Meet the Palestinian Hostages Taken by Israel, Known as “Administrative Detainees”

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Meet the Palestinian Hostages Taken by Israel, Known as “Administrative Detainees”

Meet Omar al-Khatib, a research partner at The Institute of Development Studies, affiliated with the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK.

Omar al-Khatib, a Palestinian hostage abducted by Israel (source)

On 1 March 2024, Omar was taken hostage by Israel. He was not charged with anything. He was not told why he was taken to prison, nor why his imprisonment could be renewed forever.

Omar’s colleagues described him as empathic, passionate and brilliant. Omar was robbed of his freedom and will likely be subjected to untold abuses such as harassment, assault, solitary confinement, torture, sexual abuse or possibly worse: at least 7 Palestinian prisoners have mysteriously “died” in Israel’s custody since Oct. 7th. 

So why was Omar taken hostage? In all likelihood, he will be leveraged as a bargaining chip in hostage negotiations with Hamas. In other words, he was taken for the same reason that Hamas took Israeli civilians hostage on Oct. 7th, as leverage in a prisoner swap. 

But there is at least one key difference between Israel’s actions and Hamas’s actions: Hamas took a few hundred civilians hostage on Oct. 7th, while Israel has taken 3,558 civilians hostage, and continues to take more hostages every day.

In fact, the 3,558 Palestinians taken hostage includes only those known as “administrative detainees,” the term Israel uses to whitewash its policy of hostage taking. [This figure does not include an additional 5,519 Palestinian prisoners, classified as "Security Prisoners”, "Security Detainees” or  "Unlawful Combatants"].

The phrase “administrative detainee” typifies the sanitizing language that has become a hallmark of Western media coverage of Israel’s genocidal war on the people of Gaza. Palestinians aren’t killed, but they do seem to die a lot; they aren’t attacked, although there are a lot of explosions, and they definitely aren’t hostages, they are administrative detainees.

Meet Diala Ayesh, a Palestinian human rights lawyer. On Jan. 17th, Israel took Diala hostage.

Diala Ayesh, a Palestinian hostage abducted by Israel (source)

Much like Omar, Diala was not charged with anything nor told why she was taken to prison, nor explained why she could be imprisoned forever without ever getting an answer about what she did wrong.

“Whenever I cry at night in bed…I try to remember how extremely strong she is,” her 26-year-old sister, Aseel, told Al Jazeera. 

Diala’s abduction appears to have been designed to maximize the number of Palestinian lives destroyed via “administrative detention.” That’s because Diala was herself a lawyer defending the rights of other Palestinians abducted by Israel. In fact, she not only defended Palestinian abductees, she was training other lawyers in how to defend Palestinian administrative detainees in Israel’s military courts. 

For Israel, if there are fewer lawyers to defend the Palestinian hostages, and fewer lawyers to train other lawyers to defend the Palestinian hostages, there will be fewer impediments to taking more Palestinians hostage.

Israel’s policy of abducting Palestinians, unsurprisingly, goes back many decades:

Source: B'tselem

Today, Israel is currently holding 3X more Palestinian hostages than at any point in the past two decades, a policy that relies on a simple principle. If you are an Israeli living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, you are entitled to due process, but if you are a Palestinian living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, you are not entitled to due process.

No surprise that this what-the-fuck policy has triggered the most visceral and self-sacrificial form of resistance: hunger strikes.

For decades, Palestinians denied basic due process have been at the forefront of the hunger protests

In May 2023, Khader Adnan died in his prison cell after he went on a hunger strike protesting his imprisonment. Adnan had been arrested at least 12 times in the past and spent around eight years in prison, mostly in “administrative detention.” This was the fifth and final time he was to go on a hunger strike.

In Dec. 2021, Israel abducted Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian father of four who went on a six-month hunger strike in 2022 until Israel agreed to release him--pressing no further charges against him.

It’s time to regard Israel’s policy of hostage taking for what it is, hostage taking.