Nov 24 2009

An Absurd Situation

Published by at 4:17 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics

The following appeared in the NY Times web site  

An Absurd Situation

Daoud Kuttab

Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and a former Ferris professor of journalism at Princeton University.

The case of Palestinian prisoners and the prospect of an eminent prisoner exchange between Hamas and the Israelis reveal aspects of the conflict that Israel has tried to push under the carpet for too long. Indeed, it showcases the absurdity of the Israeli army occupying an area against the wishes of its people for 42 years while refusing to honor international humanitarian law regarding the treatment of people under occupation.

It is horrifying that Israel is willing to reward radical Hamas but not freeze settlements in the occupied territories.

What’s more, it is politically horrifying that Israel is willing to reward radical Hamas with a prisoner exchange instead of honoring the commitments of the Road Map, which call for, among other things, a freeze in settlements in the occupied territories.

Israel is holding more than 10,000 Palestinians, some without charge or trial. Almost all of these prisoners are being held in contradiction to various international laws and treaties, particularly the Geneva Conventions, which regulate the actions of a prolonged occupying power. These prisoners are routinely denied basic rights, including the right of family visitations because of the inaccessibility of Israeli prisons to more than 90 percent of Palestinians living in the occupied territories. (Only families living in East Jerusalem or those who have managed to get permits through the Red Cross can visit their imprisoned loved ones.)


According to international law, once occupation ends, the occupying power is obliged to release prisoners. But Israel refuses to recognize these jailed Palestinians as either prisoners of war or as “protected individuals,” insisting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a war. (When Israel regrouped its military forces to the outskirts of Gaza, it demanded that the world consider the occupation of Gaza over and yet refused to release Gazan prisoners.)

If press reports about Israel’s refusal to release prisoners from East Jerusalem are correct, it is one more example of Israel expecting the world to respect its unilateral decision to consider East Jerusalem part of the occupied territory.

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