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May-15-2011 22:28printcomments

Tawfiq Ziad; Israel and 'Unadikum'

Recalling a great Palestinian hero during the 63rd Nakba observance.

Tawfiq Ziad
Tawfiq Ziad Courtesy:

(SALEM, Ore.) - One of the most powerful songs about Palestine, perhaps ever, is Unadikum. Sometimes called Onadikum, the poem-turned-song was written by the Palestinian politician, author and resistance poet, Tawfiq Ziad (Arabic: توفيق زيّاد‎, Hebrew: תאופיק זיאד‎), whose name is sometimes spelled Tawfik Zayyad or Tawfeeq Ziad, was the Mayor of Nazareth.

Unadikum is a song about Palestinian tragedy. It is played a great deal each year when the observation of the Palestinian tragedy, the 'Nakba' - takes place. It has been translated into numerous languages, and when performed as music, particularly as exemplified by the Bosnian Orchestra featured below, it is glorious.

Another version, Vittorio Arrigoni, Onadekom (Calling You) by the Darg Team in Gaza, pays tribute to the late, great activist 'Vik' Arrogoni proves it is forever timeless.

Ahmad Qaboor made Tawfiq Ziad's poem into an inspirational song. 'Unadikum' means I call to you!.

Here is a rough translation of 'Unadikum':

'I call to you all:
I take your hand and hold it tightly.
I kiss the ground on which you place your feet.
I know that for you I would give my life.
My life I would give for you.

I offer you the light of my eyes,
The fire of my heart:
For this pain that I suffer
Is only a small part of your pain.

I never have sold my country
And I have been willing to serve,
To face the invader with steadfastness and courage,
An orphan willing to die.

Carrying my people on my shoulders,
You will see my flag raised high,
And a mountain clothed in the green of the olive branch
For those who will come after.

I call to you all!'

(Special thanks to Umfalastin - Nabila Harb's Site: Arab Nationalist, Palestine in my Heart)

When the late Zayyahd became a member of the Israeli parliment, his Hebrew was not very good. One of the governments members shouted, "Where did you study Hebrew?" and he replied... "In your prisons."

Ziad was born 7 May 1929 and died tragically in a head-on collision in the Jordan Valley, on 5 July 1994, on his way back to Nazareth from Jericho after welcoming Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, back from exile. was a Palestinian politician, well-known for his "poetry of protest".

Wikipedia explains that Ziad, who was born in the Galilee, studied literature in Russia. After returning to Palestine, he was elected mayor of Nazareth on 9 December 1973, as head of Rakah, a communist party, a victory that is said to have "surprised and alarmed" Israelis.

A special page on the Knesset Website explains that this post and author spoke English, Arabic, Russian. Ziad was active in the 1973 elections on Rakah's list. He succeeded in pressuring the Israeli government to change its policies towards Arabs - both those inside Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories.

After Israel was established, those who tried to bring change from within were severely challenged at every bend in the road.

As Nabila Harb writes:

It is only because of the determination and steadfastness of Palestinians who remained inside Palestine decade after decade under intolerable conditions of persecution and discrimination that the world now is aware of the existence of Palestinians as a people with a continuing right to self-determination.

Most Palestinian activists who continued to live within the Zionist entity's self-proclaimed 'state' were only able to do so through the Communist Party, an accepted political party within the Zionist political framework. Tawfiq Zayyad in fact served as a member of the Zionist 'Knesset', the spurious 'parliament' of the invaders. When he first became a member of the Knesset, his Hebrew was very poor. When asked where he had learned to speak Hebrew, he responded: 'In your prisons.'

Revelation of Prison Torture

Ziad co-authored a report on Israeli prison conditions that documented the use of torture on Palestinian inmates. This hero of Palestinian freedom had a major impact during his life improving Human Rights for Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons.

The report was also submitted to the United Nations by Tawfik Toubi and Ziad after their visit to Al-Far'ah prison on 29 October 1987, describing the situation of Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention camps

They revealed how policy followed by the Israeli Prisons Department against Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention camps is regarded as an extension of the "iron fist" policy. This is applied by the military occupation régime outside these prisons.

