The International Committee of the Red Cross has condemned an incident where an Israeli lawmaker boarded a bus carrying family members of Palestinian prisoners from the Gaza Strip and proceeded to insult them.
“The ICRC deplores this incident and reminds the [Israeli] authorities of their responsibility to ensure that family visits take place safely and are protected from assaults of any kind,” the body said in a statement emailed to The Electronic Intifada.
Visits for families are coordinated by the Red Cross.
“The families of Palestinians from Gaza detained in Israel travel to visit their relatives in buses that are escorted by the police,” the Red Cross stated. “The police didn’t hinder the member of Knesset Oren Hazan from going on the bus and verbally attacking the mother of a detainee.”
Video of the incident shows Hazan aboard the bus surrounded by media Monday telling the mother of a Palestinian prisoner that her son is a “dog” and an “insect.”
Hazan promoted the incident on his own social media:
Extremism and incitement
According to The Jerusalem Post, Hazan intercepted the bus at Israel’s boundary with Gaza, with camera crews in tow.
Hazan was with a group of Israelis calling themselves the Task Force for the Release of Prisoners and Missing Persons which advocates retribution against families of Palestinian detainees by denying visits unless Israelis detained in the Gaza Strip are released.
A member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, Hazan has a history of extremism and violent incitement. He has previously called for the mass executions of the families of Palestinians accused by Israel of “terrorism.”
He has also previously been indicted for assault, publicly mocked a disabled colleague and hurled sexually demeaning insults at female colleagues. Israeli media have reported that Hazan had hired sex workers “for his friends and taken crystal meth while managing a casino in Bulgaria in 2013.”
The reinstatement of a second monthly visits for families from Gaza had reportedly been one of the terms agreed with Israel in order to end a mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners last May.
Violation of international law
Under international law, Palestinians have the right to visit relatives detained by the occupying power free from assaults and provocations like the one carried out by Hazan.
“Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honor, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs,” the Fourth Geneva Convention states. “They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.”
The Palestinian Prisoners Club condemned Oren’s action as “barbaric” and said that his behavior is encouraged by the Israeli government.
Qadoura Fares, the head of the group, called on the Red Cross to do more to protect the families of Palestinians being transported to visit their loved ones in Israeli prisons.
There are currently more than 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israel’s jails, according to the prisoners rights group Addameer.
Israel has intensified its arrest campaign in recent weeks in an effort to crush protests sparked by Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.