By Hossam Shaker
Dozens of Palestinian citizens are spending a lot of time in temperatures of minus 40 degrees, but it is not something that they have decided for themselves. They were simply Palestinians under Israeli military occupation; they were — past tense — for they are now dead and being kept in mortuary refrigerators.
These young people were not protesting against or confronting the occupation when they were shot. Some were shot in cold blood in what were little more than field executions carried out by Israeli soldiers across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, under the pretext that they were about to carry out an attack. Cameras have documented some of these executions, during which the trigger-happy soldiers rushed to kill boys and girls who were not usually posing any real threat to the occupation forces.
Dania Arshid, 17, for example, was one such victim. She was killed by Israeli occupation forces in Hebron when she was hit by 10 bullets on 25 October, 2015. Shocking images show the Palestinian girl lying on the ground with her face covered, while soldiers calmly sip their coffee. The occupation authorities kept her body for a whole week before releasing it for burial. In other cases, Palestinian corpses have been kept for up to 20 years.
These field executions are usually carried out under a ready-made pretext, namely suspicion of a knife attack. Dozens of young Palestinian boys and girls have been shot dead since October 2015 in this way, their bodies ending up in Israeli refrigerators.
Moreover, when the occupation forces fire live bullets at Palestinian demonstrators, they sometimes try to abduct the bodies of the martyrs. In one outrageous case on 21 July last year, local people rushed to take the body through the back door of Al-Maqassed Hospital in Jerusalem before the Israelis could kidnap the corpse. The young man in question was shot and killed while he was protesting alongside other unarmed Palestinians, who refused to accept Israel’s attempts to impose its hegemony over Al-Aqsa Mosque by installing electronic gates and introducing humiliating inspection procedures for worshippers. His burial was rushed so as to prevent the Israelis from taking his body and placing him in a mortuary refrigerator for months on end.
The occupying authorities impose “compulsory residence” in their refrigerators for a reason, namely the fear of the dead. What they fear in particular is the culture of celebrating the martyrs and inflaming emotions, thus fuelling the Intifada on the Palestinian street.
Keeping “refrigerator hostages” for weeks or months and perhaps for years is an inhumane tactic based on the immoral abuse of Palestinian society, as is the secret burial of some martyrs in unmarked graves, keeping their relatives in ignorance of their final resting place. How much longer will this be allowed to happen? How many more Palestinian families are to be kept waiting for their children’s remains so that they can kiss a long-awaited skull or embrace a calcified body that has spent ages in a mortuary refrigerator before giving it the dignified burial that it deserves?