The price of a Palestinian prisoner and Hana Al-Shalabi – continuing the fight

Rana Hamadeh | Feb 26, 2012

Khader Adnan ended his 66-day hunger strike last Tuesday, wherein he protested against his administrative detention – that is, arrest without charge or evidence for an indefinite period of time. The final deal reached essentially just shortened his detention order by a few weeks, stating that Israel would not renew the detention – unless, new ‘secret evidence’ surfaces. Thus, although Adnan was highly successful in drawing international attention to the case of administrative detainees in particular, and the Israeli occupation in general, it would be wrong to believe that with the end of his hunger strike came the end of the conditions he was protesting. As of February 1st there were 309 Palestinians under administrative detention, but even in the past few weeks this number has increased.

One notable case is that of Hana Yahya al-Shalabi, a woman who was released in the prisoner exchange last October, but was arrested on 17 February 2012 with a six month administrative detention order. Upon her arrest she began a hunger strike, and continues now on her 10th day. For other notable cases under administrative detention see here.

In the recent prisoner swap the sole Israeli prisoner detained by Palestinians, Gilad Shalit, was released in exchange for over one thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. While most Palestinians were delighted to be reunited with family or friends, they were also reminded of an ugly reality of Israeli apartheid. One Jewish Israeli life is worth over a thousand Palestinians. And so it has been and continues to be.

For the five years that Shalit was imprisoned, his face and name were repeatedly splattered across global media. Yet how many of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners can we recall?

There were two phases to the prisoner release, the first which occured in October, led to the release of 477 Palestinian political prisoners. In the two months until the second group of prisoners were released, 470 more Palestinians were imprisoned, essentially making up for those released. Those arrested between October 18 and December 12 included 70 children and 11 women.

Regardless of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons, and their cruel treatment at that, it was the Israeli captive that made international news continually for five years. Despite that 700,000 Palestinians have been detained since 1967 (that is approximately 20% of all Palestinians in the occupied territory, and 40% of the male population), it is Shalit who was invited to Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential palace in Paris where Sarkozy praised Israel for its effort with Shalit, claiming it as a sign of Israel’s democracy “because in a democracy we attach importance to one life.” In the case of Israel, a self proclaimed Jewish nation, that importance appears to be attached exclusively to Jewish lives.

The arrest of an adult military soldier while serving in the Israeli Occupational Forces – an army repeatedly accused of committing war crimes against Palestinians – was worthy of global news and sympathy while the 7,000 Palestinian children arrested since just 2000 went ignored.

The crimes of Israel’s occupation go largely ignored by the international community.

For example, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, all but one of the prisons holding Palestinians are inside Israel (international law states that an occupying power must detain residents of the occupied territory in prisons within their territory). The result of this violation is that the family and/or lawyers of the prisoners are often denied permits to enter Israel and thus cannot visit the prisons. This goes largely unmentioned by the international community. Instead, we read about the inhumanity of Hamas not allowing visits to Shalit.

Many aspects of Palestinian life have been criminalized under broad military orders. Examples given by Addameer are, for instance, that the political parties comprising the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are considered “illegal organizations” despite that they have been in peace negotiations with Israel since 1993. The raising of a Palestinian flag is a crime. Participating in a demonstration is a disruption of public order. Even “pouring coffee for a member of a declared illegal association can be seen as support for a terrorist organization.” Thus, imprisonment has also become a common aspect of Palestinian life.

To the families, friends, and supporters of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners, the repeated talk of prisoners as numbers can be sickening. Each and every prisoner has a life and story as worthy as Shalit’s was to the world and despite the unequal representation in the media, we can vow to empower as many voices as possible by our own means.

Urgent Action Alert for Hana Al-Shalabi

As Hana al-Shalabi is attempting to remind us that even the prisoners released in the exchange are not safe from harassment. Many have received threatening raids from the IOF in the middle of the night, with a reminder that they should not feel free just because they have been released. Others have had prices put on their head by illegal Israeli settlers, offering money in exchange for their murders.

Al-Shalabi was an administrative detainee held for two years without a charge before she was released last October. Last Friday the 17th, she was re-arrested without a charge or trial and since then she has refused food. She has been given a 6-month detention order which can be renewed indefinitely.

On day 10 of her hunger strike, she needs international support to amplify her voice. Act now for Hana al-Shalabi – sign the letter and/or send a fax!

