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Medical Neglect in Israeli Prisons

by Stephen Lendman Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 at 11:33 PM


Medical Negligence in Israeli Prisons

by Stephen Lendman

Palestinians in Israeli prisons are grievously abused. Conditions resemble gulag hell. Treatment is deplorable. Fundamental human rights are violated.

Geneva's Common Article 3 requires "humane treatment for all persons in enemy hands, specifically prohibit(ing) murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment (and) unfair trial(s)."

Fourth Geneva's Article 56 states:

"To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties."

Article 91 affirms that "Every place of internment shall have an adequate infirmary, under the direction of a qualified doctor, where internees may have the attention they require, as well as an appropriate diet. Isolation wards shall be set aside for cases of contagious or mental diseases.

Article 92 states "Medical inspections of internees shall be made at least once a month. Their purpose shall be, in particular, to supervise the general state of health, nutrition and cleanliness of internees, and to detect contagious diseases, especially tuberculosis, malaria, and venereal diseases. Such inspections shall include, in particular, the checking of weight of each internee and, at least once a year, radioscopic examination."

On January 22, Addameer headlined "Medical Neglect Leads to Death of Ashraf Abu Dhra." In May 2006, he was sentenced to six and half years in prison. Recently he was released.

His crime was wanting to live free on his own land in his own country. He was one of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners. Israel treats them ruthlessly.

Predating his incarceration, Ashraf had numerous medical problems. They included muscular dystrophy. In 2008, he became disabled.

In detention, he contracted several illnesses. They included lung failure, immunodeficiency, and a brain virus. Deplorable medical neglect killed him.

According to Addameer, he "suffered a slow and painful death that was exasperated by neglect and the prison service's refusal to provide court-ordered treatment."

"Ashraf was held in captivity despite his failing health for the entirety of his sentence, rarely seeing an independent doctor."

On November 15 he was released. Ten days later he lapsed into coma. On January 22 he died. Proper medical care would have saved him.

Since 1967, over 200 prisoners died in captivity. Medical neglect took one-fourth or more.

Recently released prisoners succumbed. On January 2, 2012, Zakaria Issa died from cancer.

It was five months after being released. Israel denied him permission to receive specialized treatment in Jordan.

"Ashraf’s death raises serious concerns for the prisoners and detainees who are currently on hunger strike as their health continues to deteriorate and are being denied independent medical treatment by the IPS," said Addameer.

Jafar Azzidine, Yousef Yassin and Tarek Qa’adan have been hunger striking for 56 days. For weeks, they were denied transfer to Ramleh Prison Hospital. Failure endangered their lives.  

Samer Issawi has been on partial hunger strike for 174 days. Israel denies him treatment. Addameer demands world community intervention. Leaders able to help do nothing. They don't care if Palestinians live or die. Out of sight and mind they suffer.

Israel spurns international law with impunity. Palestinian prisoners suffer most.

Military orders divide criminality into five categories:

(1) Hostile terrorist activity

(2) Disturbance of public order

(3) "Classic" criminal offenses

(4) Illegal presence in Israel

(5) Traffic offenses

Broadly defined ones criminalize many aspects of Palestinian life. Belonging to the wrong political party risks prosecution. Displaying a Palestinian flag is considered illegal.

Peacefully demonstrating is called disrupting public order. Meeting or socializing with a member of a declared illegal association risks being charged with supporting a terrorist organization.

Dozens of other non-threatening aspects of daily life are criminalized. Real democratic societies permit them. Not in Palestine. Not in Israel for Arab citizens.

Prison life for Muslims is hell. Horrific conditions include severe overcrowding, poor ventilation and sanitation, no change of clothes, adequate clothing, wooden planks with thin mattresses and filthy blankets, inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity or conformance with dietary requirements, poor medical care, and restricted or no access to family members and counsel.

Isolation is worse. Alone or with one other prisoner, lockdown runs 23 hours daily. Most cells are 1.5 by 2 meters to 3 by 3.5. Little light or air gets in. Conditions resemble entombment. International law is violated.

Longterm isolation causes severe anxiety, panic attacks, lethargy, insomnia, nightmares, dizziness, irrational anger, confusion, social withdrawal, memory and appetite loss, delusions and hallucinations, mutilations, despair and hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, paranoia, and inability to live normally outside prison.

Societies are judged by how they treat prisoners. Dostoyevsky reportedly said "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."

In "Closing the Ring," Winston Churchill wrote:

"Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilization."

Israel inflicts severe pain and suffering. Guilt by accusation is policy. Collective punishment is imposed. Doing so is illegal. Medical negligence is standard practice.

Long delays are commonplace. Prisoners get substandard treatment or none at all. Transfers to prison hospitals can take weeks or months.

Deplorable detention conditions are bad enough. Chronic health problems result. Easily treated illnesses go unaddressed.

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners suffer needlessly. Many are disabled. Some are paralyzed. Prison authorities don't help.

Medical providers don't care. They're part of the problem, not the solution. They do more harm than good. They're complicit with prison authorities in torture, other physical, and emotional abuse.

Reports surface often. The International Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights reports on deplorable medical neglect.

So does the Ahrar Center for Prisoners Studies and Human Rights. International laws and norms are violated. So are medical ethics. Treatment is delayed or denied.

Israel is a serial abuser. Palestinians suffer most. Murder by medical neglect is policy. Gulag prison hell enforces it. Justice is systematically denied.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at 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.
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