The Palestinian Center for Human Right (PCHR): PCHR follows up with concern Palestinian prisoners’ conditions in the Israeli prisons following the statement of Gilad Ardan, Minister of Public Security, on 30 March 2019, threatening that there will be no negotiations with the Palestinian prisoners if they go on a hunger strike.
Associations of Palestinian prisoners’ affairs stressed that the Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli prisons will go on a hunger strike on Sunday, 07 April 2019 if the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) refuses their legitimate demands; most significantly improving their living conditions; ending use of jamming devices; and allowing the prisoners to contact their families.
According to information obtained by PCHR, in case the prisoners declared their hunger strike on Sunday, 07 April 2019, it would be gradually as 50 prisoners, including leaders of Palestinian factions, will start a dry hunger strike.
In case of not responding to their demands, the hunger strike will go on until declaration of a comprehensive strike in all prisons on 17 April, which marks the Palestinian Prisoner’s Day.
The hunger strike, which is the hardest choice for the prisoners, comes after the IPS has imposed tightening measures against the detainees and prisoners and deprived them of their most basic human rights that are guaranteed under international laws and standards.
PCHR is concerned that in case the prisoners went on the hunger strike in the Israeli prisoners, the IPS would use new suppressive and punitive measures against them.
Thus, PCHR calls upon the international community to practice pressure on the Israeli government to oblige it to comply with the international standards and principles which protect prisoners and maintain their rights and dignity.
A young Palestinian man, identified as Mohammad Ali Dar Adwan, 23, was shot and killed by Israeli forces who invaded Qalandia refugee camp, north of occupied Jerusalem, on Monday, and attacked local protesters, wounding at least two other young men.
The Palestinians gathered in the streets and alleys of the refugee camp, and protested the invasion, while several protesters hurled stones at the armored military jeeps.
The soldiers fired many live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs and concussion grenades at the protesters.
Medical sources said the soldiers shot three young men in the refugee camp, and the al-Matar adjacent neighborhood.
Adwan was near his home when he was shot and killed – it was unclear if he was participating in the protest or not.
The WAFA Palestinian News Agency said Mohammad ran towards his home due to the intensity of the live rounds fired by the soldiers, but once he approached his home several soldiers were standing right in front of it, and opened fire at him.
WAFA added that the soldiers shot the young man with more than 10 bullets, before dragging his body into their jeep, and prevented medics from reaching him to provide aid, until he had passed away from blood loss.
The Israeli forces then handed Adwan’s corpse to medics with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, who transferred his body Ramallah governmental hospital.
His funeral ceremony was held at noon after his body was transferred via ambulance to his home, where thousands of Palestinians gathered and participated in his funeral procession and ceremony.
During the invasion of the camp, Israeli forces stormed the home of the Rajab family, and abducted three brothers: Ibrahim Rajab, Yousef Rajab, and No’man Rajab.
The killing of Adwan comes after a brutal crackdown on the Palestinian Land Day protest on Saturday in Gaza, in which three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. Two of those killed were 17 years old.
It is worth mentioning that the soldiers also invaded the nearby city of Betunia, in addition to the villages of Qarawat Bani Zeid and Kafr Ein.
The soldiers searched many homes, and summoned for interrogation a former political prisoner, identified as Mahran Raja Saif, after invading his home in Qarawat Bani Zeid village.
Khalida Jarrar leaned back in her chair, legs crossed, and puffed on a cigarette.
She was sitting in a quiet and spacious living room in her home in central Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, where the lawmaker has only recently returned after being released from a 20-month stint in Israeli prison.
Despite being held for almost two years, she was never charged with a crime.
The prominent leftist lawmaker and civil society figure who was in charge of the Palestinian Legislative Council’s prisoners committee when the parliament was still nominally active broke into a deep-throated chuckle when asked whether she was worried that Israel might arrest her again.
“Why do all of you [journalists] ask me that?” she queried, before answering herself.
“This question is for the occupation, I think,” she said, her hands gesturing with a lit cigarette between her fingers. “Will the occupation continue demolishing Palestinian homes? Do they plan to continue denying us our rights of national determination?”
“If the occupation continues, then I will never stop speaking out on these issues.”
This form of detention – without charge or trial and based on secret evidence – is almost exclusively used against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and is illegal under international law when used in the sweeping manner Israel applies it.
As of December 2018, nearly 500 Palestinians were held in administrative detention, which can be renewed for up to six-month intervals and can continue indefinitely under Israeli military law.
In total, according to Addameer, a rights organization for prisoners, 5,440 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, of whom 48 were women, as of February this year.
International law prohibits an occupying power from transferring prisoners outside of occupied territory. Holding Palestinian prisoners in jails in Israel is therefore also a contravention of international law.
Jarrar, a women’s rights activist, had previously endured spells in Israeli prison, and in total, the mother of two has spent more than two years in administrative detention.
During her most recent stay in prison, Jarrar, along with hundreds of other Palestinians held under administrative detention, boycotted the Israeli courts for almost a year.
“The entire situation is unfair,” she told The Electronic Intifada. “We have no right to defend ourselves or even be made aware of why we are being imprisoned. So why should we show up to the courts?”
