• Live
    • Audio Only
  • google plus
  • facebook
  • twitter
News > Palestine

On Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, Families Express Waning Hope

  • Palestinians demonstrating in solidarity with political prisoners in Israeli jails.

    Palestinians demonstrating in solidarity with political prisoners in Israeli jails. | Photo: Reuters

Published 17 April 2019

"No one feels our pain. We're on our own," said Rashida, Palestinian fighting against her son's imprisonment about the situation of families of prisoners. 

Internationally, April 17 is marked as Palestinian Prisoners’ day. It was chosen by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to show solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, and the date— April 17 — also marks the 1974 date when Mahmoud Bakir Hijazi, the first Palestinian prisoner to be held in an Israeli prison, was released.


Israel Authorizes Organ Harvesting, Weapons-Testing on Palestinian Prisoners: Report

Israel currently holds 5,450 Palestinians political prisoners including 200 administrative detainees (people held without charges), according to Jerusalem-based Palestinian prisoners' rights group, Addameer.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Commission (PPC), 56 prisoners have spent more than 20 years in jail and around 560 have been sentenced to life behind bars.

No Rights

This year, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) has undertaken measures to "worsen" conditions for Palestinians who have been locked up.

Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced in January the government would ration water supplies and reduce the number of family visits for Palestinians. He also planned to remove their cooking rights and limit access to television.

Importantly, equipment was installed that has blocked mobile phone reception in Ramon prison in the southern Negev region, one of the many Israeli privately-run high-security prisons where activists are being held. Palestinian prisoners are not allowed phones in prison and most of them smuggle in phones in order to be in touch with their families.

Over 70 in the same prison were fined in late March after their cells were raided and some were tortured by Israeli guards.

Against all these measures Palestinian prisoners in several detention centers started a concerted mass hunger strike on April 8. On Monday they ended their efforts after IPS agreed to install phone landlines which would let them talk to their families.

Along with smuggling in phones, prisoners have smuggled their sperm out so they could have children.


Trump's 'Deal of the Century' to Not Include Palestinian State

One of them is Nabil Masalmeh whose wife gave birth to a child in 2014 through a combination of sperm-smuggling and in vitro fertilization (VF) procedure.

The couple made the decision after Nabil was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 1996, just three years after marrying. He was charged with being involved in the killing of an Israeli soldier during the second Intifada. 

Palestinians activist families are often torn apart and not allowed to see each other for the duration of their jail time. Fakhri Barghouti only saw his children once before being released in 2011 after 33 in jail and that was while they were all serving time together. "They used to call me yaba [father], but I didn't respond. I simply wasn't used to it," Fakhri told Al Jazeera in an interview.

Losing Ground

Despite a growing number of prisoners, support for those robbed of their liberties has dwindled over the years.

"No one feels our pain. We're on our own," Rashida Qubaisi told Al Jazeera. Her son is serving a 19-year sentence.

The decline in solidarity has been attributed to changes that came from the Oslo Accords signed in the early 1990s that created the Palestinian Authority.

"Under Oslo, there was a shift from Palestinian struggle being a project centered around national liberation, towards a project that became more centered around state building," says Linda Tabar, director of the Center for Development Studies at Birzeit University in Ramallah to Al Jazeera.

"Prisoners' families became objects of providing services and aid to, as opposed to being dealt with as a fundamental collective issue around which there was popular mobilization and support," adds the expert.

The change in policy has made it so that families of prisoners don’t turn up for solidarity protests as many have lost faith in the Palestinian political leadership and establishment.

Post with no comments.