Translated from Pour La Palestine (Plate-forme Charleroi-Palestine)

Photo: Comac

The youth of Comac, the student movement of the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB/PVDA) returned from a solidarity delegation to Palestine on 27 July. For two weeks, a group of 13 students were introduced to the daily life of Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank.

They also met the daughter of Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar, imprisoned since 2 July in an Israeli prison. “The story of Jarrar is that of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners and their families,” said Comac vice president Olivier Goessens, one of the participants in the delegation.

Comac called upon Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders to admonish the Israeli government. “We call on the Belgian government to pressure Israel for her immediate release and to end all Belgian partnerships with the Israeli army and prisons.”

During the trip, the Comac delegation met with Suha Jarrar in Ramallah, the daughter of Khalida Jarrar. She recalled the brutality with which her mother was taken from her bed in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers.

Her mother was elected in 2006 to the Palestinian Legislative Council and represented Palestine in the Council of Europe. She has previously been imprisoned because of her human rights activism and political work. In 2015, she was arrested by the Israeli army after playing a key role for Palestine at the International Criminal Court, where Israeli officials could be pursued for their violations of international law. At the time, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz called her trial “a Kafkaesque perversion of military law” that followed a campaign of international support.

“Suha highlighted the fear and uncertainty that the family experiences today, that of thousands of Palestinian families,” Goessens said. According to the NGO Addameer, there are currently at least 6,200 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Of these, there are at least 200 under the age of 18, including many who are 13 or 14 years old.

The circumstances in which these political prisoners are held and the inhumane interrogations used by the Israeli army and police are, according to Amnesty International, techniques of psychological and physical torture. Last spring, 1,700 Palestinian prisoners conducted a hunger strike for 40 days against mistreatment during prison transport and denial of basic rights like regular family visits.

“Comac calls for the release of Khalida Jarrar in respect of her rights, but also as a symbolic first step to put an end to the political imprisonments in Israeli prisons,” Goessens said.

“We expect the Belgian government to not only passively observe how parliamentarians and human rights activists are locked up. We sent a request to Foreign Minister Didier Reynders to pressure Israel for the release of Khalida Jarrar. In addition, we ask him to end all Belgian partnerships with the Israeli army and prisons. In particular, the Belgian government, along with KULeuven, is involved in the LAW-TRAIN project which researches interrogation techniques in collaboration with the Israeli police. It is not acceptable to support torture ill-treatment, and the imprisonment of political prisoners by Israel, and moreover, to import these pratices in Belgium!” concluded Goessens.