Deans of Palestinian Political Prisoners: A History of Struggle for Freedom and Dignity

O you with bloodshot eyes and bloody hands, Night is short-lived,
The detention room lasts not for ever, Nor yet the links of chains.
Nero died, Rome did not: With her very eyes she fights.
And seeds from a withered ear With wheat shall fill the valley.
Mahmoud Darwish

Prisoner Solidarity Tent in Ramallah © Reham Alhesi

Prisoner Solidarity Tent in Ramallah © Reham Alhesi

Among the over 7000 Palestinian prisoners/detainees held captive in Zionist dungeons, there is a group of 43 prisoners, which grows with every passing month, of very courageous and patient prisoners. These prisoners, called the “Deans of Prisoners”, have been locked up behind bars for over 20 years! Among the 43 “Deans of Prisoners”, 30 have been imprisoned prior to signing the Oslo Accord in May 1994, and who were supposed to be released, but Israel as always never abides to any agreements or promises. Among these, there are 21 prisoners who have spent over 25 years in Israeli captivity. These are truly the “Generals of Patience”, while 9 prisoners who have spent over 30 years in captivity are termed the “Icons of Prisoners”. These prisoners endure this long and harsh captivity because the love of Palestine is strong in their heart and because the belief in the justice of their cause is as strong as the first day of imprisonment. The Zionist torture couldn’t break them and the Zionist dungeons couldn’t break them. According to “Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum” signed on 04.09.1999, all Palestinian prisoners/detainees arrested by Israel prior to 04.05.1994 shall be released, nevertheless, again confirming the futility of negotiations with the Zionist entity, Israel refuses to release many of these detainees and they are often excluded from prisoner exchange deals. These dungeons are graves for the living, prisons spent more inside them than outside them. They were not only robbed of their freedom, but also of their lives; Some left their children as babies behind to talk to them behind glass bars as grown up men and women unable to hug them. They were deprived of seeing their children grow up, deprived of holding them, playing with them, taking them to school, talking to them, quarrelling with them, celebrating with them, crying with them. Some left their parents and siblings behind, their parents punished and their homes demolished. They were deprived of the morning talk with their mother, deprived of her coffee and taboun bread, deprived of her voice singing Mish’al and Dal’ona. They were deprived of working the land with their father, taking the first steps of the dabke with him, deprived of the evening walks with him among the olive trees. They weren’t allowed to attend their children’s wedding, nor their parent’s funerals. They were neither allowed to share the joy nor give comfort and words of consolation. Some aren’t allowed to see their families, others aren’t allowed to see anyone. And some left the darkness of these Zionist dungeons to lie in the darkness of the graves. They were deprived of the sunrise over Jerusalem, the blossom of the Hannoun on the hills of Hebron, lying under the sun on the meadows in Jenin, playing with sand of the Mediterranean, watching the sunset over Nablus. They were deprived of their mother Palestine. The jailor tried to break their spirits, strangle them within the walls of the captivity, but instead Palestinian prisoners stood as one, united, again and again, and fought fierce battles for their freedom, for their dignity. With their mass hunger strike for freedom and dignity, they are breaking the walls of captivity and are marching towards freedom. These prisoners are not just figures in a list, they are not just statistics to be added to reports. They are heroes, they are freedom fighters. We will never do them justice, will never be able to thank them enough for their sacrifice, but the least we could do is remember their names, know a little bit about their lives, where they come from, what their hopes were and what their wishes for the future are. We should remember their suffering and tell them every day that there will never be freedom for Palestine without the freedom of all Palestinian prisoners/detainees. And to their parents I say: your children are not forgotten. They are in our hearts and minds for they are our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and comrades. Continue reading

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Karamah Strike: The Revolution of Empty Stomachs towards Achieving Freedom and Justice

Dignity Strike © google images

Dignity Strike © google images

On 17.04.2017, on the Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, more than 1500 Palestinian prisoners held captive in Zionist jails launched a mass open hunger strike, the “Dignity Hunger Strike”, by which they will refrain from taking food and only drink water and salt. additional prisoners joined the hunger strike over the days, to reach over 2000. Through this hunger strike, the prisoners demand a series of improvements to their living conditions, an end to the policies of solitary confinement, administrative detention and medical negligence. Palestinian prisoners resort to hunger strikes after they exhaust all other attempts to extract their rights from the Israeli Prison Authority (IPA) through dialogue, hunger strike being the most effective way to demand the improvement of humanitarian conditions inside the prisons. Hunger strikes are known as the battles of the “empty stomachs”, because once hunger strikes are launched, prisoners refrain from eating all the food except for water and a little salt, and thus they use their bodies to demand their rights and resist injustice. This is not without risks to their health, and has led to the martyrdom of some prisoners.

