Rape and sodomy in Greater Israel

Nadav Argaman was a high official of the Shin Bet when the assault on the Palestinian woman took place (Mondoweiss)

Jonathan Ofir 

Mondoweiss  /  February 17, 2022

In 2015, a Palestinian woman was raped and sodomized by Israeli soldiers under orders from high-ranking army and Shin Bet commanders. The horrible case exemplifies Israeli apartheid.

This is a horrid case, dating back to 2015, in which a Palestinian woman was raped and sodomized by Israeli soldiers during a search for her SIM card. The illegal invasion of her body in an undisclosed location in the occupied West Bank was conducted under orders from high-ranking army and Shin Bet (security services) commanders.

The case was investigated after the woman complained, but was closed again due to supposed “lack of evidence” in April last year (as reported in detail by Josh Breiner in Haaretz).

Now, the woman has filed an appeal against the closing of the case – as reported in Breiner’s follow-up yesterday.

So let’s get quickly through the basics of this case.

The pretext for the invasive body search, where soldiers inserted fingers into the vagina and anus of the woman, was supposedly a search for a certain SIM card, which was later found in the woman’s home. The woman was suspected of being affiliated with Hamas. Those who performed the act itself were two female soldiers – a medic and a clerk. But the orders came trickling down from the top – from a Shin Bet district coordinator (equivalent to an army rank of Colonel), down to another Shin Bet coordinator, down to an army brigade commander and a battalion commander. In other words, the order to invade the body of this Palestinian woman went all the way down the chain of command and was carried out without refusal, except that of the victim.

The order was illegal even in Israeli terms. The investigation, which was launched only after the victim complained formally, formulated it thus:

Involvement in a search that included an invasive examination of the anus and the vagina without the detainee’s consent, and referring also to authorization of the search procedures and the report about it, contrary to the law.

There was no exceptional pretext for such an assault. Breiner summarizes:

It must be stated at the outset these searches were conducted illegally. There was no intelligence information to indicate that the woman had hidden the SIM card on or inside her body. She was not a “ticking bomb” – that is, she did not constitute a clear and present danger – and in fact there were no circumstances to account for such extreme acts. Sources in the Israel Prison Service who heard about the case were astonished. Even if there were information, for example, that a prisoner had smuggled something in via the anus, an invasive search would not be conducted: The prisoner would be isolated until they discharged the object themselves.

And how does it occur that all the way from the Shin Bet district coordinator down to the soldiers, there is this blind consent to a patently illegal act? Transcripts from the investigation, provided in earlier coverage, give insight into the mindset. From the interrogation of the brigade commander:

Investigator: When you receive a mission from Shin Bet personnel, can you exercise your judgment or is it a case of you receive and you execute?

Brigade commander: Everything that’s within reason – affirmative. Replying to your question, I served in units in which the Shin Bet would tell me to kill people, and I would kill them.

The Shin Bet says kill? You kill. The Shin Bet says rape and sodomize? You rape and sodomize.

That brigade commander, mind you, is still serving, according to that report. In attempt to avoid an investigation altogether (following the complaint), the director of the Shin Bet “told the district coordinator that he would try to get the case dismissed quietly, without criminal proceedings, if the coordinator would agree to resign from the service”. Alas, the district coordinator refused, and guess what? He was appointed to a position in the Shin Bet training system – because that’s apparently model behavior.

Outrageous and unbearable

The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, which has filed the woman’s recent appeal, commented:

In a situation in which there is no dispute that acts that constitute rape and sodomy were committed, [in which] there is sufficient evidence and when no one is punished, it’s outrageous and unbearable. There’s no justice, no judge and all of the people in the security system are immune from prosecution even when they commit illegal and immoral acts.

So, how and why did this investigation at all get launched?

