Twenty-seven years ago, my father’s eyes saw the sun after being in the dark of Israeli prison for 13 years. On 20 May 1985, my father regained his freedom.
“I was sentenced for seven lifetimes plus 10 years and I thought that this prison, Nafha, would be my grave. Thank God I didn’t stay that long there, and I was set free to marry your mother and to bring you to this life,” my father told me, smiling. He considered the 13 years of misery as not that long. Yes, it’s not that long if compared with the life sentence to which he was bound if the deal to exchange Palestinian and Israeli prisoners didn’t happen.
I can’t recall that Dad ever showing any regret or sorrow for how the precious years of his youth were stolen from him. His prison experience is instead his song of life. He believes that it is his treasure, the reason behind his rich culture and beliefs, his strong character, his intimate friendships, and the reason why he values life. I’ve always been proud that I am my Dad’s daughter, and I’ll always be. He is a mix of experience and knowledge.
The story of the exchange deal all started when Ahmad Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine captured three Israeli soldiers (Yosef Grof, Nissim Salem, Hezi Shai) in revenge for thousands of Palestinian prisoners kidnapped by Israel without any apparent reason. After a long process of negotiations, both sides struck a deal that Israel would release 1,250 prisoners in return for the three Israelis that Jibril held captive. My father was included in the deal, and fortunately, he was set free. Among the prisoners released were the Japanese freedom fighter Kozo Okamoto who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, and Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas who was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in 1983.
History repeats itself
History repeats itself. On 18 October last year, we experienced a similar historical event with a swap deal involving the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was arrested by the resistance in Gaza while he was on top of his war machine (an Israeli tank). Just like what happened with Shalit, the capture of three Israelis caused uproar in the Israeli public opinion and international media at that time, but the thousands of Palestinian prisoners behind Israeli bars were not noticed, except for by the resistance fighters that have always forced Israel to meet some demands regarding the Palestinian prisoners.
When I deeply think about these events and the way the international media reacts, I get angry at how unjust this world is. Why did the world make a big deal of Shalit and the three soldiers when they were attested by the “terrorist” Palestinians while thousands of Palestinian political prisoners are left behind in Israeli jails enduring all forms of violations and torture and the world chooses to look away?
My father told the story with tears struggling to fall. He was staring at a picture stuck on the wall of his room; a painting that my father drew during his imprisonment of flowers blooming among barbed wires. “I cannot forget the moment when the leader of the prison started calling off the names to be released,” he said.
Among the prisoners was Omar al-Qassim, a leading member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Al-Qassim was asked to read the list of the names loudly. He was so excited at the beginning hoping that his freedom would be restored. Every time he said a name, a scream of happiness convulsed the walls of prison. Suddenly, his face’s features started to change. He became reluctant to speak because he noticed that his name wasn’t among the names. This was another incident of psychological torture that the prison’s manager committed against him. But he left him no chance to make fun of him. He withdrew himself silently and went to his prison to continue with his resistance. Sadly, he died in a horrible narrow cell after 22 years of resistance, pride and glory.
The tears of happiness and sadness mixed together. The freed prisoners were happy to regain their freedom but they were upset at leaving the other prisoners in that dirty place where the sun never shines. “We were like a big family sharing everything together. We all handled the same issues that we were united to fight for,” my father said. “Although I am free now, my soul will always be with my friends who are still suffering in there.”
My father has always said that “prisoners are the living martyrs.” He also described Israeli jails as “graves for the living.” Let’s unite and use all the means available to help 4,653 Palestinian political prisoner have fewer years of suffering. We share this responsibility as we can’t leave them as prey for those criminal jailers. Their freedom will be a triumph for humanity.
Note: Read this in Italian here. Many thanks for Emanuele Qalitry for translating it!
If you have the power, you can abuse it and no one will say a word in protest. At least this is the case for Israel, which openly violates international law and human rights feeling secure that one will stop it.
But Khader Adnan, a detainee from Jenin, has decided not to stay silent and accept injustices against him and his fellow prisoners. He is battling armed jailers with his only weapon: his empty stomach. Khader started hunger striking the day of his arrest, December 18, to protest the unjust administrative detention he is serving and the indescribable cruelty he has experienced since then.
