During an October 8th 2023 television address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put his country on alert: “We are at war with Hamas” he declared, “This is not an operation, but a war.” He went on to announce a mass army mobilisation the likes of which hadn’t been seen for decades.
Netanyahu’s declaration was quickly followed by Defence Minister Gallant, who warned the world that Hamas had made a grave mistake and the state of Israel “will win this war.” The one-time adversaries appeared united by a shared mission to defeat Hamas. Both were lying.
The truth – Israel has been at war for the last 75 years, not just with Hamas but with all Palestinian people. While Netanyahu and Gallant took to the public stage deceitfully talking about a war on Hamas, they were in fact preparing for a genocide against the people of Ghazzah, and a ferocious and brutal terror campaign against the Palestinians of the Occupied West Bank, which would include land theft, forced displacement, psychological warfare, and violent incarceration.
Detention in the Occupied West Bank
Since October 7th Israeli security forces have detained approximately 3,000 Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, representing a 60% increase in the already huge number of detainees.
We know from testimonies of those who have been detained that this has led to serious overcrowding, with cells meant to hold four now regularly holding between eight and ten. Detainees are sleeping on floors and confined to their cells for much of the time, as exercise yards, common areas and canteens have all been closed.
Medical care for detainees has been withdrawn, the number of meals has been reduced, and water and electricity are severely rationed. Family visits have been suspended and visits with lawyers and legal representatives are being severely curtailed. These measures have been instigated across multiple prisons so we can conclude they are implemented as standard operating practice – by design, not chance.
The detainees are often arrested by snatch squads in the middle of the night. Doors are kicked open, on occasion stun grenades are used. The whole experience is meant to terrify and psychologically disorientate.
WARNING: Disturbing images
On November 13th Palestinian Eyad Banat, 35, was live streaming on TikTok when Israeli soldiers raided his Hebron home in the southern Occupied West Bank and violently arrested him.
Detainees are not told why they are being arrested and to date none have been formally charged with a crime. They are held in a cruel and violent limbo that appears to be solely designed to dehumanise and intimidate.
Once arrested, detainees are verbally abused and repeatedly threatened with physical violence. Testimony has been provided that some female detainees have been threatened with gang rape. Detainees are frequently blindfolded and have their hands tied behind their backs to highlight their vulnerability.
Several have been ruthlessly beaten, and since October 7th five healthy men have unexpectedly died in custody: Abdelrahman Ahmad Muhammad Mar’ie, 33; Abu Asab, 38; Arafat Hamdan, 25; Majed Ahmed Zaqoul, 32; Omar Daraghmeh, 58.
The New Abu Ghraib – Megiddo, Ofer, Gilboa
Abu Ghraib was hell on earth. This evil prison facility run by the occupying American forces in Iraq in the early 2000s is where a series of human rights violations and war crimes were committed, including physical abuse, physical and psychological torture, and sexual humiliation. It is where one detainee, Manadel al-Jamadi, was murdered, and his body desecrated. It was never supposed to happen again – but it is.
Across Israel’s Megiddo, Ofer and Gilboa prisons we are receiving testimonies and supporting photographic evidence of male detainees stripped naked and paraded in front of other prisoners, some photographed with the Israeli flag draped over their shoulders. Sadistically, others have been photographed crawling naked on all fours. In the early hours of Wednesday 15th November there was a rare release of prisoners; approximately thirty were bused to an intersection a few miles outside of Ofer prison. Hands tied they were released into the darkness of the night completely naked.
To preserve the dignity of detainees we will not share these images, but some are circulating online.
There are also multiple accounts of detainees having their meals placed directly onto cell floors, absent of plates or bowls they are forced to literally eat off the ground, often while being watched by prison guards.
Megiddo, Ofer and Gilboa prisons are completely lacking the most basic human rights. They are rotten places, where regular bouts of brutality and humiliation are perpetrated by a warped and callous administration. Be in no doubt – this is cause for alarm.
The Persecution of a People
Collectively, these abuses scream of a bigger crime: the premeditated persecution of a people based on their ethnicity. Francesca Albanese is a Special Rapporteur for the United Nations (UN). A lawyer and academic, she was appointed to her role in 2022. In her first report to member states, she recommended the UN develop “a plan to end the Israeli settler-colonial occupation and apartheid regime”. The urgency of her recommendation was, in part, informed by the fact that over one million Palestinians have experienced an “arbitrary deprivation of liberty” since 1967. Put simply, Israel’s use of detention is not only vicious, but also ethnically targeted and systematic.
Don’t be fooled – Israel’s war against Hamas is in fact the continuation of a war against all Palestinians.
©2023 Sul Nowroz