An Israeli member of parliament has verbally harassed Palestinian families hailing from the Gaza Strip on their journey to visit their imprisoned relatives in an Israeli prison, calling their sons “dogs” and “terrorists”.
Oren Hazan, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, boarded a bus carrying the families of prisoners on Monday about to enter Nafha prison in Israel’s south.
Flanked by Israeli police and camera crews, Hazan, a right-wing politician, shouted at one of the mothers: “Your son is a dog. He is a dog. You come to visit the scum who are sitting here in prison, whom you see as your family members.”
To another mother, he said in a video posted on his Facebook page: “I am not going anywhere. I am a Knesset [parliament] member.”
When she tried to respond, Hazan repeatedly hushed her and told her to “be quiet”.
“I will make sure that you are not allowed to visit here any more. We will do everything so that you won’t enter here. You are not wanted here. You educated your son to murder, and we will show your son to the ground”.
The mother then told him to speak more politely, to which he said: “She educated her son to murder and hate. For the likes of her, I have no manners.”
Prior to the incident, Hazan, who lives in the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank, posted a picture of himself on his Twitter account carrying the Israeli flag as he waited for the bus which he said was carrying the families of “animals”.
Under international humanitarian law, prisoners from occupied territories must be held in the occupied territory, not in the territory of the occupying power.
Though most Palestinian political prisoners hail from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, they are placed in prisons inside Israel, in direct contravention of international law.
Families of Palestinian prisoners must, therefore, apply for hard-to-obtain permits to enter Israel and visit them, usually in buses organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The ICRC said they were “very concerned about this serious incident”.
“The families should not be assaulted or insulted. They should be able to visit with a dignified manner,” ICRC media spokesperson Alyona Synenko told Al Jazeera.
“Our staff cannot prevent such incidents – we only facilitate with the authorities, and we always ask that the visit can take place uninterrupted.”
Hazan said he intercepted the bus to promote legislation to cancel family visits until several Israelis being held in Gaza were returned.
“I want to send a message to all of you,” he said.
“Your friends in Gaza are holding our brothers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul and Avera Mengistu. If you do not pass on this message that we want our children back, you will not see your son or your husband or your family. If you continue like this here, you will not see them alive.”
Hamas, the Palestinian movement that administers the besieged Gaza Strip, reportedly holds Goldin and Shaul, soldiers who were part of Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza in 2014.
It is unclear whether they are alive or dead.
The third, Mengistu, reportedly crossed into Gaza in September 2014 and has been missing since.
According to Palestinian prisoners rights group Addameer, there are currently some 6,154 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails.
About 450 of them are held without charge or trial on “secret evidence”.
In response to Hazan’s actions, Hamas said it organised an act of solidarity with the families upon their return, sharing photos of the parents receiving roses.
A member of Hamas’ political bureau, Fathi Hammad, condemned the “Zionist aggression”, according to a statement.
“He [Hammad] stressed the pride of the Palestinian people in their prisoners, who spent the years of their lives in the occupation’s prisons, in the name of Palestine’s freedom.”
In July, Hazan posted a video of himself on Facebook saying he would “execute” the entire family of a Palestinian who killed three Israelis at an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank after Israel imposed tighter restrictions on the entry of Palestinians into al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Follow Zena Tahhan on Twitter: @zenatahhan