by Stephen Lendman
On April 17, Palestinians commemorate Prisoners Day. They do so annually. They've done it since 1979. It marks Mahmoud Hijazi's release. Israel freed him in its first ever prisoner swap.
Addameer honored thousands in Israel's gulag. They're held lawlessly. Now's "the time to hold the Occupation accountable for crimes against the prisoners and detainees," it said.
Freeing them remains a top priority. "Their struggle is central to the liberation of Palestinian land and the return of its people. It represents the frontline of peace and justice."
Al Mezan's Samir Zaquot expressed "concern for the detainees' health and lives and our solidarity with Palestinian and Arab detainees in Israeli prisons, and hold the Israeli authorities responsible for their well-being."
"We strongly condemn Israel's gross abuses of Palestinian detainees, starting with the Unlawful Combatant Law, the policy of administrative detention, and other procedures that violate detainees' rights, including solitary confinement, medical negligence, barring of family visitation, and other practices."
Al Mezan "demands that the international community - especially the signatory parties to the Geneva Conventions - put pressure on the occupying state and force it to respect its obligations under international law, and to treat detainees humanely in keeping with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners issued in 1955, and other relevant international standards."
"There must also be steps taken towards guarantees of the release of all Palestinian prisoners, especially those thrown in prison without charge or fair trial, including appeal to all means of defense."
Since Israel's 1967 occupation, over 750,000 Palestinians were imprisoned. Israel did so lawlessly. Around 40% of Palestinian males were affected. Children aged 10 or younger are treated like adults. Around 10,000 women were abused horrifically like men.
Since the September 2000 second Intifada, around 78,000 Palestinians were incarcerated. They include over 9,000 children, about 950 women, and over 50 Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members.
Since 1967, over 50,000 Palestinians were held administratively. Israel did so uncharged and untried. Many are held longterm. Nearly half were imprisoned since September 2000.
Currently about 4,900 Palestinians are incarcerated. They include 235 children, 14 women, 168 administrative detainees, two former ministers, and 14 legislators.
About 530 have life sentences. Another 77 have been held for over 20 years. Twenty-five lost freedom for over 25 years.
Over 200 were martyred in prison. Death resulted either from torture, murder, willful medical neglect, or multiple forms of abuse.
Since January 1, 2011, five prisoners were martyred. Israel doesn't care if they all live or die. Horrific ill-treatment reflects official policy.
Over 1,000 prisoners currently suffer from various diseases. Many are serious. One hundred and seventy need urgent surgery. Treatment when given is deplorable. Often it's denied. Fundamental human rights are violated.
Israel spurns international law with impunity. Palestinians suffer and die. Imprisonment is hellish.
Horrific conditions include severe overcrowding, poor ventilation and sanitation, no change of clothes, adequate clothing, wooden planks with thin mattresses and filthy blankets, inadequate food in terms of quality, quantity or conformance with dietary requirements, poor medical care, and restricted or no access to family members and counsel.
Isolation is worse. Alone or with one other prisoner, lockdown runs 23 hours daily. Most cells are 1.5 by 2 meters to 3 by 3.5. Little light or air gets in. Conditions resemble entombment. International law is violated.
Longterm isolation causes severe anxiety, panic attacks, lethargy, insomnia, nightmares, dizziness, irrational anger, confusion, social withdrawal, memory and appetite loss, delusions and hallucinations, mutilations, despair and hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, paranoia, and inability to live normally outside prison.
Israel willfully inflicts pain and suffering. Torture is official policy. So is medical neglect. Long delays are commonplace. Prisoners get substandard treatment or none at all. Transfers to prison hospitals take weeks or months.
Deplorable detention conditions are bad enough. Chronic health problems result. Easily treated illnesses go unaddressed.
Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners suffer needlessly. Many are disabled. Some are paralyzed. Prison authorities don't help.
Medical providers don't care. They're part of the problem, not the solution. They do more harm than good. They're complicit with prison authorities. They're involved in torture, other physical and emotional abuse.
On April 11, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) exposed numerous Israeli Prison Service (IPS) human rights and medical ethics violations. Medical providers are involved.
PHR-I receives dozens of medical neglect complaints annually. Its report focused on Palestinian hunger strikers. PHR-I witnessed numerous human rights violations firsthand.
They include "violations of the right to health of hunger-striking prisoners and detainees, and violations of medical ethics and of professional health standards."
"Measures which amounted to medical, ethical and human rights violations endangered the lives of hunger striking prisoners almost to the point of death, and prevented prisoners' access to independent medical advice and consultation."
"The failure of various institutions to appropriately address violations gives authorities a green light to continue crushing the rights of one of the most vulnerable populations."
Israeli prison medical professionals operate by political and security rules. Doing so spurns their responsibility to provide proper treatment. Palestinian prisoners suffer needlessly.
IPS authorities won't let independent physicians monitor and examine hunger strikers. Other prisoners face similar ill-treatment.
Doing so violates Israel's Patient's Rights Law. It was enacted in May 1996. It defines the relationship people needing healthcare and medical professionals responsible for providing it.
It codified patients' rights. Doctors and other medical staff are required to observe them. Providing proper care is fundamental. The law's first paragraph states:
"This law's purpose is to define the rights of a person requesting medical treatment or receiving medical treatment and to protect his (or her) dignity and privacy."
It applies equally to prisoners. Israel spurns it. Legal, moral and ethical standards are violated. Palestinian prisoners suffer horrifically.
Reports surface often. Israel's a serial abuser. Justice is systematically denied. Palestinian Prisoners Day commemorates their longstanding suffering.
On April 17, activists and families rallied in Ramallah, other West Bank locations and Gaza. Around 3,000 Palestinian prisoners observed the day by refusing food.
Children in Gaza City released thousands of balloons. Each bore a prisoner's name. Rafah solidarity gatherings were held. A sit-in was held at East Jerusalem's Damascus Gate.
Hundreds of prisoner families held their own in central Ramallah's Arafat Square. Afterwards they marched toward nearby Ofer Prison.
Other events marked the day. Demonstrators gathered in Hebron. They lit a "freedom torch" in front of Arafat Jaradat's home. Israel tortured him to death.
Amjad al-Najjar heads the Prisoners Club Hebron branch. On Voice of Palestine radio he said:
"It was a symbolic event to deliver a clear message, firstly to the Israeli side and secondly to the international community, that it is intolerable for us to continue receiving our prisoners as corpses."
During evening hours, candle-lighting events commemorated the day. It marked the fourth anniversary of Bassam Abu Rahma's death. It was also Samer Issawi's 270th hunger striking day.
Both men are victims of Israeli brutality. Bassam was murdered at close range. A high-velocity tear canister targeted him. It's designed to penetrate concrete walls.
He was shot walking peacefully toward Israeli soldiers. He did so with his arms in the air. He posed no threat. He was commemorating Palestinian Prisoners Day.
Samer's imprisoned lawlessly. He's Palestine's longest ever hunger striker. He's doing so for liberation, justice and dignity. He prefers martyrdom to longterm persecution.
Palestinian Prisoners Day reflects decades of collective punishment. We're all Palestinians this day. Millions stand in solidarity with them every day. Their struggle is ours.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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