7 February 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank
On Monday and Tuesday Palestinians rallied for Khader Adnan and all political prisoners before regional offices of the Red Cross, demanding that the organization takes a solid stand for the rights of more than 5000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees held in Israeli prisons.
The mood was at once festive and somber Monday, February 6th, when a determined group of family, friends, and solidarity activists rallied in front of the Al Khalil (Hebron) office of the International Committee of the Red Cross, demanding that the organization take a stand for the rights of more than 5000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees held in Israeli prisons, many without ever having been formally charged or offered legal defense. Organized by the Palestinian Prisoner Society, Monday’s demonstration comes two weeks after Israeli soldiers stormed the Al Quds (Jerusalem) ICRC office to arrest two Hamas government officials taking shelter there and three weeks after another three Palestinian elected officials were arrested.
For the last three months, the Palestinian Prisoner Society has organized a weekly protest to highlight the miserable plight of specific detainees—this week’s political prisoners are Khader Adnan and Razeq Al- Rjoob.
Khader Adnan is protesting his administrative detention in a hunger strike that has extended 52 days, with his health debilitating rapidly. Razeq Al- Rjoob is another political prisoner who has been kept in solitary confinement over eight months.
These men’s stories are not all that bring out protesters, many of whom have lost fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, and friends as well as mothers, daughters, or sisters to Israeli prisons. Badran Jaber had his son, Rasan Badran Jaber, taken from him three months ago when soldiers entered the house, locked him and his wife in one room, and then “demolished all their furniture” and arrested their son.
Like the men recognized this week, Jaber said his son was detained because he is active in the prisoner rights movement, agitating from inside during an eight year sentence and continuing after his release. Jaber was taken into custody once again without charge or legal recourse. Serving more than one multi-year prison sentence or period of detention without charge is common for Palestinian young men of Hebron, and the West Bank generally, especially for those engaged in civil resistance.
Incredibly in such a public conflict, Jaber maintains that most people internationally “do not know about the administrative detentions” and stated that the Red Cross needs “to [spread] knowledge of what is happening to the Palestinian people.”
With a mandate from the Geneva Conventions (1949) and additional Protocols I & II (1977), the ICRC is charged with holding military, occupying, and national forces to international humanitarian and human rights standards, which include prohibitions of torture, abuse, collective punishment, and forced relocation, and require that detainees be granted (among other rights) adequate food, water, medical care, legal representation, and visitations by family and aid workers.
Barbara Lecq, head of the ICRC’s Sub-delegation for the Southern West Bank was present for the protest and spoke to her organization’s position. Questioned about the protests, she expressed doubts about the feasibility of the crowd’s expectations, but also stated that review of “material conditions” in the lives of prisoners and detainees, especially access to food, water, outside time, and social interaction, is in order. While detentions, she added, are permitted under the Geneva conventions and are “nothing new” to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt), they “may turn out not to be nice or moral.”
According to Amjad Najjar, media spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoners Society and head of the Hebron branch, the most recent wave of prisoner civil resistance was inspired in part by similar resistance movements to British authority in Ireland. “We all watched the Bobby Sands documentary,” he said.
At its height the strike has included as many as 2000 prisoners from all political parties and has brought systemic abuse of Palestinian inmates into limelight of international media.
Organized resistance among Palestinian resisters is no new phenomenon. Previous generations of prisoners have fought and won the ability to self-organize and educate, the very same rights taken away by the Netanyahu government.
The PPS itself is the continuation of organizing that took place inside prison, says Najjar, when prisoners recognized the need for prisoners to self-represent as much as possible to outside media. Along with advocacy for prisoner rights, they facilitate visitations and provide legal, educational, and other services for inmates and their families.
While Najjar said, “Our problem is not with the people of the ICRC…we think they are in solidarity,” the PPS campaign to end prisoner abuse is expected to escalate in coming months leading up to Palestinian Prisoner’s Day on April 17th.
