Wednesday, 12 October 2011

One Israeli Soldier for 1000 Palestinian Political Prisoners

So Hamas and Israel brokered a deal. One Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, will be handed over in return for a 1027 Palestinian political prisoners. One for a thousand. One thousand of the many thousands of Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons. Indeed, this is a victory for Palestine and Palestinians - innocent captives will be set free to return to their families. But the deal also reeks of a terrible, colonialist stench. It quantifies just how inferior Palestinians are seen in Israel's eyes. Palestinians are treated and viewed as third-class citizens. To Israel, they are sub-human. The freedom of an Israeli military captive far outweighs the freedom of a Palestinian. Palestinians aren't even afforded the title of "Palestinian". There is collective denial in Israel that Palestinians even exist. They are known as the generic "Arab". To call a Palestinian what they are - a Palestinian - would mean recognising their history, their culture, their land, their ancestry, their customs, their food. Lack of recognition also highlights how easily expendable Palestinian life is. No-names with nothing to really lose.

Why does the Zionist state of Israel throw Palestinians into confinement? Because to exist is to resist. As long as there are Palestinians, there is Palestine. 

The political prisoner situation is dire. New Jersey Solidarity writes:

The Zionist state has waged a war of imprisonment against Palestinian society. Thousands upon thousands of Palestinians, activists, leaders, freedom fighters, have been held as political prisoners, detained, tortured, separated from their families and loved ones, at the mercy of a racist state dedicated to their eradication as a nation. Nevertheless, Palestinian political prisoners have been a backbone of the Palestinian national movement, persevering and remaining steadfast and firm in their commitment to the Palestinian struggle for liberation and return, and persevering despite the worst tortures and persecution to remain fighters, leaders, and activists. The valiant struggle of Palestine's political prisoners is central to the Palestinian movement for national liberation; it is the struggle of the Palestinian people.

NJS also writes:

There are, today, approximately 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners held in the jails of the “Israeli” state. Palestinians, living under occupation and oppression for nearly sixty years, have been targeted relentlessly for imprisonment and detention for that time. Since the extension of the occupation of Palestine to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, over 650,000 Palestinians have been taken prisoner - one out of every four Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. Forty percent of male Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have spent time in jail as a political prisoner, or held under administrative detention - arbitrary detention without charge. The effects of political imprisonment on Palestinian society have, thus, been massive and vast.

Broken down:
  • There are currently 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners
  • Since the 1967 occupation, 650,000 Palestinians have been detained as prisoners i.e. 1 in every 4 Palestinians from occupied West Bank and Gaza
  • 40% of Palestinian males have been imprisoned as political prisoners or arbitrarily detained

In its 2009 study, which concluded that Israel is an apartheid state, The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa discussed incarceration:

Military courts
  • From 2002 to 2006, Israel’s military courts filed more than 43,000 indictments against Palestinians of which only one third were security related and only 1 per cent involved defendants charged with causing intentional deaths.
  • Israel’s military courts do not comply with international standards of due process.
  • There is no ‘presumption of innocence,’ placing burden of proof on the defense.
  • A Palestinian defendant and attorney are not informed of charges against him or her until the first hearing (after the indictment has already been filed). The defendant is expected to respond immediately with no time to study the indictment. 
  • Indictments are written and presented in Hebrew—a language the defendant does not understand. 
  • Court decisions can be based on “secret evidence” not provided to a detainee or his or her lawyer. 
  • Decisions of the court are not published. 
  • All judges are Israeli military officers, many without legal background or education. 
  • If a defendant refuses to plea-bargain, the result is a far more severe penalty. 
  • 95% to 97% of convictions are the result of plea-bargains. 
  • The average hearing lasts just 3 minutes and 4 seconds. 
  • In 2006, acquittals were obtained in only 0.29% of cases. 

Mass incarceration 
  • Over 40% of the Palestinian male population has been imprisoned at some time, many without charges in repeating 6-month administrative detention terms that can go on for years.
  • By April 2009, 45 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, over one third of the democratically elected parliament, were imprisoned, most convicted of belonging to a political party Israel deems a “threat,” and eight administratively detained without any charges or trial.

Prosecuting children
  • Palestinian children are prosecuted as adults at age 12. Jewish settler children are not prosecuted as adults until age 18.
  • Over 700 Palestinian children are prosecuted by Israeli military courts each year, mostly for throwing stones including throwing stones at the wall. Throwing stones carries a prison term of six months to twenty years.

Israeli apartheid has always operated in full swing. In any and in every way possible, Palestinians are subjected to oppressive treatment. Israel has made it its obligation to make daily life an excruciating burden for Palestinian. If Palestinians aren't already feeling claustrophobic because of the restricted freedom of movement brought on by the West Bank apartheid barrier and checkpoints, the constant sieges and tight blockade against Gaza, or the severe discrimination that Palestinians face in historic Palestine/now Israel, then there is always political detention, which awaits them like the Grim Reaper hungry for death whenever they try to protest and resist their conditions.

Hunger strike: 
As of September 27, Palestinian political prisoners in an Israeli German colony in Haifa have been on hunger strike. The BDS National Council released a statement, including demands.

  1. Ending the policy of solitary confinement
  2. Ending the ban on college education for prisoners
  3. Ending the policy of collective punishment, including the denial of visits, and imposing financial penalties on prisoners
  4. Ending the policy of provocative incursions and invasions of prisoners’ cells
  5. Stopping the policy of shackling the hands and legs of prisoners during visits by family members and lawyers
  6. Improving the health conditions of hundreds of sick and injured prisoners and providing them with the needed treatments
  7. Allowing books, newspapers and clothes to enter prisons
  8. Allowing the broadcast of satellite TV channels that have been banned by Israeli Prison Service (IPS)
  9. Ending the policy of restricting visits to 30 minutes every month, and the arbitrary denial of visits
The BNC is asking for us to step up Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns and particularly strengthen the boycott movement against Israeli educational institutions, since Palestinian prisoners' are denied the basic right to education. It also asks that campaigns target companies that provide for and have contracts with the IPS, and that the Israeli Medical Association (IMA) is boycotted and expelled from the World Medical Association (WMA) as a "result of the systematic collusion of its members with torture" (the Electronic Intifada).


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