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Why Israel has so many Palestinian prisoners

Inside Israel’s dual criminal justice system.

Ranjani Chakraborty is a lead video producer on the Vox video team and the creator behind Vox’s history series, Missing Chapter.

Israel has been engaged in harrowing negotiations to recover the roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza following the October 7 attack. In exchange for their release, the Israeli government has a bargaining chip that is extremely valuable to Palestinians: the thousands of Palestinian prisoners locked up in Israeli prisons.

Each one of these Palestinian prisoners has been processed by Israel’s military court system, which exists completely separate from the civilian court system that Jewish Israelis interact with. This system and the military orders that govern it have their origins in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967.

In this video, two experts explain Israel’s military court system, why it’s been a focus of outcry from human rights organizations, and why hostage negotiations have historically involved the exchange of Palestinian prisoners.

You can find the video above and the entire library of Vox’s videos on YouTube.

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