Saturday, 20 April. 2024
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

By now, we have all grown accustomed to the unabashed media bias in this genocide, particularly from western media outlets, commentators and political pundits. We no longer gasp in shock when we hear the unwavering western support for Israel, even as the latter continues to slaughter, starve and displace millions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. However, let us for a second, imagine that the world was fair and therefore measures its responses based on justice and rights. It is a tough assignment for sure, but maybe we can stretch our imaginations, just for a while.

Let us talk about our hostages. Yes, you read correctly, our Palestinian hostages, and there are thousands. Since terminology is key, our hostages are known as ‘prisoners’ in Israeli prisons, but in reality, they are captives, being held by an illegal system of occupation, oppression and apartheid.

I will not fully delve into the long history of Palestinian imprisonment by Israeli occupation authorities, which is a tale of mass arbitrary incarceration, torture and denial of rights. Instead, I want you to imagine this description, magnified tenfold. This is where we are today, in the midst of a genocide, while thousands of our men, women and children are being held captive in Israeli detention centers under inhumane conditions.

Since October 7, Israel has arrested over 5,700 Palestinians, over and above the nearly 3,000 already in Israel’s prisons, many from the Gaza Strip, ripped from their homes and families, their fate unknown. What’s more, over 2,000 of these detainees are held under administrative detention, without trial or charge.

The number alone should be shocking enough, but the conditions of their detention and incarceration is what will surely push you over the edge. At present, there are close to 700 known Gazans in Israel’s detention center(s), all under the amended 2002 “Unlawful Combatants Law”. This law, given Israel’s wartime state of emergency, allows it to hold “enemy fighters” for up to 75 days without seeing a lawyer or being legally processed. In other words, they are ‘disappearing’ Palestinians.

Take for example, Director of Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, Dr. Muhammad Abu Salmiya, who was abducted from the hospital by Israeli occupation forces on November 23. His condition and whereabouts remain unknown. Gaza workers outside the Gaza Strip on October 7 were also in limbo for weeks, some of whom were arrested and kept in horrible conditions, while others found themselves stuck in the West Bank. On November 3, some 3,000 workers were released and dumped back into Gaza, without money, phones or any form of redress and showing clear signs of torture.

Other Gazans who were illegally detained and later released, along with West Bankers rounded up arbitrarily, tell of harrowing experiences. One young woman said the month she had been in prison felt more ‘like years”. She recounted how they were cursed at and beaten, how there was hardly any food and how the women were forced to sleep on the floor with no blankets or mattresses. Gazan women were held separately from West Bankers, but the detainees said they could hear their screams and pleas to find out about their children and families. Women testified they were threatened with rape, and many were sexually harassed, stripped and beaten. One woman, who will remain unnamed, said Israeli prison wardens smugly informed her that “now we are at war with you so we can do whatever we want.”

The men may have it even worse. The world saw the harrowing pictures released by the Israeli army itself, of men stripped to their underclothes, blindfolded and handcuffed, held in the cold for hours in Gaza before being hauled off to one of Israel’s infamous detention centers in the Negev desert or a military base near Beer Saba. These are run by the military, which means “no holds barred” when it comes to their treatment. Palestinian men later released, told of being kept handcuffed and blindfolded the entire duration of their incarceration, beaten if they shifted position, electrocuted and spat on. They saw no lawyer, no Red Cross representative and of course, no family.

Then there are those prisoners who did not make it at all. Since October 7, seven known Palestinian detainees, previously healthy, mysteriously died in Israeli incarceration and God only knows how many more from Gaza in particular have perished at their brutal hands.

The issue here is not that “disappearing” and brutality occurs. We all know this happens in despotic, authoritarian and tyrannical regimes. Throughout history, we have heard stories from South America, Africa and in Arab countries as well, and Palestinians are all too familiar with Israel’s brutal abuse in their prisons. What is mind-boggling is how Israel is still treated as a nation among civilized nations by the global community. How is it that a regime, which has occupied, brutalized and dehumanized an entire people for over 75 years, culminating in one of the ugliest genocides in history, is not considered a rogue state? How has it not been sanctioned, penalized and its leaders behind bars in The Hague?

That is the real question the entire world must ask itself.

By the Same Author
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