Palestinians Mark Prisoners Day with Protests

Palestinians mark Prisoners Day on 17 April, a day on which they express their solidarity with the thousands of political prisoners languishing in Israeli detention. In 2015, Palestinians across the occupied West Bank held demonstrations and marches. In the village of Bil’in, near Ramallah, over 100 protested next to Israel’s apartheid wall.

A Palestinian artist made a sand sculpture on a Gaza beach, commemorating the day.

كلنا معكم

It reads كلنا معكم (“We are all with you”).

AFP provided rare coverage of the protests.

Israeli occupation forces violently crushed the demonstrations with tear gas canisters, live ammunition, and rubber-coated steel bullets. As +972 described it, “Palestinians mark Prisoners Day, IDF responds with live fire.” Ma’an reported that at least five Palestinians were shot and dozens more suffered from tear gas inhalation.

CREDIT: AFP

CREDIT: AFP

AFP notes that over 6,000 Palestinians are currently languishing in Israeli jails.

Israel has arrested approximately 800,000 Palestinians—essentially 40% of the Palestinian male population—since its illegal occupation began in 1967. In the words of AFP, “almost every Palestinian family has been affected.” According to the UN, more than 70% of Palestinian families have had at least one relative detained by Israel.

Human rights organizations say the number of Palestinian political prisoners is at its highest in five years.

Israel is currently imprisoning 14 Palestinian parliamentarians and 20 Palestinian journalists.

Over 450 Palestinians are being held in what Israel calls administrative detention—that is to say, without trial for indeterminate lengths of time.

A visual explanation of Israel's policy of administrative detention  CREDIT: Visualizing Palestine

A visual explanation of Israel’s policy of administrative detention

CREDIT: Visualizing Palestine

Lina Khattab

Lina Khattab

18-year-old Birzeit University student and dancer in the prominent El-Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance Troupe Lina Khattab has been held since 13 December 2014. 20 Palestinian women and girls were also detained with her. 14-year-old Malak al-Khatib was released on 13 February.

US student solidarity activists have drawn attention to the plight of Palestinian political prisoners.

99.74% of cases in Israel’s military courts in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories end in a conviction, according to the courts’ own data. Palestinians essentially live under a completely different set of laws.

As I have written several times before,

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, has detailed Israel’s systematic torture of detained Palestinian children. It notes that interrogators have regularly “threatened children with beatings, isolation, torturing their fathers and raping their mothers and sisters; children were denied food for dozens of hours unless they confessed to the charges against them.”

In its 2013 review of Israel’s child rights record, the UN Committee on the Rights of Children (CRC) expressed “its deepest concern about the reported practice of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested, prosecuted and detained by the military and the police, and about the State party’s failure to end these practices in spite of repeated concerns expressed by treaty bodies.”

The CRC corroborated testimonies recalling Israel’s systematic use of

  • physical and verbal violence,
  • humiliation,
  • painful restraints,
  • hooding of the head and face in a sack,
  • death threats,
  • physical violence,
  • sexual assault against them or members of their family, and
  • restricted access to toilet, food and water.

The CRC report also explained that the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has used Palestinian children as human shields multiple times. An independent investigation into Israel’s summer 2014 attack on Gaza, Operation “Protective Edge,” found the same.

A report by the Palestinian Prisoners Club furthermore found that 40% of Palestinian children arrested in Jerusalem had also been sexually abused.