The Israeli occupation’s policies of arbitrary and mass detentions have become methods of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. This ongoing organized crime against Palestinians has been systematized since the beginning of the occupation in 1967. The Israeli occupation forces use detention to deter, punish, and intimidate Palestinians by physically and psychologically harm them, individually and collectively. More alarmingly, ongoing mass detentions have not been limited to Palestinians participating in their right to resist the occupation, but it has expanded to include all Palestinians from every walk of life. Israel detains Palestinian men and women, young and old, healthy and sick, students and public figures and even government ministers and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
As of the drafting of this report, Israel detains 7,000 Palestinians divided onto 18 prisons, military camps, and detention centers inside Israel. Of these detainees, 450 are children under the age of 18, 6 are elected members of the PLC, 700 are administrative detainee and 58 are women.
Israel has recently expanded its systematic targeting of Palestinians over the last few years. For example, in 2013, the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees’ Affairs (CDA) recorded 3,874 cases of detention by the occupation forces. This figure rose significantly in 2014, when 6, 059 cases of detention were recorded, including 1, 266 children less than 18 years of age. The figure rose even more during 2015, when the CDA recorded 6,830 detentions by the occupation forces, including 2,179 children from all around Palestine. To put these numbers in perspective, the year 2015 saw a 12.7% rise in the number of recorded detention over 2014 (even after factoring in the detention campaign carried out by Israel after the disappearance of three settlers in June of 2014), and a 76.3% increase over 2013, a 77.5% increase over 2012, and a 106% increase over 2011.
This paints an alarming portrait of the rising trend of detention over the past 5 years that is also reflected in the rising number of child detentions as well. In 2015, the CDA recorded 2,179 cases of child detention, which constituted a 72.1% rise over 2014, a 134% increase over 2013, 147.3% increase over 2012, and a 200% increase in child detention cases. This constitutes a clear indication of Israel’s targeting of Palestinian children that should give any child rights activist more than a pause.
Israel has also expanded its use of the administrative detention policy. In 2015, Israel issued 1,250 orders of administrative detention against new and already-held Palestinian detainees. As a result, Israel holds 700 Palestinians under administrative detention, as of the drafting of this paper, increasing from 540 such detainees in 2015 and 480 in 2014.
These forms of mass detention are in clear violation of the rights of the Palestinian civilians under article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and constitute war crimes in the international law definition of the term. These war crimes are carried out daily against noncombatants and it is the responsibility of the international community to protect the Palestinian people or face the judgment of history.
Using Activity on Social Media as Cause for Detention
The year 2015 saw a remarkable rise in the number of detentions of Palestinians based on their activities on social media. Since the beginning of the popular uprising in October of 2015, 150 Palestinians were detained for the “crime” of incendiary posts on Facebook and other media. The majority of detentions in this ongoing campaign were carried out against Palestinian Jerusalemites, thus punishing them for their opinion and restricting their freedom of expression. Furthermore, the Israeli government has established a specialized Arabic cyber-monitoring unit to track the activities of Palestinians, whom it perceives to be perpetuating incendiary posts.
The Re-detention of recently released Detainees
Israel has re-detained 65 detainees that were freed as a result of the Shalit prisoner exchange deal in 2011, three of whom are women. Of the re-detained, Israel reinstituted the original sentences of 54. This was not an isolated reactionary event, but it was sanctioned by the Israeli Knesset on July 6th 2014 in order to paint it with legal legitimacy. This new law is intended to reinforce the powers of the Israeli military order No. 1,651 that allows the Israeli occupation army to re-detain freed Palestinian detainees without due process or new evidence throughout the duration of their original sentence. This process is carried out under the veil of secret files that the detainees and their lawyers are not allowed to read or review.
The Seizure of Martyrs’ Remains
During 2015, Israel crimes extended to the bodies of Palestinian martyrs. By the end of 2015, Israel had held the remains of at least 56 Palestinian martyrs for various periods of time. As of the drafting of this paper, Israel is still in possession of the remains of 11 Palestinian martyrs, 9 of whom are Palestinian Jerusalemites and 2 are from the occupied West Bank. It has become clear that Israel uses this method to collectively punish Palestinian in the face of the most recent uprising. Even when the Israeli government releases these remains, it demands of the families, under strict penalties, that they limit the number of mourners in their children’s funerals and that they bury their loved ones at night to prevent any escalation. Israel has also repeatedly refused to allow for the autopsy of martyrs even at the request of the families. Israel’s mistreatment of the families of the Palestinian martyrs extended to house demolitions, rescindment of Jerusalem residency and even laying them off from working in Israeli establishment.
Most of the cases that the CDA have reported contain attempts by the Israeli authorities to conceal the facts surrounding the martyrs. Israel not only prevents autopsies, but it also refuses to grant the families certificates of death. In many ways, it seems that Israel is trying to conceal the truth behind the extrajudicial executions of these martyrs, a practice that Israel has perfected since 1967. Israel’s practice is not new – for it still possesses the bodies of 268 Palestinian martyrs that remain buried in unmarked graves since the occupation.