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Palestinian Prisoner Diaries

by Stephen Lendman Sunday, Apr. 28, 2013 at 9:16 AM


Palestinian Prisoner Diaries

by Stephen Lendman

Israel's gulag is one of the world's worst. Palestinian political prisoners fill it. Their crime is wanting to live free from occupation. It's longstanding. It's ruthless. It's illegal.

We headlines "Israel/Palestine. The time is now. Divest from the Israeli occupation." It targets TIAA-CREF. It's one American's largest financial services firms.

It claims it cares about socially responsible investment. It continues profiting from Israel's illegal occupation. It violates its own principles doing so. It's not alone.

Israel's a rogue terror state. Boycott, divestment and sanctions are essential. They're the only policies Israel understands. Global efforts are necessary.

They're vital until Israel obeys international law. Its gulag prison system reflects the worst of its lawlessness. Palestinian prisoner diaries explain more. More on them below.

In February, Israel tortured Arafat Yaradat to death. Brutal beatings killed him. In early April, Israeli medical neglect took Maisarah Abu Hamdiah's life. Days later, another Palestinian prisoner died. He did so under mysterious circumstances. Israeli brutality bears full responsibility.

"The Prisoners' Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag" presents firsthand experiences. Journalists interviewed 22 Palestinian prisoners.

Norma Hashim compiled them in one volume. She prepared them for publication. They explain what media scoundrels suppress. They show how Palestinians suffer. They do so through no fault of their own.

Richard Falk wrote a compelling review. He discussed shared concerns. Key words stand out. They include "pain, God or Allah, love, dream, homeland, steadfastness, tears, freedom, dream, (and) prayer."

Reading these diaries exposed Falk "to the distinct personal struggles of each prisoner to survive with as much dignity as possible in a dank and poorly lit circumstances of isolation, humiliation, acute hostility on the part of the prison staff, including abusive neglect by the medical personnel."

They confirmed a commitment to resist. Prolonged captivity changes nothing. Prisoners expressed "a special kind of eloquence." It reflects their "authenticity and passion."

Female prisoner Sana'a Shihada recounted her interrogation ordeal. She did so in "poetic idiom." It was after learning her family home was spared. Demolition wasn't carried out as planned. She said:

"….the anger of the interrogators was like snow and peace to me (an Arabic saying that conveys a sense of being 'soothing')."

"I felt the pride of the Palestinians, the glory of Muslims, and the brightness of honesty. I knelt to Allah, thankfully."

"My tears fell on the floor of the cell, and I am sure they dug a path which those later imprisoned will be able to see."

Eyad Obayyat faces three life sentences. "Among us prisoners, the unity of love for our homeland was precious above all other things," he said.

Avina Sarahna asked:

"Is resisting occupation a crime?"

"Let me be a witness to the truth, and let me stay here."

Kahera Als'adi reflected on being separated from her children. She learned they're living in an orphanage.

"I couldn’t keep myself from bursting into tears," she said. "Was my loving family scattered like this? Was fate against us because of our love for our homeland?….I felt like a slaughtered sheep."

Other prisoners expressed similar poignant sentiments. It's not easy doing so behind bars. It's harder in Israel's gulag. It's ruthless. It shows no mercy. It brutalizes Palestinians for praying to the wrong God.

Falk was moved by what he read. Human stories matter most. Prisoners miss their spouses, children, parents and extended families.

Some are confined for life. They'll never see them except on rare occasions. It's done "under dehumanizing conditions." It's "through fogged up separation walls."

Autobiographical texts turn prisoners into "fellow human beings." They're people like us. They have "loves, lovers, needs, aspirations, hopes, pious dreams, and unrelenting hardships and suffering."

They're concerned about what goes on at home. Palestinian families are close. Confinement causes great hardships. After decades of occupation harshness, virtually all Palestinian families experienced Israeli cruelty.

Lawful resistance is criminalized. It's brutally punished. The diaries let readers "experience the torment of these prisoners as human beings rather than as Palestinian 'soldiers' in the ongoing struggle against Israel."

Hunger strikers do so best. They're willing to die for justice. It's their way to resist. They do so courageously. Family ties, religious faith, and determination to live free drive them.

Israel's cruelty is unrelenting. It's reflected many ways. Innocent victims are imprisoned lawlessly. They're tortured and ill-treated. Their fundamental rights are denied.

Collective punishment is policy. So is state terror. Jews alone have rights. Palestinians are considered subhuman. Lawless treatment follows. Israel spurns international laws. It does so with impunity.

Its criminal class remains unaccountable. Palestinians suffer horrendously. They've done so for decades. Thousands languish in gulag confinement. Being there reflects extreme pain and suffering. Israel makes it excruciating.

Falk calls it a "moral obligation of all of us who care about human rights and freedom to read this book, and share it with others."

