I remember writing an article for the 20 January 1995 issue of Middle East International about a new development in Israeli torture, after seeing a news report entitled, "Restrictions on GSS use of force eased for three months" in the Jerusalem Post. GSS stands for "General Security Service", the Israeli intelligence organisation whose job it is to torture Palestinian political detainees in the hope of getting some genuine information about activists from amongst the terrified, stuttered confessions of unlucky, arrested nobodies.
It was clear from the continuing reports from countless human rights organisations that Israeli treatment of detainees during interrogation was already pretty "forceful" and the idea of "restrictions" existing in any practical way once you they had got you inside a dank cell was - well - hogwash.
After reading the necessary background reports on torture, including testimonies of some of our students, I was pretty enraged. "Anger is a gift" sang the US white rap/thrash band Rage Against The Machine in their first album, and I wrote what I thought was a pretty good rage-driven article - concise, well-researched, and well-referenced and sourced - and one that left it clear as a diamond drill that Israel had just basically sent a message to its interrogators to beat the hell out of their current detainees to try to up the level of information squeezed out of them, without fear of censure.
When I sent the article to my editor, Steve Sherman, I left the titling up to him after I was only able to come up with "Torturing the shit out of the Palestinians." He decided on "Israeli interrogators remove their gloves" which, in my mind, was a great loss to honest journalism.
So here we are again, over two-and-one-half years later, feeling a colder version of that same anger, finally able to title my article like I want to. You have all read about the bombing of the vegetable market in West Jerusalem on 30 July. I'm sure not much else has been on the TV news in the US during this week.
It's basically the same old story, the force of terrorism ripping apart more lives than the bomb itself actually does - the families, the friends, the collegues, the TV viewers frightened to walk out of their own front doors.
And let's not forget the 2.5 million Palestinians currently spending their waking moments trying to navigate the concrete barriers, bad roads (above left), bulldozed piles of earth, and stone-faced soldiers speaking bad Arabic at them, all conspiring to contain them in their Area A Oslo prisons.
All to get where? A 15-minute drive between Ramallah and Birzeit. You can bet that the Palestinians will have paid a high price before the long boomerang of this latest Israeli revenge trip is over.
One Palestinian already shot in Hebron yesterday, a settler blew away a 50-year-old shepherd in a drive-by. And the latest rival to the JFK bullet, the "magic Arab" that disappeared off the list of dead from last Wednesday's bombing.
The collective punishment of the Palestinians has never been clearer on the ground than since this particular bombing. Our taxis, with their nervous and stressed-out occupants (pictured right), go to the university via back and dirt roads due to the current checkpoint on the main road between Ramallah and Birzeit. From the dirt roads out of Ramallah, they briefly venture out onto the Nablus Road by Bet El settlement, before cutting back down the settler road to where it intersects the Birzeit Road before heading off right past the checkpoint without even checking us most of the time.
The Israelis are making an unusally extensive effort to seal the towns - one friend living just outside Ramallah to the south saw an Israeli helicopter two days ago hovering around to look for routes the Palestinians could use to get around checkpoints, alerting waiting bulldozers. Yet, at the same time, allowing small streams of people to move about their business.
It's a theory of punishment that keeps things two feet away from the explosion point while simultaneously putting pressure on the entire Palestinian population and its leadership for the alleged crimes of a few individuals from their people.
The problem with this bombing - never mind the collective punishment of the whole Palestinian population - is that it's not clear that any Palestinian did it. Nor is it clear why any Palestinian would do it. Nor is it clear what any of the several groups that could have done it would benefit from it. And the amount of misinformation flying around is amazing.
The Jerusalem Post (left), the discerning man's first port of call for misinformation, can't even maintain basic journalistic integrity when dealing with what courts and police term "evidence". Let's have a look at the primary piece of evidence, the bomb fragments and other blast residue:
The day after the bombing, 31 July, the JP reported on its front page that:
Reports last night said the remnants of the bombs bore similarities to the explosives found earlier this month in a bomb factory in Beit Sahour, just outside Jerusalem.
Today, 4 August, the JP reported, again on its front page that:
Media reports claimed that the explosives used were typical of the type that Hizbullah uses in Lebanon.
In the same article, the amazing, mutating bomb reverts once again to a local product:
Security forces have not ruled out the possibility that the two [bombers] were sent from overseas to carry out the attack and that the explosives were prepared locally.
Meanwhile, as if that wasn't enough, we see a similar confusion regarding who was responsible. The first JP article mentioned, entitled, "Hamas claims market attack", began with the bold assertion that:
Hamas took responsibility [in a leaflet] last night for yesterday's double suicide-bombing in Jerusalemís Mahaneh Yehuda market...
In the second JP article mentioned, we now learn that:
Security officials, however, have doubts regarding the authenticity of the leaflet.
Even the location of the leaflet is a source of mystery. The first JP article, covered with thoughtful scribble (right), says:
In a leaflet posted near the Red Cross office in Ramallah, Hamas demanded...
The second JP article says:
Last Wednesday night, a leaflet left at the Ramallah office of the Red Cross claimed responsibility for the attack.
I rang the Red Cross on Thursday to get to the bottom of the leaflet. An official told me that:
We never saw the leaflet near our offices. We had a copy faxed to us like everyone else.
And who, I asked, sent it to you. A newspaper? An NGO?
I don't know. Sorry I can't help you. Please don't quote me on this.
Clearly, with all the bullshit coming out to tap dance, this will have to become a mission.