The two described inhumane treatment and harsh circumstances, geared to ensure that prisoners were restricted to minimal provisions; just enough to keep them alive. The report goes on to disclose the repeated man-hunts, Israeli guards' storming of prison cells, and the beating and torture of prisoners. Each aspect of the investigation revealed daily practices of brutality and Human Rights violations that reflect the official "iron fist" policy prescribed against Arab prisoners.

Arab newspapers in the occupied Jerusalem carried a series of news stories and comments regarding the condition of Arab prisoners in Israeli gaols. A report from Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot on 17 November 1987 drew attention to severe overcrowding in Israel's prisons, which has prompted the Israeli authorities to release some convicted prisoners soon after their convictions, in order to make room for new prisoners sentenced by the military courts.

In 1987, there were still settlements (colonies) in Gaza. They have been removed in the ensuing years. In 1987, newspapers wrote about how Gaza prison inmates suffered from very severe overcrowding. It was reported that the facility held 850 prisoners, and that nearly 600 of these 'security prisoners.' The Ansar-2 prison camp set up on the beach at Gaza held 81 prisoners, all of whom were inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. Many, who had been charged with incitement and the disturbance of order, were languishing in custody without trial.

The Investigation of Al-Far'ah Prison

(The testimony below is from: Report of the Spexial Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Population of the Occupied Territories - General Assembly Security Council)

Perhaps the best evidence of the truth of the reports describing the repugnant inhumane conditions endured by Arab prisoners is the report submitted by Tawfiq Toubi and Tawfiq Ziad, Arab members of the Israeli Knesset who paid a special visit to Al-Far’ah prison on 29 October 1987. They submitted a report on their visit to this dreadful prison, which holds 2,200 Arab youths, describing the condition of Arab prisoners in Al-Far’ah from the moment of their arrest up to the point of their incarceration to serve their sentences.

The Israeli newspaper Hamishmar published extracts from the report of the two Arab Knesset members in an article, which stated, inter alia:

"... Al-Far’ah is a special prison for boys and adolescents between 14 and 20 years of age. Sometimes the prisoners are no more than 12 or 13 years old ... most of them are school students or young workers ... After the arrest procedure begins the course of torture and abuse, which lasts for several months and sometimes for a longer period.

"Among the prisoners are some who have been arrested for the fourth or fifth time or even for the ninth time ... Before the sentence of imprisonment is passed on the detained youth or before he is released as innocent, he may spend at least several months in gaol."

With regard to the methods followed by the Israeli authorities at the time of the arrest of an Arab youth, the two Knesset members say in their report that "it is customary for a youth to be arrested at home in the middle of the night by a number of army soldiers. The arrest is made by force and with abuse and insults, and the youth is led off in iron shackles. He is then taken to the nearest military post in the town nearest to his home. The following morning he is moved to Al-Far’ah gaol".

On the subject of interrogation and the use of various kinds of torture on Arab prisoners in Al-Far’ah prison, the report says:

"... Following his arrival at Al-Far’ah, the arrested person is immediately put in the interrogation section, which they call the 'stable', where there are small cells. Here they ask the arrested youth to lie down on the line down the center of the floor after putting a special blindfold on him and chaining his hands ... The youth is left in this condition for three or four days, after which they take him to the cell. Between the 'stable' and the cell, interrogation of the prisoner takes several weeks and is accompanied by beatings, abuse and various other kinds of humiliation. The sole purpose of this brutal interrogation is to force the youth to confess to the charges that the investigator wants him to confess to, thus providing evidence against other prisoners, including other detained youths whom he has never seen in his life".

The report then proceeds to describe the methods of torture used by Israeli interrogators in Al-Far'ah. All are inhumane methods aimed at breaking the prisoner physically and psychologically and turning him into a docile tool in the hands of the interrogators.

