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Palestinian Political Prisoners and Looking Back to Where I Have BeenEileen Fleming Salem-News.com
Palestinians under 16 are tried as adults, but for an Israeli Jew it is 18 years of age. Israelis under 12 can be arrested but not detained. Arab kids under 12 can be arrested, detained, interrogated, prosecuted and sentenced for throwing stones.
(CLERMONT, Fla.) - On January 5, 2006, I traveled to Ramallah to the Headquarters of ADAMEER [Arabic for conscience] and met with spokesmen, Ala Jaradat a slightly built man who delivered a powerful message in a soft spoken voice:
"Since 1967, 650,000 to 700,000 Palestinians have been arrested and detained. That totals 20% of the total population and 80% of all adult Palestinian males have been arrested.
"Most of these arrests occur after midnight when large numbers of IDF storm into neighborhoods or refugee camps, horrifying everyone and arresting anyone 14 years or older. Sometimes they storm into business offices and arrest the breadwinners of the families without any charges.
"These arrests and detentions are based on military orders; we live under a kind of Marshall Law which rules every aspect of Palestinian life: where we live, our license plates that restrict our movement and limited voting rights. Under these military orders the Israeli government is free to hold anyone eight days without accusations or charges. They can hold anyone up to 180 days for interrogation and up to 60 days without benefit of a lawyer.
"The Israeli government never agreed to the Second Geneva Convention, the Knesset never ratified it, and when it comes to the Occupied Territories they totally ignore it. Israel is the only State that approved torture of detainees. I know there are dictators who use torture, but Israel is the only State that supported torture until 1999. That is when International, Israeli and Palestinian pressure groups forced the issue and Barack was confronted about it when he visited the United States.
"The IDF will round up and arrest family members and use threats against their relatives to force confessions. The interrogations lead to Military Trials which is theoretically like court with three Judges presiding but only one is required to have an education and a law degree is not at all necessary. The Military Commander appoints the translators, issues all orders, assigns the judges, and has total control. One appeal is allowed, but if the judges are settlers the Palestinian is in deep shit!
"Administrative Detentions are issued by the Military Commander for a period of six months and the reason is always labeled ‘Security’ and the charges can be renewed indefinitely. One Palestinian spent eight years under Administrative detention and hundreds have endured four or more years. Today fifty are being held for the past four years. They may be released for a day or two and then they are rearrested because they are social or political activists but reasons are not given by the Israeli government.
"At any given moment 10% of those in prison are under Administrative Detention. There are currently 8,000 prisoners and 800 of them are under Administrative Detention. The government does not have to inform anyone about these arrests except the Red Cross and only if they are imprisoned over two weeks, but most arrests go unreported.
"Any Palestinian under the age of 16 is tried as an adult, but for an Israeli Jew it is 18 years of age. Under 12 years old the child can be arrested but not detained. Over 12 they can be arrested, detained, interrogated, prosecuted and sentenced for throwing stones.
"Most of the Israeli Jews that are imprisoned are in for violent crimes against society and they are mixed in with the Palestinian population. The guards encourage them to do what ever they want to do against the Palestinian population. This is an open invitation by the Israeli government to incite violence and terror in the prison system. We have sworn affidavits from Palestinians claiming it was the guards who encouraged the violence inflicted upon them.
"In August 2004 the Palestinians went on a hunger strike to raise awareness of this problem and the Minister of Health who is responsible for them stated publicly: 'Our hospitals are off limits to them They can all starve themselves to death.'
"No human rights organizations are allowed access to the prisoners. Only lawyers and the Red Cross can visit them but have no access to the facilities where they are detained."The methods and photos from Abu Grahib and Guantanamo were no shock to any Palestinian who had been in prison between 1967 and the ‘80’s. All the methods used in Abu Grahib were normal procedures against Palestinians. In 1999 Internationals, Palestinians and Israelis for human rights threatened a boycott against Israel and that is what forced the Supreme Court to address the torture issue. They did not ban torture and the General Prosecutor can choose not to prosecute those who still use it."
On January 1, 2006, I joined a group tour and met six committed Christian Mideast Peace activists from the USA.
Our guide and driver were both from Beit Jala, George's neighborhood.
Our van did not have Israeli plates and so we had to travel through the Kidron Valley on the old un-maintained bumpy winding narrow road to Jericho and the Dead Sea. One of our group; a wide awake Minister called our attention to the upside down rainbow that was inverted above the mountains to our right.
I wondered if it were a sign from God confirming the fact that in the so called holy land; wrong has become right.
Our guide, a Palestinian Christian had been denied a permit to be a tour guide for the past five years and only received one a few months ago. He informed me:
"In Israel the only law is the law of the jungle. I have to apply for a permit on a monthly basis to enter Israel but any soldier can deny me access without giving me any reason...There are 190,000 Palestinian with Israeli ID’s but they are all second class citizens. They can vote in municipal elections but not for Parliament. They cannot get a Passport, they must apply for Visas.