Also, tweet:

Demand Israeli occupation release Hana al-Shalabi immediately! #FreeHana #Palestine http://samidoun.ca/?p=327

Three years, no charge? no trial? Free Hana al-Shalabi now! #FreeHana Take action: http://samidoun.ca/?p=327


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53rd day of Hunger Strike Highlights Plight of Palestinian Prisoners

Rana Hamadeh | Feb 8, 2012
Khader Adnan is entering the 53rd day of his hunger strike, and simultaneously entering a state of starvation, but he continues to refuse food on the basis that he has been detained by Israel without charges or trial, and in protest of his mistreatment at the hands of Israeli officials. Rallies held in front of the regional Red Cross offices in Al Khaleel (Hebron) this week called on the organization to take action against the human rights abuses Palestinians prisoners and detainees suffer under Israeli authority.

Khader Adnan; understanding the path that brought him here

Adnan was arrested in mid-December when the Israeli army conducted a house raid at 3:30 am. The Israeli soldiers used a Palestinian man as a human shield by forcing him to knock on Adnan’s door blindfolded, and call out his name. Several soldiers then raided the house and grabbed him in front of his two young daughters and his sick mother. He was blindfolded, handcuffed, thrown into a jeep and beaten for the duration of the drive to Dutan settlement. He was pushed out of the jeep, and due to the blindfold smashed into a wall causing injuries to his face.

Addameer reports:

Four interrogators began to insult and humiliate him, especially using abusive language about his wife, sister, children and mother… After the first session, however, Khader stopped responding and began a speaking strike because of the interrogators’ use of increasingly graphic language. Interrogation sessions continued every day for the next ten days, excluding Mondays.

On his fourth day of interrogation, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) sentenced him in his cell to seven days of isolation due to his hunger strike. In order to further punish him without being required to go to court, the IPS also banned him from family visits for three months, revealing a pre-intention to keep him in detention upon completion of his interrogation. Khader was placed in an isolation cell in a section of the prison shared with Israeli criminal prisoners. On one occasion, a force of soldiers raided his cell in the middle of the night and strip-searched him. While in the isolation period, Khader continued to be under interrogation daily.

Each day, Khader was subjected to two three-hour interrogation sessions. Throughout the interrogation sessions, his hands were tied behind his back on a chair with a crooked back, causing extreme pain to his back. Khader notes that the interrogators would leave him sitting alone in the room for half an hour or more. Khader also suffered from additional ill-treatment. During the second week of interrogation, one interrogator pulled his beard so hard that it caused his hair to rip off. The same interrogator also took dirt from the bottom of his shoe and rubbed it on Khader’s mustache as a means of humiliation.

On Friday evening 30 December 2011, Khader was transferred to Ramleh prison hospital because of his deteriorating health from his hunger strike. He was placed in isolation in the hospital, where he was subject to cold conditions and cockroaches throughout his cell. He has refused any medical examinations since 25 December, which was one week after he stopped eating and speaking. The prison director came to speak to Khader in order to intimidate him further and soldiers closed the upper part of his cell’s door to block any air circulation, commenting that they would “break him” eventually. [1]
 
Administrative Detention: no charge, no trial, indefinitely

Three weeks after his detention, Adnan was issued a four-month detention order. Adnan is an administrative detainee, and his situation is not unique. By definition, administrative detention is the ”arrest and detention of individuals by the state without trial, usually for security reasons”. The detainee is not necessarily held for a crime or offense that they have already committed, but in case of a future threat. Evidence is considered ”secret information” and is available to the military judge but not to the accused or his lawyer.

This practice violates International humanitarian law which allows administrative detention only in emergency situations, but still requires that basic rules are followed, such as a fair hearing where the detainee can argue the basis of their detention. Israeli law as well declares administrative detention illegal except in cases of state security. Israel, however, does not define ‘state security’.

Detentions last up to 6 months and can be renewed an indefinite number of times, without a trial or any evidence shown. Detainees have been held for up to 8 years without charge and since 1967, 40% of the male population in Palestine has experienced administrative detention. Although holding prisoners indefinitely disregards the 4th Geneva Convention, international leaders have not called for the release of Palestinian administrative detainees as they did for Gilad Shalit who was held in Gaza for five years under the Hamas government.

This is Adnan’s eighth arrest and he has spent a total of 6 years in Israeli prisons, mainly under administrative detention.

Adnan continues his hunger strike  for several reasons: his detention being a violation of his rights and identity; the ill-treatment he suffered from soldiers, interrogators, and Nahshon Unit; and the unjust system of administrative detention.  He refused to take vitamins or even salt in his water and is now suffering serious health problems associated with starvation.