My father’s experience of being an administrative detainee
It’s worth mentioning that administrative detention is a procedure the Israeli military uses to hold detainees indefinitely on secret evidence without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. Over 300 Palestinian political prisoners are serving this term now, and tens of thousands of Palestinians have experienced administrative detention since 1967.
My father served this term three times. Previously, he had been sentenced to seven lifetimes plus ten years, but released in the 1985 prisoner exchange after serving thirteen. As I read about Khader’s story in a report by Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, stories about Dad’s experiences in Israeli prisons came back to me.
The last time it happened, a month after I was born in 1991, was the hardest. My mother told me how I came into this life where safety, peace, and justice are not guaranteed. ”In the middle of the night, a huge force of armed Israeli soldiers suddenly broke into our home, damaging everything before them. They attacked your father, bound him with chains, and dragged him to the prison, beating him the whole way.” The happiness of a new baby – me – didn’t continue for the whole family. My traumatized mother was able to breastfeed me for a month, but then she couldn’t anymore; her sorrow ended her lactation.
Every Palestinian is convicted to a life of uncertainty without having to commit a crime. Being a Palestinian is our only offense. For Khader, this detention is not his first time in Israeli prisons. It’s actually his eighth, for a total of six years of imprisonment, all under administrative detention. Each one had a different taste, ranging from bitter to bitterer.
Story of Khader’s Adnan’s arrest
This time, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) raided Khader’s house at 3:00 am using a human shield, Mohammad Mustafa. Mohammad is a taxi driver who always takes Khader’s father to the vegetable market. He was kidnapped by the IOF and forced to knock on Khader’s door while blindfolded. Then the IOF raided Khader’s house, trashing it as they did. Shouting, they aggressively grabbed his father, with no consideration for Khader’s two little daughters, his wife, who could have miscarried her five-month fetus, or his sick mother. But when did IOF have any respect for human values?
Khader was immediately blindfolded, and his hands were tied behind his back with plastic shackles. Afterwards, the soldiers pushed him into a military jeep with non-stop physical torment that continued for the ten-minute drive it took for the jeep to reach Dutan settlement. You can imagine how a short period seemed like forever to Khader, who was unable to move or see while every part of his body was continuously and brutally beaten. To make things even worse, Khader’s face was injured when he smashed in a wall he couldn’t see due to the blindfold wrapping his eyes after he was pushed out of the jeep.
Addamear reported that after Khader’s arrest, he was transferred to different interrogation centers and ended up in Al-jalameh. Upon arriving there, Khader was given a medical exam, where he informed prison doctors of his injuries and told them that he suffered from a gastric illness and disc problems in his back. However, instead of being treated, he was taken to interrogation immediately.
Silence and hunger strike in response to interrogators’ humiliation
The interrogation period, which lasted for ten days, took the form of psychological torture with continuous humiliation using very abusive language about his wife, sister, children, and mother. Throughout the interrogation sessions, his hands were tied behind him on a crooked chair, causing extreme pain to his back. Believing in the power of silence, Khader’s only response was to object to the interrogator’s use of increasingly insulting speech.
Because of Khader’s hunger strike against violations of his rights and the terrible treatment used against him, Addameer reported that he was sentenced to a week in isolation by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) on the fourth day of interrogation. Moreover, in order to further punish him without being required to go to court, the IPS also banned him from family visits for three months.
In addition, during the second week of interrogation, Khader experienced further humiliations. One interrogator pulled his beard so hard that it ripped hair out. The same interrogator also took dirt from the bottom of his shoe and rubbed it on Khader’s mustache. But they couldn’t break his dignity, and even after the interrogation ended, Khader continued his hunger strike.
According to Addameer report, on the evening of Friday, 30 December 2011, Khader was transferred to Ramleh prison hospital because of his health deteriorating from the hunger strike. But even there, he lacked medical care. He was placed in isolation in the hospital, where he was subject to cold conditions and cockroaches filled his cell. He refused any medical examinations after 25 December, which was one week after he stopped eating and speaking. The prison director came to speak to Khader, or rather threaten him, commenting that they would “break him” eventually.