"In July 2005 the first anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s historic ruling affirmed The Wall and All of the settlements are grave violations of human rights and against International Law as well as obstacles to peace. Yet Israel continues to erect The Wall and expand its settlements in the occupied West Bank."
The Wall is composed of either 20-30 foot high concrete slabs or wire with barbed razors, with trenches, sniper towers, electronic surveillance and remote controlled infantry and buffer zones that stretch over 100 miles wide that deny Palestinians access to their land, families, jobs, holy sites and resources.
On January 2, 2006, I arrived at the newly recognized village of Ain Hod and ate at the Albeit Restaurant.
It was the best meal of my trip and a most enlightening experience.
One must leave the smooth settler’s roads and embark upon a narrow winding rocky unpaved way that edges a cliff with a 300 foot drop to get to the village of Ain Hod, which was only recognized by the Israeli government a few months prior.
The owner of the well renowned restaurant where many settlers dine on the weekend, is Mohammed Abu Haija who explained to me, the upside down illogic of the Unrecognized Villages.
In 1948 when most of the indigenous population fled their homes and property, some citizens held their ground, dug in and have nonviolently endured being treated like sub-human beings.
The Unrecognized Villages are not on any Israeli map but yet these people all have Israeli citizenship, pay taxes but receive no services.
The Israeli government deemed these scattered villages as military zones and agricultural areas so homes were demolished, and the tax paying people live without water, electricity, schools or medical care.
Yet the settlers 400 meters away have swimming pools and every comfort known to man.
On the fortieth anniversary of The Declaration of Human Rights in 1988 Mohammed and others formed the “Association of 40" and they have worked in solidarity and nonviolently through the court system to be recognized, to receive water, electricity, roads and human rights.
Today, 100 Unrecognized villages remain in Israel populated by over 100,000 Arab Israelis who live in third world conditions, but pay taxes to the Israeli Government.
On January 4, 2006, I wrote:
Yesterday while in lower Nazareth [upper is for the Jewish settlers] I met with Mohammad Zeidan, the General Director of HRA/Arab Association for Human Rights: http://www.arabhra.org
The HRA was founded in 1988 in order to defend and promote social, cultural, economic, political, and civil rights for Palestinian Israeli citizens. Their methods are nonviolent and their ideology is based upon International Human Rights instruments.
Soon to be published in English is a mind blowing report entitled: BEHIND THE WALLS.
In Israel proper; not the occupied territories, more walls are being built.
The cover of BEHIND THE WALLS will be an aerial photo of the town of Cesarea, a Jewish settlement with many swimming pools and verdant lawns and a slithering snake of a wall dividing it from the Arab community of Jessel Alaq that doesn’t even have a paved road.
Zeidan spoke softly with hard words: “This new policy of Israel is creating a situation that will soon be another crisis. The USA supports these barriers and is contributing to a situation that is building to another crisis. The Palestinian Israeli citizens are being separated and when ever communities are separated for national or religious reasons it is apartheid. Of course it is not the same situation as the apartheid in South Africa, but it is still apartheid.
“Palestinians inside of Israel are 20% of the population and are the remnants of the indigenous peoples who remained after 1948 and received Israeli citizenship, but not equal human rights. They have been marginalized, discriminated against both politically and economically and all live under direct military law, just as in the occupied territories.
"From 1948 to 1966 we all lived under the military regime and were dealt with as enemies. We can vote for the Knesset, but we are not equal citizens because there is one law for the Jews and another for the Arabs. When curfews were imposed, they were only imposed on Arabs. There is no other democracy in the world that discriminates against it’s own citizens.
“From 1948 until 1966, using the British Mandate Military Laws, 60% of Palestinian land was confiscated. From 1966 through today, the military regime has been abolished and one would think that would mean equality and freedom, but it has not happened.
"Arab Israeli’s are discriminated against legally for we are excluded from the privileges every other Israeli citizen receives. There is more weight given to the Jewish state than it’s democratic ideals.
“An example is that Orthodox Jews are exempt from military service but receive every privilege and full benefits of any soldier. No Palestinian Israeli has ever been accepted into the IDF, for we are told we are not wanted.
"This means we are not given the same rights to further our education or obtain a housing loan. All Israeli’s at the age of 18 must serve in the military; it is the law. Since 1948 all the Ministers of the Defense have said to Arab Israeli’s; ‘No thanks, we don’t need you.’
“So, without military service we are denied benefits. We are citizens of Israel and pay taxes and obey the laws but we do not receive basic human rights that every human being deserves, just for being human.
