What’s behind Israeli Death Penalty Bill against Palestinian Prisoners?
Story Code : 1097593
On Monday, the Israeli parliament began debating a bill it received 8 months about death penalty to resistance prisoners. The draft bill says: “Death penalty applies to any person who intentionally or unintentionally causes the death of an Israeli citizen with a racist motive or hatred and harm to Israel.” According to this bill, the Israeli martial courts are obliged to issue death rulings to any Palestinian convicted of attacks that target the Israelis on racist grounds.
The draft bill makes it clear that death penalty only applies to “Arab terrorists” as the first clause of the law will impose a mandatory death sentence on a person who deliberately or indifferently causes the death of an Israeli citizen by acting out of racism or enmity to the public and with the goal of “harming the State of Israel and the rebirth of the Jewish nation in its homeland.”
Due to the complexities of this bill, in addition to the negotiations in the parliament, the cabinet must also hold meetings to review this law in depth, but the date of this meeting has not yet been determined. It was approved in a preliminary reading in March, but since then the final approval process has been stalled. The Israeli regime has banned execution in the occupied territories since 1954, but in the last two decades, some officials of this regime proposed this plan back, but it was not approved due to the sensitivity of the case and the consequent tensions that could follow with the Palestinians. However, the hardliners in the new government are seriously insisting on its approval by the Knesset.
According to some analysts, due to Operation Al-Aqsa Storm that was launched by the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli regime on October, the Knesset will probably approve this bill as it has the support of members of the opposition.
Yediot Aharonot newspaper announced that a number of those who participated in this operation are in the Israeli prisons and judicial actions have not yet been initiated against them. The Israeli police is collecting evidence against them and the current text of this bill does not include the details of how to carry out the execution penalty and many changes are likely to be made to it.
The Israeli Minister of National Security Itmar Ben-Gvir who is the architect of this bill stressed on implementation of death penalty to Hamas members said that these days there is no important issue than this bill and all Knesset members should uphold it.
The death penalty bill has been proposed more than once in recent years, but the Knesset has each time refused to approve it. The draft bill must pass three readings in the Knesset before it becomes enforceable.
UN experts expressed concern about this draft bill and said that it also targets the lives of Palestinians living in the occupied territories and makes their lives worthless. They warned that actions and laws that violate human rights do not make any country safer or more peaceful, rather, they create conditions for violence to continue.
The Israeli MPs are seeking to approve this bill while there are currently about 240 Israeli prisoners in the hands of Hamas, and if it is approved and implemented, there is a possibility that Hamas will refuse to hand over the prisoners in response to this controversial action, something increasing the concern of the families of the Israeli prisoners in Gaza. Some of these families who gathered in front of the Knesset asked the parliament members to delay its approval and remove it from the agenda until a deal brings back their members home.
“You don’t know what you’re doing to us,” one of these people told Ben-Gvir. “Don’t pursue this until after they are back here,” another one said. “Don’t put my sister’s blood on your hands.”
In recent weeks, families of Israeli prisoners have held protests against the government and demanded the release of their prisoners and an end to Gaza war.
These worries come as Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the political office of Hamas, recently warned that Tel Aviv will not reach the prisoners unless “they [Israeli government] pay a heavy price for their crimes”. In recent days, a lot of news reports have been published about a possible truce agreement between Hamas and Israel for the exchange of prisoners and a temporary ceasefire, but this bill can set up an obstacle ahead of a possible deal.
Israeli goals behind this controversial bill
The Israeli radicals who are now not satisfied with less than destroying the Palestinians are trying to pave the way for killing of the Palestinians with this bill. Having in mind that the Israelis have sustained big losses in Hamas operation and have not made any tangible success in their ground offensive, they intend to intimidate the Palestinians with this bill to force them to stop their resistance to occupation and surrender.
The government of Netanyahu exploits the war on Gaza, the emergency state, and also the Israeli internal consensus against the Palestinians to approve a law that accelerates trial of the Palestinians and issue death sentences to the Palestinian prisoners without legal processes in a bid to reverse part of the defeats it took from the resistance groups.
This bill is based on the idea that substantial violence and deterrence will force the Palestinians into surrender and facing the fact and avoiding further anti-Israeli operations in the future. The Israelis think that by spreading terror, the Palestinians at the end of the road will end strategy of attacks on the settlers, but many agree that this is just a pipe dream for Tel Aviv leaders. In the past two months, the Palestinians have resisted despite heavy casualties, proving that their resistance goes on sturdily and any effort to force them back is doomed to failure.
Martyrdom of Palestinian prisoners
To show that they are determined to go tough on the Palestinians, the Israeli in recent days killed with shooting and torture a number of Palestinians prisoners captured in Gaza by the Israeli troops. Khaleej Online news outlet reported on Monday that the sixth Palestinian held in Israeli prisons since October 7 Operation was martyred in the Israeli prisons, with Israeli authorities claiming that these deaths were of natural causes.
Qadura Fares, the the head of the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs, told Palestinian WAFA news agency that the Israeli regime is conducting systemic and preplanned assassinations against the Palestinian prisoners. In a statement addressing the International Committee of the Red Cross, he called on this international aid body to step up its efforts to watch the situation of the Palestinian prisoners.
Stressing that the conditions in the Israeli prisons are dangerous and worrisome, this Palestinian official said that a number of the penalties enforced against prisoners threaten their daily life.
Since the day one of war, the Israeli Prison Service shut down all of the prisons, closed their doors from outside, and armed their staff with firearms, according to Fares who added that the Prison Service denies the prisoners bath and even drinking water in some cells.
He mentioned other measures against the prisoners that include cutting food by half and denying medical treatment to the ill prisoners.
The Israeli push for this bill comes as one of the main motivations for Operation Al-Aqsa Storm was the Israeli strict measures against the Palestinian prisoners who were living under tough circumstances imposed by Ben-Gvir. Earlier, the hardline minister had pushed forward a law that drew criticism from international rights organizations. Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders had several times warned the Israeli cabinet radicals and promised a “heavy price” as they described the prisoners a “red line.”
Netanyahu and his cabal try to push the Palestinians back from the pro-liberation struggle with this strict death penalty law, but the prisoners have proven over the past year that they cannot be intimidated and are ready to sacrifice. Therefore, even the death penalty law cannot disrupt the Palestinian spirit of resistance and, actually, increased pressures only solidify the Palestinian resolution to fight occupation to liberate their lands.