On February 7, 2013, the second part of the Turkel Commission report made a
number of recommendations for changes in various security policies, including
one calling for the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) to videotape all of its
With chaos spreading throughout the West Bank as outraged
Palestinians riot over the death of Arafat Jaradat while in Shin Bet custody –
reportedly between interrogations – and accusations of torture and calls for an
international investigation continue, it is worth asking how all of this could
have gone differently if his interrogations had been videotaped.
many other recommendations are being taken seriously by top government legal
officials, who spoke under the condition of anonymity to The Jerusalem Post
following the publication of the report, the state has already opposed the idea
at least in one case recently brought before the High Court of
The High Court itself may some day weigh in on the issue, but it
has thus far sent the signal that, at least for now, that it does not want to
Most of the Turkel Commission’s recommendations are being
taken seriously because it is viewed as being objective and unbiased against
Israel, and of impeccable legal stature.
specifically, one might have thought the recommendation would be heavily
strengthened because it was supported by widely admired former Shin Bet head
Yuval Diskin – incidentally shocking the commission officials and many
The same day that the report and Diskin’s bombshell were
published, the state attorney on behalf of the Shin Bet told the High Court that
videotaping interrogations was a danger to national security, and would allow
terrorists to understand and overcome the security agency’s interrogation
The next day, the court struck down the petition, saying that
compelling the Shin Bet to videotape interrogations would be premature, ignoring
both the commission and Diskin.
What if – as a result of the current Shin
Bet head having taken the same line as Diskin or the High Court having
intervened – a new policy was initiated and Jaradat’s interrogations were on
tape? An official autopsy performed by Israel listed bruising on Jaradat’s
shoulder, chest and elbows, as well as fractures of two of his right
Israel says Jaradat’s autopsy, carried out in Tel Aviv in the
presence of a Palestinian coroner, revealed no signs of violence, and that the
trauma caused to his body came from the medical emergency team’s efforts to
resuscitate him after he collapsed. The Palestinian Authority, on the other
hand, claims that Jaradat, whose official cause of death was listed as a cardiac
arrest, died as a result of torture during interrogation.
observers are going to be easily convinced that so many injuries were caused by
attempts to resuscitate someone, even if that is a possible
Doesn’t sound good, but how about just pulling out the tape
and showing that Jaradat wasn’t beaten (assuming he wasn’t) during his
interrogation? Oh wait, there is no tape.
First of all, there are obvious
moral and legal questions about Jaradat’s treatment that could be resolved much
more efficiently and more objectively if there was a tape.
If he was not
actually injured during interrogation, from a purely self-interested point of
view, the state will now still need to pour tremendous resources into
questioning and possibly disciplining the various persons in the security
establishment who had access to Jaradat.
After all of those resources are
poured in, no matter how thorough the investigation, a cloud of controversy will
hover over the event, and there will be continued calls for an outside
investigation, which while unlikely, may also still occur.
In terms of
the outbreak of Palestinian rage, one could argue that this may have occurred
anyway based on other events and disputes between the Palestinians and
But it is hard to argue that Jaradat’s death did not provide
either a justification or an excuse (depending on one’s political views) for
what has occurred and that the situation might have been better contained if a
videotape could have distributed or posted showing what actually
If Jaradat was injured during interrogation, a videotape would
allow authorities to move quickly against the interrogators.
needs to be a housecleaning, many public relations experts say that a fast one
is better than a cover-up or a slow one that is perceived as a
That is not to say that a videotape would end the debate. There
could always be accusations that Jaradat was attacked
Additionally, the state might not be able to reveal the tape
publicly because of sensitive intelligence content. And maybe at the end of the
day all of the possible benefits of videotaping are outweighed by the disclosure
of interrogation techniques and revelation of intelligence sources.
if there were tapes, the state would have a chance to make a choice on the
issue, whenever it arose. Especially, in this case, where Jaradat was only
potentially being accused of throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails (worse than
just rocks, but a far cry from shootings or bombings), the chances of being able
to use the tape might have been higher.
The fact is that regardless of
what actually happened, Israel may now have less leverage and less of an ability
to quickly get to the truth than it would be if it could show a tape to the