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Palestinian Political Prisoners

by Stephen Lendman Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at 7:45 AM


Palestinian Political Prisoners

by Stephen Lendman

Palestine imprisons no Israelis for any reason - zero. Thousands of Palestinians wrongfully languish in Israel's gulag.

They're tortured and abused. They're intimidated, humiliated and degraded. They're held under appalling conditions.

They're poorly fed and clothed. They're denied proper medical treatment when ill. They're mostly political prisoners. They're punished for being Muslims.

Since Israel's occupation began, over 800,000 Palestinians were incarcerated. It's about 20% of Palestine's population. It's around 40% of its male population. Doing so is unprecedented anywhere.

Nearly all Palestinian prisoners are held inside Israel. Incarcerating them outside Palestine violates Fourth Geneva's Article 49. It states:

"...forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons (including prisoners) from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."

Article 76 states:

"Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein."

Fourth Geneva requires treating all prisoners humanely. Israel ignores all international humanitarian laws. It does it willfully. It maliciously subjects Palestinians to cruel and unusual punishment.

On December 28, Israel announced the release of 26 Palestinian political prisoners. On December 30, they'll be freed.

They've been wrongfully imprisoned for 19 - 28 years. Last summer, Netanyahu got cabinet approval for 104 releases.

Freeing them is coincidental with sham peace talks. New lawless settlement construction is announced at the same time.

Implementation is in four stages. In mid-August, 26 were freed. On October 29, an equal number followed. On December 30, so did 26 more.

Since releases began in August, Israel imprisoned many more Palestinians than it freed. Its so-called good will gesture is meaningless.

No Palestinian is safe. Anyone faces potential arrest and imprisonment any time for any reason or none at all. Police states operate this way.

Ahmed Qatamesh is a distinguished Palestinian academic, author, and human rights activist.

On April 21, 2011, Israel lawlessly arrested him. It did so pre-dawn. He was at his brother's home.

An hour earlier, heavily armed Israeli security forces terrorized his wife, children and two female relatives.

They were held hostage. It was done to compel Qatamesh's surrender. At gunpoint, his daughter Hanin was forced to call him. She explained her ordeal, saying:

"(T)hey pointed their machine guns at us and told us they wanted to search the house."

"After a futile search, the soldiers went to the apartment right above ours whose owners - US citizens - were away. They knocked down the main door and wrecked the place."

"They confiscated our phones, disconnecting us from the outside world. The commander forced me at gunpoint to call my father."

"He then grabbed my phone and shouted at him, 'Surrender yourself or we'll destroy the house!' "

"Perhaps the most important principle that I learned from my dad was never to allow obstacles to keep me from realizing my dreams."

"I will continue to dream of Palestinian freedom. Along the way, I will continue to expose the brutality of Israel's occupation and our land - and houses."

"It's so clear that he is there because of his ideas and political activism. He is a prisoner of conscience, and he is there because of political reasons."

His wife Suha said:

"It's so clear that he is there because of his ideas and political activism. He is a prisoner of conscience, and he is there because of political reasons."

Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouti called his arrest "a shameless attempt at muzzling him in an unjustifiable attack on his freedom of expression."

Euromed Platform of NGOs vice president Gerarda Ventura called him "one of the most sensitive and intellectual people I have ever met." He highlighted his struggle for "freedom, justice and peace."

In 1969, his ordeal began. Israel detained him for several months. In 1972, he was arrested again. He was imprisoned for four years.

In 1992, he went underground. He did so until arrested in September. He was administratively detained for five and half years. Israel held him uncharged and untried.

He was tortured and abused for weeks. Israel shamelessly called him a "dangerous" leader. He documented his ordeal in prison notes.

He titled them "I Shall Not Wear Your Tarboush (a fez like cap)." He explained brutalizing torture and solitary confinement. Israel treats most Palestinian prisoners the same way.

At his October 31, 2011 military court hearing, he said:

"You are destroying my life, and I want to know why. As a human being, I have my own mind and I am educated, and I want to know what I am detained for."

In September 2011, Amnesty International (AI) declared him "a prisoner of conscience." He's imprisoned "solely for the peaceful expression of his political views," AI said.

In Occupied Palestine, Israel prohibits free expression and assembly. It denies Palestinians all rights.

