Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January-February 2010, Page 53
An Evening for Palestinian Political Prisoners
THE NEW YORK leg of a U.S. tour by Addameer, the Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association in the occupied territories, took place in a crowded room at the Center for Constitutional Rights in Manhattan on Nov. 12. Addameer—Arabic for “conscience”—works closely with international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to provide regular information on the situation of Palestinian political detainees.
The audience included a sizeable contingent of African-Americans, many from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (their leader, Lumumba Bandele, was a speaker) and Hasidic Jews from the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta. The evening’s main speaker, Addameer’s program director from Ramallah, Ala Jaradat, a former prisoner, began by noting that Israel rules the West Bank with over 1,660 military laws that have the effect of criminalizing the entire Palestinian population.
“The laws dictate where Palestinians can or can’t live, what roads they can or can’t ride on, what books they can or can’t read, and whether they can or can’t dig a well on their land,” he explained. The military governor enforces the laws, appoints judges and translators, and acts as the ultimate arbiter of legality and illegality.
“Any Israeli soldier can arrest and detain a Palestinian for up to eight days,” he added. Addameer estimates there are roughly 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners being held in Israeli jails, with another 700 under administrative detention.
Jaradat said the purpose of his U.S. speaking tour was to give visibility to those who are invisible in this country. “There is almost no family on the West Bank that has not experienced the arrest or detention of a family member,” he said. “I was in jail, and my father was in jail before me.”
A prisoner must wait 90 days before gaining access to a lawyer. During those 90 days, Jaradat said, prisoners are routinely subjected to torture, and their statements made under torture are routinely accepted as valid.
Much of Jaradat’s focus, underscored by a brief video, was on the “Kafkaesque” policy of administrative detention. “An administrative detention order can be issued against any Palestinian based on secret information,” Jaradat said. “The military command will claim you are threat to security, but you are not told what you did. After six months of being detained, a military judge has the power to continue your detention. Your detention can be extended endlessly by military judges. Some Palestinians have been detained eight years or more without being tried.
Ayisha Mahmouda of DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), who works with South Asian Muslims in Flushing, Queens, and Lumumba Bandele spoke of the problems in their own communities regarding the detention of illegal immigrants in Mahmouda’s case, and African-American political prisoners in the case of Bandele.
Bandele concluded his talk by telling Jaradat that he wanted to see a solidarity movement formed between African-Americans and Palestinians. They decided that the three groups represented at the meeting would meet again early in 2010 to discuss what concrete actions could be taken on behalf of Palestinian political prisoners.
For more information visit <www.adameer.org>.