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Interview with PFLP Leader Abed Al Aleem Dana

a longer version of my Electronic Intifada article here

Abdel-Alim Da’na is a PFLP leader who is also a professor at Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron, teaching Palestinian history, human rights, and the Hebrew Language. He has been imprisoned by Israel for 17 years since the 1970s. Myself and fellow ISMer ‘Alistair George’ went to interview him in his beautiful home in Hebron. Here he is posing with what he affectionately refers to as his ‘Freedom Flotilla’, which he made over a 3 week period while behind bars!

Abdel-Alim Da’ana with a model ship he built while in Israeli prison.

He is a man with decades of revolutionary experience organizing and resisting, who spent four years in the same prison cell with Ahmad Sa’adat. He told us about Marxist-Leninist education in prison, PFLP’s philosophy and views on Hamas’s Gilad Shalit deal and the Arab Spring, the collaboration between PFLP, the Black Panthers and Neturei Karta in the 1970s (though he couldnt say much about that), and much more.

 

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How long were you in prison?

I spent 17 years in Israeli prisons. In 1972 I spent more than one year, and in 1975, they gave me 17 and a half years. I was released by an exchange of prisoners between PLO and Israel in 1985. I spent ten years and two months in jail. Then they arrested me in the First intifada, the first uprising, and I spent four years without a trial, an administrative detainee. Then I spent about one year or more, and then in 2004 I spent one and a half years.

The Israeli management inside the prisons is very difficult, and they mistreated us inside the prisons. Dozens of people inside the prisons were absolutely crazy, I saw many go crazy because of the very bad conditions inside the prison. I wrote about more than two hundred detainees who died inside the prisons. And I wrote in 1989 about the social situations and political situations about the Intifada detainees, and this is research I did inside the prison. And now I want to publish another book, but I haven’t the money. But I will publish it if I get enough money! And I have written many essays about the prisoners inside the prison.  I wrote a book about the 94 prisoners who died inside the prisons, and I am going to continue to speak about the other men who died inside the prisons because some of them were killed because of interrogations, and some of them were not given suitable treatment.

And you must believe me that the situation is very difficult, very hard and we see that, because we are inside the prisons, everything is confiscated, including our freedom, and we haven’t enough food, our family can’t visit us inside the prison freely, and they mistreat our families when they visit us.

We organized ourselves inside the prison. Every political organization makes their systems and law. There were Fatah, PFLP, DFLP, and these were the three main organizations. All the organizations do their best so as to find books. At first we hadn’t books, we hadn’t newspapers, we hadn’t papers or pens so as to write, but we smuggled many things like these. Also, once we smuggled books into prisons, we smuggled papers and pencils and we copied the books by hand to give to our friends.

The first thing we did when we entered the prison was put an end to illiteracy. Everyone when they enter the prison must learn to read and to study. Some people when they enter the prison cannot read or write, and we put an end to their illiteracy. Some of them are very famous journalists now, some are poets, some are writing in the newspapers and writing research. I have many names of these people who couldn’t read or write, and now they are very respectable members of Palestinian culture, men in the Palestinian Authority and writers of all sorts. For example, Fadel Unis (sp?) wrote many tales, he is a very famous author! For example, Mohayed Abdeh Samad (sp?), he wrote three books! Faheed Al Haj, he wrote five researches about the prison, and when he entered the prison he could not read or write at all! Now he is a famous researcher. Hundreds of people who entered the prisons are now working with the Palestinian Authority.

About 70% of Palestinian writers and cultural people were once in prison. You must know that from 1967 to now, more than 800,000 people entered Israeli jail! Now in the West Bank there are about 3 million people, and 1 and a half million in Gaza. You can see that in any house or home, in any family, they have a prisoner. More than 90% of our people, their son or their neighbor or their relative entered the Israeli prisons.

We have many educational programs inside the prison, for example the leftist organization, like PFLP or DFLP, has a program in philosophy, political economy, Lenin’s books, and all of the Marxist-Leninist texts. It is a part of our culture.

So you took illiterate prisoners and started to teach them Marx and Lenin and philosophy and economic theory inside the prison?

Yes. All of the books we have inside the prison we smuggled them, and we gave money to the guards and police so as to bring the books for us.

What happens if they find items that have been smuggled in?

They confiscate it, but we have many copies, the prisoners have many branches. We have a book in every branch. If they confiscate one, we have others inside other sections. And we have many hunger strikes, and are used to struggling inside the prison to make our life possible. For example, the first hunger strike was in 1970, this strike was to put an end to Israeli mistreatment of our prisoners. The guard or the policemen said ‘Issa, come in!’ He beat him. Why? ‘Because I don’t like him!’ And when you speak to the guard, you had to say ‘please sir, ok sir’ and you had to bend your head. We saw that they are treating us very ugly, very inhumane. This was the first hunger strike. And we succeeded in this hunger strike in 1970, to put an end to the guards’ mistreatment of prisoners.

And then we called to bring us newspapers. They at first brought us a newspaper called ‘It Al Anbar’, it was reported by Israel intelligence, by Shabak. We wanted to change this. Another time in 1956 Ashkelon prison had a big strike, they continued with this strike for forty eight days, so as to bring freely Arab magazines and Arab newspapers and Arab books inside the prisons.  And the Israelis consented to bring in the books! We called this very important for the prisoners, it changed our lives. Then we made other hunger strikes and other struggles against Israel. Everthing we have taken from Israel is not given to us by the authorities, it is by our own strikes.

We have also inside the prisons magazines, very simple magazines we wrote by hand. For example Fatah has one or two magazines inside the prison, and also PFLP has a magazine. Sometimes we call it Al Hadaf- The Goal. We wrote these magazines by hand, with pencils, and some people put drawings in the magazines, and some prisoners wrote poems, some wrote tales and short stories.

Did you also write about political theory and philosophy inside the magazines?

Yes of course, we wrote about political theory and philosophy inside the magazines, and political economy, many Marxist-Leninist essays inside these magazines. And we also had essays where we discussed our situations inside the prisons, and our relationship with other organizations.

Did you write about news inside these magazines?

We did not have radio transmitters, we were smuggling transistor radios but the Israeli authority considered it very dangerous. We put them inside the cells, and they discovered some of these, but some they did not. In September 1985 we had a hunger strike in Ijnaid [sp?] jail, we continued it for 13 days. The police minister discussed with us about this hunger strike. I and Jibrin Al-Joob [sp?] and Salam Eid Dawardat [sp?], we had six representatives of the prisoners, we discussed our demands and we forced them to permit us to bring a radio. And this made a revolution inside the prisons!

