Photo Credit: flash 90
Hamas Ramadan feast in prison / Photo credit: anonymous prisoner

Maybe the authorities in Israeli prisons should make back issues of Ma’an available.

With the renewed interest in — and criticism of — Israeli prisons, by Palestiniain Arabs, it is interesting to read about what the Palestinian newspaper Ma’an has to say about how prisoners are treated in those prisons.

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In 2011, Ma’an quoted from an article in Maariv about the treatment of the Palestinian Arab prisoners, and it did so without ever questioning the accuracy of that article.

Entitled Report: Palestinian prisoners in Israel use Facebook, the article begins:

Trying to show that Palestinian prisoners in Israel�s custody enjoy VIP treatment, the Israeli daily Ma’ariv published Wednesday a report by Amit Cohen who monitored the Facebook accounts of some prisoners.

Ma’ariv says that a Hamas-affiliated prisoner, Haytham Battat, uploaded on his Facebook page three weeks ago a short YouTube film he entitled “Take me to Jihad.” The film, according to Ma’ariv, included a song in Arabic dedicated to the Chechen rebels. A few minutes after the film was uploaded, his mother wrote a comment saying, �Oh my beloved son. This is a great song. I hope you and all prisoners will be released tomorrow morning.”

The strange part of the story is that Battat updates his Facebook page from his prison cell. Battat is 27 and he is serving three consecutive life sentences after he was convicted of masterminding a bombing in Beersheba. He posted on his page photos shot inside the prison in one of which he is sitting with Sa�id Shalalda, who was convicted of abducting and killing an Israeli man, Sasson Nuriel, in 2005 near Ramallah.

Though the Ma’an article today has no pictures, here is a snapshot of one of the security prisoners’ Facebook page, as originally illustrated in the Maariv article Ma’an quotes:

Ma’an goes on to describe some of the other luxuries available to the prisoners:

Battat is not the only Palestinian prisoner who updates his Facebook page from his prison cell. Ma’ariv�s report says many prisoners have state-of-the-art cell phones which help them access the Internet easily and even make video calls.

Another Palestinian prisoner, Saed Omar, posted on his Facebook page several photos of the lavish meals he and other prisoners are served, the paper reported. Omar is from the Nablus district, and he is affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He is serving a 19-year sentence. He was said to have posted photos of prisoners preparing stuffed chickens before they gathered around a luxurious table to eat their meal.

Here is another photo from the Ma’an article to illustrate the point:

And here is another photo from the original Maariv article:

The Ma’an article concludes:

After Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was detained in Gaza, the issue of living conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails surfaced as an issue, with hardliners advocating the abolition of prisoners rights. There were attempts to toughen prison conditions.

That is the point of the original Hebrew article in Maariv, Decadent Meals and Free Internet: The Good Life of Terrorists in Prison, which has the subtitle:

The security prisoners are imprisoned for involvement in terror attacks, but are in daily contact with their families and their comrades in the terrorist organizations via their cell phones. In the pictures, which they themselves upload to the web, you can see how good their lives are in an Israeli prison. Gilad Shalit, on the other hand, is still waiting for a sign of life. [Note: excerpts from the original Maariv article are translated via Google, with small modification]

Ma’ariv goes further, both in terms of the contrast with how Gilad Shalit was being treated by the Hamas terrorists at the time, as well as the extent of the rights accorded the imprisoned terrorists:

Since the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, the issue of the security prisoners’ good conditions has risen even more. After attempts to worsen their conditions, the prisoners returned to watch television, especially the Arab satellite stations. They receive money from the detention centers where they are held, where they can buy food and drink they love.

The money reaches them through the Palestinian Authority and through the various Palestinian organizations. Prisoners have quite a bit of free time and can also complete their basic studies and even pursue higher studies and acquire academic degrees.

It is made clear to the security prisoners that they receive all this “luxury” on the condition that they “keep quiet,” at least ostensibly avoiding any activity related to terrorism, and do not give the prison authorities grounds to deny them the benefits they enjoy.

