Palestine Monitor, 28 October 2010
From Algeria to Cuba, national liberation movements have been plagued by informers. It is the dirtiest game of any occupation and Israel’s stranglehold on Palestine is no different.
Collaborators have been an essential tool for sustaining Israeli control in the Occupied Territories. Gained through stealth and duplicity, they are used to frustrate resistance movements and undermine unity. A collaborator, once they are turned, is the property of the Israeli army. Often the army are able to arrest or assassinate targets based on information provided by their own family members.
Various different types of collaborators are used in Palestine. They vary from those buying land from Arab owners and selling it to Israelis, to the armed collaborators who assist the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) on military raids. The most common form of collaborator is the low level informant or ‘Jasous’. The Jasous provides information on the activities and movements of certain activists and general information on resistance activity.
If caught by the Palestinians, collaborators face severe punishment. Much has been made by the international media of the failings of the Palestinian legal system, which allowed the summary execution of collaborators by lynch mobs and Kangaroo courts. In the West Bank these are no longer officially sanctioned, but in Gaza they continue.
The reasons why Palestinians risk collaborating derive from the vice-like grip Israel has on the occupied population. There are few Palestinians that have not needed a ‘favour’ from the military authorities and it is here that pressure is exerted.
For Palestinians to work in Israel, where the wages are vastly higher, they require a permit. Their circumstances are exploited by the Shin Bet (Israeli secret police), who frequently demand that the applicant turn informer. With numerous hungry children to feed at home it becomes a difficult decision even for the most patriotic of Palestinians. One Fatah spokesman I talked to believed that about 70% of the collaborators had worked in Israel at some point.
Many collaborators are lured from the Palestinian student body. It is common practice for soldiers to pick up school children in their final year of school and demand that they either collaborate or be imprisoned, missing their final exams and preventing them from graduating.
University students experience similar levels of harassment. Many can barely afford the tuition fees. Soldiers and intelligence agents at the checkpoints offer them money or if that doesn’t work again threaten to detain them during the exam period.
With the deficiencies of Palestinian health facilities, permits to travel for hospital treatment in Israel or abroad have become useful bargaining chips for recruiters. The illegal siege of Gaza has bought health services to their knees and provided a stream of collaborators. In August 2008 the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights released the details of 32 sick Gazans who claimed that they had been denied permits after refusing to become informants. Bassam Waheidi, a 28 year old Gazan, went blind in one eye after being denied a permit for treatment after refusing to collaborate.
Less subtle methods of recruiting informers are used in the much feared military investigation centres. I met with Mohammed who has spent two months in one of these centres. They are used typically for interrogation and collaborator recruitment and reports of the use of torture are common and widespread. Two Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem and Hamoked recently announced that seven ‘special’ interrogation methods that amount to torture are frequently used in these facilities. They include beatings, painful binding, back bending and body stretching.
Mohammed describes how the first person to interrogate him was a Palestinian man from Nablus city, calling himself Sammir. Mohammed was initially offered money and when he refused, he was beaten.
Mohammed describes feeling mixed emotions at seeing one of his fellow countrymen work for the Israelis. “I would rather die than see Palestinians work for the Israelis like this” he tells me. Though he felt much anger towards Sammir he also felt pity, “the Israelis have no respect for him” he says, “they are just using him”.
Following the failure of bribery and beatings the Israelis tried blackmail. It is a common tactic of the IDF to employ prostitutes to sleep with Palestinians under detention. The whole thing is videotaped and then the interrogators threaten to send off the tape to the inmates’ family. In the conservative Islamic culture of Palestine this would spell ruin for the victim. On Mohammed, who does not hold conservative views, it proved ineffective.
Typically, Palestinians released from the investigation centre will face a court hearing. More than 150,000 Palestinians have been prosecuted by the military regime in the past 19 years. According to the Israeli group Yesh Din 95% of these trials end in plea bargains. This give the Shin Bet another chance to persuade the detainee to become an informant in return for a reduced sentence.
For those who buckle under the pressure, collaborating often does not pay as richly as they were told it would. In the beginning an informer may be offered around 500 – 1,000 shekels ($135-$274) a month. However once they’ve been bought they are at the mercy of the Israelis. Their fees are sometimes slashed as low as 50 shekels ($14) a month. There is no authority they can appeal to and it is too late to turn back.
Mohammed likens Israeli treatment of collaborators to lemons, “the Israelis squeeze them for all the information they’ve got and then throw them away”. Even when a collaborator’s position is compromised and his life is in jeopardy, only those most valuable to the Israelis are rescued. Those that escape are put into housing in Arab-Israeli neighbourhoods in Israel. Here they are despised by their neighbours and abandoned by the military, just another tool for Israel’s brutal machine.
Story of a collaborator http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Dai…