On June 24, Haaretz writers Barak Ravid and Revital Hoval headlined, "Netanyahu: Israel to toughen conditions for Palestinian prisoners," saying:
On June 23, Netanyahu announced plans "to toughen the conditions of Palestinian security prisoners," meaning all of them wanting Palestine to be free, yet few committed crimes warranting imprisonment.
During his Jerusalem Israeli Presidential Conference, he said:
"We will give them all that they deserve according to international law, but nothing beyond that," despite systematically brutalizing detainees ruthlessly. More on that below. He added that:
"We will stop, among other things, the absurd practice in which terrorists who murdered innocent people enroll in academic studies. There will be no more 'doctors of terror' - the celebration is over."
Netanyahu spoke after the International Red Cross' request for proof that IDF soldier Gilat Shalit is alive went unanswered. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters:
"The Red Cross should not get involved in Israeli security games aimed at reaching Shalit. It should take a stand that results in ending the suffering of (thousands) of Palestinian prisoners" held under brutalizing conditions.
At the same time, Shalit's father, Noam, criticized Red Cross officials for not doing more, saying:
"We demand that the Red Cross' approach be more active and decisive. I would like to believe that they would give us a sign of life from Gilad. We are conducting ongoing dialogue with the Red Cross but it has not been much help. I did not hear them condemn Hamas on its crime against Gilad. The Red Cross has been a complete failure in this affair."
Shalit's been held captive since June 25, 2006 after Hamas responded to repeated IDF attacks, including a widely reported beach shelling, killing eight Palestinians and injuring 32 others, 13 children among them. Israel denied responsibility, falsely blaming a Hamas mine despite forensic evidence proving otherwise.
In retaliation, Hamas struck an Israeli military post near Kerem Shalom crossing, southeast of Rafah, killing two soldiers, injuring several others and capturing Shalit. He's been held ever since because Israel refuses to negotiate responsibly to free him, preferring to use his captivity to vilify Hamas, what his father doesn't understand or won't admit.
On June 24, Haaretz writer Avi Assacharoff headlined, "Hamas: Israel's decision to toughen prison conditions violates international law," saying:
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called it an attempt to cover up Netanyahu's failure to secure Shalit's release, explaining:
"Israel has failed to reach the captured IDF soldier. Netanyahu is responsible for Shalit not having been returned. (He'll) only be returned in exchange for Palestinian prisoners."
Thousands, in fact, are held lawlessly under horrific conditions. Netanyahu now spuriously claims international law justifies toughening them further. In March 2009, a Knesset committee recommended ways for Hamas prisoners and their sympathizers, including further limiting family visits already denied or greatly restricted, as well as prohibiting physical contact, banning television, radio and print publications, and denying administrative release and lawyer contacts.
Numbers imprisoned range at different times from about 6,000 to 12,000 or more. Most are held unjustly as political prisoners. From 1967 - 2008, Addameer reported over 650,000 detained, or about 20% of the total Occupied Territory (OPT) population and 40% of all males. Moreover, since the beginning of the September 2000 second Intifada, over 70,000 were interned. Earlier, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said 760,000 were held since 1967, including hundreds of children and many women.
Most are held in Palestine. Many others, however, are in Israeli civil and military prisons, in violation of numerous Fourth Geneva provisions, including Article 49 stating:
"....forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons (including prisoners) from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
Moreover, children are treated like adults in brazen violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), defining a minor is anyone below age 18. Israel is a CRC signatory yet violates this law like all other international ones flagrantly.
On June 7, 1967, Military proclamation No. 1 justified detentions "in the interests of security and public order," subjecting all Palestinians to police state persecution. Hundreds of other orders followed, gravely harming their rights and well-being.
As a result, they may be held indefinitely, as well as subjected to months of abusive, inhumane and degrading interrogations and treatment, then detained without charge or tried in military courts, denying due process and judicial fairness.
In confinement, international humanitarian law is grievously violated, including Geneva's Common Article 3, requiring:
"humane treatment for all persons in enemy hands, specifically prohibit(ing) murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment (and) unfair trial(s)."
Instead, they're subjected to:
-- severe overcrowding;
-- poor ventilation and sanitation;
-- no change of clothes or adequate clothing;
-- sleeping on wooden planks with thin mattresses, some infested with vermin; blankets are often torn, filthy and inadequate; hot water is rare and soap is rationed;
-- at the Negev Ketziot military detention camp, threadbare tents are used, exposing detainees to extreme weather conditions; in summer, vermin, insects, scorpions, parasites, rats, and other reptiles are a major problem;
-- Megiddo and Ofer also use tents; in addition, Ofer uses oil-soiled hangers;
-- for some, isolation in tiny, poorly ventilated solitary confinement with no visitation rights or contact with counsel or other prisoners;
-- no access to personal cleanliness and hygiene; toilet facilities are restricted, forcing prisoners to urinate in bottles in their cells;
-- inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity, and dietary requirements;
-- poor medical care, including lack of specialized personnel, mental health treatment, and denial of needed medicines and equipment; as a result, many suffer ill health; doctors are also pressured to deny proper treatment, some later admitting it;
-- extreme psychological pressure to break detainees' will;
-- widespread use of torture, abuse, cruel and degrading treatment;
-- women and children are treated like men; and
-- family and lawyer visitation rights are restricted or denied.
