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The ceiling of demands just got higher: Palestinian prisoners must be released

February 22, 2023 at 8:26 am

People, including children, gather for a demonstration in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) building as they hold various banners, to show their support to Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, in Gaza City, Gaza on January 16, 2023. [Ali Jadallah – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli prisons have always been places of oppression, harassment and abuse. They were made for that purpose in order to act as a deterrent as well as a punishment for all who resist the occupation and its heinous policies. The fact that the new National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is a far-right extremist and hardliner suggests, though, that the arrogant, evil occupation authorities have learnt nothing from the bitter engagement with the Palestinians, especially our prisoners. Israel continues to build its policies on aggression, and seeks new ways to impose criminal oppression and kill the human spirit within us. In doing so, it can only ask itself what loss will come from this.

This is an equation of which we must be well aware. What does the occupation state have to lose in exchange for its aggression and crimes against our prisoners? Do we have to wait to see what it might have in store for them, and then react? In the best-case scenario, this would be going back to the way things were and we will have walked into a darkened basement. It’s like the old proverb about someone who asked for an expansion on their house, and the builder put in a goat, donkey and cow with them. The builder then backed down in the face of the homeowner’s complaint, and removed the goat, and the owner thought that they had achieved something and won.

The Palestinian prisoners are very aware of the mentality of the occupation authorities. They know exactly how they think and how to manage the struggle, whether it is outside or within the prison. They are vigilant and cautious and know where to strike. That is why they did not wait long for the neo-fascist Ben-Gvir and this extremist government to test their weapons on them and then respond. They were ready; they united; and they set out the new rules of engagement well. Their messages began to arrive and their slogan was dignity or martyrdom, a slogan with many great connotations and indicators, as they began to station themselves within their cell blocks. Their dignity portrays them clearly as prisoners of freedom, with a just cause; and they will fight to the end for this cause.

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The prisoners are also well aware of the cards in their hands; they know their own strengths and the weaknesses of the enemy; and they know how to target the weak spots. For example, the prisoners have nothing to lose other than a few privileges obtained after lengthy battles with the prison service, while the jailers lose much more. The guards cannot even take a holiday because of the tension and state of emergency in the prisons, and this hits them hard. Moreover, the guards have to live with the fear and anxiety about potential violence 24/7; they are terrified.

As the month of Ramadan approaches, the occupation authorities are very concerned, both within the prisons and beyond their walls. Ramadan is already a tense time for the occupation without adding the prisoners to the mix, especially if the prisons are already tense and on fire like the Palestinians on the streets. The prisoners have the capabilities to act and have a major impact as they turn the magic on the magician.

I believe that the prisoners should raise the ceiling of their demands and demand that the people across occupied Palestine work for their liberation. The criminal extremists running Israel want to take away their rights and violate their dignity. Many have been imprisoned for an unreasonably long time, for three or four decades in some cases. It is time to raise the ceiling to pressure the occupation in every possible way to release the prisoners. As the extremist Ben-Gvir makes conditions more difficult for them, everyone must act according to their political and moral vision to do something about their predicament.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre in February 2023 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.