Qatamesh was imprisoned administratively uncharged. So are many other Palestinians. They're denied due process.

They can't contest their detention. They can be held indefinitely. They're not told why. Three Israeli laws authorize detentions:

• the Order Regarding Administrative Detention; it's part of

military law governing the West Bank;

• the Emergency Powers (Detentions) Law for Israel; and

• the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law (the 2002

Unlawful Combatants Law).

Four Israeli entities have decision-making authority:

• Shin Bet (Israel's Security Agency);

• military commanders in charge;

• the IDF prosecutor's office; and

• military judges adjudicating cases.

Administrative detentions last six months. They can be indefinitely renewed forever. Most detainees are held on individual administrative orders.

Israeli authorities decide based on a so-called "reasonable (belief) that the security of the region or public security" is threatened.

Prolonged detentions are common. Doing so grievously breaches international law. Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:

"Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one

shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law."

"Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest,

of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him."

"Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful."

On December 26, the Samidoun Palestinian Solidarity Network

headlined "Palestinian writer Ahmed Qatamesh released after 2 1/2 years of administration," saying:

He was "held in Israeli jails without charge or trial." His wife Sufa said he was released at Salem checkpoint.

Israel informed Addameer prisoner support group lawyer Mahmoud Hassan. Samidoun said Qatamesh "continued the struggle for justice and liberation for the Palestinian people inside and outside prisons for decades."

He "faced severe repressions for his clear voice of advocacy. (He's) a clear and heroic voice of dignity, justice, steadfastness and commitment to Palestinian rights."

On May 2, 2011, his daughter Hanin discussed "When Israeli soldiers came to arrest my father."

She was born in New York. She lived in Occupied Palestine through high school. She studied mass communication at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

"...I will not be silent," she said. "Israeli occupation soldiers" surrounded their house. They were heavily armed. They were "in combat formation. They "broke in and occupied the house."

"They threatened family members with machine guns. My 14-year-old cousin, Nai, and 69-year-old aunt were sleeping inside."

Nai "woke up trembling and speechless…After a futile search, the soldiers went to the apartment right above ours..."

US citizens owned it. They were away. Soldiers broke in. They "wrecked the place."

"There we were, four Palestinian females of different ages stuck in a room with a bunch of guns pointed at us. They confiscated our phones, disconnecting us from the outside world."

"The commander forced me at gunpoint to call my father, who was at his brother’s house. I did."

"He then grabbed my phone and shouted at him, 'Surrender yourself or we’ll destroy the house!' "

"My father shouted back, loudly enough so I could hear him, 'You and your soldiers are tools of the occupation.' "

"You are violating our basic rights. You have no right to be in our home. Come arrest me here and leave my family out of this!' "

Hanin vowed to continue exposing occupation harshness. Israel terrorizes millions of Palestinians. No one knows from one day to the next who'll live, die, be imprisoned, or remain free until another dawn.

Britain's University and College Union (UCU) is Europe's largest academic union. In May 2011, it called for Qatamesh's release, saying:

"Congress expresses its condemnation of this fundamental breach of human rights, instructs the General Secretary to raise the matter urgently with the (Foreign and Commonwealth Office), and the Israeli Embassy, and agrees to circulate the Amnesty appeal for Dr. Qatamesh to all members, urging them to write to MPs and the Israeli embassy calling for Qatamesh to be either released or charged and given a fair trial."

Gary Spedding founded the Queen's Belfast Palestine Solidarity Society. In 2012, he wrote Israel's UK ambassador Daniel Taub. In part he said:

"As concerned human rights campaigners we urge the Government of Israel to immediately and unconditionally release Ahmad Qatamesh from Israeli administrative detention."

He's "detained solely for the peaceful expression of his non-violent political beliefs."

"We urge you and the government you represent to release Ahmad Qatamesh immediately."

"We urge you to end the practice of 'administrative detention' once and for all. No one should be imprisoned without charge or trial."

"No individual or group of people should be subjected to collective punishment by an occupying power."

Twenty UK-based student society organizations endorsed Spedding's letter.

It didn't matter. Qatamesh was lawlessly detained for two and half years. He's now free.

For how long remains to be seen. He's a marked man. So are other Palestinian human rights defenders. It bears repeating. Police states operate this way. Israel is one of the worst.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

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


Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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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