"Reading the words of these prisoners vividly discloses the nature of such a struggle in the form of witnessing by those Palestinians who have put their lives at risk for the sake of recovering their stolen homeland."

"We also owe a debt of gratitude to Norma Hashim who has edited this collection as a work of devotion and an expression of solidarity with and reflection on the Palestinian struggle."

She let Palestinian political prisoners reach out and touch us. Oday al-Khatib faces 10 years in prison. He's accused of throwing stones. "His beautiful voice now sings out in prison."

After 27 years in prison, Ibrahim Baroud was freed. He was reunited with his mother.

"Despite her age, she has joined every hunger strike prisoners launched since her son was detained, and has never missed a protest for Palestinian political prisoners."

"She always says, 'I am not only the mother of the detainee Ibrahim Baroud, but of all the prisoners and oppressed. I’ll keep calling for their freedom as long as I am alive.' "

Marwan Alzard's mother explained what it's like being separated from her son for 20 years.

"Oh brave lion," she said, "I would sacrifice my heart to save you. I would give my soul and every valuable thing to free you."

"My imagination could not offer me a picture of my beloved patiently enduring behind the walls of humiliation."

"But my imagination was weaker than God's will, which always allowed me to see him in my dreams as if I was with him the whole night."

Dorothy Law Nolte's "Children live what they learn" said:

"….if (they) live with hostility, they learn to fight." Israeli harshness creates the next generation of Palestinian resistance fighters. They'd rather die than do less.

Hassan Salama spent 13 years in solitary confinement. He urged people not to forget him. "Welcome to death if it's a means to freedom," he said. He received 47 life sentences.

"Death warns us: Welcome! What a beautiful freedom," he said!

"Brother Abu Tariq. We haven’t lived together. We have not met. But we were close because we share the same life as all prisoners do."

"A life I talked about when I was in solitary confinement along with a group of other inmates, in the other world that is closer to the world of the isthmus (the line between life and death)."

"By Allah’s support and prisoners' heroism, we moved a little away from this world as prisoners got us out of those graves."

"Days before your martyrdom, I found myself using available efforts and capabilities to stand in solidarity with you."

"That world does not support or remember us except when a soul leaves a prisoner’s body to its creator, so that that world and its people get prepared to receive a closed parcel from our world, in which the body of one of us is put."

"Pease, send him, put him in a coffin and find him a place to bury him in."

"Tuesday, April 2nd, our parcel contained your pure body. Excuse us my brother. We were unable to do anything for you. We, the same as you, wait eagerly to become parcels so that we might get our freedom."

"By this, we will relax and make others relax too! By this, we will save energies and efforts and money to liberate those who are going to free us!"

"On that day, Nafha Prison went on hunger strike in solidarity with you. We were allowed to go to Alfoura for only an hour. We were few in number."

"I was at one of the corners practicing sport. One of the voices called upon me from inside one of the cells saying: 'We received the following news. Brother Abu Tariq, Maysraa AbuHamdia was martyred.' "

I expected that yet I stood still in surprise. One might say 'I fear death.' Who among us does not fear death? I look for death! It’s a welcomed visitor to us, if through it we get our freedom."

"They said 'Our dead O Hassan. What’s the difference? Which is better, the life of humiliation and degradation or death with some remaining dignity?' "

"We die every day 1000 times as we hear the screams of the sick prisoners and live their pain and suffering."

"One is suffering cancer. One has low blood sugar level. One is suffering renal failure. One is in need of oxygen, and one broke the records on a prolonged hunger strike."

"These things didn’t push you (the people of the other world) to do anything but it hurt our hearts. We see prisoners screaming and tortured. How difficult to find yourself powerless in front of those (prisoners)."

"Death which you (the people of the other world) fear prisoners speak about in their world. It’s 1000 times more merciful to them than your silence, powerlessness, and ignorance and more merciful than the enemy’s gloating and mocking."

"Abu Tariq felt the pain for months because of cancer. No one hears about him. No one mentions him. Not even a small piece of news or a sentence in a president’s or official’s speech."

"We live his suffering and feel his torment. As he dies, all compete to get closer to him and to talk about him! So, Abu Tariq gets 1000 friends and thousands of organizations."  

"I don’t want to harm anyone….This is the benefit of death. You want us dead the same as the enemy wants us! Abu Tariq, enjoy a freedom you were granted by God. Welcome to death as a means and a way to freedom."

"I wonder if a person or an organization come and claim that you are their martyr and consider your death one of their achievements. We will surely know about this when we stand before Allah who makes all feel satisfied."

"May Allah bestow mercy upon you Abu Tariq and make the spacious Heaven your dwelling."


Prisoners waiting their turn to join you.

On their behalf, your brother prisoner Hassan Salama."

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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