From Khalid Amayreh in Occupied East Jerusalem
Palestinians mark “Prisoner Day,” demand freedom of 12,000 captives
Palestinians all over the West Bank and Gaza Strip are marking the “Prisoner Day,” with a series of activities and36meant to highlight the enduring plight of more than 12,000 Palestinians languishing in Israeli dungeons and detention camps, some for over thirty years.
Israel resorts to mass arrests of Palestinian activists and intellectuals in order to weaken the Palestinian society’s will to resist Israel’s Nazi-like occupation of Palestine. Israel also hopes to use the prisoners as a bargaining chip in any prospective final-status deal with the Palestinian Authority.
More to the point, the apartheid Israeli state routinely uses physical and psychological torture against prisoners, mostly for the purpose of extracting confessions from them.
Some of the prisoners who undergo the nightmarish experience are forced to give false confessions to escape further torture.
Israeli apartheid laws allow physical and psychological torture, dubbed as “moderate physical pressure” against non-Jews, particularly the Palestinians.
Since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in 1967, Israeli security services have arrested nearly a million Palestinians for various periods of time. This means that up to 1 in every three Palestinians was arrested at least once in his life.
Without charge or trial
In recent years, Israel has been detaining Palestinians en mass, including political activists, religious leaders, community leaders, students and academics for prolonged periods of time, with the main purpose being to cripple the Palestinian society.
According to both Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, hundreds of Palestinians are imprisoned in Israel for periods ranging from 6 months to 7 years without charge or trial. Today, it is believed that as many as 1200 Palestinians are languishing in Israeli jails and desert detention camps without charge or trial.
The captive population keeps growing as the Israeli army rounds up an average of 20-25 Palestinians on any given day.
In numerous cases, the Israeli justice system, which is widely believed to be subservient to the Israeli army, refuses to free Palestinians whose jail terms have expired as is the norm all over the world. Instead, inmates are reclassified as “administrative detainees” whereby they are made to serve several more years of unjustified and manifestly illegal incarceration.
Normally, administrative detainees are effectively treated as political hostages who don’t know why they are in jail.
For example, Azzam Salhab, a professor at the Hebron University was arrested more than 5 years ago on charges pertaining to his peaceful political activities. And despite the fact that his jail term expired more than two years ago, Salhab is still languishing in jail in the notorious Negev desert.
Prisoners of conscience
In recent years, Israeli repression of Palestinians reportedly reached “Nazi proportions.” Nearly two years ago, the Israeli Shin Beth, Israel’s chief domestic intelligence agency, arrested nearly all Palestinian legislative council members in the West Bank as a reprisal for Hamas’s electoral victory in the January, 2006, elections.
This week, the Popular Committee in Solidarity with Palestinian Hostages in Israeli Detention Camps issued a press release calling on the international community and human rights organizations all over the world to pressure the Israeli government to put an end to “the Nazi treatment” being meted out to Palestinian captives in Israeli jails and detention centers.
The following are excerpts of the appeal:
“The continued illegal detention by Israel of dozens of democratically-elected Palestinian officials, including lawmakers, mayors and city councilors flies in the face of democracy, the rule of law and human decency.
Nearly two years ago, and as a provocative act of political vendetta, the Israeli occupation army arrested nearly all Palestinian lawmakers who won the legislative elections in the West Bank in 2006. A few weeks later, the number of elected officials abducted from their homes and offices grew drastically to reach hundreds of people.
The Israeli army claims the detainees are members of a “terrorist group.” However, the continued detention without charge or trial of these people underscores the utter mendacity of Israeli claims.
In truth, Israel is tormenting these people and their families and relatives for their conscience.
In any law-abiding country, a person is usually treated as innocent until proven guilty. However, the Nazi-like Israeli occupation has consistently viewed each and every Palestinian as guilty until proven innocent. In numerous cases, however, the Israeli justice system is viewing and treating detained Palestinians as guilty even if proven innocent.
This is indeed the case with Palestinian lawmakers and other officials who ran in an election that was approved by Israel itself and the rest of the international community. Hence, their continued imprisonment, without any due process, shows that they are being held as hostages, first and foremost, for political reasons.
This behavior doesn’t fit respectable states, let a lone a state that claims to be “the only democracy in the Middle East.” It is rather a behavior characteristic of gangsters and common criminals.
Yes, virtually all Palestinians are firmly opposed to the Israeli occupation and colonialism. This doesn’t make them guilty of any crime. Hence, it is imperative that the enduring imprisonment, without any due process of law, is viewed as a crime. How else can one relate to the open-ended immoral and illegal detention of innocent people who committed no crime.
Unfortunately, the possibility of non-Jews, particularly Palestinians, receiving justice under Israel’s inherently racist justice system is very slim. In the final analysis, the Israeli Justice System is a rubber stamp used by the military establishment to effect and perpetuate Israeli oppression and systematic persecution of the Palestinian people.
We therefore call on all freedom-loving people as well as human rights organizations around the world to exert pressure on the Israeli authorities to immediately end this scandal and set these innocent detainees free and compensate them for their suffering.
After all, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Some observers believe that the virtual silence of the international community in the face of Israel’s harsh oppression of Palestinians has encouraged the Jewish state to adopt even harsher measures against the unprotected and helpless Palestinians.
Western powers, which often criticize other countries for alleged or real human rights violations, are generally mum about Israel’s manifestly criminal human right records.
* Source: Palestine Informaltion Centre
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