Palestinian Prisoners

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A Palestinian boy looks at pictures of Palestinian political prisoners being held by Israel.

Palestinian Prisoners


For Palestinians, the experience of being a prisoner is as common to life under occupation as, say, land confiscations and checkpoints. Since 1967, 40% of the adult male population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or roughly 800,000 people, have been the victim of some form of detention by Israel. As of 1 May 2014, the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian NGO dedicated to prisoners’ rights, reports 5271 Palestinian political prisoners and administrative detainees in Israeli custody in 25 prisons, detention, and interrogation centers. Earlier this year, prisoners held in "administrative detention" led a hunger strike demanding an end to the systematic practice of imprisoning Palestinians without charge, trial or sentence. A colonial practice inherited from the British mandatory regime, Israel’s "administrative detention" law subjects Palestinian political prisoners to imprisonment without due process for renewable periods of three to six months. Some Palestinians have been held in "administrative detention" for over a decade. Palestinians brought to trial will face a military court with a 99% conviction rate. In many ways, Israel’s ongoing practice of widespread detention of Palestinians since the 1948 War parallels the Zionist state-building and subsequent Israeli state imperative from the early Kibbutzim to the present day Separation Barrier of erecting "structures of control and confinement," which, in the words of Journal of Palestine Studies editor Rashid I. Khalidi, represent "Israel’s nature from its very beginnings until the present day as a carceral state for the Palestinian people." 


For our October Special Focus - Palestinian Prisoners we are featuring a collection of articles* on Palestinian prisoners in conjunction with the newest issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies which focuses on Palestinian prisoners and features interviews with Marwan Bargouti and Ahmad Saadat, which may be accessed below.


*Articles that were only made available as part of our monthly Special Focus have since been removed and may be purchased at our co-publisher's website, the University of California Press. Removed articles will automatically take you to the respective article at UCP's website. 


Featured Articles:


A Carceral State

Author: Rashid I. Khalidi 

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 43, No. 4 (Summer 2014), pp. 5-10


The ICRC and the Detention of Palestinian Civilians in Israel's 1948 POW/Labor Camps

Author: Salman Abu Sitta, Terry Rempel 

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 43 No. 4 (Summer 2014), pp. 11-38


"Prisoners for Freedom": The Prisoners Issue Before and After Oslo

Author: Um Jabr Wishah

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Autumn 2006), pp. 71-80


Experiences of Torture, Means of Coping, and Levels of Symptons among Palestinian Political Prisoners

Author: Raija-Leena Punamaki

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Summer, 1988), pp. 81-96


Eyewitness: Israeli Captivity. A Report by Dr. Steinar Berge and Øyvind Møller from Norway

Authors: Steiner Berge and Øyvind Møller

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 11/12, Vol. 11, no. 4 - Vol. 12, no. 1, Special Issue: The War in Lebanon (Summer - Autumn, 1982), pp. 85-93


The Closed World of the Palestinian Prisoner

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Autumn, 1980), pp. 155-157


Prisoners for Palestine: A List of Women Political Prisoners

Author: Soraya Antonius

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Spring, 1980), pp. 29-80


Resistance and Repression: Political Prisoners in Israeli Occupied Territories

Author: Naseer H. Aruri

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Summer, 1978), pp. 48-66


Ahmad Saadat

Ahmad Sadat at PFLP rally, 2001  Ahmed Saadat (C), leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), is escorted by Israeli police as he arrives to attend a hearing in his trial at the Magistrate's Court in Jerusalem on 9 September 2012. (Photo: AFP - Ahmad Gharabli)


“We are up against an all-encompassing settle-colonialism that relies on the most extreme forms of violence conventionally associated with occupation combined with apartheid policies. And the hostility [the Palestinian people] encounter extends to all segments of our population, wherever they may be located.” - Ahmad Sa'adat, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 43, No. 4 


Secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and an erstwhile member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Ahmad Saadat became the target of Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) forces in the aftermath of the October 2001 assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi. The retired Maj. General’s assassination was widely seen as retaliation for Israel’s targeted killing of Saddat’s PFLP predecessor. In January 2002, PA forces arrested and transferred Saadat to the PA presidential compound in Ramallah and subsequently to the Jericho prison where, Saadat maintains, he was detained “in trust for the Israelis, under American oversight.” In March 2006, after U.S. and U.K. observers left the prison, Israel laid siege to the compound and apprehended Saadat. Convicted by a military court for leading an illegal, terrorist organization, he was sentenced to thirty years in prison. Saadat is the highest ranking Palestinian official currently imprisoned by Israel and his case stands out for the cooperative role of PA authorities in his detention. Since 2011, has been an outspoken leader of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement demanding an end to indefinite detention without trial.


Interview with Ahmad Saadat: Leading from Prison, Ending Negotiations, and Rebuilding the Resistance

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 43, No. 4 (Summer 2014), pp. 49-56


Marwan Barghouti:

Marwan Barghouti in court in 2002 (photo credit: Flash90)  Marwan Barghouti mural on the Israeli separation wall


"It is well-known that the Palestinian prisoners’ movement constitutes a unique experiment. It has succeeded in creating an internal structure that upholds the prisoners’ militant spirit while forging links of solidarity, brotherhood, cooperation, and partnership between them, and supporting their readiness to make the sacrifices necessary to counter the occupation.” - Marwan Barghouti, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 43, No. 4 


Marwan Barghouti joined Fatah at the age of fifteen and completed secondary school in an Israeli prison after conviction for membership in an illegal organization. By 1987, he was exiled to Jordan for “incitement”. The 1993 Oslo accords allowed him to return to Palestine and take the helm as Fatah leader for the West Bank. From his seat in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC),  he became an advocate for the accords, but reversed his position in the face of expanding Israeli settlements. Leading the call for resistance to occupation using all available means, Barghouti founded the Fatah-aligned militia al-Tanzim. An August 2011 Israeli assassination attempt sent him into hiding, but his effort to avoid capture was short lived. In spring 2002, after Israeli forces surrounded his home, Barghouti decided to surrender rather than attempt a standoff that may have injured people nearby. An Israeli civil court convicted him for attacks inside Israel and handed down five life sentences. While in prison, he wrote, along with other Palestinian factional leaders, the “Prisoners’ Document” calling for reforming  the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) political and security institutions, a military coalition against the occupation, and the formation of a Palestinian unity government. The document became the basis for all Palestinian reconciliation talks. Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, continues to press for her husband’s release while polling proves his abiding popularity among Palestinians, often leading candidates in a presidential election were it to be held.


Interview with Marwan Barghouti: Life and Politics in Prison, National Unity, and the Resistance

Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 43, No. 4 (Summer 2014), pp. 57-65


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