Until the ICRC denounces the treatment of prisoners and formally recognizes their status as prisoners of war, the Palestinian Prisoners Society will continue to hold weekly demonstrations.
This coming week a demonstration will take place near the town of Ad Dhahiriya at the Meitar Checkpoint, a main route for Palestinians to visit incarcerated family members. Soldiers have begun conducting frequent strip searches, including of women, in dual harassment of would-be visitors by violating their modesty and cultural and religious prohibitions.
On Monday the father of Khader Adnan, Musa Adnan, announced that he too would join his 33 year old son in solidarity by partaking in the hunger strike, meeting with Salaam Fayyad in Ramallah.
Amnesty International also commented on Israel’s lack of compliance to international law, denouncing the potential fatal results of Israel’s lack of concern for prisoner rights. In a statement by Amnesty International’s Anne Harrison, Deputy Director of North Africa and the Middle East, she stated:
The Israeli authorities must release Khader Adnan and other Palestinians held in administrative detention unless they are promptly charged with internationally recognizable criminal offences and tried in accordance with international fair trial standards.
According to a statement released by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainee Affairs, the Ofer prisoner administration has collectively punished 8 prisoners who have joined Khader Adnan’s hunger strike, transferring them to solitary confinement. The prisoners names are Raed al-Sayegh, Muhtaseb al-Assa, Ayman al-Za’qeq, Hassan lafi, Mohammad Shaheen, Ahmad al-Iweiwi, Na’il and Firas al-Barghouthi.
Qadura Fares, the president of the Palestinian Society Prisoner’s Club, announced on Monday that demonstrations and acts of solidarity would continue. Prisoner advocates requested a statement from Ofer military court on Monday regarding the extension of Adnan’s administrative detention, only to receive a confirmation from Israel that Adnan still faces at least 4 months of imprisonment, enacted since the order was arbitrarily placed on January 8th.
On Monday night supporters gathered in Ramallah’s clock square in light of Adnan’s diminishing health, violated rights, and Israel’s lack of regard or concern. According to local organizer Sabreen Al Dwak, she urged the community on Monday night to say “No to killing our people” in a meeting in Clock Square that evening. The action continued into today as hundreds of Palestinians and supporters gathered in front of the International Red Cross Office in Ramallah and in Clock Square, demanding a firmer stance against Israel’s manipulative and abusive measures of against Palestinian political prisoners.
Al Dwak collapsed during the demonstration as she endured her fourth day on hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners. Doctors gave her salt, which is commonly employed to sustain such hunger strikes.
She refused further medical care in order continue her hunger strike. Solidarity activists will continue to camp in Clock Square, on hunger strike, while according to WAFA News, the campers will remain under medical surveillance.
According to the prisoner support and human rights organization Addameer (‘Conscience’), since 1967 Israeli authorities have arrested 2 in 5 Palestinian men and 1 in 5 Palestinians in generally (700,000), including 10,000 women and many thousands of children. Currently there are more than 200.
These numbers do not include those incarcerated by proxy, through the Palestinian Authority, which has on many occasions been obligated to cooperate with Israeli forces. The steadily worsening conditions for 4500-6000 Palestinian in Israeli prisons at any given time received a severe shock in June 2011, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised collective punishment—including punitive isolation and curtailed access to education, television, books, medical care, family visits, and more—while the single Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit remained in Hamas custody.
Later that year, in September 2011, Palestinian prisoners from multiple factions and prisons announced a “Campaign of Disobedience,” involving a hunger strike, refusal to prison uniforms, and noncompliance with role calls. Even though Shalit was released in October, conditions have not improved and in many cases have worsened, according to an Amnesty International report. Since 1948, over 200 Palestinians have died in prison, from inadequate medical care and food, severe beatings and torture, and other abuse.
For more updates or to take action, people can monitor the ISM website (callouts for action will be posted), respond to Adameer’s call to action, or write an email to the ICRC Jerusalem Office (JER_jerusalem@icrc.org) and demand they take a stand for prisoner rights.
Aaron is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).