by: Rafat Abushaban
The Fifteen hundred Palestinian hunger strikers have won their fight and will be treated well in Israel’s prisons from now on”; that was the cry of the people after Israeli government declared via the Palestinian Authority that it will adhere to the demands of the prisoners on May 14th. What was not revealed then is that this government was not ready to comply with prisoners’ demands and as a result, many of these prisoners including Mahmoud Sorsok and Akram Rikhawi are still undergoing their hunger strikes up until now.
Prisoners demanded for their basic human rights out from Israeli Prisons Service through undertaking hunger strikes for weeks. As far as the prisoners are concerned, Egypt has reached an understanding with the Israeli government to take the demands of prisoners into consideration and improve the life standards for their daily lives in detention. Although some demands were partially fulfilled by the Prisons Service, the misery of Palestinian prisoners is still ongoing.
After the victory of Hana shalabi and Khader Adnan who were freed last February and April respectively after going in such strikes, the stakes are high to end the Israeli inhuman acts in prisons once and for all. At the very least, prisoners demanded that detention conditions return to what they was like 12 years ago before the second intifada broke out. Many leaders of the previous hunger strikes are now threatening to get back to disobedience.
So, why to get angry for the sake of these prisoners?
1. Administrative detention as a strategy
Israel has adopted the administrative detention according to the British mandate emergency laws from 1945. This form of detention is applied when the Israeli state wants to lock somebody up but has no charges or evidence against them. The Administrative detention can be renewed every six months and for infinity as long as the detainee signifies a ‘threat’ according to the Israeli army or intelligence service.
The administrative arrest was commonly used to detain thousands during the first and second Intifadas to get rid of Palestinians stimulating resistance and disobedience against the Israeli policies, and it is still used up to this moment. In this context, Ahmed Saker has suffered from 13 years of imprisonment that were renewed each 6 months without a trial. That is why many Palestinians say that Administrative detention has a beginning but no ending.
After the declaration on the 14th May by Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah that the Israeli government will end unjustified administrative detention, a number of detainees including Hosam Khader and Mohammed Alnatsha were subject to the extension of their administrative arrest period for 6 months without charges.
2. Solitary confinement
Prisoners seen as ‘most dangerous’ who have an effect on other fellow prisoners are locked up in a special kind of imprisonment where they live alone for 23 hours a day in small room often with no windows where they do not have access to the outside world news, books, television and radio. Right now, Derar Abusisis is still held in such conditions despite the Israeli declaration that it will not keep any prisoners under this category.
3. No visits or belongings from Gaza
Ever since the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped into Gaza and kept there for 5 long years, the anger by the Israeli army and intelligence service -that tried so many leads to free him but could not- was diverted towards taking revenge against the Palestinian prisoners from Gaza and their families. Prisons Service has denied any visits for prisoners’ families from Gaza since 2007.
Although Shalit was released in 2012 in a swap deal with Palestinian prisoners, the laws against visits from Gaza are still applied. A report for Prisoners’ Studies Centre outlined that from 2007 until the end of 2011, over 200 appeals for visits from Gaza’s families to see their sons behind bars were denied
[Arabic reference: http://masress.com/alwafd/65513]
The Prisons Service goes beyond denying meetings for Gaza’s prisoners to the limit that they do not allow their relatives to send them any belongings. A west bank prisoner’s mother was describing on a tube video how she receives clothes and books for a prisoner via paid mail from Gaza, and then she hands them to her son in the prison who in turn delivers them to the prisoner from Gaza.
4. MPs arrested
Despite the international law against detaining individuals for their political views, Israeli army has abducted many Members of the Palestinian Parliament since the elections held in 2006. There are currently about 27 arrested parliament members according to Addameer for Human Rights. [http://www.addameer.org/etemplate.php?id=339]
5. Re-arresting freed prisoners
After the prisoners swap deal with Gilad shalit where the Israeli government has agreed to release nearly 1000 Palestinian prisoners stating that it will not re-capture them again, its military has arrested numerous Palestinians from the West bank who were freed on that swap deal
6. Anti-human inspections
Prisoners’ rooms are subject for harsh inspections day and night where armed forces use sound and tear gas as well as watch dogs to storm the cells of inmates, and then they confiscate clothes, books and personal belongings while handcuffing the prisoner’s hands and legs.
