In mid-October, Netanyahu’s cabinet agreed to free 1,027 Palestinian political prisoners in two waves (including 27 women and nearly 300 children) in return for Hamas releasing Gilad Shalit after over five years in captivity.
Wave one is completed, freeing 477 Palestinians. In two months, phase two will release another 550. According to terms, 203 will be deported, 40 exiled overseas, and 163 expelled to Gaza.Currently, Israel still holds over 5,000 detainees. As a result of torture, medical neglect, or assassinations, over 200 died martyrs in captivity. Another 302 are called “veteran detainees,” serving 17 years or longer.
Another 136 serving 20 years or more are called “Deans of Detainees.” “Generals of Patience” is a term applied to prisoners incarcerated over 25 years. As of October, they number 41.
On October 18, Ma’an News reported Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouq saying Israel agreed to lift Gaza’s siege in return for releasing Shalit.
He “told Palestine TV that Israel had used Shalit as a pretext to blockade Gaza but there (were) ‘unofficial agreements’ to end it during talks with a German mediator.”
According to Abu Marzouq, “This was confirmed in the last negotiations.”
For years it’s been known that security wasn’t why Israel imposed it, despite disingenuous public statements. Israel blockaded Gaza in mid-2006, then hardened its siege a year later.
Despite assurances of ending it now, Israel may renege by reinterpreting terms. Many times it says one thing and does another. Its promises are hollow and disingenuous.
In 2010, it promised a 10-month construction moratorium but never stopped building settlements. On October 21, Haaretz said Palestinians confirmed Israel’s offer to partially halt construction in return for resuming peace talks.
Why believe what Israel reneged on before. Duplicity defines decades of dealings with Palestinians. Nothing now will change.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Israel can’t be trusted. Its promises lack credibility and honor. Despite releasing 447 prisoners and promising another 550, new arrests are made regularly. More on that below.
On October 20, Electronic Intifada (EI) bylined Shahd Abusalama saying, “My husband was kidnapped by Israel,” explaining 19 years of forced separation. In 1993, soldiers violently arrested him at night. It’s standard Israeli state terror, including against children.
Another EI story featured a mother prevented from visiting her son after release from prison. She waited 10 years to hug him. Deported to Gaza, he can’t come home. Chances for her to visit Gaza are slim.
Dozens of other stories replicate theirs. They’re compounded by loved ones incarcerated years under hellish conditions for the crime of wanting freedom on their own land in their own country. Israel calls them terrorists.
On October 21, Ma’an News said Israeli police detained 14 Palestinians Thursday (including three women and several Jews) while demonstrating peacefully at Hasharon prison for all incarcerated Palestinians to be freed.
They’re political prisoners, not criminals. Israel called their protest illegal for acting without official authorization. Muhammad Kananeh told Ma’an that police dispersed dozens of protesters forcefully.
Hurriyat (Freedom) Society and activist youths organized the protest. Nearly always, Israeli security forces attack demonstrators violently with batons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and occasionally live fire.
Israel is a rogue terror state. It’s occupied Palestine lawlessly for decades, violating international law with impunity. Besieged Gazans have especially suffered under what’s best described as slow-motion genocide.
On October 20, Palestine Telegraph headlined, “Settlers, soldiers attack Palestinian schools,” saying:
Right-wing settlers and Israeli soldiers attacked “students and teachers in Qurtuba and Susiya schools in Hebron.”
Qurtuba’s principal, Ibtisam Al-Jondi, said Anat Cohen settlement extremists attacked students as they left school. Deputy principal Feryal Abu Haykal and several Palestinians intervened to help.
Soldiers arrested her and another Palestine. Al-Jondi said soldiers prevented teachers and students from entering the schools “via the usual road, under the pretext of a decision by” Israeli authorities.
Settlers followed students home and attacked them. Susiya school was targeted, forcing teachers and students out, “according to the Popular Committee Coordinator in Yatta near Hebron.”
He said soldiers and civil administration officials “stormed the school and beat several students, then forced” them and teachers to leave.
Attacks on both schools were unprovoked. Regular incidents like these traumatize young students, especially because nowhere is Occupied Palestine safe.
In its October 20, weekly report on Israeli human rights violations, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) continued its regular accounts of Israeli state terror, saying:
Peaceful West Bank protesters were attacked violently. Dozens of civilians and human rights activists “suffered from tear gas inhalation. In Hebron, six Palestinians, including three children, sustained bruises.”
Israeli soldiers conducted 47 lawless incursions into Palestinian communities, an average of seven a day. Twelve Palestinians were arrested, including two children.
At a West Bank checkpoint, another three Palestinians were arrested, including a child. Israel treats children young as 10 like adults, terrorizing them with threats of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. In detention, they’re often beaten and threatened with sexual abuse.
Israel plans a new settlement between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. About 950 dunums of Palestinian land will be stolen to build it. Owners who resist will be arrested, detained, and brutalized in prison.
Soldiers also razed 30 dunums of agricultural land east of Salfit. In addition, they attacked Palestinian civilians and property in Hebron. Settlers terrorized farmers harvesting olives in the West Bank.
Soldiers assaulted peaceful demonstrators against Israel’s Separation Wall. Dozens of Palestinians and human rights activists suffered from tear gas inhalation.
On October 16, soldiers attacked civilians, including school children at a peaceful sit-in against Israel prohibiting teachers and students from going to Hebron’s Cordoba School. Six civilians, including three children, were injured.
A Final Comment
On October 20, Palestine Chronicle raised concerns about 164 children in Israeli custody. Sentenced or detained for alleged stone-throwing, it’s unclear if they’ll be included in wave two.
“UNICEF calls on the Israeli Government to release Palestinian child detainees so that they can be reunited with their families,” said UNICEF OPT representative Jean Gough.
“As stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the detention of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”
Annually, about 700 Palestinian children aged 12 – 17 are arrested, interrogated, detained and tried in Israeli military courts. Most are pronounced guilty by accusation. Few committed crimes.
UNICEF said 7,000 Palestinian children went through Israel’s penal system in the past decade. Most were traumatized. None deserved being brutalized Israeli-style.
Many times earlier Israeli released Palestinian detainees only to arrest many more. No one is safe under occupation. Middle-of-the-night arrests and detention threaten everyone.
Children especially are affected. Many never recover from their ordeal. Pay less attention to what Israel says and focus on what it does daily. Palestinians call it brutalizing state terror.
They don’t exaggerate or deserve being treated lawlessly out of sight and mind from Western media that ignore them.
Why else would most want nothing less than liberation after 63 traumatizing years. Hopefully, an end to their ordeal draws near.
* Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]. 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.