“The Psychology Expert”: A New Method Used by Israeli Occupation Forces to Harass Palestinians
Ever since the occupation of Palestine, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have devised a variety of methods to prosecute and incarcerate Palestinians. These methods have been adapted over time to enforce even more controls and restrictions on Palestinians.
As of April 2020, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association has identified a new technique utilized by the IOF to prosecute Palestinians as part of an endeavour to capture Palestinians allegedly involved in military operations. This tactic involves calling in ‘psychology experts’ to question detainees about military operations the IOF claims that were carried out in the past. The detainee-psychology expert encounter is often preceded by a raid on the detainee’s home in the middle of the night, where soldiers search and overturn everything inside before transferring the detainee to a military checkpoint to be questioned by one of these psychology experts. Such housebreaking and brutal detention operations terrorize the detainees into believing they would be interrogated and sentenced. However, they are held in a chamber at a military checkpoint to be asked a specific set of questions and then released on the same day.
Addameer has documented several cases of people who were detained at dawn and questioned by psychology experts. Many were detained at midnight during the emergency state imposed by the Palestinian Authority to curtail the coronavirus spread. Most of those detainees were held at Qalandia military checkpoint to answer a range of questions of similar nature and content.
Cases of Detainees Questioned by Psychology Experts
The Palestinians, held and badgered by a “psychology expert” reported that the psychology expert introduces themselves as an expert in psychology before forcing the detainees to answer a specific set of questions.[]Before the encounter with the psychology expert, Israeli interrogators threaten the detainees that should their answers be found false, they would be transferred to an interrogation center. However, if their answers were deemed valid, they would be released. All interviewed detainees were subjected to the same procedure. They had to answer a particular set of questions and were all released later after taking the test.
Most of the detainees, whose cases were monitored by Addameer, reported that they had been forced to answer multiple-choice questions. The detainees were also shown photographs and maps and then asked specific questions about them.
A. H. was arrested on 13 April 2020 following a raid on his house around 5:00 a.m. He stated that Israeli soldiers confiscated his laptop and mobile phone before leading him in cuffs to Beit El for a medical test. A.H. was then transferred to a different location, which after his release, he discovered was Qalandia military checkpoint. A psychology expert questioned him about specific dates when alleged military operations were carried out. After answering around 30 questions, the interrogator present at the site informed the detainee that he would be released, and then later that day he was released.
Th. B., was arrested on 6 July 2020 after 30 Israeli soldiers raided and searched his house at 4:00 a.m. He was bound and transferred to Beit El where he was left outside in the open until the early morning hours before being transferred to Qalandia military checkpoint. The interrogator informed him that he would be asked a set of questions. If he answered them truthfully, he would be released right after. However, if he did not, the interrogator would threaten to transfer him to al-Moscobiyeh al Detention Center. A psychology expert then arrived and started badgering the detainee about alleged shootings that happened on a specific date. The psychology expert kept badgering him for two and a half hours; Th. B. was asked the same set of questions for two more times. After being questioned, the interrogator told the detainee that he would be released. After three more hours of waiting, he was.
A. Sh., was also arrested after a raid on his house in late August at 4:00 a.m. He was asked a similar set of questions after being transferred to Qalandia military checkpoint; however, he refused to answer any of them. Consequently, the interrogator threatened that he would be transferred to al-Moscobiyeh Detention and Interrogation Center if he refused to answer. Nonetheless, A. Sh. stood his ground, and after an hour of waiting, he was released.
New Methods for the Detection of Military Operations
IOF’s continued attempts to devise new interrogation methods that mislead and entrap Palestinian youth into giving away information about alleged military operations is but an example of the occupation’s policy to extract information from Palestinian prisoners in an illegal manner against their will. Whether it is by using indirect questions and mental tricks on detainees or by inflicting torture and ill-treatment upon Palestinian prisoners, the IOF aims to extract confessions to wrongfully convict Palestinians.
