Over 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israel on hunger strike
The following is culled from various news reports.
Over 1,500 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on Monday, April 17. Israel responded by placing the movement's leader Marwan Barghouti in solitary confinement and said it will not negotiate with the prisoners.
At present there are 6.500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israel in 24 Israeli prisons/detention centers. Of these 56 are female, 300 under the age of 18, 500 serving life sentences, 3 member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, 28 journalists, hundreds of sick prisoners, 29 prisoners from before the signing of the Oslo Interim Accords, 500 prisons under Administrative Detention (without trial or charge)
There have been 1,000,000 cases of Palestinians in Israel jails since 1948 and 200 deaths of Palestinian prisoners while in detention by the Israeli occupation army. Some of these were extra judicially exterminated while others died as a result of deliberate medical negligence or torture.
The demands of the Open Hunger Strike for Freedom and Dignity include an end to Torture, Unfair Trials, Medical Negligence, Degrading Treatment, Solitary Confinement, Arbitrary Administrative Detention, The Arrest and Detention of Children, Denial of other Human Rights including the Right to Education.
Israel has responded by placing the movement's leader Marwan Barghouti in solitary confinement! It has also vowed not to negotiate with the prisoners.
In an op-ed published in the New York Times on April 16, one day prior to the start of the hunger strike. Barghouti explained why he organized the strike: “Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.”
He also stated that Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israel "have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence." (NYT full op-ed on https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/opinion/palestinian-hunger-strike-prisoners-call-for-justice.html
Israel calls them security prisoners — held for offenses ranging from stone throwing and membership in outlawed groups to carrying out attacks that killed or wounded Israelis. Several hundred are being detained without charges.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he had read the Sunday article in the Times that "presents arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti as a 'parliamentarian and leader'." He said that calling Barghouti a political leader was akin to calling Syrian President Bashar Assad a doctor.
"These are terrorists and incarcerated murderers who are getting exactly what the international law requires," he told Israel's Army Radio. "My policy is that you can't negotiate with prisoners such as these... There is no reason to give them additional conditions in addition to what they already receive."
As for Barghouti being put in solitary confinement, Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said Barghouti was transferred to another prison in northern Israel and was placed in solitary confinement.
"It doesn't have to do with publishing the article (in the New York Times) but rather that he is instigating mutiny and leading the hunger strike and that is a severe violation of the rules of the prison," he said.
Who is Marwan Barghouti?
He has spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, and has been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. According to him he was only 15 when I was first imprisoned and barely 18 when an Israeli interrogator forced him to spread his legs while he stood naked in the interrogation room, before hitting his genitals. He passed out from the pain, and the resulting fall left an everlasting scar on his forehead. The interrogator mocked him afterward, saying that he would never procreate because people like him give birth only to terrorists and murderers.
A few years later, he was again in an Israeli prison, leading a hunger strike, when his first son was born. Instead of the sweets usually distributed to celebrate such news, he handed out salt to the other prisoners. When his was barely 18, he in turn was arrested and spent four years in Israeli prisons.
The eldest of his four children is now a man of 31. And today Marwan is still pursuing the struggle for freedom along with thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and the support of so many around the world.
Barghouti is serving consecutive life sentences on five murder convictions imposed by Israeli courts. He was jailed by Israel in 2002. In 2004, he was convicted by a Tel Aviv district court of murder in three attacks that left five dead. He was also convicted of being a member of a terrorist group.
He is seen by some as a potential peacemaker because of grassroots appeal among Palestinians and his support for negotiations with Israel.
Barghouti, who learned Hebrew and absorbed Israeli history during earlier jail terms, was once touted by former Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer as a potential peace partner with enough popularity to win support for a deal.
He has long been viewed as a future president of a Palestinian state.
A March poll by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that Barghouti would win a plurality of 40% in a three-way race among Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. If he were to run head to head against Haniyeh, he would win by a 23 percentage-point margin.
At the main Israeli checkpoint on the road from Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital, to Jerusalem, Palestinian motorists drive by a giant mural on Israel’s West Bank separation wall. It depicts Barghouti, with fists handcuffed, opposite an image of Yasser Arafat.
