William Sutcliffe: the power of the West Bank wall

A visit to the West Bank with the Palestine festival of literature made William Sutcliffe rebuild his novel The Wall

Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank

Israel’s separation barrier in the West Bank village of Al-Ram.

No matter how many photographs you have seen, coming face to face with the wall in the West Bank is a shock. We often use the word “concrete” as an antonym for “imaginary”, but when I first touched this eight-metre-high edifice of concrete, alongside what would otherwise have been a quite ordinary street, my first reaction was disbelief. How had this been thought of, let alone built? Up close, this wall seemed both real and implausible.

Everyone has heard of the Berlin Wall. The wall in the West Bank, despite being twice as high and four times as long, is not such a familiar structure. It is the biggest civil engineering project in the history of Israel, so far costing more than $2.6bn (£1.7bn), but many of us don’t even know what it looks like. Perhaps the most extraordinary facet of this unique construction, built on land at the very nexus of the bitterest land dispute of modern times, is that it appears to have swathed itself in a cloak of current affairs invisibility.

As a novelist, and a diaspora Jew disturbed by Israel’s ever-increasing military belligerence, the more the world ignored this wall, the more interested in it I became. During the 10 years of its construction, as this part-wall, part-fence spread across the West Bank, tracing a perplexingly circuitous route, I slowly became convinced that this edifice was more than just a wall. It was a symbol of something. But to discover exactly what, I had to start writing.

I developed an idea about a boy in an unnamed, non-specific place, a comfortable suburb, who has never questioned the impenetrable wall adjacent to his home, or his parents’ stories about the “enemy” on the other side. His discovery of a tunnel, and the growth of his teenage inquisitiveness, lead him to unearth some painful truths. I finished a rough draft, only to discover that the story worked, but that the setting was too vague. Was this, or was it not, a novel about the West Bank? I realised that I needed to visit the wall that had initially sparked my interest and make a decision about how specific I wanted my novel to be. A chance conversation alerted me to the fact that the Palestine Festival of Literature, or Palfest as it is usually known, was coming up. I wrote to the organisers and, to my delight, they made space for me.

I felt well-versed in the subject, well‑read on the political situation, but nothing had prepared me for the devastating reality of visiting the West Bank. Since it is extremely difficult for Palestinians to travel freely around the occupied territories, Palfest has to travel to its audience rather than the other way round. It resembles a roadshow rather than any other literary festival, delivering to Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah, East Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron an international group of writers for an intense series of workshops, seminars, readings and discussions with local writers.

The festival has a dual purpose, serving as much to entertain its audience as to educate the writers who participate. It is in the travel between events, coming up against the effects of military occupation on ordinary civilian life, that this education takes its most shocking form.

We crossed the wall twice at Qalandia checkpoint, as 23,000 Palestinians are obliged to do every day. This checkpoint has turned what was once a simple 20-minute drive from Ramallah to East Jerusalem into a complex ordeal. Physically going through this checkpoint, walking through the claustrophobic metal cages, awaiting the release of a remotely operated turnstile that allows through one person at a time, surrounded by crowds of impatient but stoical Palestinians trying to get to work, scrutinised from above by armed soldiers on raised gantries, was a visceral experience.

The phrase “military occupation” trips off the tongue easily. Only in close proximity to the invading army do you begin to get any inkling of what it must feel like to live your life at the mercy of hostile foreign troops. In a lifetime of movie-watching I have seen thousands of weapons, but at Qalandia checkpoint I felt, for the first time, the power of the gun.

In the long queue I found myself adjacent to a doctor who had qualified in Germany and now worked in Jerusalem, but who had been refused a Jerusalem residence permit by the Israeli authorities on return from her training. She, therefore, had to live away from her family, in Ramallah, and endure this checkpoint twice a day. “I could work in Europe and live a normal life,” she told me. “But that is what they want. For people like me to leave.” This, she implied, was the real purpose of the wall. It was her duty not to be forced out.