In June 2011, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised collective punishment—including punitive isolation and reduced access to family visits, education, books, medical care, television, among others—for as long as the single Israeli prisoner held by Palestinians, Gilad Shalit, remained in the Hamas government’s custody. Despite Shalit’s release, and a mass hunger strike in September 2011, conditions remain as bad as ever, and in some cases worse. Over 200 Palestinians have died in Israeli prison as a result of inadequate health care and food, torture, assaults, and other abuses.

Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Khader Adnan be released immediately and that his administrative detention not be renewed.

  • Brigadier General Avihai Mandelblit
    Military Judge Advocate General
    6 David Elazar Street
    Harkiya, Tel Aviv
    Israel
    Fax: +972 3 608 0366; +972 3 569 4526
    Email: arbel@mail.idf.il; avimn@idf.gov.il
  • Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi
    OC Central Command Nehemia Base, Central Command
    Neveh Yaacov, Jerusalam
    Fax: +972 2 530 5741
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak
    Ministry of Defense
    37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya
    Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
    Fax: +972 3 691 6940 / 696 2757
  • Col. Eli Bar On
    Legal Advisor of Judea and Samaria PO Box 5
    Beth El 90631
    Fax: +972 2 9977326

Write to your local elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Khader Adnan and to put an end to the unjust system of detention without trial or the disclosure of evidence.

[1] Addameer – Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Palestinian prisoners released after a day of Israeli army attack on waiting families

On Sunday the 18th of December I witnessed a chaotic release of 550 prisoners from Israeli prisons to mark the last of the prisoner swap with Hamas. Every single person I asked in Ramallah was expecting to finally see a son or daughter, a sibling, a friend, or a family member.  Hundreds of people gathered outside Ofer prison around noon on Sunday, awaiting their release. Throughout the day the time of release was pushed later and later.

At some point in the afternoon, boys began to throw stones at Israeli jeeps and soldiers behind Ofer prison’s gate. The army responded by tear gassing the entire procession, including the many families that were waiting. They then operated an armoured truck that shoots a sewage-like liquid at people. “This is nothing – ” a journalist tells me as we watch from a good distance, “when the first half of the prisoners were released they sprayed so much that every media’s equipment was ruined. Consider yourself lucky.” While, yes I’m quite glad I wasn’t drenched in Israel’s manufactured-sewage water, I don’t see why anyone, ever, in any case, should have to be a victim of it. Although it isn’t a weapon created to injure (though a friend was arrested after being sprayed, and not allowed to change for several hours and now has an unknown skin disease), it is the inhumanity of it that penetrates.

The “scream” also came into use, an incredibly loud siren that can direct noise at us while not effecting soldiers. So deafening that you literally feel you cannot near it. Rubber-coated steel bullets were another favourite. A foot in front of my eyes I saw a boy get hit in the arm by one of these. He ran to the ambulance screaming.

It is very dark and very chaotic when I arrive at 7pm. The area smells nauseatingly of sewage. The clash has been going on for almost seven hours and the night makes it an entirely more dangerous scene than usual. Soldiers can’t see what they are aiming at – though in my experience they rarely use discretion anyways. I stand with the media under a tent at the edge. A woman is clearly visible to soldiers under the camera light, and reporting into a microphone. She is hopping around on a cane because one leg is in a cast.

Suddenly one, two, three, and four tear gas canisters come buzzing at us. Everyone runs, but as I’ve learned: never turn your back. I’m still close when I notice that the woman hasn’t moved her spot, unable to run with a broken leg. Gas fills the air around her. Her cane falls to the ground. She begins to sway. And in the next moment, men are running for her and hurriedly pick her up to safer ground. To run after her in the line of fire, one of the men put his arms in the air. Others didn’t care and just ran for her. Some gestured with their arms: WHY?

There was no popular celebration planned for this release. It was the worse half of the deal. The first group of political prisoners released last October included many serving life sentences while this group was largely young prisoners with short sentences, only a few weeks or months before they would have ordinarily have been released.As the mother of a young man in prison tells us, “my son is sick. He goes to the hospital in the prison. He still has years left before he comes out. But it’s not about me and my son. The sick should be released first; it’s on principle. They can’t heal in prison.”

I have heard time and again the name Gilad Shilat. I have been hearing his name for five years.I know his face like I know my friends’ faces. I have heard about all the ailing Israeli parents who worry about their own children. I have been told he was only nineteen when he was abducted or kidnapped, while every day I don’t hear about the arrest of Palestinian boys and men. Why is an Israeli soldier spoken about more than a Palestinian civilian? A Palestinian woman? A Palestinian child?

55 Palestinian children between 14-17 were released on Sunday. I don’t know any of their faces. Of the 106  Palestinian children in Israeli prisons, how many names do you or I know? After some searching I found the Guardian had reported a story I have heard a thousand times: A child, arrested arbitrarily, accused of throwing stones (a charge that usually brings 6 months imprisonment, but has a maximum penalty of 20 years), is interrogated without a lawyer, forced to confess, forced to sign a confession in Hebrew without being translated, and essentially treated no different from any adult arrested:

“Al-Hasan Muhtaseb was arrested early in the afternoon as he and his 10-year-old brother Amir were walking home through Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, after visiting their aunt.

“Two soldiers came to us and told us: ‘Come over here.’ We went to [see] them,” said Al-Hasan, a slight boy, neatly dressed, who barely looks his 13 years. “They took my brother and I don’t know where they took him. I was sent inside the station and I never saw him after that.”

They were detained separately. Amir was released later that night, deeply traumatised. “He was in a very, very bad psychological state,” said his father, Fadel Muhtaseb, 45. “He had wet himself. He was terrified.” The boy said he had been held with his eyes covered by a hat in a room where there was also a dog, which he could hear panting.

Al-Hasan was interrogated at an Israeli military post in Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement in Hebron. “I was asked: ‘Did you throw stones? Did you hurt the soldiers or hit their vehicles? How close were you to the soldiers? Why were you throwing stones?’,” he said. Eventually he had admitted throwing stones, although in an interview last week Al-Hasan said it was untrue: on that day he had not thrown stones, although earlier in the week he had.

He had been made to sign a statement in Hebrew, a language he doesn’t speak or read. He was blindfolded and taken to Ofer military prison, where he arrived at 3.30am. “There were no other children,” he said. “I was afraid.” Three days after his arrest he appeared at a military court. But his father, who works as a tiler, could not afford the 2,000 shekels (£350) bail. “My father told them he couldn’t pay this much money,” said Al-Hasan. His father, who sat next to him through the interview, burst into tears.

Last Sunday the boy was freed under a bail arrangement in which his father faces arrest if his son does not appear at the next summons. “Even if he were throwing stones, he is only 13,” said Fadel. “They treated him like a terrorist. They claim they are democratic and human, but they are not.”” [Palestinian children’s rights violated Israel]

Israeli courts try Israelis as adults at 18, but Palestinians at 16. I wrote it in my last post, but I will keep repeating it: 99.74% of all Palestinians tried in Israeli military courts are convicted. Palestinians are tried for almost every crime in military court, where the judge and the prosecutor have all been soldiers, and the word of a soldier is proof enough to put you in prison. 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested and detained by Israel. 30% to 40% of the population have been in prison and between 3 and 4 out of 5 Palestinian men have been in Israeli prisons.

Palestinians live with the insecurity of knowing that they could be arrested at any moment. Nobody shares the confidence I had growing up that I am innocent until proven guilty. Here, if you can’t prove your innocence, you are guilty. If you even have an opportunity to speak for yourself or see a lawyer.

How many stories have you heard of these prisoners since they’ve been released? Do you know that there has been a price placed on the head of many of them? Do you know that many of them have been visited by the Israeli armies in their homes at 2 in the morning – a reminder that just in case they began to feel safe at home, Israel is still in control. Do you know that many were exiled to Gaza, Turkey, or Egypt instead of being reunited with their families?

***

As the hour nears 9pm, everyone gets excited, boys stop throwing stones: it was almost time for release. At 9:10, reporters began stating to their cameras that the time has been delayed to 10pm. Every fifteen minutes a friend waiting at the presidential compound in Ramallah, where the several buses will be letting the prisoners off, calls me and I tell them that they must wait a little bit longer.

Stones came up against weapons for the next hour as we huddled behind a van’s engine for heat. A group of boys run out from behind some cars carrying something on fire – a molotov? Nope – wave after wave of fireworks flew out of his arms towards soldiers. Everyone around me is on the ground laughing at how the tense moment was broken into flashing colours.

My favourite part is when you see them leave those gates my friend tells me. He has been imprisoned five times. Though he hasn’t looked through the names, he knows he will see many brothers today. He won’t get to see them leave the gates today. They’ve let them out through another entrance! They’re on their way to Ramallah! we hear people shouting. People are running into cars and zooming away. We hitch a ride without any issues, and I stop and pick up my camera before we go.

It is a sea of people searching for people. The prisoners are greeted the moment they come out, grabbed into an embrace, or lifted into the air. Women sing, men clap, everyone cries.