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From the field

Captive Corpses

Joint report with Hamoked - Center for the Defence of the Individual, March 1999

This report deals with one of the lesser known aspects of Israel's policy against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories: refusal to return bodies of Palestinians killed in bomb attacks they initiated or in clashes with the IDF. As a result of Israel's policy, the families of these persons are unable to have a funeral and bury their bodies in a cemetery in their community. Israel holds these bodies, which are buried in what are called "cemeteries for enemy dead." The military rabbinate is entrusted with the responsibility for these cemeteries, of which there are at least two - one near the Adam Bridge, in the Jordan Valley, and the other near the Daughters of Jacob Bridge, in the Golan Heights. In each, the Israeli authorities bury the bodies in a demeaning and shameful manner.

Underlying this report is the belief that a sharp distinction should be made between the heinous acts attributed to most of those killed, which HaMoked and B’Tselem utterly condemn, and the right of the bereaved families to hold a funeral and establish a gravesite for their loved ones. Israel's policy, like other measures it takes against the families of perpetrators of bomb attacks, such as demolition and sealing of their homes, constitutes collective punishment of innocent persons. This punishment is immoral and contravenes international humanitarian law.