I returned from Palestine psychologically and emotionally devastated by what I had seen. Every aspect of the occupation was harsher, more brutal than I had expected. For months, I couldn’t even look at the draft of my novel. The idea of treating this topic too lightly, of not doing justice to the suffering I had witnessed, filled me with shame. I knew I had to make the next draft of the book resemble the West Bank more closely, but I also knew it had to retain some distance from reality for the novel to function as fiction.

Eventually, I reread the work I had done, then set about picking it apart and rebuilding it in a modified world. I have ended up with a novel, The Wall, which is still set in a place that is, and isn’t, the West Bank. The novel’s setting is in some ways imaginary, but is also deeply researched. Anyone interested in this military occupation will, I hope, find some insights into the reality of how it operates. But I have only succeeded as a writer of fiction if this is a story that engages people who know nothing about Israel and Palestine, but are curious about a more universal topic: the division between the haves and the have-nots, and the invisibility of the latter in the eyes of the former. The wall in the West Bank may be unique, but what it represents has echoes everywhere.

(Source / 13.05.2013)

7 million Palestinian refugees since Palestinian Nakba



RAMALLAH, (PIC)– More than 7 million Palestinian refugees, uprooted from their homes and lands since the Palestinian Nakba (the usurpation of Palestine), are still hoping to return to their homeland, and reject the notion of land swaps.

Many of the Palestinian families who fled Palestine still hold keys to their homes after being forced to leave their lands and homes at gunpoint.

MP Mona Mansour stressed the right of return for all Palestinian refugees who were forcibly expelled from their historical lands. She confirmed her total rejection of the notion of land swaps, warning of its seriousness on the Palestinian cause.

Dr Abdel Sattar Qassem Professor of Political studies confirmed that Nakba anniversary highlights the Palestinian refugees’ adherence to their right of return despite their difficult living conditions in refugee camps.

The refugee Ahmed Abu Saada from Jalazoun refugee camp confirmed that the Palestinian right of return will never be compromised. Resistance is the only reliable option to return to our homeland, he stressed.

The Palestinian expert in settlements affairs Khalil Tufkaji expressed his rejection to the idea of land swaps, saying that it legalizes the Israeli settlement and prevents the territorial contiguity of the Palestinian desired state.

The Palestinian right of return is a sacred right inherited by successive generations and no one is entitled to compromise it, the refugee, Hamdan Khamis from the Askar refugee camp east of Nablus said.

In 1948, nearly 714 thousand Palestinians were forcibly displaced from the homes and ended up in various internal and external refugee camps.

Millions of refugees are still displaced in various refugee camps as Israel continues to deny their internationally-guaranteed Right of Return to their homes.

(Source / 13.05.2013)

Een engel die het voor jou opneemt

By Marianna Laarif

Op een dag zat onze geliefde Profeet Mohammed (vrede zij met hem) met zijn beste vriend Aboe Bakr (moge Allah tevreden met hem zijn). Plotseling kwam er een vreemde man die Aboe Bakr begon uit te schelden. Aboe Bakr zei telkens niets terug. De Profeet (vrede zij met hem) bleef verbaasd en glimlachend toekijken. De man bleef Aboe Bakr maar uitschelden, terwijl Aboe Bakr zijn mond hield.
Toen de man maar bleef doorgaan, werd het Aboe Bakr te veel en zei hij iets terug. De Profeet (vrede zij met hem) werd boos en stond op, waarna Aboe Bakr hem volgde en zei: “O Boodschapper van Allah, hij schold mij uit waar je bij zat en toen ik iets terugzei, werd jij boos en stond je op?” Toen zei de Profeet (vrede zij met hem): “Al die tijd was er een engel met jou die hem antwoordde en toen jij ook reageerde, kwam de shaytaan opdagen. En ik blijf niet zitten met de shaytaan.”

Wat leren wij uit dit verhaal?

