December 6, 2006

Palestinians in Israeli Jails.

More than 8000 Palestinians are held by Israel as political prisoners. Around 800 of these are "administrative detainees", meaning that they are held without charge or trial indefinitely. The fate of these prisoners comes into the fickle focus of the world media once in a while. The recent Israeli offer to release some prisoners in exchange for a kidnapped Israeli soldier means that once again people are talking about the thousands of unfortunate Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails.

This is an excellent article by Amira Hass discussing the plight of these prisoners. It is a great article because it posits the situation of Palestinians in Israeli jails right along that of Israelis in Palestinian custody, and places the problem in a proper historical context.

As the article explains Israel practices inhuman policies with regard to Palestinian prisoners denying them even basic rights.
[A Palestinian] is imprisoned on Israeli territory, in Ashkelon Prison, although international law forbids the imprisonment of members of an occupied nation in the territory of the occupying country. Like the other Palestinian prisoners, he is imprisoned as a criminal offender and not recognized as a prisoner of war. But he and his friends do not receive the rights of criminals, such as the basic right to family visits. [Prisoner]'s mother last visited him about a year ago, after not having seen him for five and a half years. For about three years, the military authorities did not allow residents of the West Bank, and primarily the northern West Bank, to visit their imprisoned loved ones.

The article does not mince words in assigning the blame where it belongs - on Israeli authorities. It also mentions how this policy backfires on Israel by adding fuel to legitimate Palestinian concerns and strengthening the hand of extremists.

Finally, the article puts all this in context.
Of course, this phenomenon is not unique to Israel: The British, the whites in South Africa, the French, also portrayed those who were active in the resistance movement to their imposed rule as bloodthirsty terrorists. They also had difficulty understanding the argument that those same criminals with blood on their hands (whom the opposing side describes as freedom fighters) have the same right to be free as do the soldiers and policemen who under the orders of the dominant country killed and wounded civilians from among the dominated population.


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