To uncover the reason for the use of such methods, and how they serve the IOF’s effort to detect these alleged military operations, Dr. Samah Jabr[] explained that this method is nothing but a security check under the guise of a psychological examination. The IOF aims to mislead detainees into believing they are undertaking a psychological examination, when, they are undergoing a security check, and the price of cooperation is their release. She further explained that any psychological examination should comply with standard procedures starting with informed consent. However, Palestinian detainees are captured and bound before being forced to answer these questions. In standard psychological examinations, the reason behind the examination is disclosed to the person taking it.[]
Dr. Jabr asserted that since the detainees are stripped of their freedom, any questions they answer are under the threat of violence rendering any examination futile.[]
Most recent cases, subject to such an interrogation method, demonstrated the Israeli occupation’s continuous harassment and prosecution of former Palestinian prisoners using a variety of tools and tactics. Most of the interviewed detainees, who gave their statement to Addameer, are former prisoners who were previously detained at least once before and were held in Israeli detention and interrogation centers. Additionally, many of the detainees have relatives and friends who are standing trial or were sentenced on charges related to military operations.
This method of “categorization” is used by the Israeli occupation authorities to dig into the mentality of Palestinian youth. The aim is to determine “how much of a threat to Israeli security” this person poses by gathering information about the person and later predict their future actions. Targeting former prisoners based on their record seeks to terrorize people and conveys the message that any former prisoner with a record will always be seen as a potential security threat. Former prisoners will continuously be harassed by the Israeli occupation authorities and are subject to arrest at any point in time.
All interrogation methods that have been used and adapted by the Israeli occupation authorities ultimately aim to enforce more control and restrictions on Palestinians and to further demobilize the Palestinian national struggle using the threat of ongoing prosecution. All of this serves the occupation’s settler-colonial goals to end Palestinian existence and to deny Palestinian people their right to self-determination.
Some of the multiple-choice questions the detainees are often asked:
· I am a psychology expert, and I studied in:
(1) Tel Aviv (2) Rahat (3) Hebrew University
· I have been married for a long time and have:
(1) Two (2) Three (3) Four Children
· I am:
(1) 40 (2) 50 (3) 60 years old
· The attacker who shot fire was standing next to a:
(1) One-metre (2) Two-metre (3) Three-metre wall
· The attacker used a:
(1) Single shot (2) Automatic (3) Semi-automatic firearm
· If you wanted to attack a point across Beit El, would you run away using street Aor street B?
· At the site, the attacker forgot his:
(1) Cigarettes (2) Bullet clip (3) Bag
· A shooting took place on ______ in Beit El against a:
(1) Car (2) Jeep (3) Bus
· The attacker shot a particular vehicle, and the damage was at:
(1) The Front (2) Right Side (3) Left Side
· The attacker opened fire using:
(1) Kalashnikov (2) M16 rifle (3) Handgun
· If a car on a street near Beit El was shot at from al-Bireh, where would the bullets hit the car?
(1) Right side of the car (2) The side facing al-Bireh (3) The Front glass
· What is the colour of the attacked car?
(1) Red (2) White (3) Blue
· A map with three options, which one is the best escape route for the shooter?
(1) In the direction of near houses (2) In the direction of the mountain (3) In the direction of the main street
· If a person wanted to shoot from this point an image of the area, which location would be the best?
(1) Next to a wall (2) Next to a tree (3) Next to a hill
· The person who opened fire on a military vehicle in so-and-so area in December 2019. Did he shoot:
(1) 10 bullets (2) 20 bullets (3) 30 bullets.
· Did you hear about an operation near Beit El? (1) Yes (2) No
· The operation was carried out by:
(1) One person (2) Two people (3) Three people
[]Annexe No 1: Questions Answered by the Detainees and Documented by Addameer.
[]Dr. Samah Jabr is a psychiatrist,psychotherapist, and the head of the Mental Health Unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
[]From an interview with Dr. Samah Jabr on 7 September 2020.