More than 9,300 Palestinian prisoners live in inhumane conditions in about 30 Israeli prisons, with no attention given to them by the international community. Two months ago, former Palestinian prisoners, who headed most of the governmental and NGOs Palestinian organizations caring for the Palestinian prisoners, launched a comprehensive campaign to free the prisoners and appealed to the International Justice Court at the Hague to issue legislation against the Israeli prisons. However, unfortunately, neither the official governmental organization nor NGOs in any country have sympathized with them.
However, one Israeli soldier abducted by the Palestinian fighters aroused the attention of the whole world. Arabs, ahead of the Europeans, scambled to seek his release ignoring also the suffering of the huge number of Palestinians behind Israeli bars.
Ikhwanweb correspondent in Gaza, interviewed Mr. Mohammad Bader, the director of the Prisoners Information Centre, to shed more light on the agony of the Palestinian prisoners.
1. Mr. Bader, could you give us an overview of the prisoners’ situation in Israeli jails?
The issues of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are one of the most complicated issues on both the social and political Palestinian arena since the beginning of the Israeli occupation. If you look at the prisoners’ statistics, you will find that Israel has imprisoned more than 650,000 Palestinians since 1967.
The problem of the prisoners became even more complicated during Al-Aqsa Intifada where more than 40,000 of the 650,000 were imprisoned after it started. The irony concerning the prisoners’ issue is that no one in the whole world feels with them. Most people around the world are not aware of the suffering and the inhumane conditions that the Palestinian are living in inside Israeli prisons, except after the abduction of the Israeli soldier last Sunday when the issue surfaced
Moreover, what is really bizarre is that the world and Arab leaders are vigorously seeking the release of one kidnapped Israeli soldier and sympathize with his parents but meanwhile ignore thousands of fathers, mothers, wives and children of more than 9,000 Palestinians behind bars
2. What are the exact figures of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails?
The number of the Palestinian prisoners behind Israeli bars until mid March, 2006 is 9,400. They are distributed among 30 prisons. Most of these prisons lack the basics of humanitarian life
3. What is the number of male to female prisoners?
The number of male prisoners is 9,280, among them are 330 male minors. In addition, the number of the female prisoners is 120, including five female minors
4. How are the Palestinians suffering in Israeli jails?
The prisoners suffer all kinds of pains. They suffer from the sever physical and emotional torture inflicted by the Israelis. They are confined to small isolation cells, which are not suitable even for animals. They are beaten on daily bases and deprived of visitations by relatives and their loved ones, and in rare cases from behind glass barriers. The food the Israelis offer is always rotten. In addition, many of ill prisoners suffer from different chronic diseases and they routinely are prevented of treatment.
5. What are the obstacles you face in helping them?
The lack of world attention and its apathy towards the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners is really what hinder most of our efforts to help them. No country sympathies with them. Israel is the only state allowed to torture its prisoners and get away with it.
A few months ago, we launched an international campaign to support the Palestinian prisoners. However, we ended the campaign when we have not seen a tangible Arab attendance, as we became sure that the International Community would not pay attention to us.
6. What is your reaction to the abduction of the Israeli soldier?
I hope the abduction would have happened many years ago in order to arouse conscious in the hearts of people and let them remember the Palestinian prisoners. They became at the tongue of everyone as a result of the abduction.
I say to the abductors to preserve the soldier’s life and treat him well and call on them not to hand the soldier unless Israel agrees to a satisfactory prisoner’s exchange.
7. Do you think his abduction benefited the Palestinian prisoners?
Yes, because it helped the issue of the Palestinian prisoners to surface up and get some of the world attention it needed.
8. Do you think that the Israelis will agree to a prisoners swap?
Yes, I am sure that they will bow their heads and go to the fighters asking them for a prisoners swap.
9. Why do you think that the Israelis, intermittently, announce they will not respond to the fighters’ demands?
They always act like this; in addition to their aggression against Palestinian people, they try to pressure the fighters and the Palestinians to release the soldier without a prisoners swap.
10. Any reactions from the prisoners themselves?
I am sure the prisoners are so happy; they feel that their freedom is approaching
11. What is you message to the mediators who are seeking the release of the soldier?
I say to the mediators whom the screams of the Palestinian prisoners haven’t awakened them and the abduction of the Israeli soldier aroused them to be objective. I call for them not to seek the release of the Israeli soldier except after the Israelis release all Palestinians.
Palestinian Father to Israeli Family: I feel your pain