Understanding the Issue of Palestinian Prisoners in Israel
Journalists, newspapers, editors and mainstream media outlets differ in their definition of the term "Palestinian prisoners." Some in Israel and the United States consider them killers with blood on their hands; while others consider them terrorists best kept in jails under Israeli monitoring, in case they leave they will attack again! Yet, others perceive them as freedom fighters. Fighters who fought in the quest of freedom and emancipation from the manacles of Israeli occupation and organized state terrorism.
Examining the issue of Palestinian refugees, we could easily come to know that they are freedom fighters regardless of accusations or reasons for imprisonment. Most of these prisoners are captives for expressing their views, obviously for political reasons.
But there are some prisoners who were jailed for opening fire on Israeli soldiers when those soldiers invaded their towns and villages, and storm their homes. Those Palestinian prisoners open fire when their brothers, sisters and families are attacked, wounded or killed by Israeli soldiers or radical Jewish settlers. Apparently, the feeling of oppression and injustice are the key motives for those prisoners to resist and fight back. They were not only victims of those Israeli soldiers, but a legacy of a history in which their fathers and grandfathers were killed or kicked out by force from their own homeland to replace them with European Jewish Migrants!
Palestinian prisoners are imprisoned for other reasons like stone throwing or participating in peaceful protests like what's happening in West Bank villages. They are jailed as they try to fight non violently the theft of land and illegal settlement buildings.
Prisoners vary in age and gender. Some women deliver their babies in their prison, making their new babies new prisoners.
The Palestinian human rights organization Ansar al-Asra said in October 2010 that the Israel occupation forces detain about 500 Palestinian children every year, and currently hold more than 310 Palestinians under the age of 18, and on occasion severely violate their rights. Those child detainees are persecuted without accusations in Israeli courts, which is a blatant violation of international law.
Last year a video was released, showing the immoral treatment of a Palestinian female who was jailed by Israeli soldiers. The video shows an Israeli soldier dancing and trying to harass the captive sexually. Here is the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIB-pugRS90&feature=related
According to the BBC, Israel uses administrative detention, which is a system revived from British Mandate times (before Israel was established in 1948) and has drawn harsh condemnation from human rights watchdogs who say it is illegal and arbitrarily applied. It also mentions in a report published in 2003 that those prisoners have living conditions that are generally described by observers as extremely harsh and difficult.
The BBC also says, "According to human rights groups, these include beating, leaving prisoners in uncomfortable postures, interrogation sessions which last 24 or 48 hours, depriving prisoners of sleep, depriving them of human dignity and making threats against the lives and property of their relatives. But Israel defends its interrogation techniques - as it defends the whole edifice of legal and penal mechanisms it uses in relation to the Palestinians - as a legitimate way of combating terrorism faced by its citizens."
According to the organization, authorities place 8-10 children in a four-square-meter room, verbally abuse them and put them under psychological pressure at every turn, and even molest some of the children. Many reports appeared recently that those children were sexually assaulted.
There are a number of detention and interrogation centers in Israel, like Ramon, Shatta, Galboa, Asqalan, Hadarim, Al-Damoun, Be'er Sheva, Ofer, Majoddo, and the Negev detention camp. Israel allows human rights organizations to investigate some of these utilities, however there are other countless secret places where Palestinians are placed. And there are other places where dead Palestinians fighters are still kept.
Israeli newspapers published many articles on 19 Feb 2011 crying about Gilad Shalit, saying he has spent 1,700 days as a captive. Their reporting was very obviously bias-based reports. They totally ignored the fact that there are more than 10 thousand Palestinians in Israeli jails. Some of those prisoners spent more than 23 years, not only 1,700 days! The reporting ignored the fact that this solider was in an occupied land near Gaza borders firing at the people there not for any other purpose.
The inhuman treatment is not limited to prisoners in Jails. Their families are prevented from paying regular visits. For more than 4 years now, Israel prevents families like mothers, children and others from visiting their beloved ones especially those from Gaza. Within their visit if it happens, families go under humiliating security checks.
On occasion, Israel releases some of those prisoners. However, it continues to capture thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and dozens in Gaza to fill its prisons with detainees who lack basic human rights.
By Sameh A. Habeeb
A Palestinian Journalist and Writer from occupied territories