October 31, 2023
From Socialist Worker (UK)

Where hostages are held - a prison building in remote desert landscape

Israel’s Damon prison is part of the system that holds Palestinians as hostages (Picture: Hanay)

The media and most politicians concentrate on demanding freedom for some 200 Israelis seized by Hamas on 7 October.

But there is silence about Israel’s hostages—the thousands of Palestinians held in the Zionist state’s jails.

More Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank have led to the arrests of dozens of Palestinians and the number held in Israeli jails has more than doubled to 10,000 since the Hamas attack.

Israeli authorities frequently arrest Palestinians—sometimes children—and hold them for months or years without charge or for something as minor as throwing a rock. 

Hamas refers to its captives as detainees to underline the double standards on who is deemed a ­prisoner of war, who is a criminal and who is seen as a wholly innocent civilian.

An Israeli detainee who was released last week said Hamas treated her gently.

Yocheved Lifshitz, 85 years old, said, “They took care of all the needs. They talked about all kinds of things, they were very friendly.”

In the same week, two Palestinian prisoners died in Israeli jails. Arafat Hamdan from the town of Beit Sara in the occupied West Bank, died in Ofer prison.

Israeli forces arrested him on 15 October. The day before, another Palestinian prisoner, Omar Daraghmeh, also died in prison.

Israel detained Daraghmeh with his son in the West Bank on 9 October. 

The Prisoners’ Club and the Palestinian Detainees and Ex-detainees Affairs Commission rejected Israeli claims that he died due to an unforeseen deterioration in his health.

They said Daraghmeh had appeared in good health when he attended his court session on the same day he died, according to his lawyer.

Hamas accused Israel of ­assassinating Daraghmeh, who it said was a senior member of the movement. 

Prisoners’ Club spokesperson, Amani Sarhana, told Middle East Eye journalist Mee Staff that, “Medical treatment has also been halted.

“We are no longer talking about prisoners being subjected to medical negligence, but rather about ­cutting off their treatment completely,” Sarhana said.

Since 1967, when Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, it has arrested around one million Palestinians, the United Nations reported last summer.

So common are arrests that four in ten Palestinian men spend time in Israeli jails, found news outlet Aljazeera.

Since the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000, Israeli forces have detained more than 12,000 Palestinian children. The most common charge is ­throwing stones, punishable with a prison sentence of up to 20 years. 

At least 700 Palestinian children under the age of 18 from the occupied West Bank are prosecuted through Israeli military courts every year after being arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army.

A military order issued by the Israeli government in 1970 established military courts, and essentially outlawed all forms of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation as “terrorism”.

This has made it much easier for Israeli forces to detain or arrest Palestinians.

They can be held on the ­preventative grounds that they are or are likely to be involved in resistance of some kind at some point.

Torture used to convict those held in ‘administrative detention’ 

 Many Palestinians are incarcerated under administrative detention. This is a policy where a person is held without trial without having committed an offence.

People are detained usually for six-month periods which can be extended over and over again. 

In practice, this allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians who have not been convicted of anything for years on end. There are currently 1,264 Palestinian administrative detainees.

 Torture is one of the main features of the Israeli Security Agency’s “interrogation system”.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported on Yazan a-Rajbi aged 22 and Muhammad a-Rajbi aged 20. They were accused of participating in resistance to Israel in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan in July 2021—which they denied.

Their torture included being handcuffed to small chairs for more than 24 hours, being denied access to the bathroom, as well as food and drink, being kept in a small cell, where they could neither stand up straight nor lie down and being deprived of continuous sleep.

One of them was also locked, handcuffed, inside a wooden closet and left there until he lost consciousness.  After 20 days Muhammad admitted he had thrown one stone after he could no longer bear the torture.

His interrogation continued for 22 more days in an attempt to force additional confessions out of him.  Yazan admitted to throwing two stones.

They were charged with participation in riots and an attempted assault on a police officer and sentenced to eight months in prison.

Israel grabs  prisoners in case of a swap

Israeli security forces have arrested thousands of Palestinians in the two weeks since the bombardment of the besieged Gaza strip began.

There were about 5,200 Palestinians in Israeli prisons before the attacks in Israel by Hamas on 7 October, including 170 children. Just 12 days later, Palestinian officials announced this number had doubled to over 10,000. 

In 1985, Israel exchanged over 1,000 prisoners for three Israeli soldiers caught in the Lebanon war.

In 2008, they traded 199 remains and five prisoners for the remains of two soldiers—Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.

Later, in 2011, Israel negotiated the release of soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,027 prisoners.

Israel is now stocking its jails in case there is some future prisoner exchange around hostages.

Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was released in the 1985 exchange. At least six of the current Hamas leaders have been released in prisoner exchanges with Israel.

Source: Socialistworker.co.uk