•Word niet gauw boos en scheld nooit iemand uit. De moslim is namelijk niet iemand die slecht spreekt. De moslim spreekt juist altijd het goede.

•Als iemand jou uitscheldt, antwoord dan niet, want anders geef je de shaytaan de kans om tussen jullie te komen en het nog erger te maken.

•Wanneer je uitgescholden wordt en je zegt niets terug, dan reageert een engel en neemt deze het voor je op.

Sheikh Mahmoed Al-Masrie, Hikaayaat Ammoe Mahmoed

In photos: revisiting the survivors of Israel’s November assault on Gaza

Children walk past rubble of destroyed buildings

Palestinian children walk by a demolished interior ministry building, heavily bombed last November.

I was already in Gaza prior to Israel’s deadly eight days of attacks launched in November 2012. Once I left, the people I had photographed and interviewed during that terrible week remained at the forefront of my thoughts.

I had visited Jamal al-Dalu — who lost ten family members in an Israeli air strike on their home — several times. We were standing together when the body of his son was pulled out of the rubble, four days after the bombing. Jamal was to repeat his story to countless journalists and organizations, and I wondered how he managed to do so with such patience and kindness.

I also thought often about Nour Hijazi, whose father and two little brothers were killed, and who suffered serious shrapnel injuries to her back. I remember her lying in bed, obviously in great pain, yet managing to smile during the interview. I was deeply touched by her sweetness amidst such horror.

I also could not stop thinking about Jamal Salman. I was in the hospital in northern Gaza, minutes after he was brought in. His eyes were open and frozen, and he was covered in blood. Medical personnel rushed him away — I just had time to write down his name and where he was from. As I left the hospital, a woman was I later learned was Jamal’s wife was being pulled out of an ambulance, followed by a group of relatives who were crying and shouting. She died of her injuries.

Returning to Gaza in February, I was determined to see Jamal al-Dalu, Nour Hijazi and Jamal Salman again. I hoped I would find them standing strong.

Once the dead are buried, the dust and ashes settled and the camera crews gone, what happens to these families? It would be an illusion to think that things are back to “normal,” even though the mainstream media is no longer interested in Gaza. The survivors face their difficulties with courage and go on with their lives, but they will be forever affected, with little hope for justice or reparation, while a whole generation grows up with the fear of being bombed again.

Anne Paq is a French freelance photographer based in Palestine and member of the photo collective ActiveStills.

Woman assists man being fitted with prosthetic leg

A Palestinian who lost his lower leg during Israel’s winter 2008-09 attacks on Gaza at a rehabilitation session in the only facility for artificial limbs in Gaza City. Palestinians injured last November will have to wait months for their wounds to heal before being fitted for artificial limbs.

Girl stands in modestly decorated room

Saja Muhammad Abu Namous, 11 years old, in the Gaza City room where her family slept during the Israeli military assault. Saja, whose home was damaged, and other family members receive psychosocial treatment.

Older woman sitting on bed and and younger woman standing in front of bed smile at camera

Amna Hijazi (left) and her daughter Nour (right) rent a home in Jabaliya refugee camp after their family home destroyed in an Israeli missile strike that killed Amna’s children Mohammad (4) and Suhaib (2) and her husband Fouad. Amna was in a coma for six days and Nour, who had two broken vertebrae in her spine, was bed-ridden for two months and now walks with difficulty. “The first day was difficult for me due to the loss of my father and brothers. I used to play with my brothers, talk to them, hug and spoil them every day when I came home from school,” Nour said in February.

Medical aide stands next to man using wheelchair

Jamal Salman is treated Al-Wafa Rehabilitation Center in Gaza. Jamal was severely injured during an Israeli drone strike which hit the courtyard of his house in Beit Lahiya and killed his wife, 22-year-old Tahreer Ziad, and brother-in law. Jamal, the father of two small children, was first treated in Egypt and is now paraplegic and has limited use of one of his arms.

