“When also taking into consideration there are still at least 7,500 imprisoned for the crime of being Palestinian, this gesture can hardly be labeled as one of “goodwill.”
Matthew Cassel writes about Palestinian prisoners in his excellent overview in the Palestine Chronicle. I’m printing here only an excerpt, but please read the entire article for more information:
Since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began almost 38 years ago, 650,000 Palestinians living inside the territories have been arrested. Currently there are over 8,000 Palestinian political prisoners inside Israeli prisons.
Palestinian prisoners are often charged with such “crimes” as throwing stones, putting up posters of martyrs, being at a demonstration, or being a member of a university student council that has any affiliation with any political party. Inside occupied Palestine all political parties are illegal and anyone claiming to be a member, or even knowing a member can put you in prison.
Under Israeli military law, Abu Mazen, the leader of Fatah, who was just last week shaking hands with Sharon, could be arrested and put in prison. There was even one case where someone was arrested and charged with “military training” after telling a friend that he saw a documentary on the satellite channel, Al-Arabiya, about the history of missiles.
For more than 800 of these prisoners Israel cannot even seem to find something ridiculous enough to charge them with, so they are arrested anyway and held as administrative detainees.
Administrative detainees are Palestinians arrested by an administrative order from an Israeli military official, and usually sentenced to 6 month periods at a time. The administrative order that supposedly contains reasons for arrest is kept in a “secret file” that is never once made available to the prisoner or their lawyer at any time.
At the end of 6 months if the Israeli military judicial official so chooses, the detainee’s sentence can be renewed for another 6 months and often is. The longest case of a Palestinian being held under continuous administrative detention was 8 years.
Seemingly neglected by Sharon’s kindness are 17 mothers currently serving sentences in Israeli prisons, why aren’t they being released? Or at least why not release Manal Ghanem and her son, Nour, who was born 18 months ago inside the prison and has lived there with his mother ever since?
Maybe Israel feels as though they’ve done enough when they released Mervat Taha two weeks ago after raising her son, Wa’el, who was born in the prison and has lived for the past 2 years inside a jail cell.
Also being left out of this release is at least 340 Palestinian children currently imprisoned. Instead of being at homes with their families or attending school like most children, they’re growing up inside an Israel prison in conditions very similar to the adult prisoners.
Because the prisons are located inside of Israel and also with many checkpoints still left scattered all over the territories, Israel has made it nearly impossible for families to get permission to visit loved ones. Even when they can get permission, in many cases families are strip searched by prison guards and then forced to visit with the prisoner separated by a thick barrier of glass and metal screen.