We had many other demands and we forced Israel to give us these demands. Some were big strikes, some were only one prison or a few prisons, but we had some strikes for all the Israeli prisons. We forced Israel to give us many things, for example Hebrew newspapers and Hebrew magazines- they brought the Jerusalem Post from 1970 onwards. We used this to learn the Hebrew language! And everyday we translated the Hebrew magazines. I myself had already graduated from the university in 1971, but I read very very much, and studied hundreds of books in many branches of culture inside the prison, and I taught the Hebrew language to other prisoners. Now I teach this language inside PPU and Hebron University!  And I improved my English language inside prison.

The education rates inside the prisons is very high. This is true for all the Palestinian people. It is like France and like Germany, we are literate people and people of culture. The rate of the girls until grade 11 who study is more than boys, in all of Palestine! We are a highly educated people, and for this we are proud, and we do our efforts to put an end to illiteracy. Now, as the United Nations reports, Palestinian people are one of the highest educated people, the rate of Palestinian people who are educated is 90%, more than any Arab country and many countries in Asia and Africa! This makes us proud about our people.

I was wondering about the education committees in prison. Are they organized by parties? Does PFLP only educate prisoners inside the PFLP? Are different parties exposed to other’s political ideas?

We do some lectures with everyone listening and discussing. Some from Fatah make  a lecture about their situation, and some from PFLP- we do many things with each other. But sometimes, because we have a leftist wing, we also have our own left culture. And some Fatah members have also their programs about national culture.

Does everyone read the magazines?

Yes, but everyone prefers to write in their own magazine. But inside Tulkarm prison, we had one magazine, and we all wrote in it, it was a very good magazine.

What Marxist-Leninist books did PFLP teach the prisoners?

Philosophy. All the Lenin books. Das Kapital.

All of Das Kapital?

Yes! It was large, and very difficult, but we studied it. Engels- ‘The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State’. I explained this book more than ten times, I am very admired of this book, it is very important. We also read Das Capital- because we studied political economy, we were dependent on it. Also Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks. And we read Guevara, and many Marxist Leninist theoreticians.

What is the value for the PFLP of teaching that to prisoners?

Philosophy is explaining about the world, all the world, philosophy gave us all the ideology about the world and about how ideologies have been born.  And philosophy explains the truth of life. For this reason it is important.

And to teach the prisoners about resistance and revolution in the past and in other countries, does this help the prisoners understand how the Palestinian resistance is part of the revolution all over the world?

Yes, we consider ourselves a part of the international revolution. We did not have relations with the world revolution because we are inside the prison, but we are with any movement that struggles for its freedom, for its liberty, and we support all the movements all over the world who want to determine themselves and their own people.

How much of an inspiration is the Arab spring for the Palestinian people?

I say it is a very good revolution and a very civilized revolution, and this reflects that the Arab people want to live in a democracy like other people all over the world, to elect their governors and dismiss them! We are proving ourselves as Arabs. I do not look on us as Palestinians in one sense, I look on us as Arabs. We are all speaking Arabic, from Morocco to Amman, we are all speaking Arabic and Islam is our culture, and we have cooperated with each other on many many things. We have the same culture, the same happiness. Imperialism divided us, because when we are divided it can exploit us, and exploit our wealth. And dividing us gives imperialism the opportunity to exploit these divided countries. All of the Arabs are with us as Palestinians, because we know we are under occupation. Our catastrophe is that the world believes in Israel and Israel lies.

Historically, if you want to know, Israel established a state 1000 years before Christ, and this state continued about two hundred years, about two percent of Palestinian history! Because of this they say they have a historical right to establish their own state. They haven’t any kind of historical right! If they have rights, we have as Arabs a right to establish our own state in Spain because we stayed there seven hundred years, or Sicily because we had an authority in Sicily more than four centuries! And then we have the authority as Arabs to establish dozens of states, until we reach to China, because we stayed there hundreds of years!

But the interests of the Jews and the interest of imperialism were very close to establish a state in Palestine. Palestine is between Africa and Asia, and when they put a state in Palestine they divided the Arab countries who live in Africa and the Arab countries who live in West Asia. It is very strategic for imperialism to control the Suez Canal. But when the Jews established the state hundreds of years before Christ, they established it on 10% of Palestine. Now they have occupied all of Palestine! Even if they have historical rights to have a state here, why did they take all of it? They have no historical right. Our catastrophe is that the West believes Israel’s lies, and the Arabs and Palestinians do not have the propaganda to persuade the world that this land is ours! But the West is not looking for the truth, they look only for their interests in Palestine or in the East.

What kind of state does the PFLP envisage or fight for now?

We believe in a Palestinian state in the occupied territories, in Gaza and the West Bank, with Jerusalem as its capital. But we have to return the Palestinians to their homes, to their villages! We have UN resolutions giving the Palestinians the right to return to their homes, but Israel refused. And ultimately we have to establish a secular state in all of Palestine, where everyone, every religion and every ethnic nation have rights to their literature and have rights to be elected and to elect, like every other democratic state!

What is PFLP’s belief about Abu Mazen’s (Mahmoud Abbas’s) call to statehood in the UN?

Yes, we support this. It is in the Palestinian’s interest for the US and the UN to accept a Palestinian state.

In the past there have been people like Nasser who believed that the whole Arab world can unite against imperialism. Do you think that with the Arab Spring that might happen today?

The Arab Spring revolutions are a kind of Gamal Abdel Nasser strategy, because all their revolutions call to dismiss Israeli occupation from the occupied territories, and the uprising people believe in Palestine. And they know that Israel is not established against Palestinians, it is established to weaken the Arab world, so that imperialism and capitalism can exploit all the wealth in the Arab world! The Arabs who are torn and not united will see that their interest is to make a union between them. They begin to know now that Israel is not against the Palestinians, but against the Arabs, and also against world peace.

Israel’s policy of mass imprisonment attempts to break the political resistance and will of the Palestinian people, but prison life increases political resistance and revolutionary will…

Israel can arrest hundreds of people, thousands of people, but in spite of that Israel cannot put an end to the revolution and Palestinian resistance! Since 1967 Israel has been arresting people, but it cannot end the resistance. Israel has imprisoned millions of people under the collective punishment of occupation, it has put many obstacles against Palestinian people in every branch of life, but our people resist, like any other people all over the world who are living under occupation and tyranny. Israel has mistreated all the prisoners and detainees, but we have a soul. We do not enter prison because we rob or rape or anything, but because we resist the occupation authority, because we resist Israel’s procedures against our people.  And the people support the prisoners in demonstrations, in protesting, and support them by money, and by visiting the families of prisoners- these prisoners are the heroes of our people. And the prisoners who enter these prisons live in a national atmosphere and a resistance atmosphere.

So it’s against Israel’s interests to send Palestinians to prison, because they are creating a culture of resistance! It’s backfiring!

