“It would be better to drown these prisoners, in the Dead
Sea if possible, since that’s the lowest point in the world.”
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman,
speaking on the release of Palestinian
17th is the annual Palestinan political prisoners’ day.
A man who was imprisoned for four years told me what imprisonment
is like, and showed me round the Prisoner’s Museum in Abu Dis at Al Quds
university. Israel is holding 7300 Palestinians prisoner. These include 33 women, nearly 300 children under 18, 17
legislators and many political leaders. There are 296 ‘administrative
detainees,’ imprisoned though never tried nor charged with any offence.
 Palestinians are
holding one Israeli prisoner.
interrogation and imprisonment have been experienced by about 40% of the
male population of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, as Israel has
imprisoned more than 700,000 Palestinians since 1967. 111 have been held
for more than 20 years. A number have been incarcerated 32 years, and one
for 35 years. Medical care in the prisons is generally very poor and 49
prisoners have died as a result of medical negligence. 71 prisoners have
died from torture, and the same number of detainees have been killed by
the army after arrest.
guide described a typical arrest and subsequent treatment. In the early
hours of the morning, 60 soldiers come to a house and 20 enter. One or
more members of the household are taken to a military camp for some hours
and then moved to a detention centre, usually in an Israeli settlement,
for 1 or 2 days. After that, the prisoner is transferred to a prison for
initial interrogation. I will say ‘he’ as most are men and youths, but
women and children are treated similarly. If he does not confess, genuinely or spuriously, to an alleged
crime, or give information demanded, he is likely to be questioned in a
special interrogation centre for up to 18 days, sometimes longer. During
this time the prisoner has no access to family, lawyer or the Red Cross.
Particularly harsh interrogation is carried out in secret centres
employing methods like those used at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad.
A number of measures which have been used during interrogation are listed in the museum. They include: covering head with a sack soaked in urine, sleep deprivation, violent shaking, pressure on and hitting testicles, hitting wounds, hyper-extending the spine in the ‘banana position,’ suspending the prisoner by the arms, dislocating shoulders, breaking limb bones, and beating to death. My guide also mentioned the use of electric shocks and confinement of prisoners in painful positions for up to two days.
The UN Convention Against Torture states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever . . . may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Israel is not the only country to use torture, but it is the only country whose law legitimises it. In Western countries, loss of prisoners’ liberty is the punishment, not to be augmented by subjection to brutality.
sentencing, prisoners are taken to one of about 20 prisons in Israel. This
is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention which says detention and
imprisonment are to be in the occupied territory. Prisoners are liable to
be beaten up and subjected to periods of solitary confinement, lasting
from days to years, during which they are prevented from communicating
with anyone. The prisoners’ leaders are particularly liable to these
abuses. A woman prisoner I have been writing to for nine years –
she has managed to send only
one short note in reply – has been held in isolation for various periods of up to many
months. According to a lawyer working for women prisoners, my
correspondent has been subjected to severe physical violence by prison
staff, at risk to her life on one occasion. I have asked to visit her, but
the requests have been refused.
guide says that the prisoners’ only weapons are hunger strikes. These
have been followed by a number of moderations in the harsh conditions
which the prisoners endure. He showed me photos of four hunger strikers
who were later killed by having feeding tubes forced through the stomach
The guide pointed to the photo of one prisoner he knew who was arrested in 1969 and remained imprisoned until he died of cancer 23 yrs later. He was offered release in a prisoner exchange near the end of this time, but refused it, saying that a younger man should be released instead.
the museum there are photos of Palestinian fighters who were strangled or
shot by the British for killing soldiers during the mandate period. In a
brochure, Jesus was referred to as an early Palestinian prisoner and
The most dreadful thing is that an increasing number of children, some aged 13 or less, are now being arrested, tortured, and imprisoned. For me, the most damning indictment of today’s Israeli state is the widespread systematized abuse of Palestinian children by the Israeli army and penal service. The horror of this abuse is exposed in publications by the Palestine Section of Defence for Children International. [3,4]
year some 700 children under 18 living in the West Bank are arrested,
interrogated, and prosecuted in Israeli military courts. A sentence of 20
years is permitted for the commonest alleged offence: throwing stones.
Palestinian children of 16 or older are considered adults and treated as
such. Different rules apply to Israelis who, for example, are considered
children if under the age of 18.
Israeli military courts in which Palestinians are tried deny fair judicial
process. Confessions are regularly extracted by intimidation, trickery and
torture, as these children testify:
“Inside [a] clinic, they beat me on the back and neck with their hands. One of the soldiers took a rope that was on the table and placed it around my neck and pressed tightly to suffocate me."
and adults, are subjected to such measures to try to get them to become
collaborators with the Israeli security service –
the object being to undermine
and create discord in Palestinian society. Denial of medical treatment is
also used to coerce children to become collaborators. Israel is engaged in
a completely illegal, immoral attempt to destroy Palestinian society.
Cook, Adam Hanieh, Adah Kay. Pluto Press, London, 2004.
4. Defence for Children International,
2009 [Source of the second picture] http://www.dci-pal.org/english/publ/research/CPReport.pdf