Prisoners inside the prisons use telephones that operate on Israeli cellular networks, with the main demand being for phones with 3G (high-speed Internet) technology. Apart from high-speed browsing, this technology also allows prisoners to conduct video calls with the outside world, which they use well.

For example, one of the prisoners told the Al-Arabiya network that when his father died, one of his friends “broadcast” the entire funeral procession with a video call. Another prisoner used the video to shop; his relatives showed him clothes in the store, and he chose the ones he loved. When his family came to visit him, he received the new clothes he actually bought.

In a recent post, Israellycool investigates Palestinian Prisoner Demands, with a item-by-item analysis of what what they are demanding and what prisoners are actually entitled to according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Even assuming that Palestinian terrorists are not granted today what they received in past years, it is clear they are denied nothing that they are actually entitled to.

Maariv makes clear the danger inherent in the easy access of Palestinian terrorists with the outside world:

The obvious use of Facebook and video can pose great risks. In the past, senior prisoners used terrorist cells outside the prison, mainly to carry out abductions. In those days, the prisoners had to find sophisticated and original ways to convey messages to their people outside. Today they can simply chat on Facebook, or send an encrypted message, all via their cell phones. Simple and easy.

This is one of the reasons that the use of a cell phone is absolutely forbidden, especially in new smartphones that allow prisoners a variety of ways to communicate with the outside world. The prisoners are making great efforts to smuggle these devices into the prison, and make no less difficult efforts to hide them from the prison guards. However, information received by NRG Maariv reveals that the smartphones have entered a series of prisons, including Ramon Prison, Nafha Prison and the Khedar Ohel Prison.

A few years later, in 2014, an article on the Russian site fishki.net, Absurdity in the Israeli prison. We want to live like terrorists!, used the same photos to address another point, namely that Israeli prisoners wanted to receive the same treatment as the terrorists:

The essence of the claim is simple: the citizens of Israel who sit in prisons for various criminal crimes demand that the conditions of their detention equate to the conditions of detention of … Palestinian terrorists. So that in prisons there was complete equality …

After all, if the court satisfies this requirement of criminals, they will have to install cable TV with dozens of channels in their cells, and at the same time buy stereoscopic systems, build a shelf for the library, increase the number of visits with friends, allow to buy vegetables and fruits in the prison kiosk, create a gym and Do a lot of other things that are not available for ordinary prisoners, in particular, sharply increase the share of fresh mutton in the diet … [All translations are through Google]

The article concludes with the alleged psychological effect of the generally superior treatment that Palestinian terrorists receive in Israeli prisons:

At the same time, not so long ago it became clear that many of the terrorist attacks of recent years were pseudo-terrorist attacks. In the sense that the young Palestinians deliberately attacked the IDF soldiers carrying watch at the checkpoint, it was not for the knife to injure or kill any of them, but to get to an Israeli prison and get higher education at Israel’s expense . Because the terrorists sitting in our prisons are allowed to receive higher education if they have such a desire. Well, good food, cozy rooms … sorry, the camera for 2-4 people, compulsory attendance gym with exercise machines and all the other almost resort pleasures make staying in an Israeli prison very comfortable.

The article does not make clear what it considers the criteria for differentiating between “pseudo-terrorist attacks” and actual ones. Looking at the “knife intifada,” Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis are very, very real and deadly.

Another difference between the attacks from years ago as opposed to recent years may be motivation.

At one point there were those that pointed out that the luxuries of Israeli prisons on the one hand and the availability of continued education on the other as a possible draw for Palestinian Arabs to try to get caught commiting attacks in order to land themselves in prison.

Today, a different motivation exists for them to commit terrorist attacks — and they don’t even have to survive the attack and be sent to prison in order to take advantage. With Abbas’s policy of terrorist stipends paid out to terrorists and their families, those families are guaranteed an income, dependent on how many Jews they can murder.

At one point, Palestinian Arabs could be drawn to trying to improve their own lives; thanks to Abbas, they are now being taught that those lives are not worth living.

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Bennett Ruda has been blogging at daledamos.blogspot.com for 13 years. He is active on Google Plus, while also posting under his blog pseudonym on Facebook and Twitter. He lives in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he lives with his wife, two children and 2 cats.