London-based activists brought political street theatre to Hackney on Saturday as a huge papier-mache stone was paraded through the busy streets in an action enacted in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners. Specifically, the home-made ‘stone’ was designed to highlight the potential maximum sentences that can be handed down to Palestinians accused of stone throwing.
Among the approximately 6,700 Palestinians who are currently imprisoned by Israel there are more than 400 Palestinian children, many of whom stand accused of throwing stones.
Israeli sentences for stone throwing generally vary from 3 months up to several years within the Military Court system that is applied to Palestinian citizens of the West Bank, whilst legislation passed in to the Israeli Penal Code in 2015 mandating potential sentences of up to 20 years could be applied to Palestinian citizens of Israel or residents of occupied East Jerusalem if the court judges that harm was specifically intended.
Activists gathered outside Hackney Town Hall to join the action and marched through East London towards Whitehall following speeches by organisers who focussed on the suffering of Palestinian children living under occupation. Leaflets were also distributed in the streets offering background information about Palestinian prisoners.
The prisoners’ struggle has taken on a more prominent role in international activism over the last couple of years following several high profile Palestinian hunger strikes against Israel’s Administrative Detention policies.
The ongoing imprisonment of acclaimed circus performer and trainer Mohammad Abu Sakha has recently motivated further activism and received support from international NGO’s including Amnesty. Abu Sakha’s current period of Administrative Detention is due to expire later this month after which he may ether be released by Israel, charged or sentenced to a new period of Administrative Detention.
Whilst Abu Sakha, who has led pioneering circus training work with children with learning difficulties, has acknowledged the support that his case has gained he has also sent messages to activists asking that the plight of Palestinian child prisoners must be widely publicized internationally.
According to Defence for Children International Palestine (DCI), “Since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in an Israeli military detention system notorious for the systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children.”
Adding statistical depth to DCI Palestine’s statement, prisoners’ rights group Addameer revealed in their ‘Eyes on Israeli Military Courts’ report that “approximately 99.74% [of all Palestinians charged within the Israeli military courts] are convicted.”