Women sitting on plastic chairs face one another

Itimad Muhammad Salman, mother of Jamal Salman, who was severely injured during an Israeli drone strike, during a psychosocial support session at a home in Beit Lahiya.

Boy winces as device is used on his face

Mohammed Abu Sakran, a four-year-old from Gaza City, in a speech therapy session at a clinic. Mohammed suffers from impaired speech, which has worsened dramatically since the Israeli offensive.

Women laugh and clap together

Women, many of whom were affected by Israel’s offensive, after a psychosocial group session in a private home in Beit Lahiya.

Man using crutches stands in his residence

Muhammad H, at his Gaza City home, was injured when two Hellfire missiles struck a second-story apartment on Baghdadi Street on 20 November. The blast killed four persons and missile fragments wounded more than 20, including Mohammad, who lost his job due to the injury. Muhammad, who goes to weekly rehabilitation sessions at the Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic, suffers from depression exacerbated by a lack of physical activity and passes his time playing computer games.

Laborer covered in dust holds up board

Rebuilding the Hijazi family home in Jabaliya refugee camp. The family managed to raise money donated by friends, relatives and supporters.

Man stands surrounded by grocery goods

Jamal al-Dalu in his shop in the market in Gaza City. Jamal lost ten of his closest relatives, including his wife and one of his sons, and four grandchildren after his home was bombed. Jamal, who returned to work in his shop just two weeks after the attack, currently lives with two of his sons and a daughter-in-law in a house rented for them by the government. “All the happy life is gone now. Thirty years of marriage and suddenly I lost most of my family members; it’s good that I haven’t lost my mind yet and my health,” Jamal said in February.

Women embraces son in their residence

Amal Ahmad Abdallah, with her six-year-old son in the family’s home in Khan Younis, spends her week at Al-Wafa Rehabilitation Center in Gaza City and returns home every weekend to visit her family. Amal was baking bread with her young son when a missile exploded near her house; she was seriously injured and is now paraplegic. Amal is a teacher but does not know how she will be able to resume working because of the permanent injury.

Man walks with crutches with his back turned to the camera

Khader Haidar al-Zahhar, 20, at the al-Quds Satellite Channel office in Gaza City. Khader’s lower right leg was amputated after an Israeli strike on his office building. Initially hospitalized in Egypt, he had 12 operations on his leg. At the time of the attack, he was a volunteer. Now he has been employed by the channel and goes into the office every two days. Khader remains positive: “My injury did not affect my desire to continue my work. I’m just waiting for my wound to heal completely to have an artificial limb fitted; I want to work as a cameraman.”

(Source / 13.05.2013)

Israeli airport sorts passengers with ‘Jewish stickers’ and ‘Arab stickers’

This shocking story– of yet another “huge humiliation” of a non-Jew at Ben Gurion airport– was posted by Mira Awad, an Israeli Palestinian singer, on her Facebook page, in Hebrew, today. Ami Kaufman at +972 provided a translation of the entry, and notes that Awad is a celebrity in Israel. Awad in translation:

So, I was checked at the airport, they asked the questions, put the stickers on, and I proceeded to the X-Ray machine. Suddenly, the young security man comes to me: “Mira? Mira Awad?”

Me: “Yes?”

Security man: “Can I see your passport? There’s a mistake with the sticker.”

I almost told him: “No, you’re not mistaken, I see you put the right one on — the sticker for Arabs”, but I didn’t say that (security people have their humor extracted during their preparatory course). I gave him my passport, he opens it, takes off the sticker in the passport and on the suitcase and puts on a new one, different, the same color but smaller.

