Today, April 17 marks Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, when Palestinians highlight the cases of our family and friends who have been through or are currently held in the Israeli prison system. Imprisonment is an issue that impacts almost all Palestinians inside occupied Palestine and many across the diaspora, including me.
I learned about Israel’s prison system at a young age, hearing horror stories from family and friends who endured brutality and torture when they were prisoners. My uncle Ayed, a man I look up to for his humor and kindness, spent time in Israeli prison during the First Intifada. In Israeli detention, he was tortured by Israeli prison guards and sustained life-long injuries. He was subjected to shock treatment to his head and constant beatings while he was on hunger strike. This dark period has impacted his entire life as he carries pain and trauma, both physical and mental.
Currently, there are 5,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons across the occupied West Bank and Israel, including 500 administrative detainees, 200 children and 50 women. Since 1967, Israeli forces have arrested more than 800,000 Palestinians. Almost every Palestinian family of five has had one of its members detained in Israeli prisons.
Throwing Palestinians in cages is an Israeli tactic to assert control and serves as a tool of the occupation. Detention of Palestinians is designed to tear down the social fabric of our society. With 99.74% conviction rate of Palestinians in Israeli military courts, imprisonment is meant to break down our spirit. Instead we continue to rise up and call for the freedom of Palestinians prisoners and all Palestinians who live under Israel’s control.
Palestinian prisoners are at the center of the Palestinian struggle, for it is the prisoners who are calling for unity among Palestinians and among all freedom loving people around the globe. Their calls for justice and freedom span from Pelican Bay to Palestine. It is our duty to act on their demands and advocate for the freedom of political prisoners everywhere and envision a world without cages.
On this Palestinian Prisoners Day, we ask that you take time to learn about the crucial work that our partners at Addameer and Defense for Children International - Palestine are doing to advocate for Palestinian prisoners and their families. We also encourage you take action in your communities by building relationships with local organizers working on the issue of mass incarceration in the United States and transnationally.
As Nelson Mandela once said, “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”