Mar 17 2016

Palestinian families need closure

Published by at 11:45 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

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By Daoud Kuttab

One of the nastiest acts that has emerged since the beginning of the current wave of Palestinian resistance to Israel is the cruel punishment of withholding bodies of dead Palestinians.

Israel is holding the corpses of some 13 Palestinians, some summarily killed by Israeli soldiers, for as long as five months.

Taher Abu Ghazaleh was killed on October 8, 2015. Also held are the bodies of Hassan Manasreh, 15, Alaa Abu Jamal, 32, Bahal Allian 22, Motaz Oweisat, 16, Mohammad Abed Nimr, 37, Omar Iskafi, 21, Abdel Mohsin Hasoneh, 21, Mohammad Abu Khalaf, 20, Fadwa Abu Ter, 51, Foad Abu Rajab, 21, Mohammad Jamal Kaloti, 21, and Abdallah Abu Kharoub, 19.

The dead all come from Jerusalem, old city, and neighbourhoods and suburbs.

Israel’s justification for this vile act is that it wants to prevent Palestinians from celebrating their martyrs whom Israel considers terrorists.

Israel seems to believe that giving these dead people a popular funeral will somehow encourage others to try and stab Israelis so that they can also be hailed as heroes. In addition to the fact that this act is immoral and is considered collective punishment by humanitarian law, the very premise of the Israeli thinking is completely flawed.

The Israeli perspective is that the Palestinians who carry out acts of violent resistant are somewhere between common criminals and ideological terrorists that act against innocent civilians. 

The very idea of decades of occupation and oppression, along with massive illegal (according to international law) colonial settlement activities on Palestinian lands that triggered the resistance, is totally ignored by Israel.

The Israeli narrative, while admitting that these are individual acts — often referred to as lone wolf attacks — continuously denies the nationalist element and the fact that Palestinians are, in most cases, killed in a summary fashion even though the well protected Israeli soldiers’ lives are not in any danger.

A video by Al Jazeera Upfront presenter Mahdi Hassan debunks Israel’s repeated claims that Palestinians honour terrorists while Israel does not, calling out Israel’s double standard. 

The intro to the video, which has gone viral, states: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often said: ‘[Palestinians] consider murderers to be heroes, they name public squares after them, we don’t.’ A look at Israel’s history, however, proves that sometimes they do.”

The families of the 13 Palestinians have been asking for the bodies of their loved ones. They say that Israel is making absurd demands, including that the families hold the funeral within two hours of receiving the frozen corps, that few people attend and that the families, whose homes have been destroyed, pay a fine to the Israelis, presumably the cost of the hospital refrigerator.

The punishment of East Jerusalem Palestinians is decided by the right-wing civilian political leaders in Israel and is not necessarily supported by the security apparatus. In the rest of the occupied West Bank, which is under the direct control of the Israeli army, bodies are not held. 

It is not clear whether this is because the army understands that such punishment, which might please an angry Israeli public, does not produce any results on the ground.

The conflict between the Israeli army and the political sector has been discussed in the Israeli media for some time.

Regardless of the differences between the Israeli military and the civilian leadership, the practice of holding the bodies of killed Palestinians for months is immoral and does nothing to reduce the tension, which Israel claims to want.

Seeing the reaction of an oppressed people, Israel and its supporters need to look at the causes of the resistance.

For the Palestinian families who have already lost their sons and daughters, there is a clear psychological need for closure. 

Families need to have one last chance to see their children, say goodbye and put them to rest in an honourable way. This is as basic a human right as one can imagine.

Denying families this right to closure will do little to ease tensions and begin the process of finding genuine peace based on justice and historic compromise.

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