Opinion

Palestinians: More human rights violations no one talks about

Failure to publicize its abuses simply allows Hamas to continue its crimes against the Palestinians with callous impunity.

Hamas members participate in a rally in Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip, on May 30, 2021. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.
Hamas members participate in a rally in Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip, on May 30, 2021. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.
Bassam Tawil

The death on May 1 in an Israeli prison of Khader Adnan, a senior member of the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist group, has received worldwide coverage in major media outlets, including CNN, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters and The New York Times.

Meanwhile, two Palestinian men detained by Hamas, the terror group which controls the Gaza Strip, died after an unexpected “deterioration” in their health conditions in just the past month.

These deaths, however, were not given nearly the same attention by the international media and human rights organizations as that of Adnan. The same newspapers and media organizations that highlighted the case of Adnan—who died after an 86-day hunger strike—chose to ignore the deaths of the two Palestinian detainees in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The United Nations, whose “experts” are now demanding “accountability” from the Israeli government following Adnan’s death, also remained silent over the death of the two men held by Hamas.

The attitude of the mainstream media in the West, international agencies and human rights organizations towards these deaths exposes their double standards and ongoing obsession with Israel. The failure to report the deaths of the two prisoners in Gaza underscores an apparent lack of concern for the human rights of Palestinians living under the rule of Hamas, designated as a terror organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union, among others.

The media seem more worried about the human rights of Palestinian terrorists than those of their victims. Note, for example, how Omar Shakir, the “Israel and Palestine” director of Human Rights Watch, hailed the leader of the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, also designated by many countries as a terror group. Has Shakir condemned the deaths of the two Palestinian men in Hamas custody? Not yet.

Adnan was neither tortured nor mistreated in Israeli prison. He chose to go on hunger strike after his arrest in February 2023 on charges of membership in a terror group and incitement to violence. He even refused to undergo medical evaluation or receive medical treatment during the hunger strike.

Adnan was fully aware that he was putting his life at risk by refusing food and medical care. He made a conscious decision, knowing full well it could lead to his death.

This also was not Adnan’s first hunger strike in an Israeli prison. In the past, he went on a hunger strike for several weeks, again putting his life at risk. Then, after receiving assurances from Israeli authorities that his detention would not be extended, he ended his hunger strike.

The stories of the two Palestinian men who died in Hamas custody are vastly different from that of Adnan.

The first, Mohammed al-Sufi, 43, was an Islamic preacher from the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. On April 20, the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry announced his death.

Al-Sufi’s 16-year-old son, Abdullah, told the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that his father and himself were arrested by Hamas on April 19, shortly after they returned home from a visit to Egypt. Abdullah said that he was punched and beaten by the officers, who accused his father and him of smuggling drugs into the Gaza Strip. He also said that he heard his father being interrogated in a nearby room and denying the charges. After a while, he heard the officers calling on his father to wake up. Hours later, at Abu Yusef Annajar Hospital, al-Sufi was pronounced dead.

Al-Sufi’s family insist he died of torture while in Hamas custody. They say he was arrested because he had criticized Hamas for serving as a proxy for Iran, which he said was responsible for killing Muslims in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Gaza Strip. The family has threatened to avenge his death at the hands of the “Hamas gangs.”

Al-Sufi’s family and friends published a poster on social media with his picture alongside a caption reading:

“I’m Sheikh Mohammed al-Sufi. I was assassinated by Hamas on orders from Iran because I criticized the killers of Muslims in Syria and Iraq.”

Hussein Foujo, a Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip who dared to speak out against the death of al-Sufi in Hamas detention, said  he received threats from a relative of the Hamas security officers involved in the arrest and alleged torture of the Islamic preacher.

The second detainee, Ahmed al-Louh, 56, died on May 1 after being rushed from a Hamas prison to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. According to sources in the Gaza Strip, Al-Louh was arrested by Hamas security officers on March 8 for “criminal-related offenses.” Hamas claimed that he, too, died after a “sudden deterioration in his health condition.”

Foreign journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have so far failed to report about the death of the two Palestinians. Foreign journalists did not visit, or even try to contact, the families of the two men. The United Nations and human rights organizations—who expressed so much concern over the death of the hunger striker in an Israeli prison—have yet to comment on the suspicious deaths of the two Palestinians in Hamas detention in the Gaza Strip, which could constitute crimes against humanity.

No one cares about the two men who died in Hamas custody, apparently because Israel is not associated with their deaths. Had al-Sufi and al-Louh died in an Israeli prison, they would have made headlines in The New York Times.

The newspapers and media organizations turning a blind eye to human rights violations committed by Hamas against Palestinians are implying, through their failure to cover these suspicious deaths, that there is nothing newsworthy about Palestinians reportedly being tortured to death in Palestinian prisons.

The media’s indifference to these deaths appears the result of the “racism of low expectations.”

“They treat Muslims like monkeys in a zoo,” said Egyptian scholar Hamed Abdel Samad.

It is as if journalists and so-called human rights groups assume that Muslims are such savages that it would be laughable even to expect civilized behavior from them; so why report it at all?

The cases of Adnan, al-Sufi and al-Louh further show how consistently foreign journalists and professed human rights groups covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict spend their waking hours hunting down stories that reflect negatively on Israel. Some of these “correspondents” appear to be so blinded by their bigotry that, under the banner of being “pro-Palestinian,” they are ready to give Hamas a free pass to arrest, torture and kill as many of their fellow Palestinians they wish.

There is much damning evidence of anti-Israel bias in the mainstream media and among so-called human rights organizations in the West. Those who ignore human rights violations committed by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority against Palestinians do a massive disservice to the Palestinians whom they claim to support, but who remain horribly mistreated by their own leaders.

Failure to publicize these human rights abuses simply allows Hamas to continue its crimes against the Palestinians with callous impunity—and without an iota of concern about criticism from the media, the United Nations, the international community or self-professed human rights groups.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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