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Prisoners of the wall
ow did you get into the kind of work you are doing?
ow did you get into the kind of work you are doing?
When I was about 50, I was vice-principal of an art teachers training college, called Hamidrasha. I was very happy; then all of a sudden things started tumbling down, strangely enough because Likud came to power. The school was very liberal, very humanistic, and very, I would say, anarchistic - of course, not officially so. We could do what we wanted and then all of a sudden they started telling us what we should do. The principal left, I was left alone and I didn’t like it and I said, OK, early retirement. But one had to think about something. And I had an idea that studying law – the legal profession leaves one free to retire how and when, whenever one wishes. So that’s how it started.
Human rights in
What year was this?
It was 1987. October ’87, and they couldn’t find anybody better than myself. No, I’m very serious. I was an old lady, which was for them lovely; they were for human rights, so they were also for the human rights of old ladies. And I got a job. It had nothing to do with the occupied territories. But the Intifada broke out 2 months later. And nobody really was interested within ACRI; but I was. So that’s how I got one mission, another mission, a third mission. And there I was, completely plunged into the business of the defence of the Palestinians in different ways; especially, but not only, in
Can you tell us what administrative detention means?
Administrative detention should by now be very well known to British people.
Administrative detention gives power to an administrative authority - in Israel it can be either the minister of justice, if it is within Israel, or to the military commander if its in the Occupied Territories – the power to issue an order, a detention order, against a person whom he considers dangerous to the security of the state or of the territories, without court or trial, for 6 months, endlessly renewable. And they add, if the person cannot be put to trial. And the usual interpretation of this condition is, that the authorities have evidence that cannot be presented to the court. The evidence is privileged.
A state secret?
Yes. Because, if disclosed it will harm either the security service or the informer.
How long can people be detained?
I have now a person who is still in detention, Nidal Abu Aker, from the Deheisheh refugee camp. A judge who has recently reviewed the secret evidence has ordered that he be released soon, but this may not happen. He has been in jail for over four years, as an administrative detainee. What is particular about him is that he was twice, in those four years, brought to trial, because they had some evidence. I don’t know why they treated him like that, it’s most unusual. He was sentenced, completed his sentence, but remained in jail as an administrative detainee and that’s interesting because one can be any time, even after one has finished a sentence, kept in administrative detention. He was again brought to trial, again he finished his sentence, and was again ordered back into administrative detention.
What has this person done?
This is the wrong question, addressed to me- you must address it to GSS: the General Security Service.
This case is outstanding in many respects. He admits that his ideology is leftist Marxist. In the latest election, he was a candidate for PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], which is a banned organisation, like Hamas. Strange as it may sound, one can stand as a candidate for a banned organisation in a legal election.
And in his case, he was brought to trial, so there, evidence was open. It was alleged that he was involved in military activities in his region.
In parentheses, I would like to say, in my opinion, that a military trial is not such a far cry from administrative detention, though not everyone will agree with me. So I don’t know whether to trust the verdicts.
So the two verdicts were reached at military courts?
Yes, of course.
Who decides who gets arrested and detained?
We are now speaking only about the
How many detainees are there?
In administrative detention, now there are roughly 700.
The overall number of those who are held is about 8,000. Most of them either have been tried in military courts, or will be tried.
Of those tried in military courts, almost all are sentenced by agreement, by deals. The defence and the prosecution make deals, by routine. This is more the dictate of the prosecution, the supremacy of the prosecution, rather than talks trying to reach some kind of reasonable outcome.
There is another story: I don’t know what you think, but the very existence of military courts is questionable. What was the crime of the person? Was there a crime at all? By what standard?
Where were most of these prisoners arrested?
Most of them were captured in the
Absolutely. And in the
West Bank, according to
Then we have Zone A, ‘properly’ under Palestinian control; it is now about 12% of the territory, which is unbelievable. So they have their policemen and whatever. But this zone is not immune from Israeli intervention. Legally, according to Israeli speaking, the army can (and does) - enter Ramallah, let us say, grab a person, and take him with them. Or if a person from Ramallah happens to be in Zone B, it’s easier, but not necessary. So Israeli military law, military-criminal law let us say, officially applies to Ramallah. And Ramallah is the unofficial ‘capital’ of the
Do the Israelis apply the label of ‘terrorist’ to all the political prisoners they take, or are some purely political detainees?
First of all, there is hardly a Palestinian who would not, at least ideologically, support the military struggle [against the occupation]. You can always accuse a person of being a supporter. If you are an ideological supporter you may also give a glass of water, I mean this literally, to a wanted person. . And there is a clause in the military law: you can bring him to trial if he has extended some help, and literally for giving a glass of water. So it’s very easy to say that a person was involved in some kind of direct or indirect military activity. Maybe he wrote an article; maybe he gave a lecture.
Coming back to very clear, purely political detainees: in ’95, before the election to the PA Council, the sections which opposed
The idea that someone creates dangers for the security of the region doesn’t necessarily mean that he is a military activist. They keep saying that words can do more harm, sometimes, than rifles. That’s their expression. They do admit that people don’t have to be fighters [to be detained]. It’s called subversive activity: acting against the occupation in a non-military way.
Those people, they would rather have as administrative detainees than have them brought to trial.
