(Photo: Joe Catron)
Imprisonment is a primary tool of Israeli oppression against the Palestinian people, half of whom have gone though detention, including administrative detention, arbitrary detention, and temporary detention at Israeli checkpoints.
The 17th of April marks the Palestinian Prisoner Day, celebrated by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Diaspora in appreciation of their determination and limitless courage. This year’s anniversary is special for it witnesses tremendous support for the prisoners’ movement, locally and internationally. It is highlighted by the wave of prisoners hunger strikers against administrative detention. The strikers: Khader Adnan, who went in a hunger strike for 65 days is set to be released on the Palestinian Prisoner Day, and Hana Shalabi, who was deported to Gaza for three years sparked ‘The Battle of Weak Stomachs’. This brought the International Community’s attention to this noble cause like no time before. The Guardian special report entitled “Palestinian children – alone and bewildered – in Israel’s AlJalame jail” is a notable example.
It is also highlighted by the first campaigns of its kinds on Twitter, aiming to shed light on the miserable conditions inside Israeli jails. Palestinian and Pro-Palestinian activists are using alternative media to make the story of prisoners heard. The names of Palestinian prisoners trended worldwide, which pressured the Israeli Prisons Service.
Physical attacks against Palestinian political prisoners increased in the last decade. The most recent to be attacked were Abbas Alsayed and Jamal Abu Ahayja. This constitutes a grievous violation of international law which requires the occupying power to treat prisoners well.
Palestinians marked Palestinian Child Day last week, while dozens of children are still detained the Israeli prisons. The International Committee of the Red Cross has documented that 700 Palestinian children are detained every year, 65% of them under the cover of darkness. This occurs in an atmosphere of terrorism and includes breaking down doors and opening fire to cause panic. This has been repeated many times in Al-aroub Camp, Bit-rima village near Ramallah City, Bit Ummar village, Nabi Saleh, and in other Palestinian communities.
Most dangerously, Haaretz reveals that 35% of detained Palestinian children are subjected to sexual harassment of all sorts. The Ansaar Alsajeen Association has recorded the sworn statements of children subjected to sexual harassment and the uncovering of private parts, as well as direct threats of rape. Some of them reported that naked female soldiers were brought into the interrogation rooms and pictures of children were taken with them.
Humiliation was not limited to verbal abuse and physiological torture, but also included physical violence. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights, records that more than 80% of children were subjected to beatings, and other violence. Examples of the illegal treatment include:
1. Solidarity confinement in AlJalame, Almaskoubie, Ashkelon, Huwarra and Atsion and the prevention of children from leaving it for periods between two weeks and two months.
2. Beating with hands, wood, and the butts of guns, which is proven by the clinics of the Israeli Prison Service and visits of the Red Cross, which does not publicly release all of the facts.
3. Continuous hanging, with the sleep deprivation, which takes several forms including hanging on chairs or forcing the child to stand for many hours. The lawyers of the Prisoners’ Club recorded that some children were made to stand for 20 hours a day on a small chair as loud music played [For a period of two months].
4. Psychological pressure, including the arrests of family members, threats of house demolitions, and confinement in dark cells with the sound of people being tortured in the background.
The activism of Palestinians in Palestine and those who are scattered in the Diaspora deserves acknowledgement too. Refeef Ziada’s poem entitled ‘Cultivate Hope’, dedicated to Hana Shalabi, is an example of activities of Palestinians in the US and Europe. The momentum the prisoner movement received this year must not be in vain. An international strategy to build on gains achieved is essential to progress the prisoners’ movement and put an end to the administrative and women and children’ detention.