A seminar in London yesterday considered the position of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Organised by Palestinian youth group OLIVE and the Association of Student Activism for Palestine (ASAP), the seminar was held to coincide with Palestinian Prisoners' Day 2020.
Speaker Miko Peled highlighted the importance of paying attention to prisoners' rights and making the conscious decision to reject the unlawful treatment of Palestinians in Israel's prisons. The Israeli-American activist pointed out that coronavirus Covid-19 can knock on the doors of their cells and threaten their lives in such crowded spaces.
He then discussed the need to be aware of such unlawful practices, to try to stop them, and to demand the unconditional release of Palestinian political prisoners. Peled noted that there is great pressure from Israel not to address prisoner's rights or help their families.
"Terrorism" and "supporting terrorism" have both been twisted to suit the Israeli narrative about the prisoners, he added. Even helping children with basic food and medicine has become "terrorism" in the eyes of the occupation authorities.
Figures released by rights group Addameer and shared at the seminar show that, despite the spread of the virus, Israel arrested 357 Palestinians in March, with no apparent concern about the spread of Covid-19 among prisoners. Indeed, according to Peled, the occupation authorities are actually increasing their discrimination against the Palestinians regardless of the virus.
This is demonstrated by the refusal to allow prisoners to contact their families; denying them adequate hygiene and cleaning materials; and medical neglect, even of seriously ill prisoners. The Israeli Prison Service has apparently not responded to complaints about the conditions in which it is holding Palestinians.
Israeli General's son Peled rounded off his talk by describing the overall situation of the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, besieged Gaza Strip and also within Israel itself. They face racial discrimination leading to ethnic cleansing, which has been ongoing for more than 70 years.
OLIVE is a Palestinian youth organisation that aims to mobilise young people by raising awareness about Palestine and the Palestinian issue. It encourages them to be active in politics as well as human rights campaigns.
The Association of Student Activism for Palestine — ASAP — is a student-led organisation which provides support for pro-Palestine student groups and societies across Britain.