I know I mentioned before that there are no trials for Palestinian detainees under administrative detention. But actually, they do get a trial. It’s not for them to challenge the reasons for their detention though. It’s for a military judge to decide the period they are going to serve according to the “secret evidence” that IPS holds against him, none of it shared with the detainee or his lawyer. This is an obvious violation of human rights, leaving Khader and detainees like him with no legitimate means to defend themselves.
On 8 January 2012, at Ofer military court, Khader received a four- month administrative detention order. There, he was threatened by members of the Nahshon, a special intervention unit of the IPS known for particularly brutality in their treatment of prisoners, who told Khader that his head should be exploded.
The need to act
Khader’s health is deteriorating rapidly. He is refusing treatment until he is released, but a prison doctor has threatened to force-feed him if he continues. Cameras in his cell watch him at all times, and if he does not move at night, soldiers knock loudly on his door. This prisoner is at risk, so SUPPORT Addamear campaign to call for his release.
People in Gaza set up a tent in front of the Red Cross last Thursday to join Khader’s protest against his administrative detention and violations of Palestinian detainees’ simplest rights, and demand justice and freedom for them. Something must be done against this unjust system and its conditions of imprisonment. International solidarity is greatly needed. Join Addameer’s campaign to Stop Administrative Detention. ACT NOW!
Read this article in Italian
I haven’t been getting enough sleep lately. Last night I was exhausted in body and mind, but tried to keep my eyes open to follow updates on the Palestinian prisoners’ conditions. My heart and mind were with them completely, in every corner of the horrible Israeli prisons where our heroes continue to display persistence and steadfastness.
Deciding to rebel against the cruel conditions they could no longer endure, hundreds of prisoners started a hunger strike on 27 September. Approximately 6,000 detainees inside Israeli prisons are forgotten about and treated as if they are less than animals.
Israel, which claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, seems to forget that prisoners are humans and have rights. The Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike in the hope that Israel will grant their simple demands. But while they are calling in loud voices for their rights, Israel is reacting negatively, using every method it has to force the prisoners to give up. Prisoners are being sent to isolation cells in increasing numbers, family visits and lawyers are being denied, families threatened, and identity cards, belongings and clothing confiscated. This is all in addition to the constant torment they already have to endure.
Israel is violating international law and nobody is stopping it. Oh, pardon me for forgetting that Israel is beyond any law! Approximately 285 Palestinian children are currently imprisoned, and the world is still silent. Nobody will dare challenge Israel.
I am very emotionally attached to the prisoners’ issue, especially their hunger strike, not only because I am Palestinian but also because I am the daughter of a released prisoner. I was brought up hearing my father’s sad stories, full of suffering and despair, which remain stuck in his memory and will never leave him.
My father’s experience of hunger striking
My father’s eyes would have never seen the sun if Ahmad Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — General Command (PFLP-GC) didn’t manage to make a deal exchanging three Israeli prisoners he held captive in 1985, in return for the release of 1,250 Palestinian political prisoners. My family was watching the news concerning the current prisoners’ hunger strike when Dad started telling us about his imprisonment, which lasted for 15 years.
“I witnessed and participated in the longest hunger strike in the history of Palestinian prisoners in 1982, which lasted for 33 consecutive days,” he said. “Three prisoners died and tens of cases were sent to hospital, including about 27 for dehydration, but what else could we do to pressure them to provide us with the smallest things?”
Thinking deeply about my father’s words, and trying to imagine the awful conditions of the Palestinians inside the merciless Israeli jails, broke my heart. All the unbearable treatment prisoners endure is totally unfair and against humanity.
Before I wrote this article, I took part in a Gaza City demonstration in solidarity with these prisoners, whose health is getting worse every day, but who will bravely continue. I was lucky to not have early lectures at university, so I could be there at 9:00 am protesting against the situation facing our prisoners. I had some conversations with other women protesting there, too. Most of them were either released prisoners or had sons, brothers, or husbands in prison and on hunger strike.
One of them was a mother of six children, who grew up as if they were fatherless — her husband is spending his 26th year inside a damned Israeli prison. “I was one month pregnant with my youngest girl, who is 25 years old now, when my husband was arrested,” she said. “My oldest girl was only seven years old. All my kids do have a father but they became adults without their father around, like orphans.”