Of course, it is very bad for Israel! But Israel can’t do anything! They are thinking that ‘when we put them inside the prison, we end the resistance’. Instead, this imprisonment created hundreds, thousands of resistant men and youth.

I want to ask about your life, how did you get involved in political activism when you were younger, and why did you join the PFLP?

It is my ideology, the ideology of the PFLP is suitable for me. It is rational thinking, it is logical thinking. I was in the university, and I was very affected by the students and our lecturers, and by the revolution atmosphere. This effected me and thousands like me, and I resisted the Israeli occupation authority.

And then you became a teacher, inside and outside of prison! Did you teach every day?

We had classes every day except Friday. But we had many lecturers inside the prison. Sometimes I taught philosophy, sometimes political economy.

From the 1990s onwards, religion became a large part of Palestinian resistance, and now you have many people turning to Hamas’s fundamentalism instead of PFLP secular leftism. Why?

You see, the Marxist-Leninist theory failed. Not because it is wrong, but because its applications failed. For example, the Soviet Union failed to apply this theory, and this effected many leftist organizations. The people want to search for other ideologies to explain the world and to struggle against imperialism and colonialism, and of course Israel. And for them, the religious ideology serves to explain all the difficulties that they face.

How does the PFLP feel about Hamas?

It considers Hamas as a national organization that struggles against occupation. But we have many differences with it, because it explains the world and situations not like us, you see. And it is not considered a historical resistance organization. It began in 1987, but we have leftist national organizations that began a half century ago!

What do you think of Hamas’ prisoner deal?

We appreciated this bargain, yes.

But PFLP was holding a large hunger strike at the same time!

When we began the hunger strike we did not know that there would be a bargain between Hamas and the Israel authority, and it is not in the interest (of the hunger strikers). If they knew there was going to be an agreement, they would not have begun the strike. But in spite of this the strike was not bad, it ended solitary confinement.

Do you think that the Palestinian people will have an Arab spring, or another intifada?

This is a difficult question! We are under the Palestinian Authority and under the occupation, and Israel interferes with everything in our life. But we are struggling democratically in the occupied territories. It is difficult to think about an intifada, because we have direct occupation. We are facing the Israeli soldiers only at the checkpoints. But if there is still a direct occupation, we must have the third and fourth intifadas until they are dismissed from the occupied territories.

Do you know Ahmad Sa’adat?

I spent four years with him in Tulkarim prison, inside the same cell! He is a friend of mine.

There is widespread torture by the Israelis in prison, were you subjected to any torture?

Yes of course, they used all kinds of torture. Of course it is illegal, but they are looking for their interests. More than 200 died inside the prisons. More than 50 of them died under hard interrogations. They use all kinds of torture, all kinds.

Did you spend time in solitary confinement, in isolation?

Yes, if you do anything they consider illegal in prison, they put you in isolated cells. In interrogations I spent more than 100 days inside isolated cell without anybody, and they used all kinds of torture to take information from me. Not only I, but many persons, many detainees.

Why were you arrested?

Because I resisted the occupation, and in 1972 I organized the students in the West Bank to resist the occupation. And I made contact between an Arabic and Israeli organization to resist the occupation authority, and some of them have been arrested from the Israeli side, and some escaped outside the country.

Do you mean Matzpen?

Not Matzpen, with the Black Panthers, we helped each other organize and cooperate with many things against the occupation. Also with some Haredim, some very religious men who believe that establishing a Jewish state is against God’s will. They consider Zionism  as against Judaism and against God’s will. Neturei Karta and other organizations. To prove they were with us, for example, they brought weapons for us. I did not use it, but they smuggled weapons to us to prove they were with us to resist against the Israeli occupation. We cooperated with them in many branches of struggle. To press magazines, they brought us instruments.

The Black Panthers sung many songs, one of their songs went “I went to the labor office, so as to work. They asked me, ‘where are you from?’ I said, ‘From Morocco!’ They said ‘get out!’ I went to the labor office, so as to work. They asked me ‘where are you from?’ I said ‘From Poland!’ They said ‘Ah yes! Bring him a cold drink!’”

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Interview with Prison Rights Journalist Raed Atrash and Activist Issa Amro

Today myself and fellow ISMer ‘Alistair George’ walked over to the Youth Against Settlements outpost on a sunny Hebron hilltop, in the middle of a windy fall afternoon. We expected to interview a recently released Palestinian prisoner, but instead we were greeted with Raed Atrash, a human rights journalist who writes extensively about the rights and plight of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. He works with Al-Arabiya broadcasting on a radio programme as well, covering mainly Hebron and Gaza occupation-related news. We interviewed him extensively about the condition of Palestinian prisoners, and our translator, nonviolent resistance organizer, Youth Against Settlements activist and ISM co-founder Issa Amro, used the opportunity to talk to us at length about his own political views. I am putting up the interview- which touches on everything from prisoners’ rights, education in prison, prison resistance, media censorship, the Gilad Shalit deal and the Third Intifada- as it occurred, mostly unedited.

Issa Amro with Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak in Hebron

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Raed-
Life inside prison is organised very well. Every prisoner who is arrested by the Israeli army will go to the prison and he will have to put [align] himself with a party. The responsibility of this prisoner will be on these parties. For each party, there is a leadership committe which organises the life of these prisoners.

Prison is divided into many parts, in each part there is a commitee from all the parties which  control and organise the life. Inside every part this committee decides laws which the prisoners have to follow in order to organise their life. There is a cultural committee in order to raise the awareness of the prisoners of what’s happening outside and inside to give them the experience to deal with their situation. There is also a management committee to solves clashes between prisoners if something happens.
There is a religious commitee which will conserve the right to pray for every prisoner.

[There are] rarely [clashes/rivalry between different political groups in prison].
There are a lot of problems between the prisoners and the Israeli management of the prison. They interfere and they try to make problems for the prisoners. They try to interrogate them in the night in order to annoy them and not to create stability in their lives. They also try to strip search them. They try to take the electronic machines which prisoners use – televisions or hot-plates. It’s not easy to continue the life without these things.

There is also an educational committee. There are very intelligent [and well-
educated] prisoners inside the prison who have a very high level of educational
abilities. The task of this committee is to teach the prisoners how to read and write, simple education.

Before 5 years ago the management allowed papers and pens into prison. After Shalit [was captured] they prevent books, pens and paper from entering. There were books in the past but now new books cannot enter the prison. They are allowed now to buy pencils but not new books.

[Are any prisoners studying for degrees or taking high school exams?] Absolutely none.

Issa – In the past they were letting the schoolchildren take the high school exams but not anymore – not the high schools or even any degrees as a collective punishment for all the prisoners for Shalit. After Shalit was captured they launched a new law (‘Shalit’s Law’) against the prisoners. After he was released everyone thought they might stop Shalit’s Law, to let the Palestinian prisoners study, to let the families from Gaza vistit their family members. Until now, nothing has changed – only the isolation because of the hunger strikes.

