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Nov. 16, 2001 | JERUSALEM -- It's a classic moral dilemma: Imagine security services know a bomb is about to blow up in a crowded public space, killing and maiming possibly hundreds of people. But the plot can only be foiled if information is violently extracted from a tight-lipped terrorist suspect. What should you do?
As Americans grapple with the possibility of ticking time-bomb scenarios in the wake of Sept. 11, the once-unthinkable is being openly talked about: torture. In a column titled "Time to Think About Torture," liberal Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter mused whether torture would "jump-start the stalled investigation into the greatest crime in American history." Alan Dershowitz, normally known as a staunch civil libertarian, told Newsweek: "I’m not in favor of torture, but if you’re going to have it, it should damn well have court approval."
Amid these calls to begin debating a practice formerly condemned by all
sides as barbaric -- not to mention the Bush administration's plan to try
suspected terrorists in military courts, where they would have far fewer
rights -- it is worth examining Israel's experience. The Jewish state has
been using torture for decades against Palestinians. And its experience
should serve as a powerful warning against the temptation to use brutal
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