Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, stands with Palestinian prisoners struggling for freedom. On the 102nd anniversary of the Balfour declaration, we also firmly underline that the Palestinian people inside Palestine and in exile and diaspora will never give up our commitment to see the full liberation of our people from the prisons, apartheid, racism and our land from the occupation of Zionist colonialism.
In the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, Oct. 31, Israeli occupation forces invaded the Ramallah home of Palestinian feminist, leftist and parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar. Jarrar had been released only eight months prior from 20 months in Israeli prison, where she was held the entire time with no charge and no trial under administrative detention. Administrative detention orders are indefinitely renewable, and Palestinians have been jailed for years at a time under these arbitrary orders. Hundreds of organizations around the world campaigned for her release and held protests and actions of solidarity, and the Portuguese parliament joined in the call for her freedom.
Khalida Jarrar has been a key part of the Palestinian campaign to hold Israeli officials accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Palestinian people at the International Criminal Court, as well as a strong advocate for Palestinian prisoners’ freedom. She was denied permission to leave Palestine after her release despite official invitations from members of the European Parliament. Now, once again, the Israeli occupation wants to lock away this powerful voice for Palestinian rights and liberation.
Over 70 armed soldiers in over a dozen military vehicles invaded her home to throw her in prison, where she joins over 5,500 fellow Palestinians, nearly 500 jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention. Several Palestinian administrative detainees are carrying out long-term hunger strikes to demand their freedom and an end of this arbitrary practice. Over 20% of all Palestinians and 40% of all Palestinian men have been imprisoned.
Heba al-Labadi, 24, launched her hunger strike on September 24, after five weeks of torture, interrogation and imprisonment without charge or trial. The Palestinian youth activist and student with Jordanian citizenship was seized by Israeli occupation forces on August 20 when she entered Palestine with her mother to attend a wedding in Nablus. She was transferred on November 1 to the Ramle prison clinic, notorious for abuse and neglect against Palestinian prisoners, after three separate hospitalizations during her hunger strike. Her condition has become so severe that she was considered to be trending towards death. According to reports, she will be released on Thursday, 8 November, but continued vigilance on her case is critical.
During her interrogation, she was subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment amounting to torture, including sleep deprivation, verbal abuse and threats against her family. She is not alone on hunger strike; fellow administrative detainees Ismail Ali, Ahmad Zahran and Mos’ab al-Hindi are all refusing food over a long-term period to demand their freedom.
Meanwhile, Samer Arbeed continues to be subjected to harsh interrogation from his hospital bed in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Only two days after his September 25 arrest, Arbeed, a 44-year-old husband and father of two daughters, was transferred to the hospital in a coma and with 11 broken ribs. He was unconscious for several weeks and has since developed pneumonia and a kidney disorder so severe that he requires daily dialysis, despite being healthy and active when he was seized from his home by Israeli occupation forces. His wife reported that the soldiers began beating Arbeed immediately after his arrest.
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, serving as Arbeed’s lawyers, noted that the hospital admitted that the condition of his lungs had deteriorated as a result of contamination. He remains shackled to his hospital bed and subject to interrogation. He was even tear-gassed while laying in the hospital by Zionist forces. Arbeed has been denied access to his lawyer, and his torture was reportedly officially sanctioned by the colonial Israeli judicial system.
As we mark the notorious anniversary of the Balfour declaration – when a British colonial lord granted Palestinian land to a Zionist colonial movement – we also note that administrative detention was imported to Palestine first by the British colonial mandate. It was then adopted by the newly founded Zionist state of Israel in order to repress the Palestinian population.
Many of the current techniques of repression used by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people were introduced by the British colonial regime, including the destruction of the homes of Palestinians resisting colonialism and the use of imprisonment as a weapon of colonial control. Indeed, one of the iconic poems of Palestinian resistance – “From Akka Prison” – was written in response to the British execution of three Palestinian prisoners Fouad Hijazi, Atta al-Zeer and Mohammed Jamjoum.
After 102 years of colonization, injustice and occupation, Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, affirms that Palestinians will continue to struggle for our liberation and return to Palestine, liberating it from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean sea, despite the military regime and prison system of the occupier and the ongoing imperial support from Britain, the United States, the European Union, Canada and other powers.
We urge our community and the supporters of Palestine to join us in mobilizing for freedom for Palestinian prisoners, including joining the Days of Action on November 8-11 to free Khalida Jarrar, Heba al-Labadi, Samer Arbeed and all Palestinian prisoners. (see the call from Samidoun)
Here are some actions that you can take:
- Organize demonstrations, protests and actions to demand freedom for Palestinian prisoners. Gather many protesters in front of Zionist diplomatic offices so that the office cannot function for that day. Distribute literature on your university campuses or even share information with your own family and friends about the injustices experienced by Palestinian prisoners.
- Build the boycott of Israel. The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is mobilizing to boycott Israeli products and corporations profiting from occupation. BDS also includes cultural and academic boycott as well as a military embargo on Israel. Demand an end to US aid to Israel! Following block-the-boat action in Oakland where the Zim liner no longer docks on the US West Coast, organize with labor unions to disrupt Israeli commerce.