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Qaraqe: 'Israel may be able to take our money, but it cannot take our dignity'

June 24, 2017 6:12 P.M. (Updated: June 28, 2017 11:32 P.M.)
Issa Qaraqe addresses the families of Palestinian prisoners at a solidarity sit-in tent
By: Issa Qaraqe

Issa Qaraqe is the head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners' Affairs. This op-ed was originally published in Arabic on June 21.

It seems that Israel, having completed its racist colonization project, has begun to arrange the daily lives of the Palestinian people along a path of destruction -- the destruction of the Palestinian national identity and of the Palestinian liberation project.

The Israeli ministerial committee’s recent ratification of a draft law, which would allow Palestinian tax funds to be withheld under the pretext that they are used to fund subsidies for the families of detainees, martyrs, and the wounded, is more horrifying and immoral than war itself.

Israel is attempting to punish the Palestinian people, skin them alive, and enshrine penal legislation that is designed to crush the Palestinian people under the veil of law.

The Israeli, American, and European objective through this blackmail and pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not financial. It is an attempt to classify the entire Palestinian national identity as terrorism and a crime.

The Palestinian resistance against the occupation -- represented by detainees, martyrs, and the wounded -- is thus rendered illegitimate and stripped of its legal and humanitarian foundations, especially that which is rooted in international law, which allows any people under occupation to resist to obtain their freedom and dignity.

Israel is committing a crime against the families of these detainees, martyrs, and wounded; it still wants to appear pure, innocent, and clean -- clean of our blood, suffering, and the constant catastrophes caused by the Israeli occupation.

If Israel succeeds in selling this narrative and we are coerced to bow to Israeli-American pressure, going to the International Criminal Court (ICC) would become a ludicrous endeavor, since we would have already admitted and accepted that all forms of our resistance to occupation are tantamount to crime and terrorism.

Israel wants to engineer a coup against Palestinian history and all international resolutions related to Palestine.

Israel seeks to destroy the character and legal status of the state of Palestine and its detainees and martyrs -- despite the recognition of the Palestinian state by the United Nations and many other countries -- at the same time that Israel seeks the repudiation of its humanitarian and legal responsibilities due to its occupation of Palestine.

Israel seeks to continue its policy of “legal” settlement expansion, annexation of Palestinian territory, and the displacement of the Palestinian people from the political sphere.

This intervention has manifested itself through Israeli calls to dismantle UNRWA and bury the refugee issue. The intervention has reached the Palestinian curriculum, and is also seen in Israel’s policies of looting, theft, and open piracy of everything in the life of the Palestinians -- the theft of water, movement, air, freedom of opinion and expression, land and trees, theft of detainees' money in Israeli military courts, and now of martyrs' compensation.

In occupied Palestine, the victim pays compensation to the murderer and the executioner.

It is an imperative to confront the Israeli aggression against the legal status of Palestinian martyrs, detainees, resistance, and struggle. These Israeli actions are fundamentally contrary to the Oslo agreement, which designated all humanitarian and social services to the PA after the occupation enacted calamities and tragedies upon every Palestinian home.

In 1994, Israel passed onto the PA a catastrophically devastated society.

We, the Palestinians, should have meanwhile highlighted the facts about organized, state-supported Jewish Israeli terrorism. This includes the financial, social, and legal support the Israeli government gives to Jewish murderers and terrorists, their families, and the terrorist organizations that murder, burn, and kidnap the Palestinian people.

We should have highlighted the official Israeli discourse that defends murderers and Jewish terrorists who have executed dozens of our children and youth. The Israeli government has stood up and defended these murderers in the military courts and granted them amnesty.

We should have gone to the International Court of Justice to solicit an advisory opinion on the legal status of detainees in accordance with international law and international humanitarian law.

This would have helped us improve the legal status of detainees as protected under the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions and to emphasize the legal status of the occupied Palestinian territory. This would have also enabled us to defend and protect detainees and to strengthen the political status of the state of Palestine.

