Author Topic: The Bolshevik Govt of Israel treats it's POWS as Stalin And the Japs  (Read 1628 times)

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Offline mord

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They consider them failures and are help up for disdain     

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May 1, 2008 10:15 | Updated May 1, 2008 14:07
Stigma of surrender
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On his flight back to Israel in a Yom Kippur War POW exchange, Natan Margalit, who'd undergone nearly two months of torture while blindfolded in an Egyptian prison, was washing his hands in the plane's bathroom when he saw an unrecognizable face in the mirror. For several minutes, he made movements in the mirror until he could no longer deny that the face was his. The lips were badly swollen from beatings. The cheeks were sunken from his loss of 25 kg. Luckily, other marks of his imprisonment, such as the grid of scars on his back from floggings with a wet rope, didn't show.

Israeli POWs in Egypt. Many Israelis died in battle; many others were murdered after surrendering.
Photo: IDF Spokesman
It was late November 1973 and Margalit, today an X-ray technician and father of seven living in Petah Tikva, was a 19-year-old religious boy from Jerusalem.

Like the 240 or so other army POWs from the Yom Kippur War, Margalit was given a day's home leave for a big open house celebration. And like the others, he was then driven to a rehabilitation center surrounded by barbed wire in Zichron Ya'acov. Held there for about a month, he answered questions posed by psychologists and intelligence investigators from the IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"They didn't say to my face that I had failed as a soldier by being taken prisoner, but it was in the air," recalls Margalit, a big, gentle man, sitting in his living room. "The sense you got from them was, 'If you fell into enemy hands, you're inferior. We expected Masada.'"

For the next 22 years, he suffered from insomnia. He wouldn't learn to drive. "As a POW you learn to be passive, and driving means being active, making decisions," he explains. He would work double shifts constantly to keep his mind occupied. Outwardly he appeared "normal," but he was uncommunicative at home, avoided seeing people and never took a vacation or went to a restaurant or movie because he was incapable of enjoyment. Even though he had fired at the Egyptians until he was hit in his shooting hand, then was taken prisoner at bayonet point, the guilt he'd internalized from "the air" as a returned POW - at Zichron Ya'acov, in the army afterward, from the media, from public opinion - wouldn't allow him to enjoy anything.

The Defense Ministry never offered him psychiatric care, and he never asked. Finally, in 1996 the ministry began coming to grips with the by-then well-documented, well-known fact that POWs suffer varying degrees of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and require treatment. "They sent me a letter saying they've discovered that POWs are having problems, so let's be in contact," Margalit says. It took him six months to decide to go for evaluation in front of a committee of the ministry's Rehabilitation Department.

"One of the psychologists on the committee asked me what was the worst thing the Egyptians did to me in prison," Margalit recalls. "I told him, 'When they pissed on me.' He told me, 'So, do you want us to give you NIS 10 to buy shampoo?'"

Such was the tone of the committee's questions at the IDF base at Tel Hashomer, and Margalit was so badly shaken that when he got off the bus back in Jerusalem, he couldn't remember how he'd gotten there.

Over the years, the attitude of the Defense Ministry and its Rehabilitation Department improved greatly, due in part to the pressure applied by the POW organization Erim Balaila ("Those Who Are Awake at Night"), founded in 1998. Like other POWs, Margalit was found to have developed PTSD while in captivity, and was granted IDF disability benefits. The state has been paying for his regular visits to a psychiatrist, which he credits for the "mental revolution" he underwent about eight years ago, leaving him a changed man, able to enjoy life again.

"But now [the Rehabilitation Department] wants to cut off my treatments, which for me are like oxygen," he continues. "They say I've had enough treatment, that if I'm not 'cured' yet, it hasn't worked. It's like telling a blind man with a seeing-eye dog, 'Well, you're still blind, so we're taking away the seeing-eye dog.' I try to explain to them that this is what keeps me on an even keel. My psychiatrist is fighting for me, but it's so damn frustrating."

IN THE LAST 60 years, according to the Foreign Ministry, approximately 1,270 POWs have come home in prisoner exchanges with various Arab enemies; more than 90% were from the War of Independence and Yom Kippur War. (The Defense Ministry's Rehabilitation Department, however, concluded in 1996 that of some 1,200 soldiers listed by the IDF as POWs, only about 850 could be documented as such. And of these, only some 300 have come forward to claim disability benefits and treatment.)

Many POWs are embittered not only by what they suffered at the hands of the enemy, but by the "homecoming" they received here. Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to bring its POWs back, including releasing thousands of terrorists and enemy soldiers. It is very hard to square this with the accounts from Margalit and other POWs of the callousness and recrimination they encountered upon their return - and long afterward.

"Two or three years ago we had a meeting at the Defense Ministry with a very senior IDF general," recalls Uri Ehrenfeld, a Yom Kippur War POW, deputy head of the Association of Disabled IDF Veterans' Jerusalem branch and, like Margalit, a leading activist in Erim Balaila. "At one point the general told us, 'You know, it's no great honor to be taken prisoner in war.' We stormed out of the meeting."

According to Tel Aviv University professor Zahava Solomon, the pioneer of Israeli research into the psychological condition of POWs, this sort of disapproval that was shown to soldiers who were tortured for months or years is rooted in the traditional IDF ethic that an honorable soldier "fights to the death, to his last bullet." By this ethic, he is supposed to die rather than be taken prisoner, which humiliates the army and the nation, and creates the possibility that he will give away secrets under torture. The model POW, Solomon notes, was Uri Ilan, who committed suicide in Syrian captivity in 1955, leaving behind a note that read, "Lo bagadeti" - "I did not betray."

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« Last Edit: May 02, 2008, 06:51:45 AM by mord »
Thy destroyers and they that make thee waste shall go forth of thee.  Isaiah 49:17

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