Published Saturday 31/07/2010 (updated) 18/10/2010 19:28
A man found guilty of collaboration
with Israel is executed my fighters
with the Fatah-affiliated Al-Quds
Brigades in the West Bank city of
Jenin on 13 August 2006.
[MaanImages/Raed Abu Baker]
The term "collaborator" refers to individuals who supply information, or in some cases land, to Israel, or anyone considered an “enemy state,” either voluntarily or by coercion.
The term became familiar to the international community during the First and Second Intifadas, when known and suspected collaborators were publicly executed and in some cases lynched in highly publicized events. Treatment of suspected collaborators by Palestinian police and justice systems came under intense scrutiny from international media and human rights groups.
Types of collaboration include providing one-time pieces of information on leading Palestinian figures to Israeli intelligence officers, the sale of land to Israeli interest groups, ongoing information sharing, and spying for Israeli intelligence.
Forms of collaboration
Low level informants provide intelligence on specific persons of interest, like family, friends of work associates, often comprising information on daily routines or places frequented. The information can amount to a detailed analysis of the workings of a community.
Infiltrators are active members of a political party, popular committee, or other organization of interest, recruited by Israeli intelligence to provide detailed and wide-ranging information. The individual is often detained by Israeli forces and recruited during interrogation or prison terms, with targets expected to provide information on an on-going basis once they are released. Release is often conditioned on the promise to provide information.
The UN Human Rights Council categorizes infiltrators as:
Intermediaries who work to assist in the recruitment of additional collaborators by participating in a preferential system of permit granting and security checks. The intermediaries identify those to receive preferential treatment and liaise with Israeli security officials.
Armed collaborators who assist Israeli forces during arrest and assassination campaigns, helping locate the homes and hideouts of wanted Palestinians based on familiarity with an area.
Political collaborators who represent Israeli interests in Palestinian public positions.
Economic collaborators who sell land or information to Israel for financial compensation. This kind of collaboration is of particular importance to the Palestine-Israel conflict as it concerns land within 1967 borders intended for a future Palestinian state. A collaborator in this case would include either the land owner or the land dealer who facilitates the sale of Palestinian land to the Israeli government or to private buyers affiliated with a pro-Zionist organization or individual.
Becoming a collaborator
Despite the 1999 ban on the use of torture by the Israeli Supreme Court, human rights groups insist torturing prisoners remains the primary method of coercing Palestinians into passing on information to Israeli security.
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem estimates that since 1987, 85 percent of all Palestinian detainees have undergone some form of torture, and has accused the Israeli Shin Bet of using torture to force Palestinians into collaboration. Torture techniques include sleep deprivation, beatings, degrading treatment and the use of stress positions.
Threat of imprisonment
Palestinians are sometimes offered reduced sentences in exchange for becoming a collaborator, or else threatened with severe sentences if they refuse. Israeli human rights group Yesh Din reported in 2006, that 95 percent of the cases brought against Palestinians by the Israeli military courts ended in plea bargains, a statistic they said shows the probability of manipulation leading to collaboration in the prison and military justice systems.
Granting of 'special privileges'
Palestinians are often coerced into collaboration by the promise of 'special privileges' like family visit permissions, travel permissions that make work in Israel possible, medical treatment or eased travel restrictions.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel enforces strict limitations on the movements and activities of Palestinians in almost every aspect of their lives. For example, Palestinians are regularly denied building permits, and are often unable to travel between the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and Palestinian cities and villages in Israel to visit family. Many are denied permission to travel to Israel for medical treatment unavailable in the West Bank or Gaza.
In August 2008, the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights documented 32 cases in which sick residents of Gaza admitted they were denied permits after refusing to become informants, including that of Shaban Abu Obeid, whose pacemaker was installed at an Israeli hospital and needs intermittent maintenance by Israeli doctors, and Bassam Waheidi, now blind in one eye after he refused to cooperate and was denied a permit.
Former collaborators have testified that Israeli forces threatened to expose instances of criminal behavior or sexual conduct unless they revealed information to security personnel. Religious and cultural expectations in Palestinian society, including tightly knit family networks, place high value and expectation on personal conduct, making the threat of exposure for even minor misdeeds one with serious social repercussions.
Treatment of collaborators
Rights groups have said collaborators have a slim chance of a fair trial, despite legislation guaranteeing one, as reports on little-documented cases of collaborators fleeing to Israel or into exile continue.
In both the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian authorities have come under harsh scrutiny for using illegal interrogation techniques against suspected collaborators. Human rights groups, such as the Palestinian Human Rights Monitor, say that fair trials on charges of treason are often impossible due to the implications of the crime.
Provisions exist under the Israel-Palestinian agreements, human rights law, international humanitarian law and Palestinian domestic law for the protection and fair trial of suspected collaborators, but have not always been enforced.
Accounts of the treatment of collaborators who flee to Israel vary greatly. In a 2010 report published by the Legal Forum for Eretz Israel, an estimated 6,000 former collaborators and their families are currently being denied residency status in Israel, with some forced to wait up to 10 years for residency, work or housing permits after they were brought into the area under the auspices of a deal made following a collaboration agreement.
In recent years, both major Palestinian political parties, Hamas and Fatah, have conducted "amnesty drives" to encourage collaborators to come forward.
In April 2010, two Palestinian men convicted of providing information to Israel that lead to the death of two civilians and two resistance fighters were sentenced to death. They were executed by firing squad in what the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights condemned as a contravention of Palestinian Basic Law, which requires the sentence to be approved by the Palestinian president.