We should have strengthened our position after the accession of the state of Palestine as a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which granted us the right to obtain care and social welfare from the PA -- the authority that administers the affairs of life in Palestine socially, culturally, academically, and economically.

This would have empowered the PA to abide by the Palestinian Basic Law, especially Article 22, which guarantees care for the families of martyrs, detainees, and for the wounded, as well as their protection, social care, healthcare, and education. It would have also empowered the PA to implement the Detainees and Liberators Law No. 19 of 2004, while the amended law No. 1 of 2013 would have regulated this.

These issues should have been tackled expediently, especially with regard to the ICC. Under the umbrella of the ICC, we could have documented the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel as an occupying power, which include torture, forcible transfer of detainees to prisons inside Israel, unfair trials, and other grave breaches amounting to war crimes.

We should have demanded compensation for the damage caused to our people by the Israeli occupation and the material and human losses resulting from this occupation, in accordance with the commitments contained in the Geneva Conventions and the Protocols thereto or in accordance with the Rome Statute.

We must demonstrate to those bewitched by Israeli deception that the Israeli government has turned the detainees' into an economic market that generates huge amounts of money for the Israeli treasury, while relieving it of the cost of detaining thousands.

The detainees’ status quo is made to be a fait accompli by Israel, which has opened the gate for the evasion of its legal and moral responsibility for the economic and social livelihood of detainees. In practice, Israel is satisfied by the returns of the expenditures of detainees in its prisons. Conveniently, the pragmatic detainees are no longer "terrorists."

Israel first wants to transform the living organism of Palestine into a corpse, and then into an inanimate object. It seeks to force Palestinian society to surrender its values and its morals. Iron chains are no longer the only means of restricting people's freedom.

It is known that because of wars, colonialism, and armed conflicts, and because of the horrors and tragedies of mankind, that thinkers, experts, and international bodies have developed many standards and humanitarian laws to protect victims of armed conflict.

The rules of international humanitarian law are designed to protect civilians and resolve humanitarian and social problems resulting from armed conflicts. Thus, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), which was established by an international agreement, acquires the legal right to care for the Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation.

It is clear to observers that arbitrary, racist legislation enacted by the Israeli Knesset -- which has moved forward 66 laws and bills since 2014 -- violates the norms of humanitarian and international law and aims to legitimize control of the Palestinian people for the purposes of annexation and further control.

As a result, the occupation is no longer simply military, but a factor that runs deep in the daily lives of the Palestinian people, so that all people become permanent detainees throughout their days and throughout their lives.

Any state or authority that respects itself, its values, and its culture, and any democratic society that respects the rule of law, cannot abandon the families of its detainees, martyrs, and wounded. Rather, it should strengthen its role in caring for them and protecting them from poverty and from falling victim to occupation.

The responsibility of the PA is to provide social security to the affected families. This responsibility applies to all countries of the world, including to the Israeli occupation regarding the families of criminals. This guarantee, enshrined in international law, requires that care be given to affected families, regardless of the actions of one of its members. Responsibility is individual and not collective, lest it will reflect the social stability.

Israel is seeking to destroy the issue of Palestinian citizenship and its citizens’ rights. When we ignore our obvious rights because of pressure or fear, we cannot expect the other to respect us -- for it would set a legal precedent for the violation of our rights.

Israel’s goal, by stopping the allocation of funds to the families of detainees, martyrs, and the wounded, is to create a compliant Palestinian society. Israel aims to deform the values and principles of Palestinians to ensure their full and permanent adherence to the occupation.

We have to stand firmly against the demonization our people and our strugglers, and stand up to the Zionist colonial theory that states: if one can turn fierce monsters into amusing creatures in a circus -- make elephants stand on their heads and tame lions to be acrobats -- they can also transform humans into docile and abiding creatures deprived of their free will.

Israel can withhold our money under power and piracy, but it cannot hold back our human and national dignity, nor can it change our identity from freedom fighters to despicable undignified subordinates.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.

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