ON April 17th, Palestinians and their supporters across the world came together on what is designated Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, a day of international solidarity with Palestinian and other Arab political prisoners held by the Zionist regime.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club – an independent Palestinian organisation established in 1993 by former Palestinian prisoners who had served at least one year in an Israeli jail – the number of Palestinian political prisoners detained in Israeli prisons up to 1st April 2015 15 is 6,000, this includes 200 children and 23 women.
The number of administrative detainees without any trial is 450 prisoners.
The number of prisoners in Israeli prisons requiring medical treatment is more than 600, of whom 160 suffer difficult health conditions and need constant healthcare.
The most serious cases are detained in Israel’s Ramle prison clinic, which lacks basic healthcare requirements, which poses a serious threat to prisoners’ life.
More than 60 prisoners died in Israeli custody since the beginning of the Israeli occupation as a result of Israeli deliberate medical negligence.
Palestinian Prisoners’ Day was marked by PLO Executive Committee Member, Dr Hanan Ashrawi, who reported:
‘Today, we honour and express our solidarity with all Palestinians who have been and continue to be imprisoned in Israeli jails. We commend their steadfastness, courage and determination in defiance of Israel’s military occupation and system of enslavement and apartheid.’
She continued: ‘Since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israel, and more than 60 Palestinian prisoners have died in Israeli prisons due to deliberate medical negligence. Every Palestinian family has been affected by this grave and heart-wrenching matter – according to OCHA, more than 70 percent of Palestinian families have had at least one family member detained at some stage.
‘The PLO remains committed to ensuring the safe and unconditional release of all 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners, including 24 women, 200 minors, 14 Palestinian MPs, 450 administrative detainees, 600 patient prisoners (160 of whom suffer from serious and chronic conditions) and 20 journalists; this remains a top priority for the Palestinian leadership, and even though Israel continues to renege on its promise to freeing Palestinian prisoners, we will never cease our peaceful and diplomatic efforts to seek freedom and justice for all Palestinian prisoners and their families…
‘We also ask for immediate international intervention in reference to Israel’s continued imprisonment of the 14 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, in particular Marwan Barghouthi, Dr. Aziz Dweik (Speaker of the PLC), Khalida Jarrar, and Ahmad
Sa’dat; Israel must be brought to adhere to international norms regarding the immunity of elected officials.
‘It is high time for Israel’s captivity of the Palestinian people to end at all levels.’
Prisoners’ day attracted massive support in cities around the world with Palestinians and supporters taking to the streets in demonstrations that raised the images and names of Palestinian prisoners.
In France, large demonstrations and meetings were held in Paris, Toulouse and Lille.
In Brussels, crowds gathered at the European Parliament on April 18 demanding freedom for Palestinian prisoners, in an event organised by the Palestinian Community of Belgium and Luxembourg.
Similar demonstrations took place in Italy, Germany and across Europe
In South Africa, the day was marked by the announcement that as a result of a national boycott campaign, 20 South African companies had dropped contracts worth over 70 million rand with the multi-national G4S security company as a result of the exposure of G4S’ involvement in the torture and imprisonment of Palestinian political detainees.
In Scotland, Palestinians and supporters held demonstrations in Glasgow which focused on the cases of the Hares Boys, five teenagers unjustly imprisoned ; Khalida Jarrar, Palestinian leader and parliamentarian arrested April 2; and Ahmad Sa’adat, imprisoned PFLP General secretary – and demanded an end to G4S complicity in torture. In addition, protesters demanded an end to the prosecution of activists in Glasgow and Manchester being criminalised for protesting against Israel.
Brighton and Manchester also saw demonstrations calling for the release of all Palestinian prisoners, promoting the boycott Israel campaign and calling for solidarity between Venezuela (which is under attack by US imperialism), Palestine and revolutionary liberation movements around the world.
In America, the day was marked in cities across the countries from Chicago to Oakland in California.
The United States Palestinian Community Network issued a statement marking prisoners day with particular attention to the plight of women prisoners held in Israeli jails.
The statement underlines the solidarity of the Palestinian struggle with all the national liberation struggles across the world, saying:
‘The issue of political prisoners is the most fundamental in all national liberation struggles. We remember and honour Bobby Sands and the other H-Block prisoners from the North of Ireland, and the legendary Nelson Mandela and Robben Island prisoners of South Africa’s anti-Apartheid movement.’
The statement continues: ‘This year is especially important, as we focus on three prominent Palestinian women political prisoners—Rasmea Odeh, Lina Khattab, and Khalida Jarrar. Odeh is facing 18 months in prison in the US, along with deportation, because she was convicted last year of immigration fraud for allegedly not disclosing that she had been imprisoned by Israel 46 years ago.
‘That arrest in Palestine in 1969 and conviction in 1970 was based on a confession forced by 25 days of vicious torture and rape by Israeli authorities. She is appealing her conviction and USPCN is a leader in her defence campaign, co-sponsoring a fundraiser on April 19 in Chicago.
‘Khattab is a student leader at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank. She was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison for “throwing stones” and “participating in an unlawful demonstration.” Ironically, the “criminal” demonstration and march was to Israel’s Ofer prison, which holds Palestinian political prisoners.
‘And Jarrar is a prominent political leader and parliamentarian with the Palestinian Legislative Council, whose case has garnered widespread international support since her arrest on April 2. Samidoun has issued a Call to Action to support Jarrar, including a petition.
‘The essence of our defence of our Palestinian political prisoners and those in the US and elsewhere is a defence of resistance, a defence of organising for liberation.
‘The criminalisation of our organisers, protesters, and leaders by Israel, and even by the PA, is a criminalisation of resistance, an attempt to mark illegitimate our movement for our national rights – to return home, to self-determination, to equality, and to freedom.
‘Those who seek to secure those rights, from every social sector of Palestinians society, are subject to imprisonment, whether within the open-air prison of Gaza under siege, the walled-in West Bank, the jails of the occupation and those colluding with it, or even prisons in the US.
‘Odeh, Khattab, and Jarrar are Palestinian heroes and leaders of our movement for return, equality, and liberation. We stand with them on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day and every day.’