She kept describing to me how hard it was to be alone without her husband taking care of six children, and how much she suffered and endured to make her husband, sentenced to lifelong imprisonment, proud of his children when he hopefully someday gets his freedom back. “I was very young, only 24 years old, when he went to prison. I stayed in this state of a married woman who has to live without a husband for 26 years for my six children. Thankfully, I now have 25 grandchildren,” she said proudly.
Miracles needed to contact prisoners
Then she burst out crying, and said that she was worried because she heard that the Israeli army attacked Ashkelon prison where her husband is held the day before. They violently attempted to force the impossible — to make the hunger strike end.
I couldn’t hide my tears anymore, despite trying so hard not to let them fall. I didn’t know what to do to calm her down. The woman told me that she and all other prisoners’ families have been denied visitation rights since Hamas won the 2006 election. They hear nothing from their imprisoned family members, except rarely, when some miracle happens; like when someone from the West Bank visits relatives who are imprisoned with her husband. Then, her husband can ask the visitor to convey a message to her that he is doing well.
I couldn’t say anything but for prayers that God provide her with patience and that her husband gets his freedom back soon.
My father has always said that prisoners are the living martyrs. I think they really deserve this honor for all the injustice and suffering they endure. This open hunger strike of the Palestinian prisoners will continue until Israel addresses their demands. International solidarity is needed now more than ever. Everyone needs to wake up and do something. We shouldn’t let the cruel conditions of the Palestinian detainees last forever.
In Palestine, no one can pursue the full range of their dreams; they have been denied the right to dreaming. However, they never give up dreaming. In Palestine, people are in a big prison restricted by Israeli authorities in their breaths, steps, and even their dreams. In Palestine, children are not allowed to live normally as other children around the world, because they grow up living hard lives, in which the terrifying sound of shelling and the sight of the blood flooding from fallen martyrs are all too common. In Palestine, children hope one day to live peacefully in an independent country– a safe place where violence is not a constant companion. In Palestine, the taste of living is bitterer. In Palestine, you see people resisting by living. They handle their grief and go on challenging.
I was born on the 24thof August, 1991. Mum always described how difficult I came to life. Her memories of the day of my birth cannot easily be forgotten. That day, Jabalia camp was besieged by Israeli soldiers. My father couldn’t be around when my mother was laboring as an ordinary husband. The thirteen years of suffering that my father spent in a narrow cell were not enough for those terrorists. It’s worth mentioning that Dad had been sentenced to seven lifetimes plus ten years, but thankfully, he was released in the 1985 prisoner exchange after serving ‘only’ thirteen.
In fact, he was never free. He was restricted in his movements and was always worried that he would be rearrested. They deprived him of the basic right of a husband, sharing his wife the most difficult moments of pregnancy. When my mother felt she was ready to give birth, “assisted by your old grandmother, we went to the Jabalia Clinic, holding a lantern so that we could see the rugged alleys of Jabalia camp in the middle of the night.” Mum said. “Unscrupulous Israeli soldiers obstructed our way, wanting to interrogate us even though it was clear that I was about to give birth.”
She brought me into this life, where safety, peace, and justice are not guaranteed. When she got better, she went back home to let me see my father. They defiantly celebrated my advent, but in Palestine no smile could ever last.
”In the middle of the night, a month after you were born, a huge force of armed Israeli soldiers suddenly broke into our home, damaging everything before them.” Mum said while recalling her tough memories. “They attacked your father, bound him with chains, and dragged him to the prison, beating him the whole way. The happiness of the new baby – me – didn’t continue for the whole family. ” My traumatized mother was able to breastfeed me for a month, but then she couldn’t anymore; her sorrow ended her lactation.
Dad was held for six months under administrative detention, without any charge. Prior to this time, my father served this term two times during Mum’s pregnancy with my elder two siblings. We have always joked about that saying, “Dad’s detention was Mum’s birth control”.
