How many times has the Red Cross visited Israeli prisoners in Gaza?

The international press is still going on about your hunger strike in Israel’s prison system. They are treating your requests as if any other country would honour such demands on the part of murderers they have in THEIR prisons.

Tell me, Mr Barghouti – how do your prison conditions compare with those of Gilad Shalit who was abducted and held by Hamas in Gaza for five years? How do they compare with the conditions Hamas offers to prisoners: Abera Mengistu, Israeli of Ethiopian origin being held in Gaza since September 2014, to Hisham al-Syed, Israeli Bedouin held in Gaza since April 2015, or to Juma Ibrahim Abu Anima, Israeli Bedouin who has been held in Gaza since July last year?

The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has agreed to let the International Red Cross visit you today (Thursday) in lieu of the pre-scheduled meeting with your lawyer that was cancelled since you called on security prisoners to join you in a hunger strike and you were consequently put into solitary. The reports note that you have not seen anyone from the Red Cross since before the hunger strike. That means that you HAVE seen Red Cross staff before that – and we have no idea how many times these visits have taken place but apparently the IRC visits security prisoners in Israel on a regular basis.

Out of curiousity, I wanted to know how many times the IRC has visited with Abera Mengistu so I called Uri Perednik, Parliamentary Aide to MK Avraham Neguise (pronounced Negosa), who serves as chair of the Caucus for the Return of Avraham (Abera) Mengistu. Perenik told me that the IRC has visited Mengistu a total of zero times. Furthermore, while the Israeli government and Hamas insist that Mengistu is alive, there have been no signs of life presented in fact, according to Perenik.

I assume, then, that the IRC has not visited either of the Bedouin Israeli captives in Gaza and I have no idea how many times they visited Shalit. Similarly, I assume that none of the three have a lawyer to represent them.

The great crime here is that the three Israelis currently being held prisoner in Gaza are not soldiers and, indeed, are apparently mentally ill, explaining the fact that they wandered across the border into Gaza in the first place. Has a medical doctor, or better yet, a psychiatrist, assessed their state of mind? After all, mental and physical health monitoring and care are mandated by the UN as being basic rights of any prisoner. I dare say that were any basic rights afforded to these three Israeli prisoners in Gaza, their fragile mental states would have compelled Hamas to send them home immediately out of compassion. (I know; I know – no compassion from Hamas. Just trying to make a point here.)

Last year, Hamas released two videos of Gilad Shalit, taken during his 5-year imprisonment.

Shalit smiles and looks comfortable with his captors. But this is 40 seconds out of over the 150,000,000 seconds during which they held him in Gaza. It does not prove anything more than that he had had at least a few moments of respite. How can one barbecue compare with the ongoing feasts and festivities security prisoners put together for themselves in Israel’s prisons?

Perhaps most painful is the fact that Shalit was able to write a mere three letters home to his family in the five years, and the families of the three current Israeli prisoners in Gaza have not had any contact from them at all. Contrast this with the security prisoners’ demands to increase family visits beyond the regular visits they get whereby family members come to the prison and get to spend time together with the prisoners.

It seems the security prisoners in Israel have a good time. Here is an interview with one released prisoner:

Did Shalit have other Israelis with whom to interact in his native language, people who he could consider friends, breaking the certain isolation and anxiety he must have experienced day in and day out over the five years of his captivity? Do the three current Israelis in Gaza enjoy friendships among their own kind? Are the two Bedouin Israelis even being held together? And certainly there is nobody in Gaza who speaks Amharic or who is familiar with his culture, something that would help Abera feel less isolated.

If you want to identify with suffering prisoners, I ask you to consider raising awareness regarding our three unfortunates who found themselves inside Hamas’ Gaza. If you are going to cry, cry for Mengistu, Al-Syed and Anima and their families. They could go on a hunger strike to protest their prison conditions and nobody would know — not even the IRC.

This article was originally published on Israel Diaries.


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