The Palestinian Authority (PA) called Israel a “terrorist entity” on Wednesday, November 27, after an announcement by the newly installed far-right Defense Minister Naftali Bennett that he has ordered that all bodies of Palestinian militants be withheld and not returned to their families as a “new deterrent against terrorism.” Hadash MKs also decried the decision, while centrist leader MK Benny Gantz praised it.
According to B’Tselem figures, Israel is currently holding the bodies of at least 52 Palestinians who carried out attacks against Israelis, or whom the military claims attempted such attacks, and is refusing to return them to their families. This causes immense suffering to the families, as they are unable to bury their loved ones and perform the mourning rituals.
Israeli security forces regularly take custody of Palestinians’ bodies. Sometimes the bodies are later returned to the families for burial. At other times, they are withheld — to prevent celebratory funerals in attackers’ hometowns, or with a view to using them in negotiations to retrieve the bodies of Israeli soldiers.
Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen (Hadash) said: “Bennett is despicably politicizing a humanitarian issue, and that should be steadfastly opposed. Holding on to bodies and preventing immediate burial are immoral and violate international law. This is what the occupation looks like: Land is stolen, torture is approved, homes are demolished, bodies of Palestinians are withheld and their relatives are collectively punished after they did nothing wrong.”
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, released a statement in which the NGO declared that it “denounces the minister’s announcement and the continuation of Israel’s inhumane and cruel policy on this matter. Withholding bodies, whether as bargaining chips or as a method of deterrence or punishment, is contrary to the most basic humanitarian principles.” However, MK Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue & White, welcomed the move and said it was “a step in the right direction.”