Raed- Many prisoners volunteer to teach the other prisoners but the main issue is to have a formal education – to have a degree at the end of the education and they are not allowed to do it. They call it self-education, the prisoners teach each other many subjects. It’s continuous and working well – you need education to fill your time, otherwise you will go crazy.

Criminal Palestinian prisoners are put in an Israeli civic prison..

Issa – in 2010 I was arrested but they put me with the civic prisoners! This was a form of punishment [for me]. Criminal prisoners are equal to any Israeli prisoners, they have many rights. They have as many rights as Israelis.

Raed– Around 30% of the Palestinian prisoners are political prisoners; they didn’t participate in any armed resistance. We have more than 250 adminstrative prisoners, around 5% of the prisoners, which is illegal. I [personally] know 10 journalists in jail but there are a lot more.

They teach the prisoners about the Palestinian cause in general, about the history of the Palestinian people and the tragedy and teach them many case studies in the world, Che Guevara and these kind of revolutions – the French, Indian, Colombian – to use them as a case study for revolutions across the world. There are many political meetings, debates, discussions among the prisoners to teach them and empower their discussions. For many prisoners this is a form of steadfastness for them and a form of remaining in their cause and supporting their motivations and their willingness to learn more and more. Without this kind of education and empowerment I don’t know if they can survive.

[Resistance in prison] Usually they have many steps and they have their own
nonviolent resistance history – the hunger strike and disobedience. They have
representatives in there, a structure, people who negotiate with the authorities, they try to talk to them and convince them. They start with boycotts, not listening, not going for the count, missing meals until they go to the hunger strike. After the hunger strike is the disobedience – they ignore the security completely and they don’t listen at all – which makes it very hard and its not easy to count the prisoners every three hours without their willingness.

Issa – Historically nonviolent resistance was very successful inside Israeli jails.
Many writers have written about the prison resistance – it’s nonviolent resistance. They got many achievements – they got right to education, to family visits, more TV channels, reading, writing, food – prisoners negotiate about every small detail of their lives. It’s a continous conflict and it’s about who will give up first and usually the prisoners get their rights through many hunger strikes – many people died because of their resistance. If you are strong they [the Israelis] listen to you.

Raed- Israel considers children older than 15 as adult – although from 15-18 they put them in a special jail, they don’t want them to let the political prisoners affect them politically. In many countries they have special arrangements for the children that are detained, in Israel they treat them as adults.

All the prisoners consider the jail as a school. Prisoners in Israeli jails learns political issues, languages, religion – anything you can imagine. It’s not optional for the prisoner not to study or participate in these courses – all the Palestinian parties/ factions oblige their members to join the educuation system both political and other education. There are some optional courses, which are extra, but the basic education is compulsory. This obligation fulfills the prisoner’s needs, so you don’t have anyone refusing this.

Many prisoners go into jail without any political education. When they go in they have a lot of time to study why they are doing this [resisting] and they study thetheory behind their practice. They give them all these case studies and international law, tactics to resist and they share their experience fighting the occupation.

Because of the division that happened between Fatah and Hamas, the West Bank and Gaza, the institution that created the unity charter was the prisoners. The prisoners from Fatah and Hamas inside Israeli jails had a meeting and published a unity charter and now all the Palestinian factions are implementing it outside jails.

Issa – The prisoners are creative in what they do and they have a huge influence on the outside, this is why you saw all the people were more than happy when the Shalit deal gave them hundreds of prisoners, it was 10% of the Palestinian prisoners but the happiness was much more [than this] as if all the prisoners were released. All Palestinians are united in listening to the prisoners – they see them as holy people, in spite of their political background or agenda. All of them are equal and all of them are heroes in our eyes.

Raed- [Is the Shalit deal good?] It’s a very good achievement to release [even] one prisoner. This deal released 315 prisoners on life sentences in Israeli jails and usually they don’t give them a release date – even their bodies usually stay in Israeli jails [after they die], they keep them in special freezers or they bury them in cemetaries – just to punish the families. It was a good achievement.

Issa – I have a poltical concern about the deal. I thought that if they insisted to
release Marwan Bargouti he would make a change in Palestinian political life,
especially to Fatah. Marwan Bargouti will start the third intifada for sure. He’s the only one who can unify Fatah and all the Palestinian factions, everyone agrees on his leadership. He was leading the second intifada and sentenced to six life sentences. It gives him uncountable credit from the Palestinians from all factions. All the factions consider all the prisoners as heroes. If he is already a leader and he is high up in Fatah – this will make him the future President of Palestine.

[There will be a third intifada] next year or the year after – we are very close. It will for sure be an nonviolent intifada, as the first intifada. The Palestinians learned from the second intifada and the political factions, even Hamas, are now talkign about nonviolence and the influence from the Arab Spring is so influential and we have very good experience. The second intifada was problematic for us. It was not normal – we were led to the second intifada. I was one of the people starting the second intifada because I was a leader in my university. How it became a violent intifada or an armed resistance, I don’t know. I stopped following it after it became an armed intifada. I can’t use arms. The majority of the guns were from Israel – Israel wants us to be violent and to keep us violent to justify killing our children and killing us. In the beginning of the second intifada the students were demonstrating in the streets and
one day 10 people were killed in Hebron and they were only nonviolent
demonstrators. More than 100 people injured. They were shooting at us with rubber bullets – I was injured – from zero distance [point blank range] which made it hard for the intifada to stay nonviolent – it was not proportional force. They deal with us as gunmen – they don’t have any methodology to stop the nonviolent resistance, they are only trained to shoot, and to kill, and to be violent. The hatred inside them is so high. Blind support from the UK, USA, Germany – if you know that all the strong countries support you, why follow international law. Gaddafi described his people as rabbits – they don’t [even] see us as rabbits, they see us as less than rabbits or mice. They don’t see us as human beings, so we deserve to die. A rabbi in Kiryat Arba wrote a book syaing that you are allowed to kill Palestinian children, you are allowed to kill Palestinians even if they are not attacking you. He is a religious leader and he
is trying to transmit this poison to his followers. Hate speech in Israel is illegal….I filed complaints. You can’t challenge violence, even with all the evidence – you will not achieve anything in Israeli law [if you are Palestinian] it will vanish in Israeli courts.  Everyday in 2008 I went to the police station to make complaints. I went once to the court last year and they found him [a settler] guilty – he confessed that he broke my camera. I had the video to prove that he attacked me. The prosecutor representing me didnt [even] want him to go to jail or to do voluntary work, she just wanted to send him to the behavioural officer where they tell him ‘how come you let him film you doing that, next time don’t leave evidence’ – this is the behavioural officer! To file complaints to the same authories that are violating the law – it’s useless.

