Remembering the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails

Remembering the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails
Analysis: Palestinians detained by Israeli occupation forces face arbitrary punishment in prison, including denial of medical treatment, and indefinite detention with no recourse to impartial legal procedures.
6 min read
19 April, 2015
Palestinian prisoners day is commemorated all around the Arab world, here in Tunis [Anadolu]

In 1974, the Palestinian National Council decided that 17 April every year as the national day of Palestinian prisoners. This day honours their sacrifices, and is an occasion to express solidarity with their families and support them in their suffering and the torture they have endured in Israeli detention centres and prisons.

Every year since then Prisoners Day is commemorated in several forms, including national rallies and various other activities over several days.

The choice of 17 April for this national day is not tied to any specific historical event that is related to the [prisoners] movement, according to the director of the statistics department of the official Prisoners & Ex- Prisoners Affairs Authority Abdul Nasser Farwaneh.

Israel's gulag archapelago

"Around 6,500 Palestinian detainees are still languishing in 22 prisons and detention centres under the Israeli occupation, including 480 prisoners convicted to life sentences, 25 female prisoners of whom two are minors, 200 minor children under 18, 480 in administrative detention, 14 members of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Legislative Council (PLC) and one PNA cabinet minister," Farwaneh told al-Araby.

Farwaneh noted that 206 prisoners have died in the prisons of the occupation since 1967.

Around 1,500 Palestinian prisoners suffer from various diseases, including 85 who are in a very critical condition.

About 30 of the prisoners were detained before the PLO and the Israeli occupation signed the Oslo accord in 1993, according to Farwaneh.

Farwaneh, himself an ex-prisoner, who founded Palestine behind bars online, noted that 206 prisoners have died as martyrs in the prisons of the occupation since 1967, including 71 martyrs who died under direct torture, 54 as the result of medical negligence, seven who were shot dead inside prisons and 74 who were extra-judicially killed and liquidated immediately after their arrest.

Moreover, scores of ex-prisoners died shortly after their release because of diseases they caught while in prison.

There are 16 Palestinian prisoners still in detention arrested more than a quarter of a century ago. The occupation authorities rearrested 85 ex-prisoners who were freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in 2011, Farwaneh said, noting that the arrest and targeting of Palestinian children has escalated during the past four years as some 3800 children were arrested during this period.

The PLO Prisoners' Affairs Authority said that since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising) on 28 September 2000, 85,000 arrests have been recorded, including more than 10,000 children under 18, 1,200 Palestinian women and more than 65 Palestine Legislative Council members and former cabinet ministers. The occupation authorities issued approximately 24 thousand orders for administrative detention including both new arrests and renewals of old arrests.

Palestinian prisoners live an extremely severe and difficult living and life conditions while being exposed to a long list of violations, including arrest, torture and worsening health conditions, in addition to medical negligence, deprivation from family visits, blackmail, poor nutrition and punitive financial fines imposed on the prisoners, according to the Prisoners' Affairs Authority.

The director of the Palestinian Centre for Prisoners Studies, ex-prisoner Ra'fat Hamdouneh, said the Israeli treatment of the prisoners' issue is moving toward more extremism and a desire for revenge. He cited the statements of the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who is preparing to present a bill to the new Knesset that would sentence prisoners to capital punishment.

Speaking to al-Araby al-Jadeed, Hamdouneh added: "The member of Knesset Danny Danon has called recently for the application of the Shalit law to Palestinian detainees in the prisons and to tighten the screws on them in prison cells by all methods and means, which indicates the extent of extremism the treatment of prisoners has reached."

Hamdouneh noted that what is going on currently in Israeli officialdom was an official case of incitement to take revenge on the prisoners inside prisons. He confirmed that the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) takes onboard the incitement broadcast by the political leadership against the prisoners and punishes them accordingly. He noted that the IPS has recently reinforced widely the measures of naked inspection and solitary confinement against Palestinian prisoners. Prisoners in Israeli prisons are suffering from bad nutrition, let alone subjecting them to medical experiments by the prison doctors, Hamdouneh indicated.

The director of the Palestinian Centre for Prisoners Studies indicated that 200 Palestinian children inside Israeli prisons are suffering from the Israeli measures against the prisoners, in addition to the difficult conditions in which the Palestinian female prisoners live and more than 1,500 prisoners who suffer from chronic diseases.

No holds barred

Separately, the head of the Ex-Prisoners Association in Gaza, Tawfiq Abu Naeem, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the IPS for many years has practiced and continues to practice all methods, forms and tools of torture and maltreatment of prisoners. The details of the suffering and difficulties of the daily life of the prisoners are beyond description, he added.

Abu Naeem, himself a freed prisoner, referred to what Palestinian prisoners are exposed to inside Israeli prison cells. He mentioned the surprise inspections, the denial of visits and confiscation of food and personal possessions, in addition to being deprived of news. Now the broadcasts are confined to Hebrew channels, he said.

Hamdouneh noted what is happening in Israeli officialdom was a case of official incitement to take revenge on the prisoners inside prisons.

The days of Palestinian prisoners are measured by the size of the popular participation and the official and factional attention paid to their cause. The prisoners take care to follow up on this day [ie. Palestinian Prisoners' Day] via whatever is available on television or radio to measure the size of support for their cause.

Abu Naeem said the national prisoners' movement was targeted by an ugly Israeli campaign carried out by the IPS, which aims at liquidating them with a green light from the top of the political pyramid and the Israeli government. He condemned the Arab silence and the international default vis-a-vis the daily crimes to which the prisoners are exposed to in their prisons.

Similarly, the spokesman of the Waed Captive and Liberators Society Abdullah Qandil told al-Araby that there are more than 480 Palestinian prisoners in administrative detention who have been inside Israeli prisons for years now, without being charged or tried in court.

Qandil confirmed the policy of administrative detention to which the occupation has resorted extensively in the West Bank aims at pressuring Palestinian prisoners, despite the fact that this type of arrest contravenes the rights stipulated by the Geneva conventions. He explained that many times the occupation released several detainees for days or for a number of hours after the expiry of their administrative detention only to re-arrest them abruptly.

There was also no international monitoring of Israeli prisons, he added.

Qandil noted the rate of administrative detention has had risen noticably between 2013 and 2015. In 2013 there were only 200 male and female prisoners in Israeli prisons. This number increased hugely in 2014 and 2015, he said.

The Waed spokesman said there should be serious stances by international institutions as represented by the United Nations and the European Union against the policy that Israel is implementing against the prisoners. He called for action by the Arab League to raise the level of awareness for the issues of the prisoners in Israeli prisons and their suffering.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.