Administrative detention is a procedure the Israeli military uses to hold detainees indefinitely on secret evidence without charging them or allowing them to stand trial, and it can be renewed indefinitely. Over 200 Palestinian political prisoners are serving administrative detention orders now, and tens of thousands of Palestinians have experienced it since 1967.
The day my father got his freedom back, six months later, mum was awaiting him as if she knew he was coming. He couldn’t believe how big I was after seven months: he couldn’t stop hugging and kissing me for even one second. I am writing my childhood experience, and my eyes are full of tears, that this experience always repeats itself across Palestine. Every Palestinian is convicted to a life of uncertainty without having to commit a crime. Being a Palestinian is our only offense.
With my father being around, our home returned back as warm as it always was. That time was the third and last time that my mother’s heart broke since my father was thrown into the prison, mentioning that she experienced the same thing twice with my two elder siblings.
Two years after my birth, the Intifada of stones ended. The celebrations were non-stop in Palestine, but their happiness again didn’t last. Another Intifada began in 2000, when I was in the fourth grade but who knows when it will end. It’s seemingly never-ending cycle. In Palestine, no smile can last forever. However, In Palestine, no one seems to give up dreaming in brighter future for Palestine, in a just peace that will guarantee us with freedom, dignity, and justice.
Twenty-five years ago, my father’s eyes saw the sun after staying in the dark Israeli prison for 15 years. In 25th of May, 1985, my father regained his freedom. “I was sentenced for lifelong imprisonment and I thought that this prison, Nafha, would be my grave! Thank God I didn’t stay that long there, and I was got out to marry your mother and to bring you to this life,” my father told me smilingly. He considered the 15 years of misery as not that long period. Yes, it’s not that long if compared with the life sentence to which he was bound if the exchange deal of prisoners between the Palestinians and Israelis didn’t happened.
the story of the exchange deal all started when Ahmad Gibreel, the leader of P.F.L.P, captured three Israeli soldiers in revenge of thousands of Palestinian prisoners kidnapped by Israeli without any apparent reason. After a long process of negotiations, both sides struck a deal that Israel would release 1250 prisoners in return of the only three Israelis that Gibreel held captive. My father was included in the deal, and fortunately, he was set free.
It’s a funny thing that only three Israelis caused uproar in the Israeli public opinion and media at that time, but the thousands of Palestinian prisoners behind Israeli bars didn’t stir, except for the resistance that always forced Israel to meet some demands regarding the Palestinian prisoners, any serious effort that would lead to their release. The same thing is happening now with Gilad Shalit, who had been arrested by the Palestinian resistance. Palestinians are “terrorists” because they captured one Israeli soldier who was atop of his war machine, but Israelis are not, however, they have continued to incarcerate 8200 Palestinian prisoners in most terrible environment. I cannot understand this equation. Is Shalit’s life equal to their whole lives?
My father narrated that story with tears struggling to fall. He was staring at a picture stuck on the wall of his room. This picture is a painting that my father drew during his imprisonment.”I cannot forget the moment when the leader of the prison started calling off the names to be released,” he said.
Among the prisoners was Omar Al-qasem– the leader of D.F.L.P. in prisoners. The leader of the jail asked him to retail the list of the names loudly. He was so excited at the beginning hoping that his freedom would have to be restored. Every time he said a name, a scream of happiness convulsed the walls of prison. Suddenly, his face’s features started to change. He became reluctant to speak because he noticed that his name wasn’t among the names. He withdrew himself silently and went to his prison to go on with his resistance as a mountain. Sadly, he died in that horrible narrow oubliette after 20 years of resistance and glory.
The tears of happiness and sadness mixed together. The freed prisoners were not happy for regaining their freedom as much as they were bleak for leaving the other prisoners in that dirty place where the sun never steps inside. “We were as a big family sharing everything together. We all handled the same issue that we were united to fight for,” my father said. “Although I am free now, my soul always with my friends who are still suffering in there,” he continued.
I looked at my father with a feeling of proud imagining how he could bear staying in that tight prison. An area of 6 square meters had only one tiny window and contained eight prisoners at least. I bet that no one could stay in his room for a day, so how could all that huge number of prisoners bear staying for several years or even for the rest of their lives? I am sure although they are alive, they are dying.