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Detaining the bodies of Palestinians: another face of the occupation's racism : Dr. Omar Rahal

Posted On: 15-03-2023 | Opinion
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Detaining the bodies of Palestinians: another face of the occupation's racism, and an expression of moral and ethical decadence.

After the decline of Western colonialism, Israel may be the only state in the world that detains the bodies of martyrs as a systematic policy built on racist foundations that reflect moral and ethical decadence and an inhuman stance that is shameful. The occupation still arrests the bodies of the fedayeen and prisoners since the early 1970s, such as the fedayeen Shammakh Azzaddin, Hamdan Ra'fat, and Dalal Al-Mughrabi, and prisoners Anis Doleh, Bassem Al-Sahhar, Kamal Abu Waer, Nasser Abu Hmaid, and dozens of Palestinian and Arab fedayeen.

In order to implement this racist and inhumane policy, the occupation prepared graves and mortuaries to detain the bodies of those who were martyred during their operations against Israeli targets, or who were martyred in captivity in the occupation's prisons or assassinated by the occupation forces.

Detaining the bodies of Palestinians: another face of the occupation's racism, and an expression of moral and ethical decadence.

The occupation state retains four graves for the numbers that bury Palestinian and Arab martyrs: the number cemetery adjacent to the "Benat Ya'qub" bridge and located in a military area at the intersection of the Palestinian-Syrian-Lebanese borders, most of whom fell in the 1982 war and thereafter. The Numbers cemetery located in the closed military area between the city of Jericho and the Damiyah bridge in the Jordan Valley, surrounded by a wall, with a large sign hanging over it in Hebrew that reads "Cemetery for the enemy's victims." The "Revidim" cemetery located in the Jordan Valley. And the "Shuhada" cemetery located in the village of Wadi Al-Hamam, north of the city of Tiberias, between Mount Arbel and the Sea of Galilee, and most of the bodies there are for martyrs in the battles of the Jordan Valley between 1965-1975.

Detaining the bodies of martyrs is an international crime according to international humanitarian law, human rights law, relevant conventions and treaties. These agreements oblige the occupation to deliver the bodies to their families immediately, based on Article 17 of the first Geneva Convention, which obliges parties to the conflict to verify that the dead have been buried with respect and in accordance with their religious rites and in respected cemeteries that are constantly preserved. Article 120 of the third Geneva Convention and Article 16 of the fourth Geneva Convention emphasize the need to respect the dignity of the deceased and to respect their religious rituals during burial operations by delivering them to their families, as well as the decisions of the United Nations Committee against Torture.

Nevertheless, the occupation state continues to turn its back on international law by detaining 389 bodies of Palestinian and Arab martyrs, 256 of which have been detained since 1967 in what is known as the numbers graves, as well as detaining 133 youth, women, and children in mortuaries since 2015, from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and occupied Jerusalem.

The demand of the Palestinians to the occupation authorities to deliver the bodies of the martyrs to their families did not stop. In 2010, the National Campaign to Retrieve the Bodies of the Martyrs succeeded in retrieving the body of the martyr Mashhour Al-Arouri after years of legal struggle before the courts, following a 34-year detention in the numbers graves. The following year, the body of the martyr Hafez Abu Zant was retrieved after 35 years of detention, who was a companion of the martyr Al-Arouri. In 2013 and 2014, the bodies of some Palestinian martyrs.

"As part of its racist policies towards Palestinians, the occupying state has intensified its violation of international law by issuing a decision in September 2019 by the Israeli Supreme Court that allows the Israeli military commander to detain the bodies of Palestinian martyrs and bury them (temporarily) for future negotiating purposes, according to Article 133 (3) of Israeli emergency regulations. This decision contradicts a previous decision of the same court issued in December 2017, which stated that the detention of bodies is illegal. The Supreme Court's decision in 2019 confirms once again that the judicial authority in the occupying state is a partner in its crimes with the executive authority.

The occupying state aims, through the continued detention (retention) of the martyrs' bodies in its cemeteries and refrigerators, to achieve a number of political gains, including putting pressure on Palestinians in general, on the families of martyrs in particular, and also trying to deter Palestinians from resisting it. The bodies are also used as bargaining chips in any prisoner exchange process between the resistance and the occupation, in addition to achieving gains on the ground by introducing the issue of bodies into the negotiating file and using it as a bargaining chip and pressure on the Palestinian negotiator to force him to make more concessions. It is also a form of collective punishment and revenge against the martyrs after their death, punishing their families and multiplying their pain, depriving their families of the right to honor and bury them according to Islamic law. It is a form of psychological torture for the living.

The matter does not stop at the detention of the martyrs' bodies, but their organs are also stolen, and their bodies are subjected to medical experiments, whether by medical students in Israeli universities or by new doctors serving in the ranks of the occupation army. Often, the occupation uses the bodies of martyrs as a "goodwill gesture" towards us. This requires all Palestinians not to deal with this policy except by rejecting it and not accepting the idea from the outset.

In the face of this Israeli arrogance and gross violation of international law by the occupying state, and to confront this fascism, moral and ethical decay, and despicable behavior practiced by the occupying state towards the martyrs' bodies and their families, it requires all Palestinians to have a national plan so that this issue remains alive and active on various official, popular, media, local, Arab, regional, and international levels."

As for the human rights and international law levels, this issue must be present on the table of the UN Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council, as well as all relevant international government organizations. In addition, the high contracting parties to the Geneva Conventions should be called upon to fulfill their responsibilities towards the Israeli occupation's violation of international humanitarian law, as Israel is a party to the Geneva Conventions.

The Palestinian National Authority can resort to international justice, primarily the International Court of Justice in The Hague, to issue a provisional measure regarding the legality of the Israeli occupation's detention of the martyrs' bodies, based on international law. This is in addition to holding Israeli military and political leaders accountable before international and national courts whenever possible in countries that allow it. Palestinian human rights institutions can also raise this issue before international non-governmental rights coalitions, networks, and unions to pressure governments and parliaments to pressure the Israeli occupation.

Simultaneously, an awareness campaign should be launched by raising this issue on the world public opinion level, through conferences, seminars, photo exhibitions, and articles to build an international public opinion supporting the Palestinian cause, along with an official Palestinian diplomatic campaign at the international, regional, and Arab levels.

Lastly, to succeed in the national efforts to recover the martyrs' bodies, we must think out loud about the necessity of building on the achievements of the national campaign to recover the martyrs' bodies by establishing a national institution under the umbrella of the PLO, with financial and administrative independence, a board of directors comprising official, human rights, media, and academic institutions, and a strategy to not only expose the Israeli occupation's practices and racist policies but also to rally the world to pressure the occupation to hand over the martyrs' bodies to their families.

In conclusion, may the soul of the activist Salem Khala Abu Ziad rest in peace, who led the national campaign to recover the martyrs' bodies with dignity and self-denial until his last breath. Thanks and high appreciation to the colleagues of the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center for their tremendous efforts, voluntary engagement, and unmatched professionalism in carrying this national file.


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