Palestinian Prisoners Day, marked on April 17, commemorates the first liberation of a Palestinian political prisoner – Mahmoud Hijazi – by an exchange conducted by the Palestinian resistance. Since 1974, Palestinians and their supporters have taken action, marched, demonstrated and come together to demand freedom for all of the Palestinian prisoners held in the prisons of the Israeli occupation on this annual occasion. Take action this year to demand freedom and justice for the prisoners of freedom behind Israeli bars.
Today, there are nearly 6,500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails; 500 of them held under administrative detention without charge or trial. There are 200 child prisoners, 24 women prisoners, and 14 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council behind bars. There are 85 prisoners, released in the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange of 2011, targeted for re-arrest and persecution by the Israeli occupation. There are 1500 sick prisoners, including 16 severely ill in the Ramle prison clinic, 24 with cancer, and 80 with other severe illnesses.
All sectors of Palestinian society are targeted for political imprisonment. Since 1967, 850,000 Palestinians have been detained and imprisoned by the Israeli state – over 1 million since 1948. 40% of Palestinian men in the West Bank have spent time in Israeli prisons, and 25% of the total population. Palestinians from the West Bank, including Jerusalem; from Gaza; from 1948 occupied Palestine; Palestinian refugees – all are and have been political prisoners, imprisoned for their struggle for freedom and liberation. Palestinian prisoners are workers, farmers, teachers, engineers, doctors, community organizers, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and freedom fighters.
Palestinian refugees outside Palestine – members of the Palestinian diaspora – are also Palestinian political prisoners: the cases of the Holy Land 5, Sami al-Arian and Rasmea Odeh in the United States demonstrate the transnational nature of the repression of Palestinian struggle and organizing. Arab struggler Georges Ibrahim Abdallah has served over 30 years in French prison for his commitment to the Palestinian cause.
Mass imprisonment of Palestinians is part and parcel of the colonial settler project of the Israeli state and the Zionist movement in Palestine. It is a mechanism of colonial control, meant to disrupt and repress political organizing, divide and destabilize communities and families, and terrify the population. 90% of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel have reported experiencing physical or psychological torture. When Palestinians are arrested, they are subject to administrative detention – arbitrary imprisonment without charge or trial, on secret evidence; or they are brought before the military courts, where 99.74% of Palestinians brought before them are convicted.
In the case of Khalida Jarrar, Palestinian political leader, leftist, parliamentarian and feminist, arrested April 2, she is facing both administrative detention without charge or trial, and charges in the military court explicitly seeking to imprison her for her political activity, including and in particular her activism to free Palestinian political prisoners.
Despite the overwhelming oppression of the colonial system of imprisonment, apartheid and occupation brought against Palestinians, Palestinian prisoners have created what has been termed “a revolutionary school” inside the prisons, passing on education in struggle and resistance, even when the occupier blocks all access to university education. Palestinian prisoners’ political activity, statements and leadership galvanize and inspire not only their fellow Palestinians, but international liberation, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist, and social justice movements by their leadership, commitment to principles and self-sacrifice.
Imprisoned Palestinian political leaders, like Ahmad Sa’adat, Khalida Jarrar, Marwan Barghouti and Aziz Dweik, are leaders not only inside the prisons, nor even only among Palestinians – but are symbols of justice, liberation and the struggle for freedom.
This Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, it is essential to build our international activism and support for Palestinian prisoners – to demand their case be taken up in international arenas, including the International Criminal Court; to insist on their freedom; to struggle to end the use of administrative detention, to free child prisoners, to end isolation; to refuse to allow Israel to isolate and silence the political leaders and resistance strugglers of Palestine behind the walls of occupation prisons.
And, most centrally, to escalate our activity and struggle at all levels – through boycott, divestment and sanctions and all forms of international solidarity – to support the struggle for which these thousands of Palestinians have sacrificed so much, the return of Palestinian refugees and the liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian people.
- Demand freedom for Khalida Jarrar and an end to administrative detention. Khalida Jarrar is an exemplary Palestinian political leader – a PLC member, a longtime leftist, an advocate for Palestinian prisoners, and a member of the Palestinian follow-up committee for the International Criminal Court. She is being targeted both for administrative detention without charge or trial, and charged for her political activity by Israeli military courts. Take action to free Khalida and to end the system of administrative detention holding 500 Palestinians indefinitely in occupation prisons.
- Demand justice for Jaafar Awad and freedom for sick prisoners. Jaafar Awad, 22, died on April 10 two months after his release from Israeli prison. His illness began in prison; he was shackled hand and foot while receiving treatment after initial denials of a problem. He was denied access to an Israeli hospital with more advanced treatment before he died. 54 Palestinian prisoners have died of medical neglect inside Israeli jails, and scores more shortly after their release, like Jaafar. There are dozens of critically ill Palestinian prisoners. Take action to demand their freedom.
- Demand an end to isolation and solitary confinement for Khader Adnan and all Palestinian prisoners. Palestinian activist Khader Adnan captured the attention of millions around the world in 2012, when he won his freedom from administrative detention without charge or trial. Today, he has been imprisoned – once again, under administrative detention without charge or trial. He is being isolated for speaking out against the medical abuse that killed Jaafar Awad. Ending isolation and solitary confinement is a long-time demand of Palestinian prisoners – and a commitment that Israel has repeatedly broken.
- Boycott and Divest from G4S – a global security corporation which provides security systems for Israeli prisons holding Palestinian prisoners. Boycott, divestment and sanctions – and the international isolation of the Israeli state – is a critical method of international accountability. Israel’s corporate co-conspirators, like G4S, must also be highlighted for their role in providing the “security systems” for the prisons where Palestinians are tortured, isolated and wrongly imprisoned. BDS South Africa won major victories against G4S in South Africa – and people around the world are rejecting G4S.
- Demand freedom for Ahmad Sa’adat, Marwan Barghouti and Palestinian political leaders. Political leaders like Sa’adat, Barghouti – and Jarrar – are being imprisoned for their political leadership among Palestinians. 14 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council are imprisoned. These political leaders are being imprisoned in an attempt to silence their voices and isolate them from the Palestinian people.
- Demand freedom for Lina Khattab and an end to the targeting of Palestinian students. Palestinian students like Lina Khattab are targeted for their student union work and activity on campus. Stop the attempts to suppress the next generation of struggle.
Events are taking place around the world this year for Palestinian Prisoners’ Day – in Dublin, Berlin, Brussels, Oakland, Chicago, London, Manchester, Brighton, Antwerp, Firenze, Padova, Milano, Toulouse, Paris, Toronto, Ottawa, Glasgow, Greece, Austria – and more. To send us updates or list your event, please contact us or email firstname.lastname@example.org.