“The discrimination in the public sphere is worsening. Haifa University published a poll of their young Jewish college students and 63% think that population transfer is a good idea. 67% believe Arabs do not deserve equal rights.
“The disengagement plan that is linked to the development of the Negev and Galilee and is supported by President Bush. What it really means is support for Jewish communities against the Arab minority interests although some areas are 50% Arab Israeli’s.”
The walls men build in their minds against the other must fall, before the walls men build with their hands ever can.
On January 5, 2006, I wrote:
My last day in the West Bank I traveled the potholed unpaved road to Billin, a village near Ramallah where villagers and Internationals have been nonviolently and creatively resisting The Wall, The Occupation and the fact that more than half of their land has been illegally annexed by the Israeli government.
In Billin, the Green Line is five miles from the Wall/Fence being erected with sensors and cameras upon Palestinian land. The fence runs out a few yards from our van and we easily make our way over the rocky land to the Billin outpost.
The indigenous peoples began nonviolently resisting The Wall/Fence over one year ago. Thus far, 300 nonviolently resisting locals have been injured by the IDF more than three times and return for more.
Two weeks ago Internationals, Israeli's and locals implemented a creative challenge to the status quo imposed by the Israel government and the times they have a' changed: the Billin'ers have erected their own outpost.
International, Israelis and the oppressed indigenous people of Billin, constructed a 10x10 brick edifice just yards from where the illegal settlement of 700 upscale apartments are being built.
The indigenous people of Billin brought their case against the colonists to the Municipal Court and that Court agreed the building of the settlement dwellings was illegal and ordered construction to cease. The case is now pending the Supreme Court decision.
About a half dozen Caterpillar tractors are moving earth for the anticipated paved road that only Jewish colonists, most likely from Brooklyn will be allowed to travel upon.
Eyad, landowner and leader of The Popular Committee in Billin explained, "A few weeks ago we brought in a caravan [trailer] on our land close to where the settlers apartments are being built. While we were inside the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] sawed the door open and pulled us out and roughed us up.
"So, we brought in another caravan and during the night we built a concrete brick building within four hours. All day and all night people stay here to resist the wall and occupation. People come and go; they are from all over the world. They support our nonviolently resisting the wall that is clearly stealing our land. This electric wall and the IDF are not allowing us onto our land to care for our olive trees. They confiscated our land and impose military law upon us and claim we are trespassing on our legally owned land."
Abdullah, Coordinator of Against The Wall in Billin informed me that there are 1,600 people who call home Billin and legally own 4,000 dunums of property. The Israeli government confiscated 2,003 dunums of agricultural land and is building apartments that Palestinians are forbidden to approach. The Israeli government continues the building of the illegal Wall/Fence that prevents the indigenous land owners from accessing what is legally theirs.
During my visit I spoke with a few of two dozen Israelis and Internationals who were hanging around the brick house. Some stay for days while others sleep inside sleeping bags on the dirt floor of the cramped shelter for weeks at a time.
An intense twenty year from New York stated boldly, "We are fighting an important struggle. If America would only learn the truth about what is happening here, they would stop their blind support of the Israeli government that denies people basic human rights."
Twenty year old Israeli born Yuval who has actively resisted the injustice in Billin for the past five months added, "This cause is very important to me because this is the only way to struggle. This is our only chance to bring back the popular Intifada: a chance for women and children to nonviolently resist the wall and occupation."
Forty year old Ratebaburabeme, a member of the Popular Committee, Stop The Wall Campaign and a delegate with Seeds of Peace in 2003 told me about when he was shot and jailed for two weeks because of his nonviolent resistant activities:
"The Judge said he would investigate the soldier who shot me, but the soldier lied and denied he shot. The matter was quickly forgotten by the Israelis...I teach Social Work and Psychology at El Quds Open University...Three weeks ago we could not come in here, but when the court admitted the settlement buildings were illegal we put the caravan on the property and when the IDF destroyed that, we built this room. Ever since, more and more Israelis, Lawyers, Sheiks, women and children come and stand with us in solidarity for human rights. Rachel Corrie's family has been here too."
LEARN MORE: The Wall/Fence in Bil'in: 2005-2010 Read more... wearewideawake.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1710&Itemid=232
Eileen Fleming is the Producer of "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org, Eileen is a Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com, Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory" and the soon to be released "BEYOND NUCLEAR: Some of my Experiences of Mordechai Vanunu and the Holy Land: 2005-2010" youtube.com/user/eileenfleming. Eileen is a unique leader in her state and she intends to run for a Florida Congressional seat in the future, to help speed the process of change that is so demanded today. Like many who walk in similar steps, Eileen, like other writers at Salem-News.com, is an outspoken advocate for humanity and she has no tolerance for the oppressive forces of the world.
You can send Eileen Fleming an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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