Shortly after we arrived in Huwwara (during the time when we had no internet at our home)we were told about the arrival in Nablus of the body of a prisoner who had died 35 years ago. “They kept his body in the frig”, the Palestinians told us. We were intrigued and decided to investigate at a later time. We then heard that it is common practice to require Palestinian prisoners to serve out their entire sentences … even if they died before the time was up. In other words, if one has a 50 year sentence and dies after serving 30, the corpse is required to serve out the remaining 20 years. Such a policy disturbed us. Was it a psychological punishment for prisoners? Was it collective punishment? (Collective punishment is often used to punish a family or community for the actions of one or more members. Collective punishment is illegal under international law.) And, of course, the big question was – Is there any truth to these comments? The following is what we have learned from multiple sources.
Hafeth Abu Zent was born in Nablus on May 24, 1954, and was killed while conducting a military operation in response to the death of a Palestinian child. He died on May 14, 1976. “The body had been kept for 35 years in the so-called Israeli Cemetery of Numbers” - the Ma’an News Agency reported. The practice of keeping some bodies in this unique cemetery is well documented. Graves are numbered so no one can identify who is buried where except the Israeli military. Reports vary but generally claim that there are between 250 and 350 Palestinian bodies being thus held. Some suggest that release of the bodies would allow for autopsies which might show evidence of mistreatment. Others suggest that the organs were harvested for transplanting.
Sorting out truth from fiction can be a challenge. MPT is committed to accurate reporting.