Advocacy in prison
Jarrar’s time in prison only reinvigorated her advocacy for women’s rights. During her prison stay in 2015, she said she coordinated with the Palestinian ministry of education and the ministry of prisoners affairs to allow women detainees to take secondary school matriculation exams for the first time behind prison walls.
Jarrar has also spent years documenting various violations against Palestinian children and injured prisoners, both as a parliamentarian with special responsibility for prisoners, and in a previous role as director of Addameer. She has also collected hours of testimony from prisoners during her time behind bars, she told The Electronic Intifada.
Helping women detainees to better themselves in prison through education is the most important aspect of her work, she said. When women receive education in prison, “They realize that when they are released they can actually do something, and they didn’t just waste their time waiting for their sentences to be up,” she told The Electronic Intifada.
It is also central to the development of women who are in prison due to “social reasons,” she added in reference to women who in some cases reportedly intentionally get arrested in order to escape problems at home.
“For example, if a woman is facing violence from her husband, we can give her education and hope that she has something to look forward to. We try and give her the knowledge and strength to get out of prison and demand a divorce,” Jarrar said.
“If she’s educated, she can realize that she is strong enough to face these issues at home, and that there is a solution that does not involve running away to prison.”
Out of prison, Jarrar continues her support for the prisoners. She reaches out to the families of prisoners who are facing issues at home and makes sure the women are safe and protected once they are released.
A frequent guest on local radio stations that can be picked up in Israeli prisons, Jarrar is always careful to try to communicate with prisoners and to speak about prisoner issues or other matters to which they can relate. Through their families, she sends them books to read. Each prisoner is allowed two books each month, according to Jarrar.
During her last confinement in administrative detention, she initiated training for prisoners on international law and human rights, including studying the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The Palestinian government has ratified the convention though it is yet to be enshrined in law, something for which Jarrar is advocating.
Jarrar said about 32 women in HaSharon prison took the training and received a certificate of completion from the Palestinian ministry of prisoners affairs.
More generally, the training programs enable prisoners to stand up for themselves, Jarrar told The Electronic Intifada.
“When they [prisoners] realize the specific ways Israel is violating international law, then they become more confident to speak out and demand their rights,” she said.
She is now advocating for women prisoners to continue their education past secondary school while inside the prisons.
All of this is done without the approval of the Israeli prison authorities. “They try to prevent me from giving the women an education, but I just do it anyway,” she said with a shrug.
“Prison life is all about the small details”
Last year, Jarrar participated in a prisoner-led sit-in against Israeli prison authorities installing surveillance cameras in the prison yard.
Israeli guards surveilling the prison yard means that religious women have to cover their hair and bodies and are often too uncomfortable to play sports or exercise while they are being watched.
“I am not even a religious woman,” Jarrar said. “But I still want to play sports without someone monitoring me. You can’t possibly feel comfortable when prison guards are sitting and watching you on the cameras.”
For more than two months, some 34 women prisoners, including Jarrar, refused to leave their cells and enter the prison yard in protest of the cameras. However, instead of listening to the prisoners’ concerns, Israeli authorities transferred the women involved in the protest to Damon prison in northern Israel – where Jarrar said the conditions are exponentially worse than in HaSharon.
Jarrar believes Israeli prison authorities transferred her and the other women to Damon to “teach us a lesson.” In HaSharon, she said, the protesters had secured some rights, including free access to showers, a library and a kitchen. But in Damon, “we basically went back to zero and had to struggle once again to have even a normal life.”
Still, said Jarrar, they continued to demand their rights.
“In prison, life is all about the small details. Because these details have huge impacts on your everyday life,” she told The Electronic Intifada. In Damon, women do not have any rights to privacy, she said, and there are only two damaged plastic chairs in cells that hold at least seven people.
The cement floors of the cells are old and moldy, she added, and at times the noxious smell becomes so overwhelming that prisoners have difficulty breathing. In addition, in Damon the prisoners are only allowed to exit their prison cells for four hours each day.
At one point, Israeli prison officials needed to do maintenance on the cell Jarrar was being held in, and told her and her cellmates to stand in the public shower area until they were finished.
“We refused,” she said. “It’s inhumane to make us wait in the shower area. They should just let us wait outside in the prison yard.”
This small challenge to the prison guards resulted in Jarrar and her cellmates being isolated in their cell for two days.
Prison officials confiscated all of their electronics in the cell – including a radio, TV, an electric stove and water boiler – and barred them from family visits for a month.
“We did all of this to stand up for the women who they [the Israeli guards] will do the same thing to next,” Jarrar said.
“The prisoners become like family”
Jarrar told The Electronic Intifada that she experienced and witnessed numerous other rights violations in the prisons, particularly related to Israel’s use of the bosta – a prison vehicle that separates prisoners into metal cages.
Prisoners are transferred in the bosta to and from their court sessions, which are usually held in Jerusalem or in Israel’s Ofer prison outside of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
Prisoners’ hands and legs are shackled during the hours-long journey – regardless of injuries or age. Prisoners are not allowed to exit the vehicle, even to use the toilet.
