Wednesday, March 20, 2024

When Israel Becomes Like Hamas

An IDF truck carrying Palestinian detainees from Gaza, last December.

An IDF truck carrying Palestinian detainees from Gaza, last December. Credit: Moti Milrod

Haaretz | Opinion

Opinion | 

When Israel Becomes Like Hamas

Gideon Levy

Mar 10, 2024

Terrible news: Another 27 captives have died in the tunnels of evil; some of illnesses and injuries that went untreated, others from beatings and the horrific conditions in which they were held. For months they have been kept in cages, blindfolded and handcuffed, 24 hours a day. Some are old, many are manual laborers. One was paralyzed, and even when the death rattle began, witnesses reported, he received no medical care.

Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross have not been allowed to visit them even once, and their captors have not released their names, so that their families could be informed. The latter know nothing about their fate; perhaps they have lost hope. Their exact number is unknown; their captors provide no information about them. There are an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 detainees, if not more. Of these, 27 have died, and they will not be the last to die in their cages.

No one demonstrates for their release; the world shows no interest in them. They are held in inhumane conditions and their fate is considered inconsequential. They are the captives from Gaza who have been held by Israel since the war began. Some are innocent, some are brutal terrorists. Hagar Shezaf, who uncovered the deaths of so many detainees, reported that most of them are held by the army at the Sde Teiman military base, where soldiers regularly beat and abuse them. Hundreds are Gazans who had worked in Israel with permits and were arrested on October 7 without any cause, and have been held in cages ever since.

On Monday, October 9, two days after the massacre, I saw one such person in the yard of a community center in Sderot that had been turned into a military post: a very old man, who sat on a stool in the yard where anyone could see him the whole day, zip tie handcuffs around his wrists and a blindfold over his eyes. I will never forget the sight. He was a laborer who was arrested; he may be in restraints still, or perhaps he died.

The news about this death this massacre in prison aroused no interest in Israel. Once, the ground would shake when one detainee died in jail; now 27 have died – most, if not all, because of Israel – and there's nothing. Every death in custody raises the suspicion of foul play, the death of 27 detainees raises the suspicion of a deliberate policy. No one, of course, will be prosecuted for their deaths. It is doubtful anyone will even investigate their causes.

This report should also have raised concern in Israel for the fate of its own captives. What will the Hamas jailers think and do when they hear how their comrades and compatriots are treated? The families of the hostages should have been the first to cry out against the treatment of the Palestinian captives, at least out of concern for the fate of their loved ones, if not out of the knowledge that a state that treats captives in such a way loses moral basis for its demands that its own captives in enemy hands be treated humanely.

Israelis should have been shocked for other reasons as well. There is no democracy when dozens of detainees die in custody. There is no democracy when the state holds people for 75 days without bringing them before a judge and withholds medical care from the sick and injured even when they are dying. Only the most benighted of regimes keep people restrained and blindfolded for months, and Israel is beginning to resemble them at an alarming rate. There is also no democracy that does any of this without transparency, including releasing information on the number, identity and the condition of the detainees in its custody.

How convenient it is to be shocked by the cruelty of Hamas, to present its actions to the entire world and to call its people monsters. None of this gives Israel the right to act similarly. When I said in an interview a few months ago that Israel's treatment of Palestinian captives is no better than Hamas' treatment of ours, and perhaps even worse, I was denounced and fired from the most enlightened current affairs program on Israeli television. After Shezaf's report, the picture is even clearer: We have become like Hamas.

Donations can be sent to Max Obuszewski, Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 431 Notre Dame Lane, Apt. 206, Baltimore, MD 21212.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

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