Israel’s Mass Incarceration of Palestinians

June 07, 2017 IMEU
Israel’s Mass Incarceration of Palestinians
Israeli border police arrest an 11-year-old boy in front of his school in East Jerusalem.  PHOTO: Majd Gaith

Since occupying the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza during the June 1967 war, Israel has imprisoned nearly a million Palestinians, including nonviolent human rights activists, in an attempt to crush any resistance to its military rule and theft of Palestinian land for its illegal settlement enterprise. As a result, nearly every Palestinian in the occupied territories has had loved ones imprisoned by Israel.

  • Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned more than 800,000 Palestinians from the occupied territories. According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, as of May 2017 there were 6,200 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.
  • While Israeli settlers living in the same land are subject to Israeli civil law, Palestinians are tried in a military court system that human rights organizations have condemned as falling far short of the minimum standards required for a fair trial, which has a conviction rate of more than 99%.
  • Israel imprisons hundreds of Palestinian children each year, frequently taking them from their homes in the middle of the night to be violently interrogated without a lawyer or their parents present, and coercing them into signing confessions written in Hebrew, which most don’t understand. As noted by Human Rights Watch in a 2016 statement: “Palestinian children are treated in ways that would terrify and traumatize an adult… Screams, threats, and beatings are no way for the police to treat a child or to get accurate information from them.” According to Addameer, as of May 2017 there were 300 Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel.
  • Israel also imprisons nonviolent Palestinian human rights defenders. In 2011, Amnesty International declared Palestinian human rights activist Abdallah Abu Rahmah a prisoner of conscience after he was imprisoned by Israel “solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and assembly” while protesting the encroachment of settlers onto the land of his village of Bil’in in the occupied West Bank. Amnesty International declared Palestinian human rights defender Bassem Tamimi a prisoner of conscience after he was imprisoned in 2011 and again in 2012 for peacefully protesting the theft of his West Bank village’s lands by Israeli settlers. Israel is currently attempting to prosecute Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro on trumped up charges that have been condemned as “baseless” by Amnesty International.
  • Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, including children, are routinely subjected to abuse and torture. According to Amnesty International’s 2016/2017 annual report:

“Israeli soldiers, police and Israel Security Agency (ISA) officers subjected Palestinian detainees, including children, to torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, particularly on arrest and during interrogation. Reported methods included beatings, slapping, painful shackling, sleep deprivation, use of stress positions and threats. Although complaints alleging torture by ISA officers have been handled by the Ministry of Justice since 2014, and more than 1,000 had been filed since 2001, no criminal investigations were opened. Complaints that the Israeli police used torture or other ill-treatment against asylum-seekers and members of the Ethiopian community in Israel were also common.”

  • Israel also imprisons Palestinians without charge or trial using secret evidence through a procedure known as “administrative detention.” Administrative detention orders are normally issued for periods of up to six months and can be extended indefinitely. Since 1967, Israel has used administrative detention against Palestinians more than 50,000 times. According to Addameer, as of May 2017, 490 Palestinians were being held in administrative detention. Although there are none currently being held in administrative detention, in the past Israel has used the procedure against Palestinian children as well. Israel’s use of administrative detention has been widely condemned by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
  • Israel imprisons most Palestinians from the occupied territories inside Israel in violation of international law, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners out of occupied lands. Most Palestinians in the occupied territories are barred from entering Israel. As a result, many Palestinians, particularly from Gaza, are unable to visit family members imprisoned by Israel.
For further reference, see our recently released fact sheets, Israeli Restrictions on Palestinian Movement, Israeli Settlements & Settlers, Israel’s Theft & Destruction of Palestinian Land & Homes, 50 Years of Israeli Military Rule, and The Legal Status of Jerusalem.