The United Nations Day To Support Victims Of Torture Just Passed; Where Was The Concern For The Ongoing Torture Faced By Israeli Hostages In Gaza?

June 27, 2024

June 26 marked the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Intended “to mobilize political will and resources,” the day represents an opportunity to highlight ongoing incidents of torture around the world, to shine a harsh spotlight on the perpetrators, and to provide support and rehabilitation for victims.

Prohibited under international law, torture fall outside the laws of armed conflict in war. As defined by the United Nations, torture can be the implementation of “severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental,” intentionally inflicted whether to gain information or a confession, or whether for discrimination.

What has gone out of sight and out of mind is that there are currently 120 Israelis being held against their will in Gaza with an untold number who are dead or alive. Kidnapped in the vicious Hamas terrorist attack on October 7, evidence suggests they are being subjected to ongoing torture, including that of a sexualized nature. Testimony from several former hostages who were freed in exchange for hundreds of convicted terrorists jailed in Israel, points to repeated beatings, deprivation of food, forcible confinement and sexual assaults.

A cursory look at Hamas’ practices in Gaza show that the terrorist group is clearly and unabashedly guilty of torture.

In fact, a United Nations report published in March outlines overwhelming evidence of Hamas-inflicted torture, and suggests that this torture is most likely ongoing for those still being held against their will. Hamas’ torture of captives in Gaza violates virtually every article of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the United Nations in 1984.

And yet, there is conspicuous silence from Canadian media outlets and of non-government organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), whose mandate is to investigate and report on abuse “in all corners of the world.” While the group reported on the atrocities committed by Hamas in the immediate aftermath of October 7, their coverage and statements since that time are almost totally exclusively critical of Israel, often accusing the country of war crimes.

Amnesty International is an even more egregious example of the double standard that applies when Israeli lives, dignity, and humanity are at stake. On the organization’s webpage dedicated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is a section titled “Torture and other ill-treatment.” Despite the UN report in March confirming the torture inflicted and ongoing against Israeli hostages – not to mention the confirmed atrocities that took place on October 7 – Amnesty International (AI) only deems accusations against Israel to be worthy of regurgitation, mentioning the word “Israel” 92 times, but Hamas only twice. And yet, according to NGO Monitor, mainstream media outlets give HRW and AI the Halo Effect wherein they tend to favorably judge people, companies, groups, products, etc. based on the image of morality or some other positive factor. In the context of NGOs, groups that claim to promote values that are seen as universally good – peace, human rights, justice, coexistence – are automatically perceived as credible and constructive forces, immune from investigation and criticism.

In the face of a campaign of delegitimizing Israeli suffering, and grabbing every opportunity to vilify the battle Israel must wage against Hamas for its very existence, Israel is left with no choice but to continue its efforts to protect itself against Hamas. Eliminating Hamas is a moral imperative. Disappointing as it is that the reality is so muddled by the Hamas public relations machine, it does not change the need to bring to heel a terrorist group determined to wreak destruction on Israel no matter the cost to its own people.

Hamas is not the only Palestinian body to implement torture. The supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank has used torture against Palestinians, specifically political prisoners and those who speak out against the PA’s repressive regime. As journalist Akil Awadah reported hearing, “the sounds of people screaming inside the police station, to this day I still hear it.”

Unsurprisingly, Israel is frequently accused of similarly practicing torture by the usual suspects of critics. But what those critics ignore is that, unlike Hamas or the Palestinian Authority, Israel arrests Palestinians, not because of their ethnic or national origin, but because of security concerns. Hamas takes hostages because they are Israeli; Israel arrests Palestinians if they are a security threat to Israel.

Israeli law forbids the use of torture against detainees, and when incidents have taken place, Israel has condemned the acts and investigated them. The difference with Hamas could not be more stark. Israel, however imperfect its practices may be, is governed by the rule of law, while Hamas is a genocidal terrorist group that shows contempt for human life, particularly if Jewish.

Hopefully, the UN, NGO’s worldwide and Canada’s media, and all those who claim to be concerned about the welfare of civilians will pay more than just lip service to the need to return Israel’s hostages, that still include children and the elderly, to the embrace of their families.

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