Prisoners: Palestinians And Israelis

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Waseem Shehzad

Rabi' al-Thani 17, 1445 2023-11-01

News & Analysis

by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 53, No. 9, Rabi' al-Thani, 1445)

Image Source - Pixbay Free Content

For the first time in decades, zionist Israel finds itself at a distinct disadvantage vis-à-vis the Palestinians. The occupied and oppressed Palestinians have a trump car in their hands: some 300 Israeli prisoners.

There are several high-ranking military officers among them. They were captured by Hamas fighters during their daring Al-Aqsa Storm operation on October 7 and taken to Gaza.

For Israel to hold Palestinian prisoners in nothing new. For Palestinians to hold Israeli prisoners is a major achievement. There is mounting pressure from families of the prisoners demanding that the Tel Aviv regime do whatever is necessary to seek their release.

The regime headed by Benjamin Netanyahu was already mired in scandals. Netanyahu faces fraud and other charges. He has pushed through changes gutting the judiciary so that he can wriggle out of them. Israeli prisoners held by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have complicated his political life even further.

American officials are running from pillar to post to seek their release without uttering a word about the thousands of Palestinians kidnapped from their homes. Nor have they said a word about the 2.3 million Palestinians and 3 million in the West Bank and Al-Quds/Jerusalem held hostage for decades

In the snake pit of Israeli politics, many ruthlessly ambitious rivals are out with their daggers ready to cut Netanyahu to pieces. As soon as the war ends, it is more than likely that Netanyahu will be out of office and in the dog house.

The genocidal war he has unleashed on Gaza is to furbish his tough image and deflect attention from the charges he faces. He also has to explain how and why he failed to protect the people. Further, the much-vaunted Israeli intelligence agencies failed to anticipate Hamas’s daring attack. The Israeli military was exposed as a paper tiger.

So, what does Netanyahu do? He has embarked on the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza killing thousands of people, more than 70 percent women and children. He has also launched a major campaign of kidnapping of Palestinians in the West Bank and Al Quds/Jerusalem.

Every family in Palestine, whether in the Israeli occupied West Bank, Al Quds/Jerusalem or Gaza, has had members incarcerated in Israeli prisons at some time during the last 75 years. Prior to October 7, Israel was holding about 5,200 Palestinians in prison. On October 19, Palestinian officials said this number had risen to more than 10,000.

What accounts for this surge in numbers? When fighting escalated on October 7, there were some 4,000 labourers from Gaza working in Israel. They were trapped and could not return home. True to its criminal nature, the zionist regime arrested them and is holding them in military bases. These Palestinians are hostages.

In the zionist occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the colonial settler regime had kidnapped another 1530 Palestinians by October 27. This number is bound to rise in the coming days.

Palestinians are kidnapped from their homes in overnight army raids. Sahar Francis, head of Addameer, the prisoners’ rights group, told Al Jazeera, “Arrests are taking place 24 hours a day.”

Since the October 7 humiliation of the occupation army, zionist barbarism has escalated to unprecedented levels. Palestinian lawyers and officials have raised alarm about the appalling conditions in which detainees are held.

Prisoners are denied food, water and medication. This is especially acute for those suffering from chronic illnesses that require regular medication.

Yard time has been cancelled. Thus, prisoners cannot get fresh air. They are held in dark dungeons without food or water. Even electricity has been cut off.

Addameer has reported that in addition to denying them medication, prisoners are also prevented from access to medical care. “They shut down the prison clinics, and also prevented prisoners from going to hospitals and external clinics, despite the presence of some cancer patients among the prisoners who require continuous treatment.”

Torture is rampant. The sadistic Israeli guards have gone berserk, like the politicians and generals in that lawless society. Physical attacks on prisoners have escalated. Prison guards have broken the limbs, hands and legs of many prisoners. Guards have even beaten some Palestinian prisoners to death.

These are the same tactics used by American guards at Guantanamo Bay for more than 20 years. There is much in common between Israeli war criminals and their American financiers.

Compare this to the treatment of Israeli prisoners held by Hamas fighters. The four female prisoners released by Hamas have spoken of the humane and gentle manner in which they were held and treated.

The testimony of 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz is particularly revealing. Her daughter, interpreting for her, told a press conference in Israel after her release on October 24 that Hamas took good care of them.

It is important to narrate what she said at the press conference. “They gave us pitta bread, hard cheese, some low-fat cream cheese and cucumber and that was our food for the entire day,” Lifshitz said at the crowded press conference. She described the humane treatment they’d received while being held prisoners.

This is not what the media—Israeli or western—wanted to hear. They were expecting her to say how terrible Hamas had treated them to confirm the “terrorist” label they had levelled against the resistance movement.

To her credit, the 85-year-old Lifshitz was honest in her narration of what she had experienced. She said “they took care of all the needs that people need, [such as] shampoo and conditioner.” Imagine Hamas fighters taking care of even the hygiene requirements of their prisoners while being subjected to relentless bombardment by Israel.

Unlike the west’s “civilized” ally Israel that tortures Palestinian prisoners, Hamas did not break the limbs of Israeli prisoners. Nor were they denied food and water despite being short themselves because of the tight siege Israel has imposed on the Gaza Strip.

There was another poignant moment. When she was about to be handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Lifshitz turned around and shook the hand of the Hamas fighter saying, “Shalom” (peace) to him. She then repeated it in Arabic, “Salam”. Would anybody say such a thing if they were mistreated?

Western politicians and media never tire of telling us the Israelis are “civilized”; that they have much in common with them and share many of the same values. Sure. Torturing prisoners is one of them; stealing other people’s land is another.

Palestinians are “animals,” according to the zionist war criminals. They deserve no mercy, we are told. Yet, the Palestinians treat their prisoners with respect, dignity and kindness, unlike the zionists who break their limbs, starve them and even deny them medication.

The world is beginning to see who the real terrorists are and who are truly civilized. Hurling nasty labels at Hamas and the Palestinians cannot convince people otherwise. Deeds speak for themselves.

The difference is important and most people know it.

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