Now the dilemma. On the one hand it’s obvious the young man has just made my life easier by putting on the sticker for Jews. On the other hand, it’s one of the things that it’s hard to say thanks for. I mean, thank you for not considering me a terrorist any more? Thanks that someone whispered to you, “it’s Mira Awad,” so the “Awad” isn’t scary anymore? Thanks for upgrading me to a Class A citizen? I turned into one of “ours,” or actually one of “yours.” A small sticker that carries with it such huge humiliation, and today even enfolds stupidity. Because since they cancelled the stickers with different colors, which we protested, they made new stickers with less recognizable differences to the inexperienced eye, and here they are embarrassing themselves with unaware patronizing like, “Let’s award you with the status of a privileged person!” — so you don’t say that we aren’t humane. By the way, it happend to me also last week, when a senior security man who wanted to “show off” (maybe you’ll say he wanted to joke around, but we’ve already concluded that he doesn’t know how to joke around, see earlier “extraction of humor”) and asked one of his employees to get me one of the “regular” stickers and then winked at me as he continued to speak him: “Can’t you see it’s Mira Awad?”

So, the conclusion is, if you’re Israeli and your name is Awad – you better be famous! If not, forget about the duty free! Yalla, I’m out of here. For now.

(Source / 13.05.2013)

Palestinian liaison office secures release of 3 teens

NABLUS (Ma’an) — Palestinian Authority liaison officials on Monday secured the release of three teenagers detained by Israel, an official said.

Director of the department, Mujahid Abu Dayya, told Ma’an that Israeli soldiers had detained Omran Ata Masimi, 15, Ibrahim Abdul-Karim Marshud, 15, and Muhammad Riyad Hashash, 14, at Huwwara checkpoint for allegedly carrying a knife.

The liaison department exerted intensive efforts with their Israeli counterparts to release the teens, Abu Dayya added.

(Source / 13.05.2013)

Ask Your Representative to “Adopt” Qatamesh, an Amnesty International “Prisoner of Conscience”


Ahmed Qatamesh needs your support. This 62-year-old Palestinian academic has been jailed by Israel under “administrative detention”—its policy of holding people without charge or trial—for more than two years. He is suffering from an undiagnosed illness that is causing nausea and faintness, and Israel has not allowed his request to see an independent doctor.

Amnesty International (AI) has declared Ahmed to be a “prisoner of conscience” and demanded his immediate, unconditional release. There being “no apparent reason to hold him,” AI “believes he is being held to suppress his views and to deter political activities by other Palestinian left-wing activists.”


In the 1990s, Ahmed was jailed by Israel for more than five years without charge. He wrote a memoir of his experiences, which included being subjected to torture, in a book entitled I Shall Not Wear Your Tarboosh (Fez).

The torture to which Ahmed was subjected in the 1990s and the medical neglect from which he is suffering now are some of the disturbingly routine and illegal aspects of Israel’s mass incarceration of Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom have engaged or are engaging now in prolonged hunger strikes to protest the injustices they face.


To heighten awareness of these issues and to build bridges of solidarity with the movement against mass incarceration in the United States, Sahar Francis, the Executive Director of Addameer: Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, is currently touring the country.


This week, we’ll be bringing Sahar to policy-makers, government officials and think tanks in Washington, D.C. to help raise the profile of Palestinian political prisoners and Israel’s use of administrative detention.


We need your grassroots support to put the plight of Palestinian political prisoners and the use of administrative detention squarely on our country’s policy agenda.


The Lantos Human Rights Commission has called on Representatives to “adopt” political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, from around the world and advocate for their release. Please take a moment to call and write your Representative and ask him/her to “adopt” Ahmed Qatamesh and speak out against Israel’s human rights abuses of Palestinian political prisoners.

That way, when Sahar goes to Capitol Hill this week, Members of Congress will know that constituents like you care about this issue and want them to do something concrete about it.

To learn more about this issue, including how Palestinian political prisoners have died recently after apparent torture and medical neglect, see Addameer’s website. And be sure to read this important report by Amnesty International, “Starved of Justice: Palestinians Detained without Trial by Israel.