The report states:

"... Torture includes confinement with plastic shackles attached to a hoist. The shackles resemble a thin loop of plastic 60 to 70 cm long and 7 cm wide on one side, tapering to 2 cm wide on the other. Then they place this loop around the prisoner's wrists and insert the narrow side in a special aperture in the wide side. Thus, every time the youth wishes to move one of his hands, this loop becomes tighter and exerts very harsh pressure on-bone and flesh. At this point, the resultant pains are unbearable ... Another kind of torture, commonly used in Al-Far’ah is to lift the prisoner on a hoist, in this, the interrogator places shackles on the hands and feet of the prisoner, after bringing his feet and hands close together, and then they proceed to suspend him as on a winch. This method of torture causes terrible and unbearable pains, and blood begins to flow from the detained youth's mouth and from his hands and feet, which are wounded. In some circumstances, a prisoner exposed to the 'winch' method becomes crippled and disabled and is unable to walk ...”

With regard to conditions inside the cells, the report states:

"There are no beds for prisoners to sleep in. They sleep on filthy, stinking mattresses. The cells are full of all kinds of stinging mosquitoes, which cause great pain when they sting a human being. Rats run about freely all over the prison. Prisoners are not allowed to wear their clothes but wear them until fresh ones are brought during a family visit. The sunshine does not enter the prison cells at all, and the only treatment for all illnesses is invariable, namely, 'Akmol’, a kind of aspirin tablet. Once every two weeks they are given a piece of meat weighing only 40 grams. There is no dining-room in Al-Far'ah because the prison administration has abolished the dining-room and converted it to cells."

At the end of the report, the two Knesset members, Ziad and Toubi affirm that the mere existence of this prison, the detention of 13- and 14-year-old youths, the acts of torture that take place there and the inhumane living conditions that prevail all constitute a clear violation of all international covenants and customs relating to human rights and the rights of prisoners and detainees.

The brutal practices in Al-Far'ah prison do not constitute a special case. All Arab prisoners in other Israeli gaols suffer the same as the prisoners in Al-Far’ah in one form or another. In the place of the "stable" at Al-Far'ah, in the Ansar-2 prison camp in Gaza, there is what is known as the "health room" which is a special cell for the torture of prisoners. A number of those who have been detained in Ansar-2 have stated that Israeli gaolers use the "health room" as a room for training in the arts of boxing and karate, using, instead of the punching-bags normally employed in these arts, Arab prisoners blindfolded and with their hands tied behind them.

In Junayd prison in the town of Nablus, the security prisoners sent a letter to the Israeli Minister of Police and the Director of the Prisons Administration containing their requests, which the Prison Administration had procrastinated in granting, the most prominent of these requests being a halt to beatings, a change in the manner of treatment, the removal of the asbestos which denied them light and a guarantee of freedom of movement within the prison sections.

In Jerusalem, the Friends of Prisoners Association sent a note to the Israeli Minister of Police asking him to close the Kfar Yona prison because it did not meet the minimum conditions to permit a man of flesh and blood to remain there. Conditions included the wire netting over all windows, obstructing ventilation and light, the dampness, which caused disease, the appalling lack of cleaning materials, denial of prisoners' right to exercise one hour a day and food that was deficient in quantity and quality.

The note gave a number of examples of prisoners suffering from chronic diseases who ought to be moved from the prison immediately and given the necessary care.

Parents of Palestinian prisoners in Ashkelon prison said that their sons complained of a number of major deficiencies. The most important was the inadequate quantity and poor quality of the food provided them, denial of their right to read and write because of the shortage of available books and the confiscation by the prison authorities of any papers found in the possession of a prisoner.

Relatives of female Arab prisoners in Ramleh prison said that they suffered under difficult conditions of imprisonment, inasmuch as they were allowed to go into the prison courtyard for only one half hour a day, they were permitted visits only once a month by a limited number of relatives, and they were forced to work and wait on Israeli women gaolers.

After his passing, problems at that same prison resurfaced. One mission to further investigate the problems at Al-Far'ah prison was conducted in 2003 by Michel Tubiana, President of the French League for Human Rights and Vice-President of the FIDH, and Philippe Kalfayan, Deputy Secretary General of the FIDH. That took place from 17 to 22 February 2003 in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. International Investigative Mission Palestinian Detainees in Israel: Inhuman Conditions of Detention

We recently carried a story with video from Israel, showing the same exact thing happening in 2011. (see: Apr-27-2011: Attack on Unarmed Arab Prisoners Released by Israel's Channel 2 - Gilad Atzmon

It does not end there:

