Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Palestinian Prisoners: Our Living Martyrs

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Palestinian Prisoners: Our Living Martyrs

Article excerpt

Palestinian Prisoners: Our Living Martyrs

Samah Jabr is a medical student and lifelong resident of Jerusalem. This piece was written with Betsy Mayfield of Ames, Iowa.

When I meet the mother of a Palestinian martyr, I don't cry with her or ask her to show false pride and strength. I say instead, "Your child is in God's hands, where life is more just and fair than the life we're living." Often, my words have proven to be effective.

When I meet the mother of a Palestinian political prisoner, however, I don't know what to say. I choke with the dead words in my throat.

Israel is notorious for its political prisons, like Neve Tirza in Al Ramleh, Abu Kbeir, and Demona. While the Israeli government imprisons children as young as 14 years old in these jails, few Israeli human rights organizations consistently speak out against the inhuman conditions and physical and psychological torture these young captives must endure. Needless to say, the Israeli government has no interest in improving prison conditions in these prisons.

A month ago, I went to Neve Tirza to stand in solidarity with a group of women political prisoners who have been on a hunger strike. There were only about 50 of us--nothing like the massive crowds attending a martyr's funeral or the hundreds who line up outside universities to shout their slogans and announce the latest protest strike. Some who might have joined us, I imagine, were turned back at checkpoints. Others had to make use of a day with fewer curfew restrictions to obtain what food they could. Office workers may have rushed to their jobs in hopes of getting a little work done before the mid-afternoon rush hour--the race to get home before a new curfew might take effect.

As I stood outside the prison with my sisters, eager to show solidarity with those in pain, the sight of our small group made me recall the sad words of Mahmoud Abu-Al-Sukkar, a Palestinian who has spent 26 years of his life in jail because he dared protest when Zionists came to take his land. "I used to think that if you call Palestinians to stand in solidarity with their prisoners," he wrote, "the streets would be full of the thousands. But that was my fantasy and imagination."

Abu Al-Sukkar's expression of isolation and abandonment makes me aware of our peace negotiators' neglect and disregard of the thousands of Palestinian freedom fighters who spent and are still spending the best years of their lives behind bars. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.