The IPA refuses to recognize the legitimate rights of Palestinian political prisoners and detainees, and violates these rights on a daily basis. In addition to systematic torture, physical and verbal abuse, repeated attacks and humiliation, Palestinian political prisoners and detainees are constantly subjected to medical negligence and are denied proper nourishment. Cells are daily raided and searched, often at night, and the private property of prisoners is destroyed or confiscated. They are tied up for hours under the hot sun or under the rain, are deprived of sleep, isolated. They are forced to buy their own food and water for extremely high prices from the prison canteen and to pay for the water and electricity they consume. Israeli raids are carried out on a daily bases in occupied Palestine. Family visits are restricted or cancelled and many Palestinian prisoners are denied their visitation rights completely. There were cases where families of prisoners on their way to see their children were abused and humiliated at Israeli checkpoints and parents were asked to undergo naked body searches. This forced the families to return without visiting their children. Political prisoners are further punished by the IPA through being forced to buy their own food and water for extremely high prices from the prison canteen and to pay for the water and electricity they consume through high fines imposed on prisoners for trivial reason such as leaving the bathroom one minute later than decided by the jailor. These sums are withdrawn from the prisoners’ accounts without their knowledge. Families of prisoners are further collectively punished by Israel: some families have their homes demolished, others have their property destroyed and often parents, siblings and children of prisoners are taken as hostages to pressure prisoners into confessing to things they didn’t do. Avigdor Lieberman, current Israeli foreign minister, stated on 07.07.2003 in front of the Israeli Knesset in a discussion on Palestinian political prisoners that “It would be better to drown these prisoners in the Dead Sea if possible, since that’s the lowest point in the world.”[1], adding that as transport minister, he would be willing to provide the buses to take the prisoners there. Continue reading

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Palestinian Female Political Prisoners and Detainees: Ongoing Resistance Behind Zionist Bars

Israeli soldiers escort blindfolded Palestinian women to the Kissufim Israeli army base,after they were detained during a military operation in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Yehuda Lahiani)

Palestinian political prisoners © google images

Since 1967, more than 800,000 Palestinians were detained by Israeli occupation forces, including over 15,000 women. During the First Intifada at least 3000 women were detained and during Al-Aqsa Intifada more than 900 women were locked up behind Zionist bars. Palestinians are subjected to raids by the Israeli occupation forces, whether day or night raids, to their houses, villages, refugee camps or towns, and subjected to kidnappings at checkpoints or workplaces. Sometimes those detained are released after a few days, after a few weeks or remain in detention indefinitely. These kidnapping and detention take place in violation of international laws and conventions, whereby the treatment of Palestinian female prisoners during arrest, interrogation and detention is a clear breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in particular Articles relating to the protection of civilian prisoners at the time of war, particularly Article 32, Article 76, Article 49 and Article 27. In average, the Zionist entity kidnaps and detains 5-8 Palestinian women and girls monthly for various reasons and periods. Often, Palestinian female prisoners are accused of being involved in or supporting Palestinian resistance, or as a means to pressure their wanted relatives to hand themselves in or in order to obtain confessions from their imprisoned relatives. Additionally, the Israeli occupation Prison Service (IPS) uses psychological and physical torture as a means to extract confessions and information from the Palestinian prisoners, including women. For example, interrogators deprive Palestinian female prisoners of sleep for long periods during interrogation, which may last from 20 to 120 days, and they are tied to plastic or wooden seats in interrogation cells as a means to achieve physical pressure. Additionally, Palestinian female prisoners are subjected to various forms of psychological torture; including verbal harassment, insulting religious and national beliefs of the prisoners, uttering obscenities in front of them during the investigation, threats of sexual assault and rape to force Palestinian women to surrender and submit confessions. Additionally, Palestinian female political prisoners, like their male comrades, are held under inhumane conditions in cells that are overcrowded, dirty, humid, cold in winter and hot in summer, and lack ventilation and the basic needs for living. They also suffer from various punishments, ranging from malnutrition, medical negligence, to denial of family visits and isolation. Continue reading

