Israel treats Palestinian prisoners horrifically. In detention, interrogations include torture, intimidation and other abuses.
“Security prisoners” are punitively isolated for extended periods. Others for any reason or none at all face similar short or longer-term treatment.
Administrative detainees are held indefinitely without charges or trial. Children are treated like adults.
Horrific conditions include severe overcrowding; poor ventilation and sanitation; no change of clothes or adequate clothing; wooden planks with thin mattresses for beds; filthy blankets; inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity or conformance with dietary requirements; poor medical care; and hindered access to family members and counsel, among other abuses.
Last June, Netanyahu announced plans to toughen conditions further. Already they violate international law. Now they’ve gotten worse.
On September 27, Palestinian prisoners went on hunger strike against excessive punitive measures. On October 3, Haaretz headlined, “Palestinian prisoners go on hunger strike, protest worsening Israel prison conditions,” saying:
Hundreds joined other strikers for better conditions. Around 500 “refus(ed) to eat, rapidly swelling the ranks of the protest which began last week.”
Thousands of free Palestinians rallied in support. Many spent agonizing months or years in Israeli prison hell themselves.
The Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association said prisoners began striking “on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday of every week beginning” September 27.
They also said their disobedience campaign includes “refus(ing) to wear prison uniforms, participat(ing) in the daily roll call, or cooperat(ing) with any other IPS (Israeli Prison Service) demands.”
Some prisoners went on open-ended strike against abusive isolation. Some endure it for years. Ahmed Sa’adat, Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), has been isolated for three years. Sentenced to 30 years in prison in December 2008, his ordeal shows no sign of ending.
Palestinians in Ramon Prison began an open-ended strike to end abusive isolation, collective punishment, harsh restrictions on family visits, imposition of fines, frequent raids, humiliating searches, and shackling prisoners’ hands and legs during transfer to and from lawyer visits.
Prisoners also want education privileges restored, better healthcare, and punitive harsh treatment ended.
A September 30 Adalah/Al Mezan Center for Human Rights/Physicians for Human Rights-Israel joint press release said prisoners are determined to strike “until loss of life” or their demands are met.
In recent years, bad conditions got worse, especially under Netanyahu. “Collective abuse of Palestinian prisoners has intensified, and has been anchored in new legislation and draconian regulations.”
Cruel and unusual treatment includes:
- political leaders, human rights activists and others subjected to prolonged isolation;
- denial of legal counsel during interrogations that include torture and other ill-treatment;
- restricted judicial review of arrest and interrogation procedures;
- illegally imprisoning Palestinians in Israel;
- preventing Gazan families (as well as some in the West Bank) from visiting incarcerated family members;
- unreasonable fines;
- daily humiliating cell and strip-searches;
- submitting visiting family members to the same procedure;
- unreasonable hand and leg-shackling, including during medical care in hospitals;
- denying the right to buy food in prison canteens;
- denying education, proper healthcare and food;
- blocking television channels as well as denying books, newspapers and other reading material; and
- other forms of abuse and harassment.
Ma’an News said 20 or more Palestinians in Ashkelon Prison began striking. All others there will join them in days, as well as Ofer prisoners for three days a week “before joining the total hunger strike, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club.”
Hamas prisoners in Ramon, Eshe, Nafha and Ashkelon are also participating in what’s spreading throughout Israel’s prison system.
“Director of the Abu Jihad center for prisoners affairs at al-Quds university Fahd Abu al-Hajj said Sunday that the 3,000 or so prisoners would not end the hunger strike until their demands are met, primarily an end to the policy of solitary confinement in Israeli jails.”
Al-Hajj added that abusive practices escalated under Netanyahu “to exert more pressure on the Palestinian leadership to achieve political gains.”
PA Minister of Prisoners Issa Qaraqe announced plans to hold sit-ins and marches for prisoner rights. Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Sheikh Muhammad Hussein urged Palestinian officials and communities to lend support.
Striking for Prison Rights in America
US prisons are notoriously oppressive. America’s media ignore it. Last spring, California’s Pelican Bay State Prison inmates went on hunger strike against cruel, inhuman, and abusive treatment, especially affecting isolated SHU-status prisoners. Others did it earlier in 2002.
On average they’re there two years. Some, however, stay isolated up to 18 years or longer, even decades. No one enduring it comes out whole. The physical and emotion toll is horrendous.
On July 1, up to 100 inmates joined other strikers. Thousands in other California prisoners later joined them. After striking last summer for nearly a month, negotiations with the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) were held.
CDCR failed to follow through on promises, so prisoners resumed striking on September 26, saying they’ll continue until vital changes are made.
Pelican Bay strikers have five core demands:
(1) End group punishment when one member of a race or group breaks a rule. Pelican Bay abusively uses this to isolate prisoners indefinitely.
(2) End debriefing inmates and falsely accusing them of being active or inactive prison gang members without evidence. Debriefing involves ratting on others, whether or not what they say is true.
(3) Comply with 2006 US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons solitary confinement recommendations to “make segregation a last resort” and “end conditions of isolation.”
As of May 18, 2011, California held 3,259 prisoners isolated and hundreds more in Administrative Segregation, waiting for an available SHU cell. Some inmates stay isolated for decades.
(4) Provide adequate food in terms of amount and quality, as well as improved health and sanitary conditions.
(5) Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU prisoners, including self-help treatment, education, religious and others. Currently these opportunities are denied.
Pelican Bay is a California supermax prison. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) National Institute of Corrections calls the term “supermax” the most common one to describe “special housing unit(s), maxi-maxi, maximum control facilit(ies), secured housing unit(s), intensive management unit(s), and administrative maximum penitentiar(ies.).”
It describes them as:
“a highly restrictive, high-custody housing unit within a secure facility….that isolates inmates from the general prison population and from each other due to grievous crimes, repetitive assaultive or violent institutional behavior, the threat of escape or actual escape from high-custody facility(s), or inciting or threatening to incite disturbances in a correctional institution.”
Other definitions describe “control-unit” prisons, or units within prisons providing the most secure levels of custody for the “worst of the worst” criminals and those threatening national security.
They’re maximum security facilities or prison wings in which inmates are held in long-term solitary confinement under constant surveillance by closed-circuit TV.
Former inmates call them prison hell. Making oppressive conditions tougher got Pelican Bay prisoners to stage hunger strikes for relief so far not gotten.
Visit Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity for updates on their status, including a brief history of Pelican Bay.
* Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon.