Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Forgotten Palestinian Prisoners

Oct. 29, 2011 by Gary Spedding Palestine News Network

It is an easy thing for many people today to forget about the individual human being when looking at the situation in the State of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, especially when talking about the topic of prisoners.

A mother of two imprisoned Palestinians wipes away a tear at a Bethlehem protest against worsening prison conditions (Brendan Work PNN).

In recent days within the State of Israel mass celebrations can be seen in the streets and public spaces marking the release of Israeli Defence Forces sergeant Gilad Shalit a man whose face is known all over the world thanks to the media publicity of the one captive that was held by the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza strip. The release of sgt. Shalit is a positive step forward in terms of his Human Rights indeed B’tselem and various other typically pro-Palestinian organizations in Israel and even Palestinian organizations themselves such as PCHR in Gaza called for an end to the inhumane and illegal treatment of Gilad Shalit.

The question to be asked is why so many people know about Gilad Shalit and his story whilst over 5554 Palestinian prisoners are being forgotten with their images not shown, their stories not told and their humanity not even recognized. We must always remember never to compare the number of prisoners or even try to trivialize the suffering of Gilad Shalit in some callous comparison that is cruel and undermining not just to Shalit but also to Palestinian prisoners who suffer horrofically in Israeli Prisons. What we indeed must look at is the treatment of Prisoners and whether they are being held illegally without charge or trial. It is important to mention however that while the world pretty much know and would probably recognize Gilad Shalit if they bumped into him now he is free it leaves us wondering whether anyone would recognize Moatasem Raed Younis Muzher or Hamdi Tamri just two of Israel’s 211 child prisoners whom are no older than Gilad Shalit when he was taken in 2006.

What is most shocking about the forgotten prisoners of Palestine is that unlike in the media which inaccurately claims the Palestinian prisoners are terrorists including in shocking reports staking claim to the idea that the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap was a wrong move because it would release 1000 “Terrorists” the reality is that most prisoners held by Israel are done so without any crime ever being committed with at least a thousand prisoners being held without judgement, trial or accusation. These detentions come as a result mainly from the discriminatory and frighteningly discretionary (left up to the commander in charge to decide upon) military laws Palestinians are subject to which results in them being put under administrative detention as was the case with Abdullah Abu-Rahmah from Bil’in.

Amnesty international reporting on the case of Abdullah states that “Many Palestinian participants in demonstrations are arrested and held briefly before being released, but a few are convicted or held in administrative detention and therefore without charge.” in their press release in January 2010.

With this information in mind we must realize that it is cause for serious concern when hearing reports from Israel and Palestine regarding the conditions of the prisons in which these Palestinians are subject to harsh internment. To name just one such facility built illegally in the West Bank, Ofer prison is one of the most notorious for human rights abuses with legalized torture, food deprivation and sleep deprivation being just some of the methods used against Prisoners.

Recently the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called for a hunger strike in demand for better conditions in Israeli jails for Palestinian prisoners including Political prisoners. This provided a difficult challenge to the Israeli authorities who have thus far attempted to sway public opinion by using carefully placed propaganda claiming to give Palestinian prisoners better meals upping their chicken portions at meal times which is hardly a substantial improvement to general conditions inside the prisons.

To turn back to the topic of Palestinian Child prisoners usually arrested or kidnapped during or just after nonviolent demonstrations even occasionally during midnight IDF raids on Palestinian Villages we can see a pattern forming with a large amount of prisoners held in Israeli Jails – Many of them are participants, leaders, associates or relatives of people involved in nonviolent resistance in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

There have been several families in the An-Nabi Saleh village alone who participate in nonviolence that have had members of their family including children arrested and detained during night raids that have disappeared for days and even weeks. This displays a clearly defined policy by the IDF that is presently denied by the IDF spokes person of concentrated and planned collective punishment to deter people from participating in what is known as the most effective principled method of resisting the israeli occupation of the West Bank.

We see this intimidation occurring all over the occupied Palestinian territories and within the State of Israel itself with protestors and left-wing activists being targeted by laws, regulations and policies that the Knesset spits out in a desperate attempt to control Israeli citizens and continue the occupation at large subjecting Palestinians to Military rule rather than civil law.

We there for must not forget about those people, those human beings who deserve to be re-humanized currently rotting in Israeli Jails. While it is important to recognize that Israel does legitimately hold genuine terrorists (some of whom they have released recently in the Gilad Shalit Deal) we must never lose sight of the bigger political picture nor fall into the trap of forgetting about prisoners who as human beings have the same rights to life and liberty as all of us around the world.

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