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Israel Writing ID Numbers on Arms and Heads of Palestinian Detainees

1) Israel Criticized for I.D. Numbers
By Steve Weizman
Associated Press; March 12, 2002
JERUSALEM ˆˆ An Israeli lawmaker who survived the Nazi Holocaust expressed
outrage Tuesday over Israeli troops writing identification numbers on the
foreheads and forearms of Palestinian detainees awaiting interrogation
during an army sweep of a West Bank refugee camp.

Yugoslav-born Tommy Lapid said he told army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Shaul
Mofaz and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer that the practice must
cease immediately.

"As a refugee from the Holocaust I find such an act insufferable," Lapid
said, adding that Mofaz and Ben-Eliezer also were displeased with the
practice and that both had pledged action.

During World War II, concentration camp inmates, most of them Jews, had
numbers tattooed on their forearms.

Mofaz later said in a radio interview that he had ordered an immediate halt
to the numbering, which the army said was done to identify and keep track
of prisoners last week in the Tulkarem refugee camp.

One photograph showed a detainee who had just been released with a large
number written across his forearm. Other detainees said they had
three-digit numbers written across their foreheads.

The army has said the marking, in ink that could be washed off, was a
one-time occurrence and not military policy. Television footage of
detainees in another West Bank camp on Monday showed no such markings.

Still, Col. Gal Hirsh, a regional commander in the West Bank, conceded the
numbering of prisoners at Tulkarem was a mistake.

"I don't think that putting numbers on the (arms) of Palestinians that were
arrested is a good idea," Hirsh said.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Monday equated the action with the
treatment of Jews in Nazi concentration camps.

"Did you see them put (numbers) on people they've arrested in the Tulkarem
refugee camp?" Arafat said on Abu Dhabi Television. "Isn't this the sort of
thing they used to say the Nazis did against the Jews? So what do they say
about these things? Isn't this a new Nazi racism?"

Hirsh said the incident had been blown out of proportion and he condemned
the comparison between Jewish soldiers and Nazis. "This makes me sick," he
said.

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
acknowledged that numbering prisoners in such a way did not create an
attractive media image.

"If the idea was to convey a message of deterrence, clearly it conflicts
with the desire to convey a public relations message," he told Israel Army
Radio.

Israeli military commentator Ron Ben-Ishai said commanders in the field
often scribbled on their own arms, to note down such things as radio
frequencies and call-signs, but acknowledged that to do so with Palestinian
prisoners was insensitive.
 
 

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