The Israeli government’s repression of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is growing ever more harsh. Domestically, earlier this month, “the Knesset plenum…approved in its first reading a ‘boycott law,’ which would levy harsh punitive fines on Israelis who call for academic or economic boycotts against Israeli institutions,” according to Ha’aretz.
While the anti-boycott bill is aimed at shutting up internal Israeli calls for BDS, much more punitive measures continue to be inflicted on Palestinian activists.
Jesse Rosenfeld, reporting for Alternet, has an exclusive report on the alleged torture of Mohammad Othman, a key organizer in the non-violent resistance campaign against the West Bank separation barrier. After returning from Norway in 2009, where he met with “Norwegian socialist movements and BDS activists, as well as members of the national Parliament, including the Norwegian finance minister,” Othman was arrested at the West Bank-Jordan border. The interview with Rosenfeld marks the first time Othman has spoken out about his conditions in prison.
Othman tells Rosenfeld that:
He was psychologically and physically tortured by Shin Bet interrogators. He highlighted how interrogators pressed him for details about his activities in the BDS campaign abroad, asked about the the grassroots Stop the Wall movement, and probed his meetings with Norwegian parliamentarians and activists.
In Israeli military court, the military prosecution tried unsuccessfully to prove that he was acting as an agent for Hezbollah. But Othman said that attempts to force him to confess to working with Hezbollah were merely a pretext to jail him and not what actually interested the Shin Bet.
“They spent over 25 days focused on trying to find out about my boycott contacts and activist contacts in Norway. They were particularly interested in talking about my work with a Jewish American woman in drafting a boycott call,” said Othman, who detailed the brutal methods his interrogators used to try to extract information and confessions from him. “I was told by an interrogator that if I’m released before their investigation is complete, that they would kill me, that they would shoot me in the head,” he recalled.
Kept in a tiny cell that could only fit a small mattress and subjected to extreme hot and cold temperatures, Othman says psychological terror gave way to physical torture. “At one point they tied me in stress positions for five hours. They showed pictures of my sisters and told me they would rape them. They threatened me with rape.”