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Ghassan and Oday Abu Jamal: The Red Eagles of Palestine

Ghassan and Oday Abu Jamal’s grave in Sawahreh © Reham Alhelsi

Ghassan and Oday Abu Jamal’s grave in Sawahreh © Reham Alhelsi

Ghassan Kanafani once said: “Eagles don’t care where they die” … for all of Palestine is theirs: her fertile land, her blue sky, her calm water. All of Palestine is theirs from the River to the Sea, from Jerusalem to Gaza to Safad, and from Ras Il Naqura to Im Il-Rishrash. Palestinian eagles decorate the sky of Palestine; they rise every morning with the first light to safeguard the sacred home, mark the path towards the free horizon with their blood, and paint the sky a reflection of a homeland eternal and undividable.
Ghassan and Oday Abu Jamal are two Palestinian eagles… they chose freedom over slavery, chose resistance over subjugation, chose action over apathy… they now roam the sky over Jerusalem Al-Quds…. two red eagles watching over Palestine, protecting Al-Aqsa… they are the guardians of Jerusalem Al-Quds, joining Mohammad, Mu’taz, Ibrahim, Abdel Rahman, Mahmoud, Mustafa, Hanadi and thousands others before them…. and joined by Ala’, Diya’, Mohannad, Fadi, Mu’taz, Bayan, Iyad, Fadel, Dania, Iyad, Mohammad, Ra’ed, Fadel, Amjad, Ihab and many more others after them who gave their lives freely so Jerusalem Al-Quds can live, so Jerusalem Al-Quds can remain as it should be: Palestinian: from Sawahreh, Abu Dees and Izariyyeh to Beit Mahsir, Deir Rafat and Sar’a, from Rafat, Beit Diqqo and Beit Inan to Jrash, Beit Itab and Deiraban. Continue reading

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Palestinian Female Political Prisoners and Detainees: Resistance and Steadfastness towards the Liberation of Palestine

Palestinian female political prisoners and detainees © google images

Palestinian female political prisoners and detainees © google images

O darkness of prison, reign, we love the darkness
For after the night there is nothing, but the dawn of a glory that is rising
They fight the darkness, they fear it not. To them, it is the constant companion that will only end with either martyrdom or the glory of freedom and defeating the jailor. Every minute and every day, Palestinians held captive in Israeli dungeons present tales of heroism, steadfastness and resistance; they resist the occupation with their steadfastness, with their patience and with their refusal to surrender. They break the chains of captivity every day with their strong will and their unity. They defeat the Israeli jailors every day with their belief in the inevitability of victory.
Since 1967, more than 800,000 Palestinians were detained by Israeli occupation forces, including over 15,000 women. During the First Intifada at least 3000 women were detained and during Al-Aqsa Intifada more than 900 women were locked up behind Zionist bars. Palestinians are subjected to raids by the Israeli occupation forces, whether day or night raids, to their houses, villages, refugee camps or towns, and subjected to kidnappings at checkpoints or workplaces. Sometimes those detained are released after a few days, after a few weeks or remain in detention indefinitely. These kidnapping and detention take place in violation of international laws and conventions, whereby the treatment of Palestinian female prisoners during arrest, interrogation and detention is a clear breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in particular Articles relating to the protection of civilian prisoners at the time of war, particularly Article 32, Article 76, Article 49 and Article 27. In average, the Zionist entity kidnaps and detains 5-8 Palestinian women and girls monthly for various reasons and periods. Often, Palestinian female prisoners are accused of being involved in or supporting Palestinian resistance, or as a means to pressure their wanted relatives to hand themselves in or in order to obtain confessions from their imprisoned relatives. Additionally, the Israeli occupation Prison Service (IPS) uses psychological and physical torture as a means to extract confessions and information from the Palestinian prisoners, including women. For example, interrogators deprive Palestinian female prisoners of sleep for long periods during interrogation, which may last from 20 to 120 days, and they are tied to plastic or wooden seats in interrogation cells as a means to achieve physical pressure. Additionally, Palestinian female prisoners are subjected to various forms of psychological torture; including verbal harassment, insulting religious and national beliefs of the prisoners, uttering obscenities in front of them during the investigation, threats of sexual assault and rape to force Palestinian women to surrender and submit confessions. Additionally, Palestinian female political prisoners, like their male comrades, are held under inhumane conditions in cells that are overcrowded, dirty, humid, cold in winter and hot in summer, and lack ventilation and the basic needs for living. They also suffer from various punishments, ranging from malnutrition, medical negligence, to denial of family visits and isolation. Continue reading

