Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Israel's Barbaric Solitary Confinement of
Palestinian Political Prisoners
By Stephen Lendman
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 10, 2011
Social psychologist Hans Toch coined the term "isolation panic"
to describe symptoms he observed in men he interviewed, including panic,
rage, a sense of total loss of control, emotional breakdown, regressive
behavior, and self-mutilation. He distinguished between difficult but
tolerable incarceration and intolerable long-term isolation, how America and
Israel treat thousands, subjecting them to barbaric torture. If sustained
long enough, it destroys the human spirit, psyche, mind and body.
Over time, it causes:
-- severe anxiety;
-- panic attacks;
-- irrational anger, at time uncontrollable;
-- social withdrawal;
-- memory and appetite
-- delusions and hallucinations;
-- profound despair and hopelessness;
-- suicidal thoughts;
-- paranoia; and
-- for many, a totally dysfunctional state and
inability ever to live normally outside of confinement.
anecdotes describe the experience, saying:
-- "People come here with
a few problems and leave sociopaths;"
-- You're like a "caged
animal. I've seen people just crack and either scream for hours on end or
-- Isolation "creates monsters (who) want revenge on society."
-- We "have a sense of hopelessness. Plus my anger (is) a silent
rage....I am beginning to really hate people."
-- "They....try to
break a person down mentally (and) mental abuse leaves no evidence behind
(like) physical abuse."
-- Others say it's like being buried alive
or living in a tomb.
When long-term, it often causes irreversible
psychological trauma and harm, a condition no society should inflict on
anyone, nor should lawmakers allow it.
That's why forced isolation
violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Torture
Convention, and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination. In 1995, the UN Human Rights Committee called long-term
prison isolation incompatible with international standards, and in 1996, the
UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or punishment agreed.
Isolating inmates long enough in
windowless cells 23 hours a day causes madness. Even the strongest-willed
break. Try it in a windowless room for 24 hours with enough food and water
for one day. Imagine the desperation to get out. Then imagine it for many
years or life.
Institutionalized long-term isolation, in fact,
causes more mental illness than everyone in psychiatric hospitals combined.
It makes healthy inmates sick, so disturbed they sometimes boil over in
rage, explaining they can't contain it no matter how severely punished.
Israel's Bar Association Report
On December 27, Haaretz writer Tomer
Zarchin headlined, "Groundbreaking report details Israel's inhumane
conditions for isolated prisoners," saying:
"A classified report by
the Israeli Bar Association (IBA) obtained by Haaretz provides a glimpse
into the harrowing conditions prisoners separated from the main jail
population must endure."
Ayalon and Shikma prison isolation wings
aren't fit for human habitation and "look more like a dungeon, (while) most
(Israeli) solitary cells in (are) crammed, rancid with smells of sewer and
mold, and infested with insects."
According to IBA criminal law head
"It's difficult to ignore the feeling that isolation
as practiced today serves a function of punishment rather than
imprisonment....This is a unilateral instrument of punishment used primarily
against organized crime groups." Also routinely against Palestinians,
especially human rights activists.
Based on a year-long review,
including direct with inmates, the report explained that:
isolated inmates testified to have developed paranoia, a tendency for
uncontrollable fits of rage, and eyesight problems because of the lack of
natural light through most hours of the day."
Yet Israel's Prison
Service Commission orders allow isolation only as a last resort, such as:
-- "the security of the prison;
-- preventing real damage to
the discipline and normal life in the prison;
-- protecting the
well-being or health of the prisoner or of other prisoners; and
protecting the security of the state."
Yet Israel, like America,
uses it punitively, making it excruciatingly harsh for extra pain, amounting
to sustained torture, cruel, and inhumane treatment. Isolation wings are
separate from other areas where inmates are divided into subgroups,
-- those posing a high escape risk;
-- others who
may be harmed by other prisoners; and
-- those who might harm
themselves so are separated and closely monitored.
cells are windowless and are lit by cold fluorescent lights. The meals are
brought on trays and are inserted through a latch that is shut immediately
afterwards, to prevent poisoning."
Prison Service Commission orders
"explicitly prohibit keeping regular prisoners in isolation cells intended
to house (others) convicted in internal disciplinary trials." Isolating
inmates "routine(ly) for extended periods of time is against the orders."
