[Ppnews] The Palestinian Prisoners’ Intifada
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 18 19:16