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Steadfast for Palestine: The Heroes of the Battle of “Breaking the Chains”

Dheisheh refugee camp, solidarity tent with hunger strikers © Reham Alhelsi

Dheisheh refugee camp, solidarity tent with hunger strikers © Reham Alhelsi

Seven Palestinian administrative detainees have been waging the battle of “Breaking the Chains” against administrative detention; Nidal Abu Aker, Shadi Ma’ali, Ghassan Zawahreh, Bader Al-Ruzza and Munir Abu Shara are on day 31 of an open hunger strike, Bilal As-Seifi is on day 25 of an open hunger strike, Sleiman Skafi is on day 19 of an open hunger strike. With their joint hunger strike, they united Palestine: united Al-Walaje with Nablus, Al-Jora with Dura, Ras Abu Ammar with Hebron. From behind Zionist bars they raise their voice against the illegal administrative detention and against injustice. Their struggle is for all of us, their message is unanimous, their demands are clear: an end to the policy of administrative detention, establishing an international commission on arbitrary administrative detention, physical and psychological compensation for administrative detainees, and defeating the law of force-feeding hunger strikers.
I sat with Im Nidal, Im Shadi, Im Ghassan and Im Bilal in their living rooms, simple houses in the steadfast refugee camp… I hadn’t been to Dheisheh since my beloved grandfather passed away one and a half years earlier… the refugee camp was the same… Im Nidal’s living room was the same… the graffiti leading to Im Shadi’s house was the same, Dheisheh’s narrow alleys and neighbourhoods were the same… it seemed that some things never change; you could still feel the power, the strength, the struggle in the narrow alleys of Dheisheh, you could smell the resistance coming from the simple houses, the same simple houses that produced the heroes and the martyrs of the First and Second Intifadas and the time before and after. Some things never change, the steadfastness, the dream of return and the belief in victory never change… We talked about the old days, about Dheisheh, talked about family members, and exchanged greetings, talked about relatives we hadn’t seen in a while because of work and other daily matters that keep people apart even when they are so close and shared so much… we talked about the hunger strikers, about the resistance, about those who sacrifice their lives so Palestine may live free and about those who betray Palestine so they may continue to live as slaves…. And it seemed, in the sea of all things constant, something do change; to some, betrayal and treachery have become a point of view … betrayal is no more a crime against man and land, but an opinion… this more than anything else pained us and still does, but we are partly to blame, because we, the Palestinian people, as the force leading one revolution after another, we don’t hold popular revolutionary courts for the traitors who are betraying Palestine, Palestinian constants and Palestinian rights. In Dheisheh I sat with them, the mothers of the four hunger strikers; steadfast and defiant like their children, strong and patient for their children, and always present at the tent of solidarity with the hungers strikers. These four Palestinian women from Ras Abu Ammar, Al-Jora, Al-Walaja and At-Ta’amra, together with their hunger striking sons, are the heroes of the battle of “Breaking the Chains”. I asked them the same questions; what was the latest news coming from the isolation cells where their sons are held captive, how do they see the solidarity actions with their children, what messages do they have for the Palestinian people, for those standing in solidarity with their children and for their children resisting the occupation with their empty stomachs and leading the battle of “Breaking the Chains”. Continue reading

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The “Battle of Breaking the Chains”: Towards the Freedom of Palestine and Palestinians

Palestinian hunger strikers © google images

Palestinian hunger strikers © google images

Nidal, Shadi, Ghassan, Bader, Munir, Sleiman, Bilal, Amer and Kayed
9 Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike, refusing to eat, refusing to surrender. 9 Palestinian heroes held captive in Zionist dungeons, breaking the walls of captivity, defying their jailor, protesting their illegal and inhumane detention. 9 Palestinian freedom fighters; their only weapon their strong will and the belief in their just cause, their only weapon their empty stomachs steadfast in the face of torture, intimidation and force-feeding. Hunger strikes have always been a legitimate and effective weapon of protest and struggle used by Palestinian political prisoners and detainees in the face of injustice. Whether mass hunger strikes that sweep Israeli jails or single hunger strikes that last for months; Palestinian freedom fighters continue to resist the occupation from behind Zionist bars and isolation cells. Their battle against their jailors, against the policy of administrative detention, against the sham courts of the occupation, is the “Battle of Breaking the Chains”; an on-going battle till all Zionist jails are empty, an on-going battle till Palestine is free from the River to the Sea. It is a battle to break the chains of all Palestinians held in Zionist captivity; those held captive in small jails and those held captive in the bigger jails defined by the infamous Oslo Accords, it is a battle against injustice, a battle towards the freedom of all of us. Continue reading

