Israeli lawmakers have passed a controversial bill allowing its police to indefinitely hold the corpses of alleged Palestinian terrorists. The act was passed late Wednesday, March 7, by a vote of 48 to 10, a Knesset statement said. It applies only to Israel within the Green Line and occupied and unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem, where the police have authority, and not to the occupied West Bank, which is under military rule and where such a policy is already in effect (see photo caption).
This new legislation was passed only hours after another anti-Palestinian measure was enacted, one permitting the Minister of the Interior to strip Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem of their permanent residency status “if they are involved in terrorism.” Observers have noted that the current wave of anti-Palestinian legislation is a manifestation of the election fever heating up in the Knesset.
The government announced in 2016 that it would not release for burial the bodies of Palestinian assailants killed during attacks unless Palestinians in Gaza released the remains of two Israeli soldiers believed to have been killed in a 2014 war in Gaza. In November 2017, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that Israel would not repatriate the bodies of five Islamic Jihad members killed when the army blew up a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into its territory.
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in December that the policy was illegal under current law, but it gave the government six months to enact new legislation. The revised act gives authority to police district commanders “to set conditions for returning the body of a terrorist for family burial.” If the commander decides that a funeral may spark another attack or turn into a political rally in support of violence he can impose limits on the time, location and number of mourners and “a body could be held until the family agrees to the terms.” The bill was sponsored by two MPs from Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud and the far-right HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) party.
Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) described the new legislation as “a delusional and draconian law of a delusional government.” During Wednesday’s debate on the bill, Jabareen asserted, “Bringing bodies to burial is the basic treatment that is expected from a state that declares itself to be a civilized country.”
The legislation on revoking permanent residency permits, proposed by a Likud MP, passed by 48 votes to 18. Israel occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. It later annexed the territory, in a move that has never been recognized by the international community, and today it is home to about 300,000 Palestinians.