Yet it's common practice under sub-minimal conditions "unfit for human
habitation. Keeping human beings in such unreasonable conditions for
extended periods of time (whoever they are for whatever reason) deals a
critical blow to the most basic human rights."
Responding to the
IBA's condemnation, Prison Service spokesman Yaron Zamir said isolation is
carried out "under court monitoring and according to sheer necessity, while
providing the appropriate conditions, rights and treatment."
other Israeli officials and their US counterparts, he lied. Israeli prisons
are hellholes, their isolation wings designed for torture, violating
fundamental international and Israeli law as well as Prison Service
Palestinians are Frequent Victims
often, nonviolent Palestinian men, women and children are affected. The
Addameer Prisoners' Support and Human Rights Association explains that since
1967, over 650,000 Palestinians were detained, over 20% of the entire
population and about 40% of all males. Many spend time in isolation as a
form of cruel and unusual punishment. Nearly all experience torture,
including children. Many are uncharged but are brutalized anyway.
Everyone incarcerated is a "story of a life torn apart and an entire family
broken. Yet the international community remains relatively silent in the
face of Israel's illegal detention....and the fact" that torture and
isolation are commonly used. "It is difficult to imagine that the sons and
daughters of (those affected) will one day forget what they suffered when
their loved ones were thrown" into Israeli dungeons and brutalized for
wanting Palestinian sovereignty and Israel's illegal occupation ended.
Those "crimes" land offenders in isolation, sometimes for months or longer,
where they're denied all rights and face torture or other forms of cruel,
inhumane, degrading and humiliating treatment.
Under the 1971
Israeli Prison Ordinance, no provision defines prisoner rights. Rules alone
are specified for the Interior Minister to interpret freely by
administrative decree. For example, it's legal to intern 20 inmates in a
windowless cell as small as five meters long, four meters wide and three
meters high, including an open lavatory, where they may be confined up to 23
Separately isolated prisoners are in tiny, poorly
ventilated confinement with no visitation rights or contact with counsel or
other prisoners. Women and children are treated like men. Besides specific
Geneva Common Article 3 and other human rights law prohibitions against all
forms of inhumane treatment, Article 7(g) of the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court (ICC) defines crimes against humanity as:
"Persecution (meaning) the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental
rights contrary to international law by reason of the group or
A previous ICC ruling held that:
"It is a
firmly established precept that the human rights to which a person is
entitled simply by being human even when he is detained or imprisoned, and
the fact that he is incarcerated cannot serve to deprive him of any right"
under international law. Israel, however, like America, flaunts all
international law, acting shamlessly with disdain.
A Final Comment
On December 15, Glenn Greenwald headlined his Salon.com article, "The
inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning's detention," saying:
accused whistleblower was never convicted of any crime. Yet, he's "been
detained at the US Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five (now six)
months - and for" two previous months was held in Kuwait military
confinement, "under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment
and, by the standards of many nations, even torture."
with his confinement say he's likely to experience "long-term psychological
injuries," yet he's been a model detainee. All along, he's been "in
intensive solitary confinement" 23 hours a day for (eight) straight months
and counting....(He) sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside he's
"heavily restricted." Under constant surveillance, he's prohibited from
exercising, and "denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized
imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed."
Outside his cell one hour a day, he's "barred from accessing any news or
current events programs." He's so affected that he's "administer(ed) regular
doses of anti-depressants....to prevent his brain from snapping...."
America's first designated "enemy combatant," alleged dirty bomber Jose
Padilla was brutalized in military and civilian isolation without charge for
nearly four years. He endured alternating periods of extreme sensory
deprivation or noise, no right to counsel for two years, beatings,
injections with mind-altering drugs, and no medical treatment that destroyed
His mind was turned to mush, making him unfit for trial. Yet a
public show trial convicted him on bogus terrorism charges, sentencing him
to 17 years, four months hard time for his "role" in a "conspiracy" to help
"Islamic jihadists." In fact, he was wrongfully charged, destroyed for
political advantage like thousands of others rotting in US and Israeli
isolation, victimized by police state justice.
An earlier article explained its harmful effects, accessed through the
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