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Daily News Analysis

Israel, the West’s favourite ‘democracy’ in the Middle East, is a serial rights abuser

Ayman Ahmed

Heavily-armed Israeli brute grabs a Palestinian child. The child's terrified look is clearly evident. But is Israel censored for such brutality? Perish the thought.

Western governments never tire of telling their people that Israel is the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East with which they share many common values.

For countries such as those in North America, or Australia and New Zealand, this is certainly true.

All of them are built on lands of indigenous peoples that were massacred through waves of genocide.

Israel is on its way to achieving the same outcome except that the indigenous Palestinians are not ready to disappear quietly.

But there is one area in which Israel has left behind even its Western admirers and supporters: mistreatment and abuse of Palestinian prisoners, including children.

Amid a stifling heatwave, Israel’s Ofer prison authorities have confiscated Palestinian prisoners’ fans and electrical appliances.

For the record, the fans and electrical appliances were purchased by the Palestinians from the Israeli prison canteen, at double the regular price.

Israeli exploitation knows no bounds.

The latest Israeli brutality occurred amid a massive crackdown on protests that erupted following the death of a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody.

Daoud Talaat al-Khatib, 45, died due to ill-treatment and medical negligence in prison last week.

Some 850 Palestinian prisoners in Ofer prison (located west of Ramallah) protested against the ill-treatment.

During the crackdown on protests, Israeli forces injured 26 prisoners and confiscated all electrical devices, including fans, as a punitive measure.

“The first punishment that the prison administration usually resorts to is confiscating fans, which prisoners could have inside prisons for the first time in 1992, following a mass hunger-strike initiated by around 17,000 prisoners for 15 days,” the Middle East Eye (MEE) reported quoting Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

“The prison administration does not consider electrical appliances a right for prisoners, but rather a privilege.

“This is why it regularly confiscates them, although prisoners buy them with their own money from the prison canteen for double the real price,” the MEE report continued.

The fans do not—and cannot—provide any respite from the stifling heat. All they do is circulate the hot humid air.

The Israelis do not allow even that much less air conditioning that the prisoners have been demanding.

The Israeli occupiers say that air conditioners are a luxury and not allowed in prisons.

But in winter, they turn them on in interrogations rooms to force Palestinian prisoners to confess to crimes they have not committed.

Addameer, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, which advocates for Palestinian political prisoners, says the number of Palestinians in Israeli jails reached around 5,000 in April 2020.

This has occurred at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading throughout the world.

Palestinian prisoners are particularly vulnerable because of the cramped and unhygienic conditions in which they are held.

There are at least 41 female detainees and 183 children, of whom 20 are under the age of 16, among the 5,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Claire Nicoll, Conflict and Humanitarian Advocacy Advisor at Save the Children, said Palestinian children languish in Israeli jails that are “not fit for humans.”

She described the plight of terrified Palestinian children shackled in chains that were brought before an Israeli court charged with “throwing stones”.

In the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ and a close Western ally, throwing stones at Israeli tanks and armoured personnel carriers in a crime punishable by jail term.

Palestinian children are abused, physically and sometimes even sexually, and tortured in Israeli gulags.

Ms. Nicoll appealed to Israel to release the child prisoners, especially amid the pandemic but her appeal has fallen on deaf ears.

Palestinian prisoners are especially vulnerable.

The Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) reported on September 8 that Israeli prison authorities at Ofer admitted a 38-year-old Palestinian prisoner had been infected with coronavirus.

According to the PPS, there were now 12 Palestinian prisoners in Ofer prison who have tested positive for the coronavirus, raising the total number of recorded cases among Palestinian in Israeli jails to 29.

In a statement released on its Facebook on Friday(September 4), the Palestinian Commission of Detainees’ Affairs said that “the intense heat and high humidity have turned the lives of prisoners in various Israeli prisons into hell during the past days.”

The ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, however, can do no wrong. After all, it is a close ally of the West!

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