The prisoner, Hisham Abu Hawash, drew the world's attention to the plight of Palestinian prisoners after he seized his freedom with a 141-day hunger strike. He had to literally reach the brink of death before breaking the will of the Israeli government, which was forced to end his administrative detention, for fear of an outbreak of a comprehensive uprising in the occupied territories or the outbreak of a new war with the Palestinian resistance, which Israel fears and tries to avoid.
Abu Hawash was not the only prisoner to break the will of the occupation with his courageous willingness to go on strike, either to gain their freedom or their death. He was preceded in this year alone by Kayed Al-Fosfus and Miqdad Al-Qawasma, and, before them, Maher Al-Akhras and Khader Adnan. Sixty prisoners, in total, went on individual strikes to break the administrative detention, as well as the mass strikes that took place.
The issue of Palestinian prisoners represents a heroic saga and a human tragedy, at the same time. Since 1967, the occupation has carried out no less than one million arrests against Palestinians, and during 2021 alone, 8,000 Palestinians were arrested, including 1,300 minors and 184 women. At the beginning of the new year, the number of prisoners in the occupation's prisons was 4,600, including 225 children and 134 female prisoners. This number includes 134 prisoners who have been imprisoned for 25 years and 13 prisoners who have been detained for 30 years, which is before the signing of the Oslo Accords. Nael Al-Barghouti is the longest-serving political prisoner in the world, as he spent 42 years in Israeli prisons, compared to the 27 years that Nelson Mandela spent in the prisons of the apartheid regime, in addition to the two prisoners Karim and Maher Younis, both of whom spent 38 years in captivity.
547 Palestinian prisoners are sentenced to life sentences or more, and life sentences, according to Israeli laws, reach 99 years, the most famous of which is the fighter Abdullah Al-Barghouti, who was sentenced by the occupation to 67 life sentences. This means he must spend 6,633 years in prison. This is the highest known sentence in the world, a ruling that shows absurd audacity, in addition to blind hatred by the Israeli government and judiciary.
Perhaps the deepest pain the Palestinians feel regarding the prisoner issue is the presence of 600 prisoners suffering from chronic diseases and disabilities, four of whom have cancer, and 14 with various tumours. Most of them are imprisoned in Ramleh prison, which is famous for medical negligence that leads to death. The oldest prisoner is Fuad Al-Shoubaki (81 years old), while prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid, suffers from advanced cancer, and the occupation refuses to release him. He is the brother of four other prisoners and the brother of a fifth martyr who was martyred after killing an Israeli spy. His mother has become known as the Khansaa of Palestine.
To further rub salt in the wound, the occupation insists on withholding the bodies of the prisoners who are martyred in its prisons, until their bodies complete their sentence. It is currently withholding the bodies of eight martyrs, including Anis Dawla, Aziz Owaisat, Faris Baroud, Nassar Taqatqa and Bassam Al-Sayeh.
As for the number of Palestinians who were martyred in prisons as a result of the occupation's repression or medical negligence, it has reached 227 martyrs. Among the current prisoners are eight elected representatives and leaders, such as Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Saadat, in addition to more than 50 MPs who have been arrested since their election in the last Palestinian legislative elections in 2006.
According to data from human rights organisations and prisoners' affairs institutions, Israel is holding 540 administrative prisoners, according to the administrative detention system legislated by the emergency law of the British Mandate in 1945. This is an unjust law, which Israel insists on continuing to use, despite being abolished in Britain, as it allows it to arrest Palestinians for six months, which can be "renewed" an unlimited amount of times, without any charges being brought against them, and without them knowing the reason for their arrest. This law means that every Palestinian man and woman can be arrested without legal basis, trial or charges, if the Israeli intelligence and security services decide to arrest them. It is like a sword over the heads of every Palestinian and a means to ban all forms of resistance or struggle, even if peaceful, and to repress freedom of opinion and expression and political, cultural and social activity.
There is no place in the world that uses such unjust laws, except in Israel, where arrests are based on secret files that the prisoner and his lawyers are denied access to. In order to clarify the extent of the severity of the injustice represented by administrative detention, it must be noted that one of the prisoners spent eight years in prison under it and that the occupation authorities used administrative detention 50,000 times against 50,000 Palestinians since the occupation began, including 24,000 administrative detention cases since 2000.
It goes without saying that the courts in which Palestinians, including those residing in the areas controlled by the PA, are tried are military courts that are run based on the Israeli military orders and laws. However, when it wants to, Israel uses Ottoman, British, Jordanian and Israeli laws if they are appropriate to oppress and abuse the Palestinians.
Every Palestinian who wants to break the administrative detention is forced to go on strike until he reaches the brink of death, as the prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash did, and all of this takes place in full view of the many forces and governments that claim to support democracy and human rights when an individual in Hong Kong, Russia or Iran is arrested. However, when it comes to what the Palestinians are subjected to at the hands of Israel, the situation becomes a case of being watched but not seen, being heard but not listened to, being read but not comprehended, and deadly silence whenever a position is demanded out of fear of the intellectual terrorism practised by the rulers of Israel. Israel's shamefulness has reached the extent of calling British actress, Emma Watson, anti-Semitic, for simply posting a picture in solidarity with Palestine.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 9 January 2022
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.