Inconvenient truth is a lack of innocent victims
Op-ed, published in The Australian online, 18 May 2012
Link to the Australian (pay wall applies)
By Philip Chester, President of the Zionist Federation of Australia
ON Passover night 2002, the perpetrators of one of the most barbaric terrorist attacks in Israel’s history killed 30 and injured 140 people who were enjoying the traditional Passover meal.
These same perpetrators chose to draw attention to their agenda by a hunger strike that ended on Tuesday after 28 days. Those they killed lie in their graves and have no choices.
Izzat Abdulhadi (“Israeli system ignores hunger for freedom”, The Australian, May 15) presents a dishonest picture of the hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. He cites unsubstantiated examples of horrific treatment of prisoners but fails to refer to the fact that all prisoners are treated in accordance with all relevant international conventions. All prisoners, including those who were striking, receive medical supervision and care. In addition, all prisoners are entitled to legal counsel of their choice, to freely practise their religion and to accept visits by representatives of the Red Cross.
Prison in Israel is not a hotel. It is not a hotel in any country on Earth. High-security prisoners with multiple convictions for terrorism and murder should not have expectations of luxury accommodation. Nevertheless, Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are entitled to make purchases at a canteen, to receive newspapers, keep books and personal electronic items and have access to numerous television channels. They went on their hunger strike demanding among other things an entitlement to pursue academic studies and access to additional television channels.
Only six out of the 1600 hunger strikers are administrative detainees. Administrative detention is a preventive measure used against those involved in terrorist activities by democratic countries around the world, including the US and Britain.
No Palestinian has been detained over political activity alone – the only cause for administrative detention is participation in terrorist activity. The application of administrative detention against those who pose a danger to public security in the West Bank is legal under international law. The application of Israeli military law to West Bank offenders is legitimate and in fact to apply Israeli civilian law in the West Bank would be opposed by the Palestinians as a de facto annexation of the West Bank.
These so-called “non-violent protests” have come from prisoners convicted of horrendous crimes, including multiple murders and terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians of all faiths.
The majority of the hunger strikers were known to have blood on their hands. Among the leaders of the hunger strike are a number of particularly notorious murderers. Abbas a-Sayyidm and Muhanned Sharrim are Hamas terrorists serving 35 and 29 life sentences respectively for the attack on the Netanya Park Hotel.
The inconvenient truth is that the Palestinian hunger strikers are not innocent victims, but calculating terrorists, using hunger strikes as a tool to stir up public, political and media pressure on Israel from within their prison cells. For its part, the Palestinian leadership seeks to take advantage of the hunger strike to deepen a crisis with Israel. A senior member in the Palestinian authority, Ziad Abu-In, threatened that a violent third intifada might break out if the prisoners’ demands were not met. The military wing of Fatah warned of a “return to the military option” if their demands were not met, in effect more of the same violence in Israeli hotels, cafes and on buses.
The prisoners had free choice in deciding whether to accept food or receive medical treatment. Having chosen to end the strike, the prisoners will continue to be medically monitored to ensure their return to health.
The agreement signed by the prisoners commits them to “refrain from all activity that constitutes practical support for terrorism, including recruiting people for terrorist activity, guidance, financing, co-ordinating among recruits, aiding recruits, etc”.
It is of greatest concern that in the midst of celebrating the agreement to end the hunger strike, a Palestinian demonstration in Jerusalem has called for the abduction of Israeli soldiers to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners. This brings into focus the vast differences between the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, whose protests for more comfortable conditions are heard worldwide, and the treatment of Israeli prisoners such as Gilad Shalit who was held for more than five years by Hamas, kidnapped and incarcerated without trial, access to Red Cross representatives or communication with the outside world. In return for Shalit’s release, Israel freed 1027 terrorists.
Notwithstanding Israel’s obligation and entitlement to protect its citizens from terrorists intent on its destruction, it still accords even the most violent Palestinian prisoners the basic human rights to which they are entitled.