A recent report by Human Rights Watch, “How Israel Uses Human Rights,” revealed how the Israeli Defense Forces are employing methods to suppress, silence, and abuse their own citizens, who are generally less vocal and less able to defend themselves against abuses.
The Israeli military and military courts routinely prosecute and imprison civilians for simply speaking out against them, or for merely exercising their basic rights.
These abuses are especially common in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, where Palestinians are subject to systematic torture and arbitrary detention.
Human Rights watch documented an increasing number of civilian deaths, disappearances, and torture in the Israeli prison system, which is home to about 2.3 million prisoners.
“The army’s response to the [Human Rights Watch] report was to dismiss the findings as ‘fabricated,'” said Amnon Margolin, a member of the Jerusalem-based NGO Peace Now, referring to the human rights group’s findings.
“They have to explain the facts of what happened and how they are addressing the issues.
This has to stop.”
Israel’s army has the world’s longest prison system and one of the most severe.
The military has long claimed that it treats its prisoners with respect, but that reality is often far from the truth.
Since 2005, the IDF has arrested and imprisoned hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Israeli prisons and detention centers, often for simply expressing dissent.
According to the Israeli Human Rights Committee (IHRC), at least 744 Palestinian civilians were detained and arrested for allegedly “terrorism-related” offenses in the Gaza Strip alone in 2012.
A number of those cases have been prosecuted and convicted in Israeli courts.
In 2013, the Israeli government opened a separate military court to prosecute civilians who publicly criticized the IDF.
Those convicted face a minimum of one year in prison.
But most are sent to administrative detention centers and are only held for three months, according to the IHRC.
They are frequently subject to beatings, beatings by sleep deprivation, physical and verbal abuse, and forced marches, according the Ihrc.
“Many of the people detained in these facilities face a harsh and humiliating prison term that amounts to a very heavy penalty for peaceful speech,” Margolin said.
“If the army thinks it can beat up and beat you for saying anything, they should know that the consequences are severe and that they can be punished severely.”
The Israeli government is under mounting pressure to address its widespread human rights violations.
Israel has been rocked by the assassination of two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, including the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, by an Islamic militant group, and the killing of a Palestinian man, Muath al-Khatib, by a Palestinian rocket fired from the Gaza strip.
Human rights groups and politicians have repeatedly urged Israel to bring the perpetrators of the murder to justice.
But Israeli officials have denied any involvement.
In a December 2015 letter to US President Donald Trump, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman claimed that there is no military response against Palestinian terror and that he was “deeply concerned” about the “threat posed by terrorist organizations.”
“I am aware that the Israeli authorities and military have been accused of carrying out a large number of arrests and interrogations of Palestinians for terrorism-related crimes, which has created a significant number of prisoners,” Liberman wrote.
“I have no doubts that these operations and the resulting arrests are the result of deliberate policy decisions, and I am deeply concerned about this.
As I have repeatedly stressed, the military has no authority to make these arrests.
They should not be conducted.”
But the Israeli army has continued to operate in the area of Gaza, despite the international outcry and the United Nations’ Human Rights Council resolution.
The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, has also struggled to control the territory.
In response to growing international pressure, the PA declared an end to its Gaza operations in March 2019, following a failed military coup.
However, the army has remained in control of the territory, and its forces have continued to launch attacks on Gaza and the West.
The international community has called on Israel to end the impunity for its abuses and to ensure that its violations are prosecuted, and that all civilians and Palestinian prisoners are released.
“Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is appalling and unjust,” said Nadia Hijab, the director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
“There is no justification for the use of violence against civilians in the most extreme circumstances, particularly in the context of an ongoing conflict that threatens the lives of thousands of people.
The government must ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and all Palestinian prisoners released.
As a human rights organization, we call on the government to hold those responsible for these crimes to account.”