The following article was originally published in Arabic by the Handala Center. Munther Khalaf Mufleh is a Palestinian political prisoner, a member of the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He is director of the Handala Center for the Prisoners’ Movement Affairs and the spokesperson for the PFLP prison branch. He is a Palestinian writer and journalist, and was issued a membership by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate while imprisoned in recognition of his work.
The Palestinian prisoners: Historical injustice and a crime against humanity
Munther Khalaf Mufleh
The issue of Palestinian prisoners is one of the most severe injustices in the modern era, as the issue of prisoners i an emergent situation related to a conflict or battle, its circumstances and its particular time. That is, captivity as a temporary state as understood normally by people, or as defined by international conventions, or what you know about the human experiences of prisoners and captives in wars, conflicts and disputes around the world.
It is true that the issue of Palestine in its entirety is a major historical injustice of this era, but those who bear the burden of this issue, and the arbitrariness of the Zionist occupation towards the Palestinians in exchange for international silence and amid the Palestinian inability to confront or bring to an end the oppression of this group of people, are the prisoners themselves. Perhaps this Zionist arbitrariness towards the issue of the prisoners is like a date and time documented on the fronts of confrontation and on the faces and ages of the prisoners. The prisoner Karim Younes is considered the dean of Palestinian prisoners. He has spent 40 years in prison until today continuously, which perhaps indicates a time and date of the beginning of the official Palestinian inability to act and confront this injustice.
At the same time, the Zionists engage in constant violations and attacks against the prisoners, singling them out, and turning them into hostages of the Zionist obsession with “security.” This situation has extended from inside the prison walls to outside them, with the arbitrariness of the occupation constantly growing according to the state of “security” obsession directed against all Palestinians. This further reinforces the policy of so-called “administrative detention,” words that do not convey the severity of the situation. Administrative detention is a war waged by the Zionist occupation against the Palestinian people, affecting all aspects of their social, economic, cultural and political life…etc.
This policy has targeted thousands of families for destruction. It has contributed to the attempted disintegration and weakening of the Palestinian family by arresting the father or the mother. Since the beginning of the 1967 occupation, one million Palestinians have been arrested, including nearly 26,000 women, and since 1948 the number grows further, almost doubling . If we estimate the average of the number of years of imprisonment from the inception of the 1967 occupation, by averaging the minimum and maximum sentences, dividing by two and multiplying the results by the number of arrests, the results reach 20,500,000 years of arrest and imprisonment served by Palestinians since 1967 alone, with the number becoming far greater if they are calculated since 1948.
Twenty million, five hundred thousand years, wasted years in which the capabilities of prisoners, their communication and their development were imprisoned, locked away. Accordingly, detention, including administrative detention, is a war crime and a practice of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. If an economist looks at this situation in terms of economic feasibility, lost opportunities and wasted energy for work and production, and we realize that this energy can contribute to the development of all of humanity, we must ask: Are these not then crimes against humanity?! This is also an economic war on the Palestinian people. Among those arrested are dozens of writers, journalists, inventors, hundreds of doctors, engineers, graduates, politicians, academics and parliamentarians, all in an effort to squander their efforts to better humanity. Is not this squandering of energy and activity through detention a crime of cultural and ethnic cleansing, and an attempt to eradicate and erase the Palestinian political identity?
The part is a reflection of the whole. Administrative detention is a heinous crime against humanity practiced by the Zionist occupier. It affects all categories and sectors of the Palestinian people, which means the permanent expansion of the struggle to end it and liberate the prisoners to include the entire Palestinian people.
The prisoners’ cause is not a humanitarian issue alone, but instead takes on multiple dimensions. It does not concern only the prisoners themselves and their families; instead, it is an issue of a society, a nation, and one which should concern all of humanity.