Thank you for asking your Representative to “adopt” Ahmed Qatamesh and for helping build support for Sahar’s and Addameer’s crucial work this week in Washington, D.C.

(Source / 13.05.2013)

Sayem Nasser Udine

Beste mensen,

De ellende in de PvdA hebben we op tv kunnen volgen, maar waar we niets van horen is hoe het momenteel in de realiteit gebeurd. Het onderstaande mailtje kreeg ik vandaag binnen, ik kan het me niet over mijn hart krijgen om hier niets mee te doen. Verspreid dit mailtje onder uw netwerken, bekende politici, de media. Maakt niet uit, maar VERSPREID het:

Het is een beetje saai dat moet ik toegeven, maar Sayem heeft inmiddels 6 dagen niet gedronken als een van de  hongerstakers uit het vreemdelingendetentiecentrum Rotterdam. Het is iets dichterbij dan Palestina. Waarschijnlijk gaat hij dood en hij is gisteren overgebracht naar Scheveningen. Hij heeft van het begin af aan gezegd dat hij niet gedwongen wil worden vocht of voedsel te krijgen. Het is wat mij betreft een heel moedige strijd tegen een afschuwelijk systeem. Wanneer gaat hij en de andere hongerstakers in godsnaam steun krijgen van de Paulus kerk en andere organisaties die beweren het beste met hun medemensen voor te hebben.

Met o.a. mensen van Occupy wordt er elke dag solidariteitsgedemonstreerd bij het detentiecentrum van 15.00 uur tot ongeveer 16.00 uur. Waar the fuck is iedereen?. Moeten deze mensen dan maar gewoon dood gaan.
Ik doe niets, maar dan ook helemaal niets meer voor de Palestijnen omdat ik jullie echt maar dan ook echt niet geloofwaardig meer vind.

Succes met de voorbereiding van het feestje voor de opening van de Paulus kerk

E. (naam bij redactie bekend)

Report: “%100 Of Administrative Detainees Are Former Prisoners”

The Ahrar Center for Detainees’ Studies and Human Rights reported that all of the Palestinian current administrative detainees, held by Israel without charges, are former political prisoners who have been repeatedly kidnapped and imprisoned by Israel.

File - Image addameer.org
Fuad Al-Khoffash, head of the Ahrar Center, reported that Israeli is currently holding captive 218 detainees under Administrative Detention, mainly at the Negev detention camp and Ofer prison, while the rest are held in Majiddo, Hadarim and other prisons.
Al-Khoffash added that %80 of the Administrative Detainees are supporters of the Hamas movement, and that some of them spent more than 15 years after being kidnapped and detained numerous times without charges.

He said that most of the Administrative Detainees are from the southern West Bank city of Hebron, followed by the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Al-Khoffash said that detainee Ayed Doudeen, from Hebron, spent a total of 15 years in prison, including eight years under Administrative Detention, also detainee Nazeeh Abu ‘Oon, spent 13 years in Israeli prisons, and has been under Administrative Detention since he was kidnapped last time two years ago.

Furthermore, the Ahrar center reported that elected former Minister of Detainee, Wasfi Qabha, has been under Administrative Detention since two years, and added that Israel is currently holding captive 13 elected legislators, including nine who are held under Administrative Detention.

The center called for local, regional and international legal actions to expose the ongoing Israeli violations against all Palestinian political detainees, especially administrative detainees, in order to ensure an end to the illegal Israeli practice and policies.

Detainees held under Administrative Detention do not even know what charges they are facing as Israel holds them under the pretext of having a “secret file” against them, a file that neither the detainees, nor their lawyers, have access to.

(Source / 13.05.2013)

Fighting systematic medical neglect: Palestinian prisoners call for international action


 Fighting systematic medical neglect: Palestinian prisoners call for international action

“On day 67 of my hunger strike I was transferred to al Jalameh interrogation centre and tortured. I was forced to stay in stress positions, naked, and I was badly beaten. I consequently went into a coma.”