Many are also subjected to barbaric solitary confinement. If sustained long enough, it destroys the human spirit, psyche, mind and body.
Over time, it causes:
-- severe anxiety;
-- panic attacks;
-- irrational anger, at time uncontrollable;
-- social withdrawal;
-- memory and appetite loss;
-- delusions and hallucinations;
-- profound despair and hopelessness;
-- suicidal thoughts;
-- paranoia; and
-- for many, a totally dysfunctional state and inability ever to live normally outside of confinement.
In December 2010, an Israeli Bar Association (IBA) report called Ayalon and Shikma prison isolation wings unfit for human habitation, looking more like dungeons, with crammed solitary cells rancid with sewer and mold smells, as well as infested with insects.
It said "(m)any isolated inmates testified to have developed paranoia, a tendency for uncontrollable fits of rage, and eyesight problems because of the lack of natural light through most hours of the day."
In Israeli prisons, however, it's common practice under sub-minimal conditions. Yet "(k)eeping human beings in such unreasonable conditions for extended periods of time (for any reason) deals a critical blow to the most basic human rights."
Moreover, torture, abuse and degrading treatment are commonplace in violation of international law prohibiting it at all times, under all conditions with no allowed exceptions. Nonetheless, a 2007 B'Tselem/HaMoked report titled, "Absolute Prohibition: The Torture and Ill-Treatment of Palestinian Detainees" estimated that around 85% are subjected to torture and mistreatment.
These practices are routinely used against political activists, students accused of being pro-Islam, sheikhs and religious leaders, people in Islamic charitable organizations, relatives of wanted individuals or any man, woman or child Israel targets for any reason.
Methods used include:
-- beatings that involve punching, slapping, and kicking all parts of the body, including with rifle butts and clubs;
-- painful shackling and binding for prolonged periods, at times in painful positions;
-- sleep deprivation;
-- abusive and intimidating interrogations;
-- extreme heat or cold;
-- cursing, yelling, strip searches and other forms of intimidation including threatened rape or sodomy;
-- oppressive noise to disrupt sleep; and
-- other ways to inflict pain and suffering, including against children.
Some as young as 10 or 12 are detained, terrorized, beaten, hooded, denied food and water for prolonged periods, as well as access to toilets and washing facilities, exposed to extreme heat or cold, painful shackling, sometime brutally for prolonged periods, threatened with sexual abuse (including rape), sleep deprived like adults, then forced to sign confessions in Hebrew most don't understand.
In fact, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Adalah, and Defence for Children International/Palestine obtained dozens of affidavits detailing the above abuses.
On June 26, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy headlined, "A Society is judged by the way it treats its prisoners," saying:
Palestinians "are all incarcerated under harsh conditions," often appalling "in solitary confinement in cells the width of a mattress, in shocking sanitary conditions, under constant light and deprived of sleep. Thousands of Palestinians bear the physical and emotional scars of the torture they have undergone in interrogation rooms."
Nonetheless, for many Israelis and Netanyahu, it's "not enough. They want more suffering and vengeance."
On June 26, Noam Shalit lashed out at Netanyahu, telling reporters:
"We say to (him): you have no mandate to sentence Gilad to death. The stubbornness and the obstinacy that you prime minister display in this sad affair is a real and immediate threat - not imaginary and not our fantasy - to Gilad's life. It is also a threat to the national strength and values of the state of Israel which we have been raised on for generations."
He noted earlier prisoner exchanges, as well as regular "security" prisoner releases, saying he's launching a new campaign to free his son called "The National Referendum to Save Gilad."
Former senior Israeli security officials offered support, perhaps enough to resolve the issue. Either way, however, thousands of Palestinians still rot in Israeli prisons, subjected daily to degrading, abusive treatment, joined by numerous others lawlessly arrested, sometimes daily.
Resolving that crime against humanity is the real issue, as well as liberating Palestine altogether.
A Final Comment
This week, 10 participating Freedom Flotilla II ships sail for Gaza with vitally needed humanitarian aid, hoping to breach the siege to provide it. Israel is determined to stop them. So is America, perhaps other nations, and apparently Greece, according to a US Boat to Gaza June 25 email headlined:
"Greek Officials Attempt to Block US Boat to Gaza from Leaving Greek Port - Passengers Suspect Israel/US Economic (and Political) Pressure on Beleaguered Greek Government," already willing to surrender its sovereignty to predatory banker diktats in return for bailout help.
On June 23, passengers learned about a "private complaint" of unknown origin, filed to stop its mission, claiming the vessel ("The Audacity of Hope") is unseaworthy. Until it's resolved, authorities won't let it leave.
Clearly, Israel, America, Greece, and perhaps other co-conspirator nations will stoop to anything to keep Gazans under siege, endorsing slow-motion genocide to ruthlessly suffocate them.
Courageous passengers aboard all 10 ships, as well as others previously and more to follow, are determined to stop them. Growing millions worldwide support them. So should everyone.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.