Raed- [What motivates him to work with prisoners] It’s my patriotic duty, my national duty. I am supporting human rights and the prisoners cause is a human rights case, it’s not even a political thing. I have been in jail in 2009 for six months for ‘incitement’ against Israel, through my work.

Issa – If he was in a political party or in a poltical movement they would not accuse him of incitement – as a journalist or an activist these are the only charges that they can use. They use it for many other Palestinian activists and journalists.

Raed- When I was released, one of the intelligence commanders told me ‘I hope not to listen or hear you on the radio again’. I work with 10 radio [stations] now! During the investigation they showed me the timetable of my programmes and they were following my media programmes.

Issa – This shows for me that it is not about terrorism or violating Israeli law. On the contrary, putting a journalist in the Israeli jail is violating Israeli law and international law and the Geneva Conventions. He has special protection as a journalist. This is one of the main violations of the Israelis and why you don’t have many Palestinian journalists working hard against the occupation as you are a target. Even if you are not a terrorist and you don’t believe in violence, if you are a journalist, a writer, a musician, a football player – whatever – you are a target. They are targeting any active member in the Palestinian community, it’s about destroying Palestinian society and this is why we [Youth Against Settlements] are a target here because we are trying to empower the
community. They want the community to be without a leader, without a guide. All the Palestinian leaders, in spite of their ideology, are a target for the Israeli security in a different way. If you are within the law they put you in jail according to the law – I was accused of incitement and it wasn’t a mistake – it is a systematic way to kill any voice against the occupation. Take Abu Mazen’s step to go to the UN [bid at UN] it is a completely nonviolent step, he is allowed to do it according to international law, and they can oppose him politically, not to threaten to destroy Ramallah or the West Bank or to cut the money. Because the international community is silent. The Israeli security forced are the real terrorists, not us.

Raed- I was once in the studio giving my programme – I was live – and the Israeli forces came and stopped the programme and raided the radio station and detained me for an hour. This is normal for the Israeli security. There is more harassment when I am out working in the field; they detained me many times. I was detained at one of the checkpoints after I participated in the journalists forum election. They detained me for 2 hours even though they knew I am a journalist and I showed them my ID as a journalist.

Issa – You are a terrorist in spite of any identity you have. All the Palestinians are terrorists – this is how they treat us. We are all Bin Laden! This is how they try to show us to the world.

Raed- [On media coverage of prisoners/Shalit] – The international media covered the Shalit case and put him equal with 6000 Palestinian prisoners. Some media agencies ignored the 6000 and only mentioned the victim who was Shalit, and the majority of the Palestinian prisoners are political prisoners and they didn’t participate in killing Israelis, however Shalit was inside a tank [as part of an occupying force that killed people], he was captured from his tank, not from his house, or his city or his school or his university. The Palestinian media was talking about him as a normal prisoner and telling him that he should be treated according to our Islamic culture and that he should be safe and treated well, not as happened to our prisoners in Israeli jails who are suffering daily.

Issa – All of the big international media agencies are biased, all of them are pro-Israel and pro the Zionist movement and even they lie and manipulate and they hide a lot of obvious facts. We use social media [to get past the media agencies], it’s our method to teach all the people in the world what’s happening. [On being challenged] – let’s say that all international journalists are either pro-Israel or neutral. I see the neutral people as biased – when you see violations, when you see oppressed people and you are neutral, you are biased and participating with the oppressor. I meet many journalists who are pro-Palestinians but they are a tiny amount compared [to pro- Israelis]. I’m not against Israel by the way – I am aganist the occupation! This is very important – if you are against the occupation, it doesn’t mean that you are against Israel – on the contrary, if you are against the occupation you are going to protect Israel in the long-term. No solution [to the occupation] doesn’t help Israel.

[Why is this?] People are afraid of [being called] anti-semitic. I met one
of the main journalists from the Washington Post. He said either you are pro-Israel or you are silent, this is how to be successful’. What about transparency, freedom of information etc and what about funds – they will cut your salary. Usually rich people are cowards. I don’t think Obama is against out
cause, I think he is pro-our cause but I don’t think he thinks his country’s interest is with our cause. This is when we will reach our freedom, when our cause will be connected with the national interests of the UK, Sweden, USA, China, Russia – it’s about politicians, not about pricnciples, morals or anything like that. There are many good people in Israel who want to live in peace and love with the Palestinians but they are controlled and hidden [by the media].

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Education as Resistance for Palestinian Prisoners- Interview with Badia Dwaik, 10/28/2011

Badia Dwaik is Deputy Coordinator of Youth Against Settlements, a grassroots Palestinian organization dedicated to the nonviolent struggle to resist the Israeli occupation of Hebron. This Friday I went to Youth Against Settlement’s headquarters, nestled, next to a 2,000 year old olive grove, in between 4 Israeli settlements. Throughout the interview, we observed on multiple occasions soldiers patrolling through the fields around us, a normal occurrence these days for the center of downtown Hebron, plagued now for 30 years by an illegal military and civilian occupying force.

With the release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners due to the Gilad Schalit prisoner swap, and the end of the Palestinian prisoner hunger strike, still lingering in the air, I decided to ask Badia about his days as a prisoner inside the Israeli prison system. I particularly wanted to learn how the prisoners organized their own educational system within the prison walls, how they managed to learn together about politics, philosophy, history and literature while imprisoned, and how this knowledge strengthened their will to resist. On the way, we talked about everything from how he felt walking home from work at dark as a little boy, to ways of transmitting messages in and out of prison, to the hunger strike as a method of resistance, even to the nonexistence of God!

Freedom

When I woke up in the morning, the sunlight tickled my golden-brown skin
My eyes burned from its rosy rays and moved at the gusts of air
The intensity of the winds undulated
By this remedy, hope for the hopeless was reborn

And it began to smile on me from afar, as if I have a promise to keep
So I took my pen and my paper as my mind fled
A strange feeling seized me
I began to scribble these words
Maybe I will find something in them to express the emotions of my heart and that which
turns in my mind
The golden sun whose rays began to shine came up in the morning
The rays penetrated through the small window, making me question and seek inspiration
My pen turning the pages of memory
Standing on the dews of the near and distant past
The sun became a roll of burning bread
Come, come slowly

Here and there, mocking laughter
Memories of the past awakened in beautiful aching reality
My heart poured forth
The arteries of my heart were jammed with emotion
My eyes flooded, soaking the furrows in my cheeks
My thoughts began to turn and turn in my mind
Between optimism and pessimism, in a bitter struggle of resistance
At last the sun appeared from far away, but in a new robe
After I had drunk cups of bitterness to the dregs
Then I began to breathe with new appetite
And the seas and rivers and trees whistled the melody of freedom

Thoughts from Hebron Prison, by Badia Dwaik

——————————–

My father was arrested before me. My father was arrested in 1988 and I was around that time like fifteen or fourteen years old. I am the oldest one of my family, and I grew up in a poor family, so my parents decided to send me to work when I was 9 years old. So I didn’t have any childhood or young life because even when I became younger I was arrested, so I missed my childhood, and then the time of my youth I spent in jail.

