Haaretz: Hamas, Unlike Israel, Treats Prisoners of War Fairly

Just how much can Haaretz insult the intelligence of its readers? On May 2, Khader Adnan, a senior member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, died while in Israeli custody after an 86-day hunger strike. In the wake of his death, Haaretz Op-Ed writer Hanin Majadli condemned Israel for its treatment of Adnan over the years, ludicrously charging: “Democratic state? Even Hamas, which Israel regards as a terror organization, knows about the ethics of war and how to look after the prisoners of war it holds” (“Israel Has Ditched Its Show of Democracy for the May Golan Show,” May 5).

With this doozy, which passed under the scrutinizing eyes of an approving editor, Haaretz ditched its show of journalism. 

Hamas, designated as a terror organization by the United States, European Union, Britain and many other countries, is currently holding two Israelis incommunicado in gross violation of international law. Hardly “prisoners of war,” they are mentally ill Israeli civilians. Avera Mengistu (held in captivity since 2014) and Hisham al-Sayed (captive since 2015) have never served in the military due to their disabilities. (Mengistu was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility, and al-Sayed is schizophrenic). Despite their suffering, they don’t receive visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or any other third party, their whereabouts are unknown and Hamas refuses to supply any information regarding their mental or physical state. Not until June 2022 did Hamas release documentation that al-Sayed was alive, and only in January 2023 did the terror organizations release the first video of Mengistu after nine years of captivity.

As Mengistu and al-Sayed are certainly not prisoners of war, perhaps Majadli considers Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held in Hamas captivity from 2006-2011, as exemplifying Hamas’ supposedly superior care for its war prisoners? This so-called “prisoner of war” was also held in inhumane conditions completely in violation of international law. For more than five years Hamas held Shalit incommunicado, without sharing any information regarding his fate. “The total absence of information concerning Mr Shalit is completely unacceptable,” Yves Daccord, then ICRC Director-General, said in 2011. “The Shalit family have the right under international humanitarian law to be in contact with their son.” The ICRC added:

The ICRC has called on Hamas repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, to allow Mr Shalit to exchange family news with his loved ones. It has also reiterated on several occasions its request for access to Mr Shalit, but Hamas has never acquiesced. Because there has been no sign of life from Mr Shalit for almost two years, the ICRC is now demanding that Hamas prove that he is alive. “Hamas has an obligation under international humanitarian law to protect Mr Shalit’s life, to treat him humanely and to let him have contact with his family,” said Mr Daccord.

A 2010 poster depicting captive Gilad Shalit (at left),which reads: “Is Gilad still alive?” At right is Israeli MIA Ron Arad, captured in 1986 in Lebanon, with his fate still unknown (Photo by Djampa, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

As CAMERA previously reported, Human Rights Watch, hardly friendly to Israel, said the conditions of Shalit’s detention were “cruel and inhuman” and warned that “the prolonged incommunicado detention … may amount to torture.” And B’tselem charged Hamas with a “war crime” for holding Shalit as a hostage.

Because Hamas ignored the Red Cross’ demands for visits, contact with his family, or for any sign of life, Shalit was an abductee, and not a “prisoner of war.”

In contrast, Khader Adnan, like all other security detainees and prisoners in Israel, regularly received ICRC visits. He was represented by an attorney, and his detentions were subject to judicial review. He was under close medical surveillance despite his adamant refusal to receive treatment and cooperate with doctors, and his refusal to either eat or receive medical care killed him. He was also in contact with his family, and they were kept up-to-date about his condition.

While criticism of Israeli detention policies is completely legitimate, how can Majadli claim in all seriousness that Hamas treats its “prisoners” in a more ethical and considerate manner than Israel? How did editors permit this absurdity, completely contrary to the most basic and well known facts, to be published?

Majadli’s preposterous claim about Hamas’ treatment of prisoners of war was not her only excess. About Adnan’s indictment, she intoned:

The hunger strike that led to Adnan’s death was not a response to an arbitrary administrative detention, as imposed in the past, but a response to the arbitrary indictment accusing him of incitement and of belonging to the Islamic Jihad. One should remember that for the Israeli authorities, any action taken by a Palestinian can be interpreted as incitement, including a Facebook post, or perhaps even this article.

On what basis did Majadli deem Adnan’s indictment “arbitrary”? After all, she didn’t dispute his membership in Islamic Jihad and herself referred to him, in this very same article, as “[o]ne of the Islamic Jihad’s more prominent leaders.” The organization is recognized as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Australia and more.

Majadli’s dismissive words about Adnan’s incitement, and her misleading suggestions about innocuous Facebook posts or Haaretz articles, obscure Khader Adnan’s notorious track record of vile incitement to violence.

For instance, in this 2007 speech, he explicitly calls for suicide bombings and the murder of Israeli civilians:

Last year, he praised the perpetrators of fatal terror attacks in Tel Aviv and Bnei Barak, and urged others to follow their footsteps:


Majadli whitewashes Adnan’s activity as “only verbal opposition,” that is, legitimate activity. If his words don’t constitute incitement to violence, what does?

In response to Presspectiva’s request for correction concerning Hamas’ treatment of prisoners, Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn responded: “We found the position worthy of publication. This is not the position of Haaretz, which appears in the editorials.”

For the Hebrew version of this post, please see Presspectiva.

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