-By Mark Hage, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine
A prominent Palestinian human rights activist and politician, Khalida Jarrar, 56, was released from an Israeli prison on Feb. 28. She had been incarcerated for 20 months without a single charge brought against her.
The Israelis call this “administrative detention,” a policy they have imposed liberally for decades to lock up Palestinians based on allegations, the sources for which remain confidential, that they might commit a future security offense. This reprehensible judicial practice was first deployed by British colonial authorities during the years they controlled Mandate Palestine.
Every few months, Jarrar says, Israeli authorities chained her arms and legs, put her in a cage in the rear of a security truck known as a “bosta,” and drove her and fellow Palestinian inmates to a military court for a secret trial.
“They would put us in a truck, which looked very nice from the outside but inside we’d be in handcuffs sitting in cages for hours. They wouldn’t allow us to stop and use the bathroom. Our only stop was the court. They’d take us out, we’d receive our sentences, and then they would put us back in our cages and drive us back in the same condition.”
Jarrar was held mostly in Damon Prison, a maximum-security complex in Haifa, a coastal Israeli city. During her long incarceration, she never stopped organizing or teaching her fellow inmates their rights as Palestinians.
The Israelis retaliated by sending her to solitary confinement, barring her from showering, and denying her the means to cook her meals.
Prior to Damon, Jarrar was locked up in HaSharon Prison, also in Israel. There she organized a 63-day protest against constant camera surveillance. Palestinian prisoners refused to leave their cells until the cameras were removed and some modicum of privacy restored.
The prison authorities did not give in, however; they brought an end to the protest by transferring Jarrar and other protesters from HaSharon to Damon Prison, where she was allowed only two family visits a month for 45-minutes. She was also forced to shower in public and her books were taken away.
Israeli cruelty toward Jarrar continued up to the day she was released. Prison officials told her she would be freed on February 28, then called the Red Crescent and her family, telling both she would be dropped off outside the prison at 1 p.m. at a checkpoint called Hajiz Al Jalma.
When February 28 came, at 6 a.m. prison guards abruptly woke Jarrar and told her she would be leaving in just 10 minutes. They then transported her to a different checkpoint, nearly 30 minutes from Hajiz Al Jalma, and six hours ahead of schedule. Eventually, with the help of other Palestinians, she made her way home to Ramallah.
If Israel believes they broke Jarrar’s will to resist, they had best think again.
“At the end of the day, I am a Palestinian and I will continue to point out the occupation’s violations,” Jarrar said. “I represent my people, people who suffer. I will not stop, of course, because I will defend my people.”
Palestinian Prison Statistics as of mid-March
Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
Total Number of Political Prisoners: 5440
Administrative Detainees: 497
Female prisoners: 48
Child prisoners: 209 (46 under 16)