Did you have education when you were 9 years old, or were you pulled out of education to work?

I was working on the side. My life was to work and study in the same day.  So I used to go to the school, and when I finished my school I would have lunch at home and then go to work, until i finished work at 9 in the evening. I was alone, and it was dark on the way home, and I was very scared. I would hurry back home very quickly, running, because it was scary and I was a child at the time, and I felt uncomfortable to walk around. Especially when I had to work in the old town in Hebron, it was not lit up like it is now, it was dark, and it made it even more scary when I had to get home. And i had difficult experiences, there were bad people, trying to do bad things with me and abuse me.
So I grew up in this situation even after my father was arrested. When my father was arrested I was 15 and I was the oldest one in the family, and in our culture the oldest one usually takes responsibility for the family, so I had to take responsibility for everything in the family. My father was in jail for six months and then he was released, but when he was in jail i joined the First Intifada, as a reaction. Because I was angry, and I just wanted to express my feelings about what happened to my father, it was something personal. So I joined the First Intifada, and I was very young at that time, around 15 years old. My father was in jail, so I continued protesting, and I was very active, demonstrating, organizing demonstrations, and I was also part of the Fatah movement. This was the first of my political life, was the Fatah movement. When they started to negotiate about the Oslo agreement, after the First Intifada, I moved to PFLP because I did not like the Oslo agreement.

So by the time they signed the Oslo agreement you were already in PFLP.

Yes. I was arrested three months after the Oslo agreement, but I joined PFLP before I was arrested. I got a scholarship to study in Baghdad before I was arrested. But after I was registered for the scholarship, while I was preparing my documents to go to Baghdad, I was arrested the next week. So the army and Shin Bet were at my home, it was like after 2 in the morning, they arrived, knocked on the door, and we opened the door. Then they were asking my father about the names of my family, my father named the names, and the man stopped him and said ‘We need Badia.’ So I woke up, my father came to wake me up because I was sleeping. I was young, I was 19 at the time. So my father woke me up, I was still in my pajamas. And then I saw sodliers and Shin Bet with them- its easy to recognize the Shin Bet because he speaks Arabic, and wears civilian clothing. He started talking to me, he asked me about the Quran text, about the Bakra sura, and how many lines were in the Bakra sura. I said I didn’t know, I didn’t care about religious issues. He said there were 286 lines in the Bakra sura. He surprised me with this question because he wants to convince you that he knows everything, even the Quran. That is the idea.

But you weren’t religious, you didnt care.

In the beginning of my life i was super religious! I was praying all the time in the mosque, before my father was arrested and even after he was arrested, I was praying all the time, but I did not have good knowledge about Islam, about the religion and about the life in general. So I wanted just to pray and to practice, so I didnt care if i knew what I was practicing or not, i just wanted to be with the culture. The change happened with me when I joined PFLP, and especially in the jail. Because even when I was in PFLP before I was arrested I was still praying. I continued praying for a year and a half in jail and then I stopped.

Why? Because PFLP is a secular movement?

Yes, PFLP is a secular movement. I was young at the time and it affected me. I grew up in a religious place, religion effects Hebron so strong, it is a very religious place, and a lot of tradition. Sometimes the tradition is even more powerful than the religion here. It took time for me to change what is in my mind, and PFLP is about communism. Communism is an ideology, and so to tell someone there is no god, when he grew up in a situation where there was god, it will be a shock for him, it will take time for him.

So the army and Shin Bet took you away that night?

When they came to my father’s home and arrested me, my mother asked ‘where are you taking him?’ They said they just needed me five minutes. Those five minutes took up three years of my life. My first holding cell was a tiny room 60 centimeters by 60 centimeters. They kept me there for two nights but those two nights felt like a year. I could not sleep, to sleep I had to put my head on the floor and move my legs up to the ceiling. I had to go to the toilet, I would knock on the door and say ‘please I have to go to the toilet!’ They pretended not to hear me, there were two soldiers outside but they did not listen to me. Eventually I went to the toilet in my cell, and then I had to sleep in it, I put my head next to it on the ground and my feet up to the ceiling.
In the First intifada there were 12,000 people in Israeli jails. In Al-Naqab prison there were 8,000 people. Al-Naqab jail is completely a desert. You cannot see any green thing around you, you cannot see any trees, you cannot see any homes, only desert and soldiers around you and the barbed wires. It is a big jail, there are many different small jails inside it. When you are there, you will see tents, and around the tents there are a lot of barbed wires. Behind the barbed wires there are long blocks, like the [separation] wall. And also there are dogs, and also there are many soldiers in military watchtowers, and the army is also driving by in jeeps with 250 caliber bullet guns. And the food is very miserable, very bad food. When they put you there, you are isolated, without anything you need for your life. When you are a prisoner, sometimes you will be happy just to see a bird! If you see a bird this is some luck coming to you! Really I wished to see a bird in the jail there, because you are already with your same prisoners such a long time. They want to break your psychology, and there is just sand around you, just tent and soldiers and sand. And it was a very big jail, even  when your family wants to visit they get there at 5 in the morning, and they do not get to see you until 5 pm.

Was there a library in that jail?

It was very small. There are two types of jails- jails under the military and jails under the police administration. The police administration jails are better condition than the military. Naqab jail was a military jail, so it was not good. But eventually, through my three years in many jails, I started to read Communist Ideology, about Marx, Hegel, about all of these people who wrote about Communism and all about the dialectic.

In jail!

Yes.

How did you get access to those texts in jail?

This is a story of the resistance of prisoners inside the jail. Each thing we have in jail, we do not get it by nothing, we do alot of resistance until we acheive points through our resistance. There are many things we have now in jail which we did not used to have. But because we are here, because we need these things in our life, the Israelis refused to give it to us in an easy way, so we decided to do resistance. Part of this resistance is to open a hunger strike. We wrote our needs down in a list, and then we tried to negotiate with the Israelis about our needs. These negotiations took many different steps and stages, it took long negotiations and conversations, and we put our efforts into trying to convince them that these things are very important for us to survive. But the occupation policy is to control you however they can. They do not care if you are kept alive in dignity or not in dignity. But we are in jail, we lost everything in our lives, so what do we have to be scared from them?
So after that they refused the list of requests, so we started our resistance. Part of our resistance was to pass messages outside of the jail to parents, to families and relatives, to human rights organizations to tell them the situation, and update about the negotiations, and tell them about the future, the next steps. And we asked them to stand behind us and to support us in our resistance, if we decide to do a hunger strike. And we asked them to build advocacy outside of the jail, all over the world. And after that we started to negotiate between each other, we had inside conversations, about who would like to join with us in the hunger strike, and if there is anyone who would not like to join, it is better for him to tell us before we start the strike. And we asked the ill people not to join us in our hunger strike, even if they wanted to join us, because we were concerned about their health. A hunger strike is not easy. You cannot have anything except water and salt, no smoking even! No coffee, no tea, no food, no fruit, no anything.

