by Stephen Lendman
Thousands of Palestinian political prisoners languish in Israel's gulag. It's one of the world's worst.
Many innocent victims are held uncharged or tried. Thousands are wrongfully imprisoned based on nonexistent secret evidence. Women are treated like men. Children are treated like adults.
Horrific conditions include cruel and degrading treatment, food unfit to eat, medical neglect, poor ventilation, sanitation and personal hygiene, inadequate clothing, and frequent solitary confinement for any reason or none at all.
Last summer, Netanyahu got cabinet approval to release 104 prisoners. Freeing them is coincidental with so-called peace talks.
They're an empty gesture. Implementation is in four stages. In mid-August, 26 were freed. On October 29, an equal number followed.
After six and eight months of talks, 52 more will be released (26 at a time). Doing so is at Israel's discretion. It depends on how negotiations go.
It depends on if PA collaborators unconditionally surrender. It depends of whether Israel keeps its promise. It never did before. Why expect something different this time.
Maan News quoted an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity, saying:
"Understandings" were agreed on ahead of talks. "Israel will continue in the coming months to announce building in the settlement blocs and in Jerusalem."
"Both the Americans and the Palestinians were aware in advance of these understandings."
A previous article discussed a sharp increase in settlement construction. Palestinians are being dispossessed from their land and homes to facilitate it.
Conditions go from bad to worse. Abbas and other PA officials do nothing to stop it. They betray their own people in the process.
Israel's so-called "goodwill gesture" prisoner releases became commonplace since Oslo.
They're bargaining chips. They're a political tool. Israel uses them to extract demands. Those chosen for release this time were slated for it earlier.
Many have been in prison longterm. Some near the end of their sentences. They're expected out in months or next year.
Freeing them depends on "conditions, criteria, dates and phases" at Israel's discretion. It controls the entire process. It's manipulated for political advantage.
Prisoners are mere pawns. Freedom is more illusion than reality. Rights are entirely denied. Releasing a handful of prisoners ignores thousands more unjustly held.
Mass arrests continue. Innocence is no defense. Dozens are held administratively uncharged. Justice is verboten. Longterm grievances persist.
Most Palestinians are lawlessly held. They were imprisoned on false charges. They're freedom fighters, not terrorists.
They included Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad members. Released prisoners are relentlessly hounded. They're harassed.
They're closely monitored. They're denied fundamental freedoms. Their movements are severely restricted. Many are rearrested.
A extremist cabinet decision states:
"The State of Israel reserves the right to take any means necessary against any of the released prisoners if they commit any terrorist and hostile activities as well as returning them to serve the remainder of their sentence, as will be decided by the relevant authorities."
Prisoners released aren't granted amnesty. They're on parole. Minor perceived violations means back behind bars. Completing their original sentence follows.
Military Order 1651, Article 186 lets a special Israeli military committee sentence released prisoners to complete unserved time. It can do so based on secret evidence or none at all.
In 2009, the order became effective. Dozens of rearrests followed. Doing so spurns fundamental rule of law standards. Israel acts lawlessly. It does so with impunity.
Resisting Israeli repression is called terrorism. So is supporting right over wrong. Military Order 101 criminalizes fundamental freedoms. Prohibitions include:
• organizing protests;
• participating in them;
• public assembles and vigils;
• holding them to seek relief from legitimate grievances;
• displaying Palestinian flags and other symbols;
• printing and distributing Palestinian political material; and
• influencing public opinion by "political incitement."
Supporting so-called "hostile organizations" are prohibited. Demonstrations sympathetic to Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Palestine, and similar groups are strictly forbidden.
Netanyahu's cabinet decides who's released. Names were published Sunday night. Prisoner releases accompanied peace talks since Oslo.
Over 23,000 were freed. At the same time, at least 86,000 others were arrested. They included women, children, the elderly, disabled, infirm and ill.
Independent journalists, human rights workers, other activists, students, and peaceful protesters are especially vulnerable.
Marwan Barghouti is a prisoner of conscience. On April 14, 2002, he was arrested. Spurious charges followed.
They included murder, aiding and abetting murder, promoting murder, criminal conspiracy, and being an active member of a terrorist organization.
At the time he said:
"I am a political leader, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, elected by my people."
"Israel has no right to try me, to accuse me, to judge me. This is a violation of international law. I have a (legal) right to resist occupation."
On May 20, 2004, he was convicted of involvement in three so-called terrorist attacks causing five deaths. He was acquitted on 33 other charges. He received five consecutive life sentences plus 40 years.
Throughout his ordeal, supporters campaigned for his release. They include many Palestinians, activist Israelis, European parliamentarians, and Gush Shalom (The Peace Bloc).
It's against occupation. It supports Palestinian self-determination. It wants their rights respected like Jews.
Some Barghouti supporters call him Palestine's Mandela. They oppose his lawless arrest and imprisonment. They want him freed. They hoped he'd be one of the 104 Israel chose.
They call freeing him a show of good faith. Moderate MKs support doing so. In January 2007, then Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said he'd pardon him if he became president.
He never did. He won't likely now. In October 2011, Haaretz said he'd be freed. He was expected to be part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. He remains unjustly imprisoned.
He's Palestine's most popular leader. The Israeli peace camp wants him freed. He's incorruptible. If allowed to run for president, he'd win overwhelmingly.
Initially he supported Oslo. Later he rejected it. Settlement expansions betrayed it. So did stealing Palestinian resources and denying them all rights.
He supports ending longstanding conflict diplomatically. He rejects violence. He's against submission. He's for "any (legal) action against the occupation." He wants it ended.
He rejects America's peace process role. It's no honest broker. It never was. For sure it's not now.
Israel calls Barghouti a terrorist. Supporters know he champions nonviolent resistance. Israel treated him horrifically. He spent years in punishing isolation.
He endured physical and psychological torment. He symbolizes hope. Will or won't Israel free him? Israeli supporters say he's the only Palestinian able to achieve peace.
Israel prefers conflict and violence. Barghouti's chances look slim.
Ahmad Sa'adat is another prominent Palestinian political prisoner. He founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Its aim is ending lawless occupation. It wants Palestinians freed from Israeli ruthlessness. It struggles nonviolently to achieve it.
Sa'adat is a longtime Palestinian leader. Israel targeted him for that reason. He committed no crimes. He was imprisoned many times.
In December 2008, Israel sentenced him to 30 years. A PFLP statement followed, saying:
He was "sentenced to 30 years in Israeli jails for political reasons and not for any other crime."
Sa'adat refused to recognized the court's legitimacy. He calls himself "a prisoner for freedom." Supporters demand he be released.
Israel has no intention of doing so. Palestinian negotiators aren't helping. They prioritize keeping generous benefits they receive. Betrayal pays well.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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