May-29-2020: Over 100 Palestinian Youths Abused in Israeli Custody in 2009: Some Sexually - Amira Hass Special to

Dec-18-2010: Israel: Free Abdallah Abu Rahmah Now ! - Political Commentary by Tim King

Mar-21-2010: Illegal Arrests and Shootings in Israel Reach Epic Levels - Tim King

Feb-21-2011: Human Rights Centers: Israel Must Stop Manipulating Gaza Patients, Escorts -

Aug-06-2010: International Petition for Full Freedom for Mordechai Vanunu - Eileen Fleming

Feb-25-2010: A Palestinian Arrest so Ridiculous Even the Israeli Judges Smiled - Amira Hass Special to Salem-News;.com

Dec-10-2010: Message from an Israeli Military Prisoner on International Human Rights Day - Majida Abu Rahmah Special to

Jun-09-2010: 'They Looked in my Hair and Under my Tongue - 'Belén Fernandez

Jun-15-2010: Palestinian Political Prisoners and Looking Back to Where I Have Been - Eileen Fleming

All I Have

I never carried a rifle
On my shoulder
Or pulled a trigger.
All I have
Is a flute's melody
A brush to paint my dreams,
A bottle of ink.

All I have
Is unshakable faith
And an infinite love
For my people in pain.

-Tawfig Zayyad


His research from 1987 was reprinted in the now defunct Israeli newspaper Al HaMishmar. Interestingly, the paper closed one year after Ziad's death.

The UN General Assembly subsequently quoted from at length in a report dated 23 December 1987. The UN called the report, "Perhaps the best evidence of the truth of the reports describing the repugnant inhumane conditions endured by Arab prisoners."

Of course there is a pattern of reprisal in Israel toward those who upset the general flow. Wikipedia explains that the newspaper, originally called Mishmar, was first launched on 30 July 1943 as the journal of Hashomer Hatzair.

Every issue carried the banner "For Zionism, Socialism and Brotherhood amongst Nations". Journalists who wrote for the paper include Yoel Marcus, Eliezer Peri, Tom Segev, Shelly Yachimovich and Avi Benayahu. Leah Goldberg, Avraham Shlonsky, Yehoshua Sobol and Yitzhak Orpaz-Auerbach were all contributors. The paper also had an Arabic version, al-Mersad. Abd el-Aziz el-Zoubi and Muhammed Wattad were among the editors at that publication.

It isn't clear where Al HaMishmar stood on a number of issues. The newspaper was clearly Zionist, but also stood for Arab rights to a degree. It seems that their Marxist-Zionist connections were problematic almost from the beginning.

The paper was owned in part by Mapam, which was formed by a January 1948 merger of the Hashomer Hatzair Workers Party and Ahdut HaAvoda Poale Zion Movement. Representing the left-wing Kibbutz Artzi movement.

The party was originally Marxist-Zionist in its outlook. This is the group that took over the Hashomer Hatzair-affiliated newspaper Al HaMishmar.

Mapam took 19 seats in the elections for the first Knesset, which made it the second largest party after Mapai. The party did not allow Israeli Arabs to be members at the time, though it had set up an Arab list, the Popular Arab Bloc, to contest the elections (a tactic also used by Mapai, with whom the Democratic List of Nazareth were affiliated).

However as Wikipedia explains, the Arab list never crossed the 1% electoral threshold.

The party had dropped to just 15 seats by the 1951 elections. They were not included in the coalition, though the did become the first Zionist party to have an Israeli Arab, Rostam Bastuni, represent them in the Knesset.

From 1993 Kibbutz Artzi members were no longer automatically subscribers, and in 1995 the paper was closed, with the last edition on 31 March.

Ziad died on 5 July 1994 in a head-on collision in the Jordan Valley on his way back to Nazareth from Jericho after welcoming Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, back from exile.

At the time of his sudden death, he was still Mayor of Nazareth, a member of the Knesset and "a leading Arab legislator".

A street is named after him in Shefa-'Amr.

Tawfiq Ziad - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Miriam June 11, 2012 8:27 am (Pacific time)

If you get a chance do listen to Lourdes Perez version of Unadikum which you can find on Itunes btw!..en espanol...recorded in 1997 when she first went to Palestine.

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