Disgraced ex-military interrogator threatens to reveal state secrets

Israel’s most renowned torturer threatens to expose the dirty secrets of the Israeli security system, if he does not receive remuneration

Yediot Ahronot’s “7 Yamim”, a weekend supplement, published a long interview yesterday with “Captain George,” the nom de guerre of a disgraced army interrogator, who has become Israel’s most infamous torturer. George, who sued the government for kicking him out of the army, states clearly that his goal is blackmailing the government.

“I kept my mouth shut and said nothing about this case [the interrogation and torture of Amal’s Mustafa Dirani – YZG], as well as many other cases in which they used the methods of coverup, obfuscation and lies,” says George to Yediot’s Ronen Bergman, “because I was waiting for someone to come up and say ‘stop, hold on, we can’t go on like this.’ If they’d come to me a few years back and told me ‘you’ve paid a heavy price, what do you want in order to close this affair quietly? What sort of compensation do you need in order to stay backstage?’ As far as I am concerned, even if they’d given me a job abroad, say in Alaska, and took care of me and my family, everything would be fine and I would shut up forever and this meeting with you would never have taken place. But none of this happened and I think we’ve been too good children.”

In short, like many before him who carried out the security apparatus’ dirty jobs and were exposed, George thinks he was sold, thrown to the dogs, and this despite doing just what everyone else was doing or what they were ordered to do. Unlike others before him, who said they merely wanted to clear their name, George has a price tag: A job in Alaska. As he didn’t get it, he is going to break the apparatus’ omerta oath and testify in court. “If this goes to court, what I told you today is just the teaser,” he threatens, “Trust me – no one really wants me to climb up to the stand. If I have to stand there and speak of Dirani, you’ll find out I have plenty more to say about how the apparatus acts when it needs to hide all sorts of things […] and everyone is a liar, which is why the country is where it is today, no deterrence, nothing. And in the end? I’m the apparatus’ scapegoat.”

It is a common saying that torturers – and George, by his own admission, is a torturer – are the most cowardly of people. Now we also find out they are the most corrupt. George knows of crimes, but he has no problem with them. He only threatens to expose them when he is in harm’s way. He is behaving like a mafia capo, asked to pay the price: He tries to intimidate his bosses, saying if they won’t take care of him, there’s a lot he can say. Luckily for him, the Israeli security apparatus is still a few steps above the Cosa Nostra, or George would meet his end in a mysterious accident.

George whines that he is accused of sexual crimes. Now, there’s very little doubt that had George resorted to electrocuting Dirani, or use the water torture known by the euphemism of waterboarding, the case would be much less prominent. But George was accused by Dirani of raping him with a nightstick; And George admits – he has little choice, there is a witness – that he ordered a male IDF soldier to undress and approach Dirani in a threatening manner, and then told Dirani the soldier was about to rape him. He even reprimanded the soldier, who was smiling in embarrassment: “Behave correctly, this is serious business.”

This complaint againt George is the second. The first came from Iraqi defectors a few years earlier: They, too, charged that George threatened them with rape. The IDF managed to cover up that case, which may have emboldened George in the Dirani case. He himself claims that the threat of rape is a standard procedure in the IDF’s prisoners interrogation unit (Unit 504) where he was serving.

There are several good reasons to believe him: A few weeks back “Uvda,” a Channel 2 investigative journalism program, showed a clip in which George’s commander was threatening Dirani with rape; Many Palestinian detainees reported a similar threat; And in at least one case – that of the murdered IDF soldier, Amnon Pomrantz, in 1990 – the reporter Gabi Nitzan wrote that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency, or ISA) took several children as hostages, in order to convince their brothers, who were suspected of setting the unconscious Pomrantz on fire, to turn themselves in (I had the misfortune of looking after one of these children for a short while). The ISA agents told the children’s families that if the suspects wouldn’t turn themselves in, the children would be sent to a detainee camp, where they would be raped.

Did George rape Dirani with a nightstick? He vehemently denies this. Dirani’s anus suffered injuries which may be the result of such a rape; George claims they are the result of constipation. According to his version, Dirani was suffering from constipation and so his interrogators forced him to swallow a laxative, and then forced him to wear a diaper. Dirani claimed that he was forced to wear the diapers even when they were full of excrement. This method of humiliating a prisoner by forcing him to wallow in his feces is known from various other torturous regimes – it was used, among others, by the Americans in Abu Ghraib. George’s explanation – constipation – sounds somewhat dubious.

Aside from the rape claim, George basically confirms every allegation made by Dirani, adding to them the fact that the interrogators used the most effective type of torture: sleep-deprivation (known to the inquisition as tormentum insomniae). As an aside, Bergman notes that when Dirani was kidnapped from Lebanon in 1994, while still on Lebanese ground, one of the gunmen who kidnapped him pressed a pistol to the head of Dirani’s son and threatened to shoot him if Dirani didn’t tell him immediately where the missing navigator, Ron Arad, was held. The threat was not consummated.

What did the IDF brass know of all this? In a rather convenient manner, the tapes of Dirani’s interrogation have mysteriously disappeared. George, who claims everything he did was authorized, claims that General Amos Gilad – senior intelligence officer, now retired from active service and serving as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – was watching the interrogations in real time, and if anything was out of the ordinary, he should have said something. The Security Ministry denies that Gilad was involved in whatever happened there. Without the tapes, we’ll never know.

George further claims that many detainees died during interrogations – particularly ISA interrogations – and this was covered up. This claim ought to be taken seriously. It may well be that when George is breaking the conspiracy of silence, he is providing Israel with vastly more useful service than he did during his long career in the IDF’s torture unit. The torture of Dirani – George was not his only torturer – did not work, neither did the threat to shoot his son before his very eyes: Dirani did not provide any useful information on Arad. George, naturally, claims otherwise: He has to look at himself in the mirror each morning, after all, and torturing someone for no benefit may be too much even for a scumbag of his proportions. The apparatus, however, rejected the information the torture yielded as untrustworthy.

The Dirani-George case, had it been treated properly, may have become the 300 Line affair of the 504 unit. This did not happen, simply because the public does not wish to know. In 2012 Israel (as in 1994 Israel, as in 1984 Israel) the idea that every person – even Dirani, even George – is a human being, which must not be deprived by reducing him to quivering piece of meat, lying in its own excrement, is still a radical one.