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Israeli Government’s Insidious Narrative Surrounding Palestinian Prisoners

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Israeli Interior Minister Bans Palestinians from Celebrating Prisoner Release

The Israeli government's narrative surrounding the release of Palestinian prisoners during a temporary ceasefire is both insidious and dishonest, according to critics. Interior Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has banned Palestinians from celebrating their release, equating expressions of joy with backing terrorism. He has instructed Israeli police to enforce this ban with an "iron fist."

Netanyahu Government Paints Prisoners as Violent Terrorists

The Netanyahu government and its supporters have promoted a narrative that these prisoners are all hardened terrorists who committed violent crimes. However, this assertion relies on a farcical logic of convicting them in public before any trial, even the sham trials to which Palestinians are routinely subjected. The Israeli military, which acts as a brutal occupation force against Palestinians in the West Bank, is making these allegations.

Majority of Prisoners are Teenage Boys

The vast majority of the 300 Palestinian prisoners proposed for release by Israel are teenage boys. According to the list, 124 of the prisoners are under the age of 18, including a 15-year-old girl. Many of those who are 18 years old turned so in Israeli prisons. These Palestinians were children when they were arrested by Israel, according to the definitions laid out in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Israel's Flawed Judicial Process

Of the 300 names Israel proposed for potential release, 233 have not been convicted of any crimes; they are simply categorized as "under arrest." The Israeli narrative promotes the fiction that these Palestinians are in the middle of a fair judicial proceeding, but the reality is that they are tried in military courts. Palestinians are often denied access to lawyers and evidence against them, held in isolation for long periods, and subjected to abuse. Major international human rights organizations and institutions have repeatedly criticized and denounced Israel's military court system.

Israel's Double Standard on Due Process

If these Palestinians have committed violent crimes, Israel should give them full rights to due process, including seeing the alleged evidence against them, and they should be tried in civilian courts with the same rights afforded Israeli defendants. This would also mean allowing Palestinians who commit acts of political violence against the military forces of a violent occupation to raise the context and legality of the Israeli occupation as part of their defense. Israel, however, has built a kangaroo military court system for Palestinians that churns out a nearly 100 percent conviction rate, while promoting itself as the only democracy in the Middle East.

Context of Palestinian Violence Cannot be Ignored

Palestinians on the list of prisoners proposed for release are from the occupied West Bank and have lived their entire lives under an apartheid regime. While Palestinians taken by Israel, including some on the list, have certainly committed violent acts, the context of this violence cannot be ignored. Palestinians have lived under appalling conditions for decades. In contrast, violent Israeli settlers who target Palestinians in an effort to expel them from their homes often act with impunity.

Judging Nations by How They Treat the Least Powerful

All nations should be judged by how they treat the least powerful, not just the most powerful or those from a certain religion or ethnicity. This is why many leading civil liberties lawyers in the U.S. opposed the use of Guantánamo Bay prison and military tribunals, and continue to oppose laws or rules that deny the accused a fundamental right to a proper defense.

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