Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Carmi Gillon and torture

In 2007 the criminologist Stan Cohen denounced the appointment of former Shin Bet chief Carmi Gillon as vice president for external affairs at the Hebrew University:[1]

A rather special academic will be visiting London this week. The current brochure of the British Friends of the Hebrew University (BFHU) announces that Vice President Week 2007 starts this Thursday, November 22. The university's new vice president for external relations, Carmi Gillon, will be here for a keynote lecture, a patron's dinner at the Athenaeum and a young professional's breakfast. This is no ordinary academic drafted into a hack fund-raising job. The BFHU's description of Gillon, however - as ex-Shin Bet chief, past Israeli ambassador to Denmark and a speaker with a "colourful past" - hardly conveys why he is so special.
The real Gillon joined Shin Bet (or Shabak) - the internal Israeli general security service (GSS) - in the mid 1970s. He worked in the ranks until 1988, when he was promoted to head of the training branch and then the northern region branch. In 1993, he became chief of the headquarters branch, and in 1995 was named overall head of the GSS. He was forced out a year later (for the security failure of not preventing the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.)
The period in which Gillon occupied the most senior positions in the service was the high point in Shin Bet's policy of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees. Until the Israel high court of justice ruled against such methods in 1999, GSS interrogators were officially allowed to use "moderate physical pressure" on detainees. These methods were listed only in secret government guidelines, but became well known from many sources (including court testimonies of GSS officials themselves). They included sensory and sleep deprivation; prolonged shackling in painful positions (like the "banana tie"); hooding - near suffocation - with filthy sacks; being forced to squat like a frog and violent shaking.
During Gillon's period of office, such methods of interrogation were used - routinely if rather cursorily - against hundreds of Palestinians every year. A standard estimate for 1987-1994 was 23,000 detainees - most of whom were later released without charge. More intense and brutal ("augmented") combinations were used against hardcore suspects and authorised by Gillon. In April 1995, one detainee was literally shaken to death in the police compound in Jerusalem. For detailed information on interrogation methods during Gillon's tenure of senior positions in the GSS, see Torture During Interrogations, November 1994 and other reports of B'tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
After leaving the service, Gillon spent time in various business and public enterprises (including the directorship of the Centre of Peace, a project of his political patron, Shimon Peres). In July 2001, he was nominated as the Israeli ambassador to Denmark. There was some outcry in the international human rights community and calls were made for the Danish government to reject Gillon's appointment or for Israel to withdraw his nomination. "Diplomatic service," wrote Human Rights Watch, "should not be the source of job and travel opportunities for persons responsible for committing or sanctioning torture". Amnesty International requested that the Danish government arrest Gillon under the UN convention against torture. These calls were dismissed (the Danish government claimed - incorrectly - that he was protected by diplomatic immunity) and he took up his posting in Copenhagen.
Gillon gave a number of interviews to the Danish media in which he explicitly defended his past record. He admitted to at least 100 personal authorisations of torture interrogations. He also suggested that practices designated as illegal by the high court in 1999, might now have to be legalised because of new threats of terror.


Members of the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors – circa 2015

Public Representatives From Abroad

Mr. Charles Goodman, USA | Mr. Mark Gordon, USA | Ms. Heidi Rothberg, USA | Ms. Barbara Mandel, USA | Mr. Daniel Schlessinger, USA | Mr. Ira Sorkin, USA | Mr. Michael Kurtz, USA | Mr. George Schieren, USA | Mr. Michael Freed, USA | Mr. Alan Fiske, USA | Mr. Clive Kabatznik, USA | Ms. Kathy Barnett, USA | Mr. Martin Karlinsky, USA | Mr. Nathan Lindenberg, Canada | Mr. Ron Appleby, Canada | Ms. Gail Asper, Canada | Mr. Isaac Kaye, UK | Mr. Michael Dunkel, Australia | Mr. Robert Simons, Australia]] | Ms. Nilly Sikorsky, Europe | Mr. Jean Claude Picard, France]] | Ms. Nathalie Berrebi, Europe | Mr. Harry Van den Bergh, Holland

Public Representatives from Israel

Chairman of the Board of Governors, Mr. Michael Federmann | Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson (President) | Ms. Billy Shapira (VP for Finance and Admin.) | Mr. Meir Dayan (Chair, Finance Committee) | Mr. Daniel Furman | Ms. Raphaela Harlap | Mr. David Ivry | Ms. Maxine Fassberg | Mr. Yitzhak Manor | Mr. Erel Margalit | Mr. Ben Rabinovitch | Mr. Eitan Raff | Ms. Myriam Arazi-Guy | Mr. Avraham Asheri | Dr. Yehudith Richter | Mr. Shlomo Tisser

Senate Representatives

Prof. Asher Cohen (Rector) | Prof. Orna Kuperman (Vice-Rector) | Prof. Anna Belfer-Cohen | Prof. Ofer Biham | Prof. Celia Fassberg | Prof. Naama Goren Inbar | Prof. Eli Feinerman | Prof. Nissim Garti | Prof. Yitzhak Hadar | Prof. Carl Posy | Prof. Daniel Schwartz | Prof. Hermona Soreq | Prof. Daphna Weinshall | Prof. Aharon Agranat | Prof. David Lichtstein

Departments, Centres, Friends organisations

Affiliated research centres or think tanks

Jewish People Policy Institute - based on campus | Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, | The Center for the Study of Philanthropy in Israel | The Institute for Advanced Studies | Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism

Friends organisations

American Friends of The Hebrew University | Australian Friends of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem | British Friends of the Hebrew University | Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem | European Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem | L'Association des Amis Suisses de l'Université de Jérusalem

Resources, Contact, Notes


  • Stan Cohen A 'colourful past' indeed Carmi Gillon's sinister history of torture means he is no ordinary academic visiting London to lecture and be wined and dined Comment is Free, The Guardian, Thursday 22 November 2007 13.00 GMT Last modified on Monday 9 February 2009 15.10 GMT.



  1. Stan Cohen A 'colourful past' indeed Carmi Gillon's sinister history of torture means he is no ordinary academic visiting London to lecture and be wined and dined Comment is Free, The Guardian, Thursday 22 November 2007 13.00 GMT Last modified on Monday 9 February 2009 15.10 GMT.
  2. Hebrew University of Jerusalem Members of the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors. Accessed 16 February 2015.