7. Group punishments
At times when any prisoners go hunger strikes or actions to demand better conditions, the Prisons Service punishes all the prisoners in the section by placing them in solitary confinement, transferring them to other prisons and denying them family visits.
8. Separation between relatives
There are many cases where brothers or relatives from the same family are arrested by Israeli military. The Prisons Service then places them in various places far from each other further oppress them, which cause difficulties even for their families when it comes to visit them in various prisons.
The quality and quantity of food served in Israeli prisons has deteriorated throughout the years reaching a point where prisoners had to buy extra meals from the prison’s cantine which are often highly priced
10. Cells’ hygiene
Deliberately, the Israeli Prison Service keeps a very low standard in terms of hygiene in many cells where bugs, rats and fungi are not rare to see in an environment that lacks proper ventilation. Prison toilets are on the top of the list in this context which has directly and indirectly caused sickness for many prisoners.
11. Access to medical care
After their weeks of keeping away from food during their hunger strikes, many prisoners have suffered from poor health and did not manage to get suitable medical treatment in many cases. Others are denied access for getting medical diagnostics to check their health state. The World Health Organization has said it was concerned about the medical condition of Palestinians in Prisons [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4227802,00.html]
12. Prisons transfer
Prisoners experience harsh treatment in their transfer among prisons or to attain the court where they are transferred hand cuffed with their legs tied to the ground of a sealed truck with no windows where prisoners cannot eat, speak or use the bathroom for several hours. This is particularly affecting the elderly and sick prisoners who have been in prison for decades.
When a sentence against an ‘unwanted’ Palestinian prisoner comes to an end, he gets freed but denied his right to return to his home in the west bank and is deported to Gaza. This was the case with Hana Shalabi after winning her hunger strike for freedom. Other examples like Ahlam Tamimi, who was freed in the last prisoners swap deal with Shalit, has been deported outside Palestine, and even away from her family in Jordan. Other prisoners fear that the same might be applied on many similar cases in the future
For decades, the Israeli intelligence service has abducted many Palestinians from other countries around the world and brought them to the Israeli court. A recent case is Dirar Abusisi who was abducted in Ukraine and is still under solitary confinement imprisonment [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/31/palestinian-engineer-kidnapped-ukraine-israel]
15. Physical Torture
Prisoners suffer from various physical torture methods to pull out confessions out of them. Such methods include directly beating them on the face and body, use of electric shocks, use of cold and hot water as well as forcing prisoners to stand tied for long hours in un-comfortable positions just to mention a few
16. Mental torture
The process of torture goes beyond physically hurting prisoners to hurt them in their dignity by cursing and bad-mouthing them as well as threatening the prisoners to demolish their houses and rape their sisters and daughters.
17. Right for higher education
Since the second intifada started and the Prison Service has denied the prisoners their right to complete their education in prison, not to mention the large number of student captivates in Israeli prisons. Addameer has stated in a 2010 report that higher education is conditional and made available for prisoners based on security considerations
18. Meeting lawyers
During their last strike, prisoners suffered from poor health and could not stand on their feet due to weeks of fasting. When they asked to meet their lawyers, the Prisons service had denied their right stating that ‘they should physically stand up and ask to meet their lawyers’ in a sly plan to force them to end their strike [http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-05/04/c_131567117.htm].
Other methods are still being used by the Prisons Service is to handcuff the prisoners while meeting their lawyers keeping a high watch over them, which has resulted many prisoners to refuse meeting their lawyers in such conditions.
19. Aggressive attempts to end hunger strikes
Whenever a hunger strike happens in Israeli prisons, the Prisons Service uses several inhuman methods to end the hunger strikes by storming cells searching for salt (which the prisoners use along with water to keep their vital signs) to force them to eat normal food. Also, attempts to force-feed some were planned and may be used in the future as the case for Hana Shalabi [http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/israel-planning-force-feed-hunger-striker-amnesty].
20. Promote justice for Palestine
The prisoners see that the priority of bringing justice to Palestine has deteriorated away from the agenda of political parties in Palestine and a movement to restore this priority was imminent. This was why the prisoners signed the call for unity between Fateh and Hamas parties in 2010.
With the Pro-Palestine activism rising around the world in many countries, the world must hear a clear and undisturbed message that Palestinians has retained the focus towards reaching their strategic goals.
*United we can overcome the hurdles and defeat the occupation.