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Captain George (aka Doron Zahavi) Rides Again
Richard Silverstein

One thing you have to say about Israeli torturers, you can’t keep a good one down. I reported here some time ago about one Doron Zahavi aka Captain George, an infamous commander of the IDF intelligence unit 504. Until my report, his real name was secret and no publication has reported it. I was delighted to bring his brutal acts into the public light and attach a real name to the torturer. Zahavi and his boys specialized in “interrogating” (i.e. torturing) foreign security suspects captured by the IDF abroad.

One of them was Mustafa Dirani, who Israel suspected of having held the MIA airman, Ron Arad. Zahavi subjected Dirani to the “royal treatment” which included sodomizing him with a billy club. We know this because Dirani sued the State and is attempting to hold it accountable for what its represenative did to him. One of the reasons Dirani exposed methods of torture used by Unit 504 is that the Supreme Court forced the State to allow him to proceed with his claims against it. In the process, Zahavi’s commander, a colonel whose first initial is Het, had a bout of conscience and spilled the beans. Here are some of the Zahavi’s patented methods (in Hebrew):

Het said Captain George played a role in every interrogation. “He would just come in, burst into the room, grab the suspect, shake him, get him onto the floor, punch him in the chest, yell and threaten,” Het said. Het added that George would enter with a baton, hit the suspect and threaten to insert it into his rectum if he “continued to lie or not talk.” Het also recounted an interrogation in which George allegedly stripped a suspect naked and forced him to drink tea or coffee from an ashtray full of cigarette ashes and then forced shaving cream or toothpaste into the suspect’s mouth. “I simply walked out,” Het said. Het said George dealt with almost every case involving an infiltrator into Israel from a neighboring country, including Iran, Iraq and Syria, but also in special circumstances such as the interrogation of Dirani. Het recalled an instance in which he inserted a baton into a suspect’s rectum and asked him [Het] to sit on the baton unless the suspect was willing to speak.

The Hebrew version is even more graphic. It describes further brutality by Zahavi:

He always employed brutality. I was shocked. I would sit in the room and watch [shocked]. He would come into the interrogation room, knock the detainee off the bench, jump on him, kick him, threaten that he would fuck him, or that others would fuck him and rape him. The detainees were afraid of him.

Het said that the reason Zahavi was never charged with any violation was that his superiors didn’t want to deal with investigations or committees of inquiry:

When you have dirty laundry you don’t want to wash it outside because everyone [in the unit] could be hurt by it. That’s why everyone tried to close it internally, within the family and not to take it outside.

Het continued that though everyone knew that Zahavi had gone “bad,” no one wanted to deal with it because he got results:

It didn’t matter that those results might do a grave injustice to some of the detainees because results were obtained under threat or torture. Maybe the suspect was even completely clean and had no connection whatever to the incident being investigated.

Note that Het exposes precisely the problem with CIA waterboarding and other forms of torture: you extract information from the victim, but is it good information or stuff he made up to stop the suffering? The reason this story has come back into the news is that the State has now warned Het that he may be subject to criminal prosecution for his previous testimony. On the face of it, they may be charging him with some of the crimes he admitted to participating in under Zahavi’s command. Of course, though the IDF fired Zahavi after this nastiness was exposed, it never prosecuted him.

This allowed him to rise to his level of brutality in another capacity: the Israeli police hired him to be the “liaison” with the East Jerusalem Palestinian population. Don’t you dare think of community policing when you think of what this guy does. He yells and screams at Silwan community activists and threatens them unless they offer intelligence or become spies. This is how the Zahavis of the world operate. So in this best of all possible world for torturers called Israel, Doron Zahavi lands on his feet in a cushy new job while Het, the soldier with a conscience, may end up in jail. The reason? You don’t wash the IDF’s laundry in public. If you do, they’ll come after you too. “Vengeance is mine,” saith the IDF.

Though the army closed Unit 504 after Dirani’s expose caused great embarrassment, a few months ago it brought the unit back apparently by popular demand. Now that the CIA has cut down on water boarding and other forms of torture I guess there’s high demand for the services of animals like Zahavi.

Zahavi is suing the IDF for wrongful termination. He claims that his superior officers knew everything he did and approved it. He’s likely correct and figures that they’ll settle with him rather than drag guys who may even now be cabinet ministers of members of the senior IDF command into court. Those officers may even be pressuring the State not to fight Zahavi and to prosecute Het, the source of their woes to their mind.

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