Makhoul’s Lawyers Accuse Shin Bet Of Possible Torture


The Israeli court and Shin Bet acquiesced to a demand by Ameer Makhoul’s lawyers to consult with him after they’d been denied access to him for 12 days after his arrest.  They’d threatened to refuse to continue cooperating with the legal process in protest.  It appears that Israeli authorities only understand such threats and that is all that makes them do anything in conformance with standard due process procedures observed by most democracies.

Makhoul’s lawyers also added that they suspected that his treatment in detention violated the Geneva Convention governing treatment of prisoners.  Adalah, who is representing him, published a press release Serious Suspicion of Shabak (GSS) Use of Illegal Methods of Interrogation Against…Ameer Makhoul. The Israeli reports don’t details their reasons for suspecting this.  The director of Adalah said they expected to publish an affidavit from their client tomorrow which should shed more light on the subject.  In addition, the Shin Bet has refused to divulge Makhoul’s medical records while under detention, which raises further suspicions of what, if anything, they may be hiding.

Hassan Jaja, who is the mystery-man accused falsely of recruiting Makhoul, Omar Said and Jamal Juma’a to spy against Israel on behalf of Hezbollah, has released the transcript of his remarks at the opening of the 2007 conference his NGO sponsored in Amman on traditional Arab medicine.  Omar Said also spoke at this conference about his own experience in the field of pharmacology and traditional herbal medicine.  It was here, apparently, that the alleged fatal plot was hatched between Said and Jaja to betray the State of Israel.  After reading Jaja’s talk (translation from Arabic, Nadav Franckovitch; from Hebrew, Rechavia Berman), you’ll have to explain to me how likely it is that this environmental and peace activist is engaged in anything like what he’s accused of:

We greet you all in joy and warmth upon your arrival to the abode of Jordan, twin of Palestine.

Welcome to the first regional conference on Arab and Islamic Medicine, taking place under the auspices of the Master of the Land who is ever striving – and with God’s aid, successfully so – at instilling dynamism, momentum and development for the benefit of this good people, the noble nation and future generations.

The holding of this conference withing the domain of the Jordanian Hashemite Kingdom lends it special flavor and deep significance, under a stable, secure and balanced Arab and Islamic canopy.

We hold this conference today under…circumstances which bring to the forefront a poignant, primal and continuing conflict between a vivacious inclination…committed to the good in human nature, respectful of common sense, of mankind’s nature, its innate decency, its freedom and benefit – a direction which views man created in the image of the creator as the main part of creation due to his tendency towards reciprocal relationships, harmony and integration with all other creatures…rather than at their expense – and another inclination predicated on control, racism, seizure, exploitation and maximization of profits by any and all means, an inclination which serves neither man nor nature but fails them both, and heeds not the words of the sublime creator “Walk not complacent upon the earth so that thou shalt not destroy it, and thou shalt not exceed the mountain tops”.

Believe the sublime God who also said, in his dear book, “And we have created thee male and female and made you into nations and tribes so that thou shalt know that God has blessed thee”.

Believe the sublime God when not to Muslims or to Arabs alone He speaks. Therein lies a universal, human, open, healthy and just message.

…We see the Islamic culture as but an inseparable part of global culture, with which it once had expansive relations of mutual and fertile influence.This is our version of globalization which is consistent with the wisdom of the Creator, who laid the foundation for human knowledge and achievement…

This blessed conference we hold here today wishes to modestly direct efforts towards the revival and the imparting of learning of truth and justice, of equality and decency, and the freedom of nations and of man, learning of which the essence is to serve people, through an continuing aspiration to detect the true and practical needs and problems of man, and thus bring about serious, effective, proper and healthy scientific study, in search of proper solutions.

This is what we believe and according to this we act. And some may ask, is their any other approach in this world? Are there those who do not see man – whatever his color, whatever his religion, his language and nationality, his sex and appearance – as God’s creation? As one’s brother of equal value?

…Yes. There are forces, institutions, commercial corporations and groups whose concepts, aims, plans and modes of operation are based on exploitation, aggression and usurpation of the other, of people, of human societies, of countries and cultures, nations and religions.

