WASHINGTON (Feb. 7)
The Israel Embassy categorically denied today allegations that inmates of Israeli prisons are systematically mistreated or tortured, as alleged in two cables sent by a dismissed employe of the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem. The allegations based on the cables were reported in the Washington Post today and alleged that “Israel violates the human rights of Palestinian prisoners in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.”
The cables, the Post said, reported “the possibility that the use of brutality in the interrogation of Arab political prisoners is a systematic practice, involving the use of trained personnel backed up by far-reaching administrative support and protected by standard methods of suppressing complaints and blocking their investigation.”
The Israel Embassy statement countered this by declaring: “Israel respects human rights, does not engage in torture and cannot but therefore come to the conclusion that the dissemination of such allegations through the media stem from anti-Israeli political motivations.”
A report on human rights prepared by the State Department in countries with which the United States has agreements on military supplies or foreign aid is to be made public, probably tomorrow by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The department’s report last year on conditions in the West Bank said that it had no evidence that Israel followed a “consistent practice or policies of using torture” against Arabs suspected of terrorism.
COMPREHENSIVE REBUTTAL BY ISRAEL
The Israel Embassy, in its statement, declared that “these allegations, even though they have been published from time to time, are baseless and have been refuted over and over again suspects arrested by Israeli authorities accused of actual terrorist activities including murder, assault and bombings are dealt with by due process of law and the International Red Cross is granted access to them within 14 days of their arrest.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Alexander Hay, in a statement ###### 1978, expressed his satisfaction that the ICRC has the right of visiting people residing in the occupied territories imprisoned for one reason or another, after 14 days of their arrest and even after a week in some cases… These people are under interrogation and it is exceptional for Red Cross delegates to be granted access to detainees during this period…We have requested and received permission for these interviews to be held without witnesses.”
This was a clear reference to the practice by Israeli officials to allow ICRC interviewers to talk with Arab prisoners without the presence of any Israelis.
“It should be emphasized,” the Israel Embassy statement continued, “that the International Red Cross Committee has not only the right to talk to prisoners during their interrogation without witnesses but that the ICRC delegates are permitted to be accompanied by a physician member of the ICRC team, who may physically examine the prisoners.”
BASIS FOR THE ALLEGATIONS
The allegations in the Washington Post were based on two cables prepared by Alexandra U. Johnson, 32, a junior foreign service officer, who last week was dismissed from the U.S. foreign service. She had been “selected out” from the service by a special panel that reviewed her six-year career record. Previously she was passed over for promotion.
According to the Post, Miss Johnson was assigned to East Jerusalem to interview visa applicants for admission to the United States. That was her first assignment abroad. During her Arabic-language training in Beirut, she lived there with her mother and grandmother in a Christian area. She was said to have refused an official order to live in a hotel near the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. While in East Jerusalem — the U.S. maintains two consulates in Jerusalem — she was “briefly engaged to one of the Palestinians cited in one of her cables,” the Post said. This “relationship was known to some of her colleagues,” the Post said.
The allegations appear to be in a pattern designed to denigrate Israel’s reputation in an attempt to offset the terrorism of the Palestine Liberation Organization and besmirch Israel’s credibility in public opinion, informed observers here said. Similar charges were voiced three months ago by a small group of members of the National Lawyers Guild. This group admitted their trip to Israel was financed in part by a source they refused to identify and that the PLO had invited the group to the area and was host to them in Beirut. The Guild report was subsequently repudiated by a member of the group which made the visit.
The Post story by staff writers, T.R. Reid and Edward Cody, started on page one under a four column headline: “U.S. Reports Indicate Israeli Abuse of Palestinians” and carried over with an eight-column banner headline over the remainder of the report which occupied most of an inside page. The Israel Embassy denial was carried at the bottom of the inside page.