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by Fawzia Sheikh

Israeli Forces Using Civilians As Human Shields (2002)

(IPS) JERUSALEM -- By the time Rashid Abu Shabak took over the Palestinian Authority's security forces last year, he had arrested more than 100 Palestinians suspected of supplying intelligence to Israel. Many were illegally jailed and then executed.

But many more were killed by Palestinian militias, human rights organizations say. Since the start of the Intifadah, the 2000 uprising against Israel, at least 72 Palestinians have been killed in shootings, stabbings, assaults and grenade attacks in retaliation for joining forces with the Israeli military.

It is a crime as old as the 58-year-old Jewish state.

"Palestinians are not allowed to even file criminal procedures against Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel's security forces," Hamdi Shaqqura, director of the democratic development unit of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza City, told IPS.

These Palestinians are not always killed, though. Political parties have often attempted to rehabilitate them so they may "open a new page in their life," Shawan Jabarin, acting director-general of al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization based in Ramallah, told IPS.

At the same time, more suspected spies are being brought to trial. Shaqqura said only five extra-judicial killings of such suspects were recorded last year, a significant decrease from 22 in 2004 and 12 in 2003.

Following the due process of law "is one of our demands of the Palestinian Authority," Shaqqura said. "At the end of the day, in 2005, it paid off. Bringing these people to justice doesn't mean we allow the death penalty."

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights considers Palestinian collaborators to be war criminals, and favors a prison sentence instead. It will pressure the new Hamas government to follow this legal path.

Holding a proper trial can save innocent lives. Nasser Mushtaha, who was kidnapped by Hamas in 2004 and killed during interrogation, turned out to have been innocent.

Innocence was always the claim of Azzam Azzam, an Israeli Druze textile worker accused by Egypt in 1997 of being an Israeli spy. His eight-year imprisonment shows what may await alleged collaborators in prison.

His Egyptian captors hung him upside down, subjected him to electric shocks and tried to drown him, he told a Hebron University audience recently in Jerusalem.

He lost 18 kilograms in a week, and was transferred to a tiny three-and-a-half square meter cell called "The Grave." He slept on a cold floor and had a bucket for a toilet.

Azzam blamed his ordeal on the start of Benjamin Netanyahu's administration as prime minister that year. "Egyptian people didn't like (the political party) Likud being in government," he said. "I was a victim for it."

Those truly guilty of turning against their people are often driven by circumstances, said Jabarin. Palestinians struggling financially, especially those unable to work because of the Israeli government's restrictions on movement across borders, can be enticed by financial rewards, he said.

Often, Palestinians are tortured or blackmailed into compromising their principles for the sake of Israel, a practice that has been documented in several affidavits, Jabarin said.

"Israelis put them into danger. They try to (get them) to carry out their dirty work. Not to provide information, but also to kill."

There are mixed opinions whether the sins of the Palestinian collaborator unfairly affect his wider family. Some say the crime is usually an individual act and does not compromise the good name of all relatives. Other Palestinians report being harassed by their community because of perceptions that the whole family was involved.

Clearly, not all Palestinians understand the collaborators' motives, and may be glad to see them whisked away by the Israeli government. In 2002 the Israeli military invaded Palestinian internment centers and rescued their former spies.

Once brought to Israel, Palestinian spies are invited to integrate into Israeli society. Israeli security services have offered them identity cards and money, and tried to obtain Israeli rights and services from the courts on their behalf. But such attempts have not always been successful.

"No society (in) the world respects a collaborator," Jabarin said. "They look at them as rubbish."

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Albion Monitor   April 5, 2006   (

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