Organizations which thrive on the creation of problems, which convince people of a myriad of imaginary needs and trumped-up ailments in order to sell their products and reap profits. Forces who bring about the destruction of the environment, the environmental balance and the health of mankind in order to foist their interests and designs upon others.

Our guiding principle and concept regarding professional and human interactions between people and institutions is “do no harm and you will suffer none.”

We at the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature have close ties and full cooperation with our brethren at the Galilee Society and its special center for scientific studies (“al-Maisam”), and with the ground-breaking al-Antaki firm, whose motto “When the Wisdom of the East Meets Modern Knowledge” I took a great liking to, and who I felt immensely proud upon learning that it exports its products to European markets at world-class standards.

…This scientific conference marks an important achievement. We express the humble hope that our efforts here shall lay the foundations…to revive the Arab-Islamic scientific heritage, which is engaged in harmonious dialogue with the cultures of other nations, and we begin this effort with the field of folk medicine.We extend our hand to our co-nationals in Jordan and our brethren in Palestine and throughout the Arab homeland, across the spectrum of occupations and professions, vocational organizations and trade unions and to artisans among the people, to create contacts and fruitful cooperation across borders – despite…hardships and…obstacles.

We may act together with determination, patience and faith that our variety is a building block of our unity and one of the sources of our strength.

May God be with us and grant us pure faith materialized in action beneficial to man, granting him satisfaction, peace of mind, calm and joy.

Peace be upon you, the mercy of God and His blessing.

Yes, Israel is the country that dare not speak Hassan Jaja’s name.  In fact, Haaretz’s Jack Khoury wrote an entire piece about him and not only didn’t mention his name, but refused to acknowledge that there are those of us out there who have mentioned it.  This, by the way, is something that other journalists did do during the Kamm-Blau case, but that was because Judith Miller acknowledged my role and it was difficult for such journalists to ignore the credit she’d offered.

Supporters of Dr. Omar Said have released this statement in support of a petition campaign on his behalf.  It is an excellent portrait of the man and his work on behalf of traditional Arab medicine:

Dr. Omar Said, pharmacologist…academic, peace and ecological activist, was arrested and accused of spying for Hizbollah…[He] is an important international intellectual figure, a scientist…and one of the world’s top experts on traditional Arabic medicine, Arabic medical history and medicinal plants. He has written many scientific papers, and the author of a forthcoming academic text which will be the most authoritative text on Arabic medicine in the world. He is the founder and director of the largest botanical garden of medicinal plants in the Middle East, run by an Israeli NGO. It is used both for research, preservation, and also education, ecology and co-existence…He has invited and given classes to many thousands of Arab and Jewish children at the botanical garden, bringing them together to study something of interest to all communities.

He is close to both Jews and Arabs in daily life, in work and in the intellectual community. He has been politically active, and was the deputy mayor of Kfar Kanna, in the Galilee. Much of this work has been to bring healing to his community and to the relationships between Jews and Arabs. All those who have worked with him on a daily basis, including many Jewish colleagues, know him to be a friend, a warm partner, a lover of peace and a great man with a big heart.

Dr. Said is constantly travelling throughout the world, in particular Jordan, where he buys herbs, carries out research, and meets experts from Arab countries. It is shameful that this activity is the reason for the suspicion of the Israeli security apparatus. It is likely that a great mistake and a serious injustice is happening right now.

Omar was arrested…under a very vague law that criminalises contact with anyone that the security authorities define as suspect. We call for the immediate release of Dr. Omar Said, and the end of the use of this law to harass individuals who are no actual risk or threat to security.

To sign this statement on behalf of Dr. Said, send an e mail with your name and any other identifying information to amar at al-antaki dot com.

One of the great shames of this case is how little public support Israeli Jews have offered to their persecuted fellow Palestinian citizens.  Not a peep out of a Jewish Knesset member.  Some support in op-eds.  Apart from an academic like Tel Aviv University’s Yehuda Shenhav, not a peep from that sphere.  They apparently have forgotten Pastor Niemoller’s warning: first they come for the Palestinians but since you are not one you don’t speak up; then they come for Naomi Chazan, the New Israel Fund, and human rights NGOs, but you are not one of them and so don’t speak up.  By the time they come for you, there’s no one left to speak up.

This article was published at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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