Palestine: occupied, imprisoned, but undefeated!

The brutal Israeli policy of snatching and kidnapping Palestinian activists from their homes and imprisoning them without trial for periods of up to six months using an Administrative Detention order is being challenged head-on by Palestinian prisoners following the brave example of Khader Adnan. On 18 December 2011, one day after he had been detained under the Administrative Detention law, Khader, a member of Islamic Jihad, began a hunger strike in protest at his detention. 66 days later, on 21 February 2012, he ended it after winning concessions on his release. On 16 February, following Khader’s example, another member of Islamic Jihad, Hana Al Shalabi, began a hunger strike against her detention. As we go to press, over 20 Palestinian prisoners have declared a hunger strike in solidarity with Hana and against Administrative Detention, and Hana herself is close to death.

The Administrative Detention law was originally drawn up and used by the British when they occupied Palestine after the First World War. The Zionists use it to imprison Palestinian activists without having to go to court and provide evidence to justify their actions. During the first Intifada between 1987 and 1994 over 20,000 orders for Administrative Detention were issued. Since 2000 over 19,000 orders have been issued. Over 300 Palestinians are currently held under Administrative Detention orders according to Amnesty International, including Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), 23 other members of the PLC and an unnamed man whose detention order has been renewed every six months for over five years.

There has been a long history of Palestinian prisoners’ struggle against the inhuman conditions in which they are held: the hunger strikes signify a new stage. Khader explained the frustrations of the prisoners in a letter from prison at the beginning of his hunger strike:

‘The Israeli occupation has gone to extremes against our people, especially prisoners. I have been humiliated, beaten, and harassed by interrogators for no reason, and thus I swore to God I would fight the policy of Administrative Detention to which I and hundreds of my fellow prisoners fell prey ... I hereby assert that I am confronting the occupiers not for my own sake as an individual, but for the sake of thousands of prisoners who are being deprived of their simplest human rights while the world and international community look on.’

The Zionists agreed to release Khader one month short of the full six months they could have detained him for, and also agreed not to immediately re-detain him.

Hana Al Shalabi was one of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released in October 2011 under the deal which saw the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. She had been held for 25 months under Administrative Detention; she was detained again on 16 February. More prisoners have now declared that they are beginning hunger strikes in solidarity with Hana and to protest at their detention without trial, with a major prison protest planned to start on 17 April, the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Prisoners Affairs Issa Qaraqe summarised the PA’s spinelessness over the prisoners: ‘There are efforts ongoing. I spoke to the Egyptian side on the matter and Saeb Erekat has made contacts with the American side in the quartet, but what else can we do? This is a difficult issue’.

It certainly is a difficult issue for the pro-imperialist quislings of Abbas and the PA whose whole political future depends on collaborating with Israel in arresting militants and crushing resistance in the West Bank.

Gaza under attack and under siege

On 9 March Israel murdered Zuheir Al Qaisi, the Secretary General of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza, and another PRC commander with an air-launched missile that destroyed their car. The PRC and other resistance groups launched home-made missiles across the border in acts of retaliation, but Israel, using its overwhelming military superiority, hit back with a new offensive against Gaza.

 

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, over the next three days Israel launched 36 air strikes and fired 43 missiles, killing 24 Palestinians, including a child, and wounding 74 people, including 16 children. The homemade rockets fired by the Palestinian resistance were the first test for the new Iron Dome anti-missile system which Israel has developed and built with funding from the US. According to reports in the Jerusalem Post it destroyed 90% of rockets it targeted. The Palestinian Resistance groups know that their rockets are no match for Israel’s military hardware but they have no alternative at present. As a PRC spokesman put it:

‘We know that our missiles are no match for the F-16 war planes and the Abram tanks but we have succeeded in creating a semblance of deterrence. In Islam, we are commanded to do what we can, and we hope that in the future we will be better-equipped to repulse and defeat the Zionist aggressors.’

Over the past two years Israel has permanently closed some of the main border crossings into Gaza, so increasing the isolation and siege of Gaza. Since November 2011 there has been an acute shortage of cooking gas following the Zionists’ closure of the Nahal Oz crossing, the main transit point for cooking gas at the beginning of 2010. The permanent closure of Al Mentar or Karni crossing at the beginning of March 2011 led to the shutting down of many of the economic and commercial establishments in the Gaza Commercial Zone. The Al Mentar crossing was the biggest crossing in the Gaza Strip in terms of its operational capacity for commercial traffic. Israel, as part of its strategy to tighten its control of Gaza, is intent on making the Karm Abu Salem crossing the sole commercial crossing into the Gaza Strip even though it is not fit for the task.

Hamas has been trying to work with the new regime in Egypt to get fuel supplies into Gaza through the Rafah border crossing and so resist the tightening blockade. Fuel shortages mean that Gaza’s power stations can only supply electricity for six hours a day. On Sunday 18 March Dr Askool, the secretary of the Gaza Council of Ministries, said that Egyptian Intelligence Services were supporting Israel in preventing the fuel supplies entering Gaza through Rafah and insisting that they pass through the Karm Abu Salem crossing. This is after the Hamas administration had paid $2 million in advance for the fuel supplies. Dr Askool declared in his statement that the demands of the Egyptian Intelligence Service were absolutely rejected for political, technical, and administrative reasons.

Lift the siege of Gaza!

Boycott Israeli goods!

Bob Shepherd

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

 

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