Following a court decision earlier this week that allowed for the publication of a previously gag-ordered sexual assault incident inside the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), an additional former prison guard stated on Thursday that she was raped by a security prisoner at Gilboa Prison during her mandatory service.
On Thursday afternoon, the former prison guard, who referred to herself by the pseudonym Hila, launched a crowdfunding campaign in order to raise funds to establish a commission of inquiry against the IPS.
"I demand that an independent commission of inquiry be established," she wrote. "Today, an absurd situation has arisen. The system is investigating itself. What interest does the system have in revealing the truth to you and me?"
The Gilboa Prison "pimping affair"
Thursday's testimony is focused on the same "pimping affair" case first publicized in 2018 by Liran Levi but which was then closed in October 2019 due to "lack of evidence."
The case dealt with testimonies of female prison guards accusing then Prison Intelligence Officer Rani Basha of allowing Fatah terrorist and high-security prisoner Muhammad Atallah to have access to female prison guards in return for providing him with intelligence information.
However, in late 2021, the affair was blown open again after Gilboa Prison Warden Freddy Ben-Shitreet referred to it during an inquiry into the escape of six Gilboa prisoners.
Following the reopening of the IPS internal investigation into the affair, Rani Basha was fired from the IPS earlier this month by Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev following a recommendation by IPS Commissioner Katy Perry, after admitting that he specifically moved female prison guards from the security to the criminal wing of Gilboa prison, per Atallah's demands.
To date, five other victims of Atallah's actions had come forward, with Hila being the sixth to do so. Until earlier this week, Hila's testimony against Atallah had been placed under a gag order for several years by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court.
"Everyone knew. Everyone was silent. Everyone was afraid."
In her crowdfunding campaign, Hila writes that she arrived at Gilboa Prison after asking to serve in the IPS for the duration of her mandatory service.
"I volunteered to serve in the IPS and went through a prison guard course that lasted several months, like all IDF soldiers who are loaned to the IPS as prison guards," she writes. "I was assigned to watch over and guard enemies of the state - the security prisoners who did everything they could to erase the existence of the State of Israel and to murder Jews.
"Unfortunately for me, of all the prisons, I was placed in Gilboa prison, where the most dangerous terrorists are imprisoned, a prison with maximum security," she continues. "There I discovered to my astonishment that there was one 'commander' who was a Palestinian terrorist with blood on his hands who controlled all the officers and staff who obeyed him and carried out his 'orders' without any argument."
"He walked freely around the prison when he was not handcuffed, and used his dirty hands to touch the bodies of females without any obstruction. Everyone knew. Everyone was silent. Everyone was afraid."
"How do you calculate the price for the innocence that was taken from me? For my soul that was murdered in an instant? I still cannot figure out how to solve this equation"Hila, former IPS prison guard
Continuing her written statement, Hila turns her attention to the prison staff themselves.
"My commanders, my staff members, who I thought were supposed to protect me, handed me over to that terrorist (Atallah). They made sure that I was left alone with him, contrary to the clear procedures, so that he could brutally hurt me and abuse me, sexually assault me again and again, and not only me, but also many other female prison guards.
"He could have murdered me, or taken me hostage, it was just the two of us alone without handcuffs and without bars, and he is a convicted murderer? What were they thinking? That he would "only" enjoy me? And that's ok? That it's permissible to sacrifice an IDF soldier for information? Peace? Money?
"How do you calculate the price for the innocence that was taken from me? For my soul that was murdered in an instant? I still cannot figure out how to solve this equation."
"They hoped I would take this secret with me to the grave"
As stated above, Hila's testimony of her experience with Atallah was put under a gag order for several years, even as the affair reentered the public eye with testimonies from other prison guards, and even as the internal IPS investigation was reopened.
"Maybe they hoped that I would take this secret with me to the grave," she writes, referring to the gag order. "Maybe they thought I would kill myself or run away to hide in some hole and continue to be ashamed. But not anymore.
"I'm done being silent, I'm doing being ashamed, I'm not to blame! The shame belongs to the state. The shame belongs to everyone who has been covering up this affair for years. Enough of the silence. I will not be silenced anymore."
The lawyer representing the former Gilboa prison guards, Keren Barak, responded to the publication of Hila's testimony, saying it was "the most shocking case since the establishment of the state of Israel of sexual assault against an IDF soldier on regular duty by a terrorist who is an enemy of the State of Israel with blood on his hands.
"I call on every citizen in the country to help us raise money in order to restore the life of that soldier...this is a woman who enlisted in the IDF and asked to serve in a sensitive security position out of love for her country. We, and the State of Israel, must not abandon her again."
Response from Israeli officials
In response to the publication of Hila's testimony, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee headed by MK Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid) will convene next week, with representatives from the IPS, Shin Bet, and Attorney General's Office also expected to attend.
"This is not a matter of Right or Left. The soul searching belongs to all of us and the State of Israel must face a reckoning"MK Bezalel Smotrich
Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir has donated NIS 500 to the crowdfunding campaign, stating that "anyone who had a hand in covering up the case and ignoring the soldier's plight must be held accountable and pay a heavy price for it. If the government is unable to take care of the warden, we will take care as much as we can to help her."
Religious Zionist Party chair MK Bezalel Smotrich also released a statement in support of the former prison guard, saying that "as a person, as a Jew, and as an Israeli, I feel a deep shock and tremendous rage. I can't find the words to express my feelings. This is not a matter of Right or Left. The soul searching belongs to all of us and the State of Israel must face a reckoning."
In December 2021, a proposal put forward by the Opposition to establish a state commission of inquiry into the affair failed to pass in Knesset with a vote of 46-41. The vote fell due to the refusal of coalition MKs to vote in its favor due to Bar Lev's position as Public Security Minister.
In response to a request for comment on Hila's testimony from The Jerusalem Post, Bar Lev's sspokesperson stated that "we have made several comments about [the Gilboa affair] in the past, including earlier this week."
However, later on Thursday evening, Bar Lev released a statement saying that "the publications on the subject, which continue to flood the media, are horrifying - and even the long time that has passed since then does not dull the hard feeling.
"Every incident of violence against women in the organizations subordinate to me will be treated with the utmost severity, and as I received the recommendation of the Sheriff's Commissioner to fire the Gilboa prison's intelligence officer - I will not hesitate to act harshly in the future as well."