Mohammed al Taj, aged 41, is visibly weak and speaks faintly, taking breaks to catch his breath after every few sentences. He suffers from pulmonary fibrosis and heart hypertrophy, and is in a stable condition in the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, where he has been since his release from prison on 18 April 2013. Behind the headboard of his bed, a kafiyya and a Palestinian flag hang on the wall, and a dozen family and friends are gathered to give him a hero’s welcome.

Al Taj went on a 77-day hunger strike just over a year ago to protest against the medical neglect he faced in prison in Israel. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2003 and first complained of breathing difficulties in 2004 after being “subjected to various types of torture, including poisonous gas, beatings and prolonged exposure to the sun,” which he believes are responsible for his lung condition. He says he received no treatment for years until his condition rapidly deteriorated. After years of complaining about his condition, he did not have a CT scan until 2010 – after which the prison authorities reported that the results “were lost”. He says that he has never received the promised appropriate treatment, in violation of his rights under international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Dr Ruchama Marton is the founder and director of Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-I). The organisation acts to safeguard prisoners’ rights to diagnosis, medical care and suitable conditions of imprisonment. She says that medical neglect within the prison system is very common for Palestinian prisoners.

“It is very hard for a Palestinian prisoner to get a good medical examination and diagnosis,” says Dr Marton. This is partly due to prison doctors having the most basic level of medical training. “To get the right treatment after getting the right diagnosis is even harder,” she adds. “Prisoners can complain for a very long period of time before a doctor will see them, and then it’s not guaranteed that the doctor will really examine them and give them the correct diagnosis.”

Most Palestinian patients in Israeli jails are simply given pain killers rather than proper treatment, she says.

Al Taj’s early release on medical grounds – he had served two-thirds of his sentence – is rare.

“When they told me that I would be released, I figured I would be ‘Martyr number 208’ as Israel doesn’t release prisoners unless they’ve finished their sentence or are about to die,” al Taj says.

Fifty-four Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons have died from medical negligence, and 207 Palestinian prisoners have died in Israeli jails since 1967, according to the Palestinian Authority.

Al Taj regards Shimon Peres’s ‘Presidential pardon’ as nothing more than a continuation of the prison service’s refusal to give adequate medical treatment. “I was only released because they didn’t want to give me a lung transplant, they refused to pay for it.” He also believes that Israel did not want another Palestinian patient dying in custody, following the widespread, angry protests that filled streets in the West Bank and Gaza after the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh in March. Abu Hamdiyeh, whose death was attributed to medical negligence, died in custody in an Israeli hospital from advanced cancer of the throat and spinal column.

Addameer, a Palestinian human rights organisation that advocates for Palestinian prisoners’ rights, says that a key problem behind the systematic policy of medical negligence by the Israeli Prison Service is that “doctors and other medical staff employed by the IPS find themselves in a situation of ‘dual loyalty’, whereby their primary obligation is towards the State and the Israeli security apparatus, rather than the patient.”

Addameer and PHR-I say Israeli medical doctors and psychiatrists employed by the prison authorities are complicit in medical negligence, ill-treatment and torture and physical and mental abuse, ‘for fear of losing their jobs’.

Dr Marton says that PHR-I has been campaigning with no success to change the very foundations of this system so that doctors and medical staff will instead be employed by the Ministry of Health, thereby granting them greater professional freedom.

With more and more Palestinian prisoners reporting systematic medical neglect in Israeli prisons, and with many turning to hunger strikes to demand their rights, al Taj, speaking to MAP, calls on the British public to intervene.

“We need our issue to be raised internationally. We need people in Britain to deliver this message to their governments as we are in a vulnerable situation and need international support to pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation and to respect the Geneva Convention and prisoners’ rights. We hope that the British public will continue their support and campaigns of raising awareness, but also to come here to witness our situation and our cause directly, and to report what they see, and to raise our issue on a global level.”

(Source / 13.05.2013)