While Hamas has been violating international laws by denying visits or any communication with the Israelis it holds captive, Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons continue to enjoy many rights, including family visitations. Pictured: Masked Palestinian terrorists in Kalandia, near Jerusalem. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, does not like a bill making its way through Israel's Knesset that would prevent visits by family members of terrorists in Israeli prisons. The bill, sponsored by MK Oren Hazan (Likud), would prevent such visits to terrorists who are members of groups that hold Israeli prisoners and deny them visits.
"Because Israel is an advanced democracy committed to human rights conventions to which the terrorist organizations are not committed, an intolerable situation results. The terrorist organizations, as a strategy, kidnap and hold Israeli citizens without regard for their conditions and without allowing them visits, which seriously harms the morale and the national strength of the State of Israel," the bill's explanatory notes say.
In response, Hamas denounced Israel's proposed law as "racist," and said in a statement that it was a "flagrant violation of all laws and humanitarian conventions." Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem claimed that the bill was "part of Israel's policy to impose restrictions on the prisoners."
Suddenly, Hamas is concerned about "international law and humanitarian conventions"? Not quite. There is a catch. Hamas is only concerned about them when Palestinian terrorists are involved. As for the rights of Israelis held by Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group apparently still believes they are not entitled to any rights.
The proposed law actually is a response to Hamas's refusal to provide details about four Israelis being held in the Gaza Strip. Two of the Israelis are soldiers who were killed during the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel: Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul. The other two are citizens of Israel who were kidnapped by Hamas after they voluntarily entered the Gaza Strip: Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayyed.
Hamas has refused to allow representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other international agencies to visit these prisoners. The families of the four Israeli captives have also not been allowed to visit their sons or even to receive information whether they are alive or dead.
Hamas leaders are now saying that Israel must first pay a price for any information about the fate of the four Israelis. The price Hamas is demanding: the release of scores of Palestinian terrorists who were rearrested after they were freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel.
In the deal, Israel released 1027 Palestinian terrorists in return for Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists near the border with the Gaza Strip on June 25, 2006. Some of the released terrorists were later rearrested by Israel for their renewed role in terrorist activities.
Schalit, during the 1,935 days he spent in Hamas captivity, was denied visits by ICRC representatives, and his family was not permitted to visit him or know if he was alive or dead.
Hamas is now doing the same thing with the four Israelis it is holding. Hamas refuses to provide any details about their well-being or fate. Attempts by Egypt, Germany, Norway and other international parties to persuade Hamas to soften its position on the issue of the Israeli captives have thus far been unsuccessful.
While Hamas has been violating international laws by denying visits or any communication with the Israelis it holds captive, Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons continue to enjoy basic rights, including meeting with an attorney, receiving medical treatment, religious rights, basic living conditions (such as hot water, showers and sanitation), proper ventilation and electric infrastructure. They also receive regular visits from the ICRC, and education, as well.
In addition to these basic rights, the terrorists are entitled to receive newspapers, send and receive letters and read and keep their own books. Prisoners are even allowed to buy goods from the prison canteen. They also receive family visitations, television-watching hours and even electrical appliances, such as kettles and mosquito killers.
It might be worthwhile to take a moment to compare conditions in Israeli prisons and those run by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The 149-page report said that "the systematic practice of torture by Palestinian authorities may amount to a crime against humanity prosecutable at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a 149-page report, entitled "Two Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent: Arbitrary Arrest and Torture Under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas." The report accused Hamas and the Palestinian Authority of routinely arresting and torturing peaceful critics and opponents. In the press release announcing the report, HRW wrote:
"In the cases documented, Palestinian forces often threatened, beat, and forced detainees into painful stress positions for prolonged periods, including using cables or ropes to hoist up arms behind the back. Police often used similar tactics to obtain confessions by people detained on drug or other criminal charges. Security forces also routinely coerced detainees into providing access to their cellphones and social media accounts. These measures appear aimed at punishing dissidents and deterring them and others from further activism...
"Systematic arbitrary arrests and torture violate major human rights treaties to which Palestine recently acceded. Few security officers have been prosecuted and none have been convicted for wrongful arrest or torture...
"The systematic practice of torture by Palestinian authorities may amount to a crime against humanity prosecutable at the International Criminal Court (ICC)."
Thus, the HRW report confirms what the Gatestone Institute has been reporting for years: that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been cracking down on dissent and illegally incarcerating and torturing Palestinians.
Hamas and the PA have yet to respond to the serious allegations of arbitrary arrests and torture. Instead of responding to these charges, the two Palestinian parties are busy inciting against Israel. The proposed Israeli law is a temporary measure, aimed at forcing Hamas to release information about the four Israelis held in the Gaza Strip. There would be no need for the law were Hamas prepared to honor international and humanitarian conventions and allow visits by the ICRC and other international agencies to the Israelis it is holding.
Hamas is a terrorist group that flouts international laws and norms. It tramples the rights of its own people, whom it arbitrarily arrests and tortures -- how would any Israeli who falls into its hands fare?
The families of the Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli prisons know where their sons are. They also know that their sons are receiving proper medical treatment and are whiling away their days reading, exercising and watching television. But the Israelis held by Hamas can only dream of seeing daylight as they languish in captivity. When Hamas cries foul over the proposed Israeli law, the true foulness rests in their two-faced barbarity.
Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East.