Jarrar reflected on one incident she witnessed in which a girl arrived to the Ofer military court with her clothes soaked with blood. She had begun menstruating during the journey in the bosta, but the Israeli authorities refused to allow her access to a toilet to clean herself.
“It’s completely inhumane,” Jarrar said. “These journeys make you so tired. You really need another two or three days until you can walk again. It’s exhausting.”
On top of this grueling trip, prisoners feel little reprieve once they arrive to Israel’s military courts. For instance, at the Ofer military court prisoners are kept in a freezing cold cell – nicknamed “the refrigerator” by prisoners – before and after their court sessions.
Despite the court sessions only lasting a few minutes, the prisoners spend hours in the cell and Israeli officials refuse to provide blankets.
“Prison is very hard,” Jarrar explained. “Your whole life is condensed into a cell and you are surrounded by metal. If you don’t find a way to balance your mind, you could go crazy.”
“And on top of the harshness of just being in prison, you have all of these violations constantly occurring.”
It can be particularly difficult for children, Jarrar said, especially those with injuries.
“It can be very difficult for them in the beginning. They are suffering and in shock. But we try and be mothers for them. We help them and include them in decision-making in the prison. Most importantly, we listen to them.”
Life in prison is isolating, she said. Prisoners have to support each other.
We are formerly incarcerated people, activists and scholars committed to ending mass incarceration and dismantling the U.S. prison industrial complex. We are deeply concerned with the mounting effort on the part of pro-Israel, Zionist organizations in the U.S. to appropriate a criminal justice reform platform in order to advance the racist ideology and practice of Zionism. These organizations are using this platform to win prison reform advocates, especially Black and other people of color, to their political agenda of attacking the human rights of the Palestinian people. This subterfuge is particularly hypocritical at a time when Zionist groups have recently mounted frontal attacks against Black leaders such as Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander and Marc Lamont Hill because of their support for Palestinian freedom, and at a time when Israel is brutally escalating their offensive against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. We call upon all those involved in the prison reform and abolition movements to refuse to participate in these dishonest and destructive programs.
A case in point is the recent Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) conference. The conference had panels, speakers and workshops on prison reform side by side with workshops and lobbying aimed at attacking and defeating the grassroots movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The BDS movement was initiated in 2005 to expose the brutal reality of Israeli apartheid and pressure Israel to comply with international law with respect to Palestinian rights and freedom. Israel and Zionist organizations in the U.S. are determined to undermine the success of BDS through a lethal combination of threats, attacks, repressive legislation and cooptation.
Michelle Alexander explains, in her recent breakthrough opinion piece in the New York Times, that many civil rights advocates have remained silent on the issue of Palestine “not because they lack concern or sympathy for the Palestinian people, but because they fear loss of funding from foundations, and false charges of anti-Semitism. They worry, as I once did, that their important social justice work will be compromised or discredited by smear campaigns.” Alexander’s article was immediately met with angry denunciations by organizations that are members of the JCPA such as B’nai B’rith International, which called the piece an error-ridden “rant,” and the Anti-Defamation League, which condemned it as “dangerously flawed.”
It is two-faced for Zionist organizations to set themselves up as prison reformers while turning a blind eye to—and covering up—the abhorrent conditions that Palestinians experience in Israeli prisons. Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned over 800,000 Palestinians meaning that 1 in 5 Palestinians have been incarcerated since that time.
Some of us have traveled to Palestine and have witnessed firsthand how Palestinian children are tried in Israeli military courts, against international law, and convicted in “trials” conducted in a language they don’t understand. We have learned about the system of administrative detention where Palestinians can be held in prison without charge or a trial for an indefinite amount of time. We have met with Palestinian families whose homes have been destroyed as “collective punishment” after the arrest of a family member. We have understood that Israel imprisons Palestinians in order to suppress their struggle for freedom, just as the U.S. criminal legal system targets Black and Brown communities as a means of continuing their subjugation.
Conferences about criminal justice should have formerly incarcerated people as keynote speakers, panelists and workshop presenters. Even more importantly, formerly incarcerated people should be central to setting the agenda for conferences, organizations and the movement for fundamental change against the U.S. prison industrial complex. But we cannot challenge a system that is founded on racism by aligning with Zionism, an ideology and practice rooted in racism against Palestinians. Our struggle can only grow stronger when we join in solidarity with Palestine’s struggle for self-determination and freedom.
In Joint Struggle,
– Members of the U.S. Prisoner, Labor and Academic Solidarity Delegation to Palestine
– Critical Resistance
Hank Jones, formerly incarcerated activist
Claude Marks, formerly incarcerated activist and archivist
Laura Whitehorn, formerly incarcerated activist and author
Rabab Abdulhadi, professor, author, and activist
Diana Block, activist and author
Dennis Childs, professor, author and activist
Susie Day, writer and activist
Emory Douglas, artist and activist
Johanna Fernández, professor, author and activist
Diane Fujino, professor, author and activist
Anna Henry, activist
Rachel Herzing, independent scholar
Isaac Ontiveros, activist
Jaime Veve, organizer
Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association