‘We are the masters of the house’: Israeli channels air snuff videos featuring systematic torture of Palestinians

Originally published: Mondoweiss on March 6, 2024 by Jonathan Ofir (more by Mondoweiss)  | (Posted Mar 08, 2024)

Over the past month, mainstream Israeli television channels have aired what can only be described as snuff films. They depict the systematic torture of Palestinians from Gaza in Israeli jails. Such videos have aired on at least three occasions–twice on Channel 14, and once on the public broadcaster, Channel 13. While Channel 14 is considered right-wing, so is about two-thirds of the Israeli public, and the more “mainstream” Channel 13 has shown no qualms about airing similar footage.

The broadcasts follow prison officials into detention centers to document the mistreatment of prisoners, which seems to be something that the officials–and apparently the viewers–find satisfying rather than revolting. The airing of these snuff films is a demonstration of societal sadism.

As Yumna Patel has recently reported, several rights groups have sounded the alarm over the widespread and systemic abuse that Palestinian prisoners face at the hands of the Israeli authorities. These groups’ calls have been unintentionally buttressed by Israeli soldiers’ unapologetic videos of themselves torturing or demeaning Palestinian detainees, which they boastfully post on social media. Now, it seems that the phenomenon has expanded to mainstream Israeli television.

The two aforementioned reports on Channel 14 (threads with subtitles can be found here and here) contained footage of actual interrogation sessions during which torture was used. The Channel 13 report did not, but it exposed some of the worst prison conditions to be broadcast to the public. These conditions include forcing prisoners to live in inhumane conditions and subjecting them to torture and harassment. Here’s the 11-minute video with translated subtitles.

‘The feeling is one of pride’

“Here, we see the cells in which the Nukhba terrorists are held,” the narrator says.

The “Nukhba” refers to elite Hamas-led fighters who carried out the October 7 attack. In the cell, viewers notice metal bunkbeds without mattresses, and instead of a toilet, there is just a hole in the floor. The room is almost completely dark throughout the day, and prisoners have their hands and legs chained together.

We hear attack dogs barking constantly as prisoners are made to kneel while bound and blindfolded, their heads touching the floor.

“This is how it should be,” a guard says.

This is how a Nukhba prisoner should be… what happened on October 7 will never return.

In another scene, a guard shouts at prisoners as dogs continue to bark incessantly. “Heads down! Heads on the floor!” he yells.

“There are many prisoners here that I personally saw at the [October 7] events,” a prison official says, taking pride in humiliating them.

The difference is that this time, he is afraid, shaking, with his head on the floor…no Allahu Akbar, nothing. You won’t hear a squeak from him.

“They have no mattresses,” says a warden shift commander. “They have nothing…we control them 100%–their food, their shackling, their sleep…[we] show them we are the masters of the house.” Even without knowing the background to that phrase, to hear him say it is chilling.

“Masters of the house” was the election slogan of Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Jewish Power leader and current Minister of National Security. Ben-Gvir declared war on Palestinian prisoners long before October 7, and this has included shutting down bakeries that supply bread to prisoners–described by Ben-Gvir as an “indulgence”–and drastically limiting prisoners’ water use. So now it’s become much worse.

While one is tempted to believe that all prisoners here are “Nukhba” members, it turns out that many of them aren’t even suspected of that. Rather, they were rounded up in Gaza after October 7, during mass arrests in which hundreds of Gazan men were stripped and paraded in a most sadistic demonstration of power. The mass arrests also included hundreds of women, including pregnant women detained with their babies. Israeli security officials told Haaretz that by their own estimate,

only 10 to 15 percent of the hundreds of the semi-naked and bound Gazan men arrested in the Strip during the recent days are Hamas members or those who identified with the organization.

Back to the Channel 13 coverage, viewers can hear the nonstop blasting of the Zionist anthem, Am Israel Hai (“the people of Israel live”).

“The prison authorities claim that it is meant to boost the morale of the staff,” the narrator declares.

But it is clear that this is another part of the psychological warfare against the prisoners.

Torture, in other words.

It’s hard to imagine the depths to which Israeli society has sunk. The official tells the Channel 13 reporter that “the feeling is one of pride.”

The reason such sadism has become formalized as a matter of policy is because this is what the Israeli public demands. The Israeli Democracy Institute released a survey last week showing that two-thirds of Jewish Israelis oppose “the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza residents at this time,” even if “via international bodies that are not linked to Hamas or to UNRWA.” For right-wing voters, the opposition to aid jumps from 68% to 80%.

This is not Israel’s Abu Ghraib moment, because when Abu Ghraib was revealed, most Americans were revolted. Israeli society, on the other hand, is thirsting for genocide. No wonder they consume such videos as entertainment on mainstream TV.

Thanks to Tali Shapiro, B.M.@ireallyhatyou, Hilel Biton-Rosen, and Dave Reed.

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