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Prison Services Official: Terrorists in One Big Summer Camp

Terrorists imprisoned in Israel live in “one big summer camp,” says senior official who calls for tougher conditions.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 12/16/2008, 8:32 AM

Terrorists imprisoned in Israel live in “one big summer camp for thousands of prisoners.” So said a senior Prison Services official quoted Tuesday in Maariv. The official called for tougher conditions in Israeli jails.

"I could not hold back any longer... I see Gilad Shalit rotting in captivity, crouched in some darkened cellar with no visits, no reasonable living conditions, without seeing the light of day, while in contrast, in our prisons its one big summer camp,” the official said in explanation of his media interview. “Some of [the terrorists] are lowly murderers who express no regret. They eat, drink, study, enjoy excellent conditions. It's shocking.”

The government could free Gilad Shalit by taking simple steps to make prison less pleasant for terrorist inmates, the official explained, adding, “I'm saying this from experience.” Israel's enemies believe time to be on their side, he said. They know that as time passes, pressure to release Israeli hostages will increase and Israel will be willing to give up more, while they face no such immediate pressure to free terrorists.

Meat, Cigarettes, and 12 TV stations
The official listed some of the privileges granted to terrorist inmates in Israel. Terrorists are granted three hours a day to wander the premises, where they socialize together and even play games. The prison provides ping-pong tables, basketball courts, soccer fields and backgammon sets.

Terrorist prisoners receive meat and fish on holidays, and are allowed to purchase 1,200 shekels worth of food each month in the prison canteen. Many buy meat, soda, candy, cigarettes and similar items. Most prisoners apparently get money to buy luxury items from the terrorist groups they represent, the source said.

"Did you see how Samir Kuntar went back to Lebanon? Puffed up like a balloon, and it's no surprise,” he added. “They enjoy good meals all day, with all the extras. You know what? A prisoner like that, when he gets released and returns to Gaza, his quality of life drops.

"Courts. Did you know they appeal every day? Hundreds of appeals each year. Maybe more,” the official continued. The appeals are funded by Israeli taxpayers, he said.

The prisoners each have a television set in their cell that receives 12 channels. The channels include programming in Arabic. According to the official, some of the Arabic-language programming includes stations hostile to Israel—provided at taxpayer expense.

Inmates are allowed to keep personal items in their cell, including the food and cigarettes they purchase, large quantities of books and more. They are allowed to pursue academic studies, and many complete degree programs while in jail. “Whoever wants a degree just has to kill a Jew or carry out an attack. He'll get a degree, live like a king on the Israel taxpayer's dime, until he gets released in the next deal.”

While terrorists are supposed to be separated from visitors by a sheet of glass, in reality they are allowed to see their young children in person. Their families bring blankets and other items from home. Female terrorists are allowed to keep very young children with them in prison.

No need to violate conventions
With all the above privileges, terrorists have no need to hurry, the official concluded. “Why rush? Time is on their side, and the conditions are excellent.” Only if all the privileges are canceled and Israel provides terrorists with nothing more than basic living conditions and visits with the Red Cross will terrorist groups “understand there's a price” and work to exchange terrorists for Shalit, he said. “If you end their visitation, cancel the special food, cut them off from the media, it'll set Gaza on fire within two weeks.”

Israel can significantly reduce the quality of life in its prisons without violating international agreements, the official said. “We've held discussions about this. It's true.” Cutting privileges could lead to prisoner violence, “but we can deal with that,” he said.

Dichter: We're not terrorists
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter's publicist responded to the Maariv report and rejected the official's call to cancel privileges. “The state of Israel is not a terrorist organization. Israel must act according to international agreements.”