Israel Toughens Prison Harshness
by Stephen Lendman
Palestinians throughout the Territories face daily state terror. Prisoners in Israel's gulag are worst off. Prison harshness just increased. More on that below.
An estimated 2,500 Palestinian detainees are participating in open-ended hunger strikes for justice. More join them daily. Freed prisoners got involved. On May 4, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh refused food for the 67th day.
A Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) visited them on April 30. He said Bilal risks imminent death. Thaer needs immediate civilian hospitalization for treatment prison hospitals don't provide.
"(B)oth detainees suffer from acute muscle weakness in their limbs, which prevents them from standing. They both are in need of full assistance in daily activities such as showering, though such help is not provided in the IPS clinic."
"They both suffer from an acute decrease in muscle tone and are bedridden, which puts them under dual threat: muscle atrophy and Thromobophilia, which can lead to a fatal blood clot."
The Addameer Prisoner Support group said "Bilal's life-threatening condition includes sharp weight loss, concern for peripheral nerve damage, extremely low pulse (39 beats per minute) and blood pressure, severe dehydration, and possible internal bleeding."
Thaer's condition is also grave. Besides considerable weight loss and upper back pain, other symptoms "indicate inflammation of the pleura (membrane around the lungs) or even a blood clot, which can be lethal without proper medical attention."
Despite their dire condition, they've been treated harshly. In violation of medical ethics, a prison service doctor is involved. Jamil Al-Khatib, providing both men legal counsel, was denied permission to see them. He was told to submit a "special request" to Israel Prison Service (IPS) legal advisors.
Israel obstructs, delays and spurns international law to deny Palestinians justice.
Family visits were also denied. Addameer said:
"The IPS continues to employ every obstacle at its disposal in preventing access for lawyers and doctors to hunger striking prisoners. These tactics are designed to isolate the hunger strikers as much as possible from trusted sources of support and medical information, in complete disregard to their most urgent condition."
Israel treats Palestinians contemptuously. Detainees, of course, suffer most. International law principles are violated. The Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 requires noncombatants "in all circumstances be treated humanely."
Violence to life and person is prohibited. So is humiliating and degrading treatment. "The wounded and sick must be cared for."
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states "(a)ll persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person (Article 10)."
Not according to Israel. Occupation harshness denies all rights. In prison, conditions are appalling. On May 3, Haaretz headlined "Palestinian convicts on hunger strike must leave bed to see lawyer, Israel Prison Service says."
IPS responded to a letter sent by several human rights organizations. At issue is denying representation to pressure protesters to stop striking.
IPS spokeswoman Sivan Weitzman said:
"A prisoner who is interested in holding a meeting with an attorney needs to physically get up and tell the prison authorities he wants to attend the meeting."
Long-term strikers like Bilal and Thaer can't stand or walk. Neither can two others who haven't eaten for weeks. IPS insists they do it anyway.
Addameer petitioned Israel's High Court for Bilal and Thaer. It protested against the West Bank military governor and Israel's decision to lawlessly detain them indefinitely uncharged. A hearing was held. Bilal collapsed. As a result, he was hospitalized. Its ruling was delayed "until further notice." On May 3, Addammer said:
"No decision was made in today’s Israeli High Court hearing regarding the administrative detention of Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, currently on their 66th day of hunger strike."
"Both Bilal and Thaer were brought to the hearing and attended in wheelchairs. During the hearing, Bilal fainted and there were no doctors present inside the court."
"Thaer testified to the mistreatment he has suffered since his arrest. Judge Amnon Rubenstein announced that the panel of judges would make a decision after reviewing the 'secret file', but after the review there was still no decision. He said that the parties will be informed of the decision later on, without stating when."
Both men are imprisoned uncharged and unjustly. Bilal is painfully shackled in his prison hospital bed to increase suffering. Four guards watch him round the clock. Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement saying:
Israel should "immediately charge or release people jailed without charge or trial under so-called administrative detention. It shouldn’t take the self-starvation of Palestinian prisoners for Israel to realize it is violating their due process rights."
The Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network headlined "Hundreds of additional strikers join as IPS represses strike through mass transfers and isolation," saying:
"Tadamun International for Human Rights said that the Israel Prison Service continues to repress and harass hunger strikers, transferring the isolated hunger striking prisoners in Ashkelon solitary confinement from one cell to another several times a day in order to tire them physically as well as psychologically."
Cells are violently entered late at night. Detainees are harshly treated. IPS authorities pressure strikers to ingest food. They refuse. Hundreds face isolation.
Addameer accused Israel of collective punishment. International law prohibits it. Hunger strikers are being punitively isolated. They're also without electricity, fined 250 to 500 NIS (50 to 100 euros) each day they strike, denied salt for water, and subjected to random (often late at night) cell and body searches.
Besides Bilal and Thaer, six other Palestinian prisoners refused food for weeks. On May 4, Hassan Safadi began day 64. For Omar Abu Shalal, it's day 59, and Jaafar Azzedine reached day 44. Despite their deteriorating health, they're denied independent doctors, legal counsel and family visits.
Spurning their obligation to intervene, the EU and UN stay silent. Doing so may condemn these men to death. Israel will again get away with murder unaccountably. How much longer will they let this go on? People of conscience demand answers.
A Final Comment
In 1993, Israel gave Mahmoud Issa three life sentences. Based on secret evidence, his alleged crime was involvement in killing a border policeman and trying to kill two others. His real offense was wanting to live free on his own land in his own country. Like others in Israel's gulag, he's a political prisoner.
He's also repressively punishment. He's been isolated in solitary confinement for the last 10 years. He's allowed only rare 30 minute family visits. In February, a judge denied his 75-year old mother's request to see him.
Israel claims she's a "security risk." Even aging, ill, semi-deaf mothers are punished. Doing so reflects the depravity of a criminal rogue state replicating the horrors of society's worst despots.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
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.