Were you a smoker at the time?

I used to be a smoker. I am not anymore, but sometimes socially.

So you did a hunger strike to gain the right to education.

Yes, this was one of our requests, to allow us to receive books from outside, from our parents, from our visitors and from the radicals. So we succeeded-

You succeeded!

Yes, it worked. There were many things that were acheived in the jail. For example, in Hebron prison, before the Palestinian Authority, there was a library for us, with 4,000 books. Before the PA, it was an Israeli jail- I think the PA started here in 1996, and I was in jail until 1995. There were around 1,200 prisoners, and the library had 4,000 books. But it started with a very complicated hunger strike, before we were allowed to read books. And they checked the books for messages before they came in- when they received books from the Red Cross, or from lawyers, or parents, or organizations. To see if there are hidden messages or something, or information. But we had different ways to exchange information!

Oh yeah?

We called it a capsule. It’s a very small, thin paper, and we wrote in very small writing, but you can read it. We rolled it up, but carefully, it takes careful and well organized work. And then all this big paper- like 40 centimeters- you make it into 1 and a half centimeters. Then you eat it. But before that you bring nylon, and wrap it with plastic nylon, and after that you burn the side to seal it, and make sure there’s not even a very small hole, even a pinhole. And then some of the people who were going to be released soon, we give him not just one, maybe 30 or 40 capsules. When I used to visit my parents, I was like the Colonel of my party in the Hebron jail, because we had good connections with organizations of people here, and when we needed to exchange information i sent them information with this capsule. We would exchange it by kissing, during visiting. And you can keep it in your stomach for two days. You swallow it completely.

And then how do you get it up again?

Through the toilet! Then you clean it, and after that you open the papers, but the papers wil be ok. It’s very careful and well organized! (laughter) This is the way we exchange information.

So what books did you read?

Different books talking about ideological things, like Communism for example, about history like Vietnam, Cuba, Soviet states. Poetry, books about languages, French, English, Arabic literature…and also many philosophers, Aristotle, Plato, Heraclitus, and modern Western thinkers like Malthuse, and Hegel, Marx, Engels, Faeurbach, and also Arabic philosophy like Ibn Rushd, and Fukuyama- we studied about all these things, it’s not limited.

How did the Communism help you?

There used to be people who were in jail for a long time, and people who had been in and out of jail five times, they had alot of time in jail. Some of them used to study in Soviet states, for example, and some of them were in many different courses, and they explained for us about Communism and about the dialectic.

Did learning about Communist theory help you as prisoners to gain resolve and understand your situation?

For me not all the Communism helped me. Communism was a stage in my life. I am not a Communist right now, i would maybe say a Socialist. If you ask me is there god or no god, I will not deny that god exists, but it is not very important to waste my time with these stupid questions, to ask if god exists or not, or which is first, the material or the god before. I live in the land, so I discuss my life in this land, not something outside of my power. So this is not my ideology, so it was good for me be a member of PFLP because there were people who cared very much about this culture. They pushed and encouraged their members to study, and to learn as much as they could. For example I was one who was part of the Culture Committee. If I moved from jail to jail they sent with me a note- put Badia in the Culture Committee. So for example I was reading four of six books a month, I was reading regularly. I am not reading as much now, because I can not find the time. But I was in jail, I had the time, and more than that I had the determination to educate myself.
So I was reading about all sorts of resistance over the world, Cuba, Vietnam, Ghandi, other kinds of resistance. And I did not just accept everything I read, I was critical. I examined everything I read, and I thought, I compared what I believed to what I was reading. I did not just accept everytihng I read. Now I have good information in my mind, I can analyse many things around all the world. But I have background about many things in the world now, so because of it I can analyse many things. I succeeded to educate myself, it gave me a way for another stage in my life when I got out of the jail, to continue with the people and with society. Also, the PFLP helped me with many things that are complicated for others to understand. For example this was the first time I started to make a distinction between Jews and Zionists. Before this everything was the same. But I started to educate myself, and also the PFLP cared about these things, we talked about these things at meetings.
We had in a day at least three meetings. The prisoners were like a government inside a government! There was the Israeli jail, which was run by the government, and then within that, our organizations and committees- we would divide ourselves into different committees. Some were in the security committee, some were in the culture committee, some were in the health committee, some in the organization committee, some in the financial committee. So everyone had a role-

How would you meet for these committees?

We used to meet, but at first it was not allowed. It came through resistance! Right before the Israeli occupation [of the West Bank] started in 1967 the revolution started in 1965. Israel occupied Palestine in 1948, and after that the movement for revolution started in 1965. After that they occupied the West Bank in 1967, and with the struggle against the Israeli occupation there were prisoners. So we tried to do meetings, many times the Israeli jail people were blocking and beating us. So there is a long resistance, and it started when Israel occupied the west bank. It was not allowed for the prisoners to have meetings together and talk about points and subjects- meeting itself was forbidden in the beginning, and it was a big challenge for the prisoners to break these laws, and we succeeded through a long resistance. Hunger striking was one strategy, it was a weapon of resistance in the jail. You cannot eat, until they will listen to your needs. This is the most difficult and dangerous strategy. Everything we get in jail, we did not get in a golden platter! We had to resist, and to deal with the resistance until we achieved these things.
We had three meetings in the day- political meetings, and organization meetings, and cultural meetings. The political meetings, we would discuss the political issues not only about Palestine, but all over the world. Because we are a part of the world, and we are affected by the world! We are one of the people most affected directly by the events of the world! Like the balance between America and the Soviet states used to be good for us, but after the Soviet states were over we got more pressure from Israelis. And after the Gulf War, we got more pressure from Israel. This was the beginning of the permit policy. Before the Iraq war we did not need a permit for Palestinians to come to Israel. After 1991 we needed a permit, we could not drive to Tel Aviv or Haifa with our car.

So when you learned about history and other resistance movements, did you also gain a consciousness of the fact that your resistance was connected to other resistance movements all around the world?

