By: Khaled Tayeh
RAMALLAH, Thursday, February 16, 2023 (WAFA) – Ever since Israeli Jewish supremacist Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, became officially a part of the new Israeli far-right government, he made it a mission as holy as a promise to impose new sanctions on Palestinians to make their lives even more miserable than it already is due to the Israeli occupation.
Ben-Gvir was sworn in as Israeli Minister of National Security at the end of 2022, becoming a key member of Israel's most racist, far-right government coalition ever led by long-running Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The new racist minister is known for publicly advocating for dividing the holy site of al-Aqsa Mosque - which is the third holiest Muslim place of worship - between Muslims and Jews, a move that is likely to inflame an already tense situation in the Israeli-occupied territories.
On January 3rd, only a few days after Ben-Gvir took his new position, as a first provocative move, he stormed the compounds of the holy mosque in the occupied city of Jerusalem under heavy protection from the Israeli forces.
Moreover, Ben-Gvir’s malice has gone far, negatively affecting and dangerously impacting the living conditions of the Palestinian freedom fighters incarcerated in Israel for their resistance of the occupation, whom he calls “terrorists”.
One of Ben-Gvir’s publicly stated goals is to make sure that “murderers of Jews don’t get better conditions,” referring to the 4500 Palestinian freedom fighters serving time in Israeli jails for their resistance of the occupation.
To begin with, he announced that he is planning to cancel regulations that allow any lawmaker to meet with the imprisoned Palestinian freedom fighters.
In a statement, Ben-Gvir said he had informed the Speaker of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, Amir Ohana, that he intends to return to an older protocol, according to which only one lawmaker from each faction will be allowed to visit the Palestinian prisoners, provided that visits be held under strict supervision.
Earlier to the announcement, Ben Gvir visited the recently renovated high-security Nafha Prison to review the imprisonment conditions of the Palestinian political prisoners and to ensure these conditions never improve.
To begin with, Israeli media said that he “went crazy” after learning that prisoners run their own bakeries inside Israeli prisons to make their own bread and ordered the immediate closure of all Palestinian prisoners-run bakeries in jails in Israel.
"Prisoners cannot get such a privilege. How can they get fresh bread every day?” Ben-Gvir was quoted.
The controversial move was reported to be aimed at denying “benefits to terrorists”, according to an official statement issued by his office. The statement said that such benefits were denied to regular prisoners in Israel and thus Palestinian prisoners should be no different.
Last but not least, Ben-Gvir’s dedication to increase the pressure on Palestinian prisoners has taken him to order the reduction of shower time the prisoners are allowed to have.
According to several Israeli media reports, the racist minister ordered that the prisoners shall only be allowed four minutes to shower and that running hot water for showers shall only be allowed one hour a day.
A few days ago, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issued an order imposing financial penalties on 87 Palestinian prisoners from occupied Jerusalem, under the pretext of receiving money from the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli Ministerial Committee also ordered at the time offsetting the welfare payments made by the Palestinian government to the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the families of those killed by Israeli occupation forces in 2022.
Ben-Gvir’s hateful measures have caused the prisoners to revolt and plan a hunger strike to preserve what they have achieved through years of battles against the Israeli Prison Services (IPS).
The Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said in a joint statement that Palestinian prisoners in Nafha Prison declared mutiny against the new repressive measures by disrupting the so-called security checks as well as the requirement to wear the brown uniforms given to them by the IPS.
The prisoners are also planning to go on an open-ended hunger strike set to start the first day of Ramadan, which will start around March 24, in protest against Ben-Gvir’s extreme measures against them.
Additionally, the prisoners began to return their breakfast in response to the arbitrary measures taken by the prison administrations against the female and male freedom fighters in the Naqab, Ofer, and Megiddo prisons.
A state of tension appeared to have prevailed in all the prisons after female prisoners in Damon prison were attacked by the guards, spraying them with tear and pepper gas, abused prisoners in several prisons, and continued to isolate some of them.
The rise in tension in the prisons was caused by raids by the repression units against several departments in Ofer, Naqab, Megiddo, and Damon prisons, assaulting prisoners, isolating dozens, and confiscating their belongings.
Israeli security officials have actually warned that Ben Gvir’s tactics against the Palestinian freedom fighters are going to start serious trouble, not only in the prisons but also in the entire occupied territories, where for them the prisoners are a red line.