Can you say something about the restrictions on movement in the
Until 1991, the First Gulf War, there was no restriction on entering Israel, there was no restriction on crossing Israel from Gaza to the West Bank, or from the West Bank to Gaza. There was restriction, and this was extremely painful in
In ’91, they cancelled what they called the General Permit, the General Permit to enter
And in terms of restrictions on movement within the
This is new, and started with the second Intifada; now it has become absolutely awful. You can look on the site of Machsomwatch [http://www.machsomwatch.org/]. Maschom is a roadblock. These are women, most of them elderly women, who go to observe, and to help in extreme cases. It is absolutely unbelievable – the hours people have to stand, the denial of going to see a doctor… the bottom line is that a trip from Ramallah to Jenin that should take 45 minutes maybe, can take a day, or may not be achieved. And we have not mentioned the settlements and the Wall. But we are talking about details, and in the details you can forget the overall picture. And the overall picture is [about]: making life impossible.
To what end, for what purpose is life being made so difficult?
Have a guess. Make a wild guess.
To encourage people to leave, to destroy the economy and to cause a slow ethnic cleansing?
Absolutely. Or to make people accept, accept the position of fourth-rate non-citizens, who live on a very low level. The universities – why interfere with their studies, if not for that purpose?
One thing. In 1967, the Palestinians of Israel; let’s call them what they call themselves: the Palestinians ’48. In 1967, when they met Palestinians of the West Bank and
Could you explain something about the settlements and the Jews-only roads?
Look, it’s a slow and steady development, it doesn’t happen abruptly. The settlements were kind of extensions of
And how do they prevent the Palestinians going to the settlements or using the roads?
You have the soldiers standing there, and if you approach you are shot. First you are told, beware, we are going to shoot you, and then they will shoot you. No Palestinian would have the crazy idea of entering a settlement, unless he has a permit as a worker.
The law says that for security reasons these roads must not be used by Palestinians. And they have roadblocks.
We forgot that the prisoners are kept inside
Whatever we think about normal democracies, what is not forbidden is allowed - we have to think about it, but this is the slogan. In the
For example, in
To become a collaborator.
It’s a very tricky business. Once you are offered, you are in a very difficult situation. And I have cases.
Often, they make these offers to decent people, who have no intention to collaborate, in weak moments of their lives. I’ll give you two examples.
One, a guy on the way to his own wedding, a respected person, marrying a girl from the upper class. He was from a village, but was an admired student at
He said no.
And he stayed three years in administrative detention. She waited for him and he married her.
What are collaborators asked to do?
If they feel that the guy is very negative, they give him a phone number, and tell him: if you change your mind, call us.
Or they will say, come on, it’s nothing; you have this neighbour, we are interested in your neighbour, or just in the village. Look, they offer it to Israelis too.
And them he has to meet them occasionally, or phone them, and tell them what’s happening in the village, for example.
I was told also, by the prominent late leader of Hamas in
And then he told me a story without a name, about someone who the GSS drafted when he was a young man. He was without means; they sent him to university. They made a career for him.
Going back to administrative detention, Salah Shehada was sentenced in 1989, to ten years. When he finished his ten years he became an administrative detainee; and that’s how I met him, as his lawyer.
How are the prisoners ill-treated?
Since 1999, when torture was basically forbidden by the Israeli High Court, they stopped systematic torture. But they have alternative means: denying meeting with a lawyer; threatening people, saying: we will arrest your wife; total isolation for 20 to 50 days. And now there is a new law for non-citizens, which makes it even worse.
What about the assassinations?
They do this in three ways.
People are killed under cover of an attempt to arrest them; sometimes when they come they really want to arrest and sometimes it’s just an excuse to kill.
Then there are the Mistaarevim, [squads of Israelis] who pretend to be Palestinians, people dressed as Palestinians.
Then, especially in
How can it end, this nightmare? What would be a solution?
You first change the world, and then we will have a feasible solution. We are doing our business over there, but it’s a very small-scale business. What we, the leftists, can do… there are a limited number of people who hate what is happening, and protest.
I don’t think we influence the government. I don’t think we have presently an influence.
But in order to have change, you guys, what we call internationals…
But what should we call for?
You shouldn’t “call”. You should put an end to this kind of world, to all different expressions of, imperialist American…
Yes, it is engaging
Look at the Independent today. In October 2006, they have the headline: “The roadmap leads to nowhere”. They discovered it today?
I think most people and organisations support
But some states do support it actively, by denying money to the present elected government [of the Palestinian Authority]. By supplying arms [to
And they say that the economic boycott of the Palestinians has worked. You read it in the Independent. Of course it worked!
What can we do?
Expose what is happening and put it in the world context; stop
What is the opposition in
I think the people who are proper leftists, in the sense of the Palestinian issue, are those who are in favour, as a minimum, of retreat without ‘buts’; retreat to 1967 borders, and remember, without ‘buts’. Because you can hear about retreat from numerous people, and then they all say: yes of course, but… so maybe we will exchange territories and they will get some [of the land]; and maybe not immediately because now Hamas is in power… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
So clear-cut retreat. Take your settlers, take your arms and withdraw to ’67 borders. And negotiate then. Because negotiating with an occupied people, especially in the world context of today, it’s a joke, a very sad joke.
And where it comes together, it is that you work together with the Palestinians, whether Palestinians of the
The indoctrination went on for so many years, since the beginning of the previous century. A person born in
So, under these circumstances, I’m fascinated by people, young people born in
In answer to a question that here hasn’t been asked: why so few? Considering the circumstances, they are miraculous.
There were five demonstrations in Tel Aviv during the war [against
And not just being against, but being there. Like the [Israeli] women of MachsomWatch. They are just walking around the
For further information, see:-
HaMoked: Centre for the Defence of the Individual
International Solidarity Movement http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/