Abandoning the Families of Palestinians in Israeli Prisons would be Catastrophic

It is impossible to fathom the numbers and ease by which Israel apprehends and injures Palestinians. Between 1967 and 2014, Israel’s soldiers apprehended over 40% of the entire male Palestinian population, and in 2015 alone they injured 11,953 Palestinians- or about 33 Palestinians a day. Without the financial support of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the families of the Palestinians injured, buried, and apprehended would be unable to meet their basic elemental needs.

mai abdul rahman                 May 2017

Palestinian women hold pictures of jailed relatives during a protest marking

Meanwhile, on April 28th the Washington Post carried an article by Thane Rosenbaum titled: Palestinians are rewarding terrorists. Rosenbaum argues “while the settlements may be an obstacle to peace…Palestinian law that entitle Palestinians convicted by Israel for participating in the struggle against the Israeli occupation to monthly salaries” spurs Palestinians to commit violence.

Intentionally or unintentionally, Rosenbaum omits to address Israel’s wholesale detention policy, or simply site the percentage of Palestinians who served one or several terms in Israeli prisons, the numbers of Palestinians serving consecutive administrative detention terms ‘without either indictment or trial‘, consider the number of Palestinian prisoners killed, injured, and tortured while in Israeli custody, and those randomly killed and maimed by Israel’s occupation forces-all of whom once released, treated, or buried are unable to provide for their families.

If Rosenbaum had solely considered Israel’s wholesale detention of Palestinians he may have concluded that supporting the families of Palestinian Political prisoners, providing for the families of Palestinians in Israeli custody serving recurring administrative detention terms, or issuing a monthly stipend for the families of Palestinian prisoners killed and injured while in Israeli custody, is necessary, if not vital.

By every humane measure abandoning the families of the Palestinian prisoners would be catastrophic. Since 1967, Israel has used every pretext to apprehend and jail Palestinians. For example, from 1967- 2014, almost one million (800,000) Palestinians including 10,000 women and 8,000 young children have been apprehended and sentenced by Israel’s military courts. These numbers account for more than 22% of the entire Palestinian population, and 40% of the Palestinian male population. In fact, the vast majority of Palestinians have at least one if not several of their family members in Israeli controlled prisons, or have been arrested and detained by Israel.

Unequivocally some Palestinians are responsible for committing serious crimes, but most are apprehended for political reasons and are legally termed as political prisoners (resisted Israel’s home demolitions or loss of their homes and fields to Israel’s illegal settlers, protested Israel’s incursions, destruction of their olive trees, and land confiscationUnknown-1objected to Israel’s ‘draconian system’ that obstructs their daily movement and economic prospects, or peacefully marching). Regardless, it is hard to articulate or fathom the numbers and ease by which Israel apprehends Palestinian women, men, and children.

Once Palestinians are branded by Israel’s military as ‘resisters of the occupation’ they are more likely to be rearrested, and their rights to travel abroad for school, work, or move from one Israeli administered checkpoint to another within Palestine are severely restricted. All of which hugely impacts their ability to find, keep a job, and provide for their families. Without the financial support of the PA, at least one of every 5 Palestinians would be unable to meet their basic needs. So here are the more relevant questions to ask: Why does Israel employ wholesale detention of Palestinians? Why does Israel degrade the dignity, quality of life, and economic viability of the Palestinian people- young and adult? And why did Rosenbaum choose to address this issue?

For Israel to maintain its 50 years occupation, continue its illegal settlement scheme, and decade long Gaza Siege -it is imperative for its soldiers to apprehend any Palestinian (young or adult) Unknownwho could pose the smallest challenge to Israel’s military occupation policies, or oppose Israel’s absolute control of Gaza’s water, lands, and economy.

Keeping Palestinians poor and in need provides Israelis the ability to leverage Palestinians’ daily needs, control their livelihood, keep them on edge, and too fatigued to resist Israel’s oppressive military occupation and illegal settlement enterprise. Hence, since 1967, Israel has used its occupation and military policies to arrest the growth and sustainability of the Palestinian economy, and curb the quality of life of the Palestinians under its military control.

