Israel employs detention as tool of mental torture: Psychiatrist
Palestinian political activists detained in Israel face numerous mental strains used as means of suppression, says expert
Israeli forces arrest dozens of Palestinian political activists every day and night, either from their homes or at military checkpoints, exposing them to well-established security procedures designed to shake their mental resolve and stability, experts say.
Most arrests take place early at dawn and are carried out by heavily armed soldiers, as a means to intimidate the detainee and their family. Then, as a disorienting measure, security forces transport the detainee to an unknown location, according to reports by the Palestinian Prisoners Society.
Detainees held in the security forces' custody are subjected to a myriad of humiliating treatment, including assault, strip-searching, and isolation from the outside world over extended periods as they face threats while being interrogated.
Within the jails, the Israeli Prisoners Services employ measures to make detainees feel as if they are under continuous surveillance and expose them for suppression frequently if they try to protest against any harmful measures imposed on them, reports have shown.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, psychiatrist Samah Jaber emphasized that security processes against socially and politically active Palestinians are not conducted at random and do not target them alone.
"The Israeli security agencies aim to suppress the Palestinian community's struggle by eclipsing in jails active people who refuse Israeli hegemonism. Detention is a tool of suppression to convert them from active people into a state in which they feel powerless," said Dr. Jaber, who heads the Mental Health Department at the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
From her work with former detainees and her analysis of the detention process, she explained that Israeli intelligence forces attempt to trick detainees into thinking that they know everything about them. This is a well-known tactic used to make them feel skeptical of their surroundings for a long period.
"The (Israeli) occupation aims to make a person feel separated from their social surroundings after leaving jail, keeping them in a state of fear and suspicion. That's what they're aiming to do via their suppression of us," she said.
Many Palestinians have reported severe psychological pain strain as a result of torture during their detention, particularly at interrogation centers where they are completely isolated from the outside for long periods. Many detainees and ex-detainees have recovered from serious mental disorders, like Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety disorders.
Suppression of detainees' families
A few months ago, Mansour Shahateet was released after 17 years in Israeli jails, during which he suffered years of solitary confinement that rendered him unable to recognize his own family.
"Due to great pressure, their intellectual beliefs about themselves and the enemy can be switched and this directly affects their intellectual awareness and their ability to protect themselves," said Dr. Jaber.
"Unfortunately, many children told me during treatment that they believe intelligence officers are good just for giving them cigarettes," she added.
Far from being against the detainee alone, detention is often used as a means with much wider implications for wider Palestinian society. Israeli forces in many cases deliberately subject detainees to many violations relating to their families in a bid to impose guilt on their psyche, explained the expert.
"Most of the families of the detainees are exposed to unbearable violent practices -- perhaps the demolishing of their homes, substantial payments during trial proceedings, or the arrest of some (other) family members to put pressure on the detainee.
"All of these violations are used as tools to destabilize mental health and force detainees to blame themselves," she said.
Supporting, empowering detainees
Jaber believes that the most important way to limit the effect of Israeli measures would be via political and social empowerment, as well as mental support, for inmates after their release.
Former detainees face serious challenges due to many policies that prevent them from having effective careers within governmental institutions or non-governmental organizations.
"These people were in jail because of their struggle. So when they're released, the political and social system should give them real and effective roles, not fake jobs like what is happening now," Jaber asserted.
She mentioned that one of the major ways to support ex-detainees was to establish a community for them in which they can share their experiences, helping treat the mental health challenges from which they may suffer.
"We have to remember that they're human, their struggle against the occupation as heroes can't prohibit their right to express their pain and coercion. We have to understand this to help them effectively heal from the continuous attempts to harm them mentally," she added.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, there are four inmates under isolation suffering from severe psychological conditions. The organization believes that putting a prisoner in solitary confinement is the most dangerous tool of torture.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.