In effect, it equates Barghouti with the founding father of the Palestine Liberation Organization
Israel’s record on human rights
A new United Nations report has concluded that Israel has established an “apartheid regime” and recommended that national governments support BDS activities to challenge Israel’s illegal system of oppression of the Palestinians. The report was co-authored by Richard Falk, an international law expert and former U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“Israel’s ruthless policy of holding Palestinian prisoners arrested in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in prisons inside Israel is a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is unlawful and cruel and the consequences for the imprisoned person and their loved ones, who are often deprived from seeing them for months, and at times for years on end, can be devastating,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“Instead of unlawfully transferring prisoners outside the occupied territories, Israel must ensure all Palestinians arrested there are held in prisons and detention centres in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Until then, the Israeli authorities must stop imposing excessive restrictions on visitation rights as a means of punishing prisoners and their families, and ensure that conditions fully meet international standards.”
Under international humanitarian law, detainees from occupied territories must be detained in the occupied territory, not in the territory of the occupying power. They must also be allowed to receive visitors, especially near relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible. However Israel flouts this international law. All but one of its 17 detention facilities are located inside Israel.
US 1914 annual US State Department report
The 1914 annual US State Department report on human rights violations worldwide contained harsh criticisms for Israel’s alleged institutional discrimination against Palestinians, especially in regard to its treatment of Palestinian prisoners.
In the report titled “Country Reports on the Human Rights Practices for 2014: Israel and the Occupied Territories,” Israel is accused of “excessive use of force against civilians, including killings; abuse of Palestinian detainees, particularly during arrest and interrogation.”
Details of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians included “austere and overcrowded detention facilities; improper use of security detention procedures; demolition and confiscation of Palestinian property; limitations on freedom of expression, assembly, and association; and severe restrictions on Palestinians’ internal and external freedom of movement.”
The report said that Israeli authorities routinely coerced confessions from Palestinian minors suspected of stone-throwing, by using physical violence, long-term handcuffing, threats, intimidation, and solitary confinement. In some cases, the report said, Israeli tactics used against minors amounted to torture.
Citing testimonies provided by NGOs, the report said that in 2014, Israel held 156 minors in prisons as security prisoners or detainees.Seventeen of the detained minors were between the ages of 12 and 15.
Israeli Human Rights groups report
According to a 54 page report from Israeli human rights groups. HaMoked and B'Tselem, released in February 2016, blows to the head and sleeping in insect-infested beds are among numerous examples of "degrading" and "inhuman" treatment of Palestinian detainees by Israeli interrogators.
The report further claimed that the treatment of detainees is at times "tantamount to torture". It documents physical abuse by Israeli interrogators both in the field and at the Shikma detention facility in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
"One Palestinian] was beaten until he passed out. Another detainee related that police officers photographed themselves next to him as he lay handcuffed on the ground after being beaten for about half an hour," the report stated, noting that abusive conditions had been "used systematically against Palestinians interrogated at Shikma".
The findings were based on the testimonies of 116 Palestinians interviewed between August 2013 and March 2014, along with dozens of affidavits and medical records.
The cell was full of cockroaches [and] very dirty. The blankets stank. After about 10 days, I had a rash all over my body. Ibrahim Sabah, 19
Researchers found that interrogations by the Israel Security Agency are a lengthy component of Palestinian prison stays, and can last up to three months.
Most Palestinians interviewed for the report said they were arrested overnight, blindfolded and handcuffed during transit. Thirty percent reported beatings before arriving at a detention facility. Once transferred to holding facilities, the report found "detainees were punched, kicked or beaten with rifle butts or clubs".
One-third of the Palestinians interviewed said they were imprisoned outdoors. "At night, four soldiers came and made us go out into the yard. It was cold and raining, and they made us take all our clothes off, strip completely naked," said Imad Abu Khalaf, 21.
Others were held indoors in solitary confinement between interrogation rounds. "The cell was full of cockroaches [and] very dirty," said Ibrahim Sabah, 19. "The blankets stank. After about 10 days, I had a rash all over my body. I scratched myself so much that I bled."
B'Tselem and HaMoked said there has been a lack of accountability for the mistreatment of detainees. Of more than 3,000 complaints filed with army prosecutors from September 2000 to the start of 2010, only 15 resulted in indictments for physical abuse, and of around 950 complaints made directly against Israel's interrogation agency from 2001 to 2015, all cases were closed without any formal investigation.
In September 2015, HaMoked filed a petition with Israel's high court to review the conditions in Shikma.
Note: After creating a Jewish state on land primarily inhabited by Muslims and Christians in 1948, Israeli forces have continued to occupy what little land Palestinians have left for the last 50 years. Palestinians are subjected to a different set of military laws than Jewish settlers are. There are over 6,500 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails. There are no Israelis in Palestinian jails.