Palestinian prisoners wait for an opportune moment away from Israeli surveillance to call their parents and reassure them of their well-being in this harsh winter. Palestinian prisoners in various prisons talked about the rights they were stripped of recently by the Israeli prison authorities, and what they plan to do in the next few months in the absence of local and international attention.
Gaza – Taking advantage of the current situation in the Palestinian political and security establishment, the Israel Prison Service stripped Palestinian prisoners of all the rights they had won via individual and collective hunger strikes, some of which were record-breaking.
Since the kidnapping of three Israeli settlers in Hebron, south of the occupied West Bank in June 2014 — and during the recent war on Gaza in July and August 2014 — the Israeli authorities has reversed the previous gains achieved by Palestinian prisoners. Israel added hundreds of prisoners to the thousands already in prison. Scores were subjected to administrative detention, including prisoner Khader Adnan, who launched the hunger strike battle. On January 6, Adnan launched another hunger strike to protest his ongoing imprisonment without being formally charged with any crime.
The harsh and long sentences against some of the men freed in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal were also renewed, and their appeal requests against the new sentences were rejected, in a clear violation of the terms of their release, and amid a dubious absence of the mediator, Egypt.
In addition to the complicated visiting procedures, hundreds of prisoners suffering from chronic diseases, such as ulcer, diabetes, and cancer, are being denied proper care.
Meanwhile, jailed members of the Jihad Brigades Movement led a mass strike last month in solidarity with prisoner Nahar al-Sa’di, who was kept in solitary confinement for 18 months, during which he was denied family visitation and the right to receive clothes and blankets, although he has kidney disease. A few days into the strike, the prisoners gradually obtained some of the rights they demanded.
This harsh winter has become the prisoners’ main adversary, given the low temperatures and poor conditions inside the prisons, some of which, such as the Naqab and Nafha prisons, are located in the desert.
Al-Akhbar was able to speak with a number of Palestinian prisoners, who insisted that their names not be published so their statements could not be used by the Israel Prison Service as evidence to convict them. A prisoner from Naqab Prison said that the prison authorities adopt the “divide and rule” policy, discriminating among Palestinian prisoners, giving lighter sentences to Fatah prisoners and harsher ones to prisoners affiliated with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Harsh sentences include shorter recreation breaks (during which prisoners spend time in the open), cut down from four hours to one hour, and lower allowances to buy from the canteen (a small shop inside the prison) ranging between 400 and 1200 shekels ($101 and $304). The Israeli prison authorities also reduced the number of cable television channels available for prisoners from 10 to three channels: Israel Channel 1, Israel Channel 2, and BBC, and banned access to Arabic newspapers and publications. They also cancelled family visitations and installed jamming devices to prevent prisoners from using mobile phones, which they pay thousands of dollars to smuggle into prison.
Abu Khadija, a member of the Islamic Jihad prisoners’ committee and leader of the latest hunger strike in Rimon Prison, admitted that the hunger strike held by Islamic Jihad prisoners last month was a risky move, which did not take into account the general prison strike regulations regarding “timing and internal and external circumstances.” Prisoners have agreed on these regulations to guarantee the success of their strikes, and developed them based on their experience with the Israeli prison administration. According to Abu Khadija, the prisoners fought the battle alone for the first time. They had no choice but to persist with the strikes, he said, especially after prisoner Nahar al-Sa’di’s condition became critical.
Abu Khadija said that the prisoners achieved a new victory over the prison administration, which had taken their clothes away despite the cold weather, on strict recommendations from the Shin Bet. “The regional and local situation did not help… but our demands were met within nine days of the strike,” he added. He believes that the January 2014 strike restored respect for hunger strikes as a weapon.
Prisoners are expected to take further measures at the end of the winter of 2014 to ensure the release of prisoners held in solitary confinement and freer family visitations for prisoners from Gaza. They will begin by submitting petitions to the Israel Prison Service explaining their demands. If these demands are not met, they will take escalatory measures, such as returning meals and taking their belonging with them during breaks, which is seen as the most serious form of disobedience by Israeli prison administrations. Finally, prisoners may resort to banging on prison doors and threatening to set prison cells on fire.
Abu Mustafa, another member of the Islamic Jihad prisoners’ committee, who is being held at Nafha Prison, said that progressive measures will be implemented over a period of two months. After that, he said, prisoners will take a strategic step and begin an open-ended hunger strike, especially since Palestinian Prisoners’ Day is in April.
In addition to achieving the release of prisoners from solitary confinement and securing visitation rights to Gaza prisoners, demands include medical treatment for sick prisoners, allowing bi-weekly instead of bi-monthly visitations to prisoners from the West Bank and Jerusalem, ending the humiliating search methods, returning the 10 cable television channels that were banned during the recent aggression on Gaza, and raising the allowance to buy from the canteen. Prisoners in the Hadarim and Jelebu prisons made the same demands. They said that they are suffering from the same punishments, in addition to the transfer of Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners to other prisons.
Each winter, the prison administrations prohibit the delivery of clothes and blankets to prisoners, especially to new ones. They also raise the price of goods in the canteen, and ban heaters — as if the rain leaking into the cells of the ratty prison wasn’t bad enough.
Source: Al-Akhbar English