As for the timing of Rosenbaum’s article- curiously, on April 16th, one thousand Palestinian men, women and children held in Israeli prisons began a peaceful hunger strike to draw attention to Israel’s administrative detention practices, mass arrests, and its ill treatment of Palestinian prisoners. Four days later, Israel’s minister of agriculture Uri Ariel and a group of Israeli settlers “set up grills outside the Ofer Prison windows to “celebrate the hunger strike”, while shocking they inadvertently helped generate world wide coverage of the Palestinian hunger strike and their demands.

If one considers the large numbers of Palestinian prisoners past and present, it becomes obvious that Israel’s detention practices are intentional. Israel’s detention policies impose tremendous psychological stress and economic hardships on a massive number of Palestinian families, restricts the viability of the Palestinian economy, and also incurs a substantial burden to the sparsely funded PA- that have no choice but to support these families.

Additionally, the PA payment system also provides monthly stipends to the families of Palestinian civilians who were wrongly killed or critically injured by Israeli soldiers and settlers. For example, in 2015, Israeli security forces injured at least 11,953 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, including bystanders, peaceful protesters, demonstrators, and suspected assailants. Also, during that same year, the Israeli settlers injured 84 Palestinians. Meaning, during the span of one year, Israeli soldiers and settlers injured 33 Palestinians a day.  While the daily cost of treating the predictable number of injured Palestinians is tremendous, denying them medical treatment would be callous, and refusing to support the families of the injured until they recover would be unconscionable.

It is difficult to imagine how is it possible for the Palestinian society to withstand the scale in the number of Palestinians injured in their midst. It is more difficult to conceive how anyone could overlook the human cost of Israel’s occupation practices and military laws on ordinary Palestinians, or disregard the tragic consequences of Israel’s occupation policies on the young Israeli soldiers tasked with implementing Israel’s military orders .

Is it possible that Rosenbaum is purposeful in his omission of the facts? You be the judge. The vast majority of people of every stripe and nationality will not justify the killing of civilians. Nonetheless, in 2014, Rosenbaum like Bin laden before him justified the killing of civilians based on their free will to choose their government. While Bin Laden argued that killing of American civilians is an acceptable moral cost; Rosenbaum proposed that Israel has the right to kill Palestinian civilians– child, man, woman, combatant, and noncombatant- for choosing to vote for Hamas. Based on his argument, Israel’s Operation Protective Edge that killed 459 Palestinian children is totally acceptable, simply because their parents most likely had voted for Hamas.

Accordingly, for Rosenbaum Israel’s wars and incursions that killed thousands of Palestinian civilians and orphaned young Palestinian children are justifiable. Likewise, Israel’s occupation of Palestine, illegal settlement expansion, willful destruction of Palestinian olive trees and orchards, the seizure of Palestinian owned lands and properties, the polluting of Palestinian waters and streams, and Israel’s military control over every Palestinian individual from birth to death are also reasonable and defensible.

Nonetheless, ignoring the consequences of Israel’s military occupation and its military policies does not negate the relevance of considering the ramifications of Israel’s detention policies on the Palestinian people and how Israel’s wholesale detention policy impacts the economic viability of more than one million Palestinians and their families. Merely reflecting on the sheer number of Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel could help explain why it is necessary for the PA to support the Palestinians who are without the means to support the daily needs of their young children.

Irrefutably, the human and economic cost of the Israeli occupation on the Palestinian population is colossal. However, the consequences of Israel’s five decades long military occupation also scars the Israeli soldiers responsible for implementing it. The intersectionality of Israel’s military occupation and illegal settlement enterprise on its victims and victimizers is beyond doubt. If the well being of the Palestinians is non-consequential than what about the long-term impact of administering Israel’s military practices on its young soldiers?

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