian complaints should be treated seriously.
Dershowitz’s response suggests that Israeli violence against Palestinians is precautionary violence that is aimed at avoiding greater violence against Israeli civilians. Nufar Yishai-Karin, a psychologist at the Hebrew University, has recently released a study of Israeli soldier brutality.
Soldiers cited examples of random shooting and misogyny.
When I was in the West Bank this summer, I interviewed a Palestinian man who had approached an Israeli checkpoint with his wife
in March of 2000 (six months before the new intifada). He was refused permission to pass and backed up. When he was about a half kilometer away, soldiers opened fire, killing his wife and crippling him permanently. After a long investigation, the Israeli government sent a letter of apology and paid his hospital bill. No one was punished and he received nothing in compensation.
What was precautionary about that?
Heller is the chair of the Middle East Crisis Committee in New Haven.