Yes, I believed and I still believe that our resistance struggle is part of humanity’s resistance struggle all over the world. Because maybe we are suffering from occupation, from losing our dignity and justice, but there are many people around the world suffering because of injustice. There are many people suffering from capitalism, capitalism effects the majority of people all around the world, which is an injustice. We here are also effected very directly and strongly by capitalism. This is why I believe that all of us are a part of the resistance struggle for justice all over the world. And this is one of the methods- we can work together. This is why there are internationals here, this is why there are people who come here because they believe that humanity is one, that we are not divided, so they take responsibility for what goes on here, and come to share with Palestinians the resistance, and to show solidarity.

In prison, were you reading about capitalism and other systems of oppression?

The people who were in jail were not stupid people. Some of them were teachers at university, medical doctors, some of them students. Israel would arrange the jail to be a place to kill you psychologically, they can kill you daily many times by making you see the same things all your life- when you see the same people, the same routine, the same food, it makes you feel disgusting inside and you feel very bad about it. That is the Israeli policy, to try to create death in the Palestinian heart and mind. We turned upside down this image and made the jails as schools and universities. Whereas the Israelis planned for the jails to be aplace to kill your soul and harm your psychology, we turned everything upside down and created jails to be like schools, to make educated people.

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Israel’s Brutal Repression of Palestinian Prisoner Hunger Strike Spurs, Not Deters Resistance

copied from my Alternative Information Center article here

 

On the thirteenth day (11 October) of hunger strikes held by some 3,000 Palestinian political prisoners imprisoned behind Israeli bars, Israeli authorities have agreed to meet some demands for better treatment, an attempt at partial concession that, according to most spokespeople for Palestinian prisoners’ rights, does not go far enough.

hunger_strike

On Sunday, Ma’an News Agency reported that the Israeli prison administration “has agreed to allow the transmission of satellite television, has allowed prisoners to go on family visits without handcuffs, has permitted visits between different sections of prisons to take place…[and has met] a demand by prisoners to be given whole chicken, instead of chopped chicken”[1]. These minor allowances, however, fail to address central demands of the prisoners, chief among which is an end to solitary confinement. In fact, solitary confinement has thus far been used by the Israeli prison administration to punish prisoners who declare a hunger strike! To quote the words of Ma’an, these peripheral concessions by Israeli authorities fail to recognize that the hunger strike is ‘about isolation, not chicken’.

 

The initiative of the Palestinian political prisoners began on Sunday 25 September, when prisoners belonging to the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) issued a statement announcing their intention, beginning on the 27th, to reject all prison orders and to refuse to wear uniforms, stand up for daily counts,or accept food, in order to “declare to the steadfast, struggling brave masses of the Palestinian people and to all free people in the world…[that] we demand our rights and our dignity, as we struggle for the victory of our values and ideals.”[2]

 

Their principal demand is to free Ahmad Sa’adat, a Palestinian national leader and the General Secretary of the PFLP, who has been imprisoned since March 2006 and, since winter 2009, has been held in solitary confinement following his call to resist the Israeli military attacks on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 (Operation Cast Lead).The additional demands of the political prisoners include the right to family visits (which are frequently denied), the right to academic study (which is mostly denied), an end to the use of solitary confinement as punishment, an end to humiliation and harassment of visitors, an end to the abuse of prisoners while they are transferred from one prison to another, an end to the excessive use of fines as punishment and profiteering, an end to the shackling to and from meetings with lawyers and family members, an end to the denial of books and newspapers, an end to all forms of collective punishment such as night searches of cells and denial of basic health treatment, and more.

 

By 2 October,all political prisoners from PFLP were participating in the open-ended hunger strike on a full time basis. Currently, political prisoners from other Palestinian factions- Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)- have joined the strike in a partial or complete manner in eight Israeli prisons, bringing the estimated total of participants to 3,000. This means that some 50% of all Palestinian political prisoners are participating in the hunger strike.

 

The strike inside the prisons has been met with an outpouring of support in Palestine and abroad. Within Palestine, solidarity tents have been pitched for over a week in the center of all main cities in the West Bank and Gaza, complementing demonstrations that have erupted over the last two weeks in Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah and other communities.

 

On the ninth day of the hunger strikes, volleys of tear gas and showers of rubber-coated steel bullets greeted Palestinian and international activists who were protesting and standing in solidarity with the prisoners outside of Ofer prison, near the Betunya checkpoint adjacent to Ramallah.

 

The over 200 protesters, many of whom were students at Birzeit University, marched and gathered in the early afternoon outside of Ofer Transmit Terminal, a temporary holding cell and transfer point for prisoners, before their voices were quickly silenced by the brute force of the Israeli army which, in response to isolated incidents of stone throwing, shot tear gas from behind the barred metal gates of the prison before charging the crowd. This marked the first confrontation between protesters and Israeli forces in the nine days since the hunger strikes began, a time in which protests have been frequent, but frequented only by Palestinians and Palestinian Authority policemen.

 

As the hunger strike grows, so is the international solidarity as groups as diverse as the Irish Republican Socialist Committee, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and others have publicly announced their support. The latter insisted in a public statement that “we stand with these political prisoners and prisoners of conscience all around the world who are imprisoned unjustly, and unjustly treated”[3], while the former echoed this rallying cry of solidarity- “Our strength is your strength as you commence your hunger strike, and your victory will also be our victory.”[4]

 

The Israeli government has been quick to punish prisoners in an attempt to deter them from striking. In addition to heightened intensity of everyday oppression and mistreatment, prisoners have been denied access to lawyers and have been warned that for every day of their hunger strike, they will be denied family visits for 1 month. In addition, over 40 prisoners have been placed in solitary confinement, or have been abruptly and abusively transferred to other prisons, for participating in the strike.

 

One woman at the protest outside of Ofer prison, where 9 prisoners have so far been placed in solitary confinement and robbed of all their personal belongings, revealed in an interview that she is the mother of a prisoner who is participating in the hunger strike, and who has now been in solitary confinement for 9 days. Her son was a student at Birzeit University when he was arrested for becoming politically active at the university. Asked if she was scared for her son, she replied, “how can I be scared? I’ve lived like this for more than 40 years. Maybe they will eventually kill my son, they may eventually kill me. We’re all gonna die someday, so why should I be scared?”

 

At a sit-in in Ramallah on Tuesday, Nariman Al Tamimi, a former political prisoner from the village of Nabi Saleh whose husband, Bassem Al Tamimi, is a current political prisoner, related that “all we want is to be able to see our sons, daughters, husbands, fathers and mothers. We want them to be treated according to international law. We want to have our rights like anyone else around the world. I am sure that most of you heard about the Israeli captured militant Gilad Shalit, but I wonder if you heard about the [thousands of] Gilad Shalits in Israeli jails? Most of them are civilians, including women and children. I call all human rights organizations and activists to take the side of justice and save our prisoners.”[5]

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