Detained Palestinian student Mohammed Hassan, 21, reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, 24 April after being seized by Israeli occupation forces from his family home in the village of Deir Sudan only two days before, on Wednesday, 22 April. Mohammed, 21, is the Secretary of the Finance Committee of the Bir Zeit University student council; he was seized along with fellow Bir Zeit University student Abdel-Rahman Misbah, the coordinator of the Islamic Bloc on campus.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network emphasizes the complete responsibility of the Israeli state and the Israel Prison Service for the lives and health of Mohammed Hassan and his fellow Palestinian prisoners and demands his immediate release, and the release of all imprisoned Palestinians.
He is also the brother of fellow detained Bir Zeit University student Shatha Hassan, the president of the Student Council Convention at the university. She is jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention; these detention orders are indefinitely renewable, and Palestinians have spent years at a time imprisoned without ever being charged or tried.
The coronavirus diagnosis came after the detained student was held at the notorious Moskobiyeh detention center under interrogation for two days. His detention had just been extended for eight days to further interrogate him; upon the announcement of his diagnosis, he was transferred to the Ramle Prison Clinic, according to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, which informed his family of his condition and began advocating for his immediate release.
The Moskobiyeh interrogation center is notorious as a site for severe torture and abuse against Palestinians detained by Israeli occupation forces, including and particularly Palestinian student prisoners. In addition, the arrest of Mohammed Hassan and his fellow students highlights once again the systematic Israeli policy of targeting active Palestinian students for detention and imprisonment.
There are currently approximately 250 Palestinian students held in Israeli jails, including approximately 80 from Bir Zeit University alone, like Mohammed and Shatha Hassan. Over the years, thousands of Palestinian university students have been targeted for arrest and persecution. Palestinian universities have been frequently raided by Israeli occupation forces; student organizations’ offices have been ransacked, their belongings confiscated and destroyed. Student organizations and blocs are targeted under the same military orders that target Palestinian political parties and other social and cultural association.
Even when student associations are not officially labeled “prohibited organizations” by the Israeli occupation, detained students are routinely accused in military courts on the basis of alleged “connections” or political and ideological affinities with Palestinian political parties. Students have been imprisoned and sentenced for holding cultural activities, book fairs, film screenings and rallies or for participating in annual campus elections.
This policy of repression and criminalization also presents a threat to students’ lives and health, as illustrated in the case of Mohammed Hassan. Palestinian prisoners have not only been blocked from in-person family visits or legal visits under restrictions imposed by the Israel Prison Service under the pretext of COVID-19, but are also denied phone calls with their family members or even their lawyers in most circumstances. Over 140 different items were removed from the “canteen” or prison store, including necessary sanitation products, and prisoners have been repeatedly denied testing, even after documented exposure to Israeli interrogators and prison guards confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus.
The conditions inside any prison pose a high risk of the immediate and deadly spread of the virus, but this is severely accentuated by systematic Israeli medical neglect and mistreatment. Prisoners who have been quarantined for potential coronavirus exposure have been thrown into solitary confinement cells, and violent arrest raids and interrogations have continued, despite the fact that Israeli interrogators and soldiers continue to move about normally in society and put Palestinian prisoners and their families at great risk of exposure. At least 67 Palestinian prisoners have lost their lives since 1967 due to Israeli medical neglect and mistreatment.
Just three days ago, on 21 April, Nour Barghouthi, 23, lost his life after he fainted in the toilet and the Israeli prison authorities delayed at least 30 minutes in obtaining medical assistance or attempting to revive him; they only provided medical assistance after a loud clamor by his fellow detained Palestinians persisted for a long period of time.
The Ramle prison clinic, where Mohammed Hassan is now being held – rather than being released to his family and a hospital for treatment – is notorious among Palestinian prisoners for its poor conditions and treatment; they have called it a “slaughterhouse” and labeled it a location for “slow death.”
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network emphasizes that the case of Mohammed Hassan underlines the urgent necessity of his release and that of his fellow Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The situation is not simply a humanitarian concern for the health of the prisoners, but it instead reflects a systematic and racist Israeli policy of targeting Palestinian prisoners with complete disregard for their lives and health. Medical neglect and insufficient health care pose a constant threat to the prisoners, especially those who are also most vulnerable for COVID-19.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network emphasizes the urgency of a global response to COVID-19 that focuses on solidarity, mutual aid and public health, rather than capitalist values of exploitation, oppression and marginalization of the must vulnerable. We reiterate our long-standing call for the immediate release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, at severe risk in this time of pandemic, and especially administrative detainees, sick and elderly prisoners, and child prisoners. Defending public health must mean freedom for Palestinian prisoners, freedom for Palestine, and freedom for all oppressed peoples and nations.
- Demand the Red Cross act. Call on the International Committee of the Red Cross to uphold its responsibility and urge the immediate release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Sign the online petition initiated by War on Want: https://secure.waronwant.org/page/58733/
- Call in for action. Governments around the world, specifically imperialist powers and reactionary regimes, are fully complicit in Israeli crimes against humanity, including the mass imprisonment of Palestinians. Even if you have to leave a message, call your government officials and demand they pressure Israel to free Palestinian prisoners. Express your disgust at these governments’ ongoing support for Israeli colonialism: Call during your country’s regular office hours:
- Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne: + 61 2 6277 7500
- Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne: +1-613-995-4895
- European Union Commissioner Josep Borrell Fontelles: +32(0) 470 18 24 05
- New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters: +64 4 439 8000
- United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab: +44 20 7008 1500
- United States President Donald Trump: 1-202-456-1111
- Support the prisoners with an online action or event! Host a webinar or online meeting about Palestine and the prisoners’ struggle over Zoom, Facebook live or a platform of your choice. Send your event details – in any language – to Samidoun at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Boycott, Divest and Sanction. It’s just as important to boycott Israel when buying online! Join the BDS campaign to highlight the complicity of corporations like Hewlett-Packard and the continuing involvement of G4S in Israeli policing and prisons. Build a campaign to boycott Israeli goods, impose a military embargo on Israel, or organize around the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.