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From the Children of Palestine to the Secretary General of the United Nations

My name is Mohammad Abu Khdeir

Martyr Mohammad Abu Khdeir. Source: google images

Martyr Mohammad Abu Khdeir. Source: google images

I lived with my family in Shufat in occupied Jerusalem, and had 5 siblings. I loved playing, participating in social occasions, be it weddings or feasts. I loved dancing the dabke, which is a Palestinian traditional dance, and was member in a local dabke troupe. I loved birds, loved watching them sing, but could never own one because it meant caging them. I hoped one day to be free like a bird, and go places and travel. I was a pupil at a technical school, and studied to be an electrician, just like my father, to help him in supporting our family one day. I loved Ramadan; loved to go to the nearby mosque and pray there, to have Iftar (breaking the fast) with my family and friends, and to spend the evening with my friends laughing and joking. I loved to go to the mosque at dawn for morning prayer, to have that last drink of water before the fasting starts, and to help my father at his workshop. Because of my training as electrician, in the summer of 2014, I helped decorate the neighbourhood with lights in preparation for Ramadan. Continue reading

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Sheikh Khader Adnan: Starving for a Free Palestine, Struggling against Administrative Detention

Sheikh Khader Adnan's daughters © google images

Sheikh Khader Adnan’s daughters © google images

To my people, my family, and to the world’s free souls. . . I send my greetings, love, gratitude, and honour, which I draw from God, from your prayers for me, and from your sincere love… From my beloved al-Ramla city and its majestic minarets . . . I salute you again… I am not engaged in a personal fight for freedom. My battle is that of all Palestinian detainees who have been yearning for freedom and dignity…. Administrative detention is just one of the most despicable castigatory policies our people has ever witnessed. It shall forever stand as a scar on Britain’s and Israel’s face. From the bottom of my heart, I express my gratitude for your support and solidarity. May Allah restore our freedom so that we can rejoin our families soon. They [Israeli jailers] took it upon themselves to dash my hopes; I take it upon myself to win the fight by all means possible, God willing.”
Your brother and little son, Khader Adnan – Ramle clinic isolation.

With these words, Sheikh Khader Adnan addressed us, the Palestinian people, his people, from his isolation in Ramle prison. Our little son, as he preferred to sign his letter, is no stranger to Palestinian households nor is he a stranger to the entire free world; the 37 year old baker, father of 6 from Arraba, Jenin, has long become a living symbol of steadfastness, resistance and patience, for he is the face of Palestinian dignity and the igniter of the “battle of empty stomachs” against Israel’s administrative detention. Continue reading

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Palestine: A Case of Eternal Love

Palestinian children from Gaza © Abed Allah Alostaz

Palestinian children from Gaza © Abed Allah Alostaz

It is a clear-cut case…. it doesn’t need political or social or military “analysts”, it doesn’t need “middle east experts” or experts on the “Palestinian Israeli conflict”…. it is a clear-cut case, a case of eternal love; a pure love that defies time, a love that is inherited, that is transferred from one generation to the next, a love that moves in our veins, feeds the mind and enriches the soul, a love that keeps the heart pumping, a love that keeps us alive, a love that is life itself… it is the love of Palestine.

When you travel along Palestinian villages, you hear the houses whispering; beautiful houses, with their white stone darkened with the years, old houses with their green yards, arched balconies and domed roofs, with the jasmine flowers climbing the staircase and the poppies and the daisies decorating the threshold…. Beautiful houses, old houses, new houses, mixing the traditional with the modern, with their black water tanks, solar panels and satellite dishes, gathered in clusters, hugging one another, protecting one another, extending over hilltops and across valleys…. when you pass by these beautiful houses, you hear them whispering words of love to the olive field in the distance, and to the cactus walls defining the road to Safad and Bisan. Continue reading

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