Well, the woman did complain of being raped in 2015, but no one did anything about it – after all, a Palestinian complains … Breiner writes that despite her complaint, she “refused to cooperate”. Apparently it’s not enough to complain, you need to cooperate too – we’ll return to that. Breiner writes that she was sentenced “briefly” to prison following her rape and sodomizing, but she was released only in 2017 – that’s not so brief. Anyhow she was arrested again in 2017, shortly after her release. Palestinians can be arrested for basically any suspicion, and they can be jailed for years without charge on “Administrative detention”, renewable indefinitely. This time, under the second arrest in 2017, the Justice Ministry official in charge of examining complaints against Shin Bet investigators, Jana Modzgvrishvily, visited the woman at the Sharon prison, and persuaded her to submit a formal complaint. You see, the highest governmental official in the matter could not act on her own – the victim had to submit a formal complaint, she had to do the work, she had to “cooperate”. So then the woman filed the complaint.

Complaints can be PR problems, you know. And some officials were worried about what would happen if they don’t investigate:

If we don’t investigate this, the International Criminal Court in The Hague will,

said one of those present at the special meeting convened by the Attorney General to discuss the case.

Or, as one of the Shin Bet interrogators who lied during the investigation said:

afterward the Arabs hate us because of things like that.

The Arabs will hate us. Yes why do they hate us? Why does the ICC hate us? Why can’t everyone just keep quiet?

The soldiers

The investigation did include testimonies from the soldiers, which we will see some of, but it did not focus on them – it focused on the higher-ranking commanders giving the orders. The appeal states that this is letting them off the hook way too easily:

The investigation focused on the identity of the person who was responsible for giving the specific directive relating to carrying out the search of the [woman’s] intimate organs, but it ignored the direct responsibility of those involved in committing the offense… The claim that they committed the acts because they received the order from their superiors cannot serve as a defense in the commission of such serious and inhumane acts, because the order was clearly illegal and under no circumstances should have been followed.

Let’s see how these soldiers think (warning – extremely graphic descriptions). The medic:

That arrest was a traumatic experience from my point of view… I don’t remember who exactly told me to do the vaginal search. Maybe I am so traumatized that I repressed things; it’s still hard for me to believe. It’s like a black hole. I remember that I also apologized to her… I also remember the girl saying to me, in English, ‘What are you doing? I am a virgin’. I always exercise judgment. It didn’t shock me so much. Was I happy about it? Not really, but the ‘headline’ above it was that she was a Hamas money woman, so I assumed that if I’d been given that order, I could count on my commanders that they wouldn’t let me execute it for no reason. Look, I don’t regret it. I did my duty. But in retrospect I told myself that I could have lived better without being involved in that act.

The medic would have been better off without raping the woman. But she apologized, although she doesn’t regret it.

And the clerk?

  1. said to do a deep search on her. I asked him whether he meant to search with the fingers behind and in front, and he replied yes. I closed the door and asked the medic whether she wanted to do the search and she said no. The girl kept telling us that it was a humiliation. She asked me to do it without looking and I said all right. The search was very respectful. She stood, bent over and I checked her. First I checked vaginally. I inserted one finger and didn’t find anything. Then I did a rectal check but I did it very gently; I didn’t insert the whole finger.

It was gentle rape and sodomy – she didn’t insert the whole finger, at least not in the anus.

“I don’t want it, I don’t want it,” the woman cried. But the clerk explained to her “that this is what I needed to do and that I was sorry… I didn’t really enjoy the situation… I was told to do a search and I did it.”

So there you have it, a gentle and polite case of rape and sodomy, conducted by soldiers commanded from above. After all, they didn’t kill anyone – that’s more something that the brigade commander would do, if he only got an order from the Shin Bet. The woman was raped and sodomized by the state of Israel, from commander to clerk, and the soldiers are so moral, they can even apologize.

What goes down in the West Bank stays in the West Bank

In his April 2021 report, Breiner noted an administrative difficulty. Although the state prosecution was involved, the event happened in the West Bank, which is Occupied Palestinian Territory:

The prosecution faces an additional difficulty: The search law, which prohibits a vaginal search unless by court order and only if done by a gynecologist, is not valid in the territories. What goes down in the West Bank, stays in the West Bank.

But the “dual regimes delusion” is just that. Israel doesn’t have two regimes, one democratic and another military – it is a one state of Jewish supremacist Apartheid from the river to the sea. It’s a lawless regime, where you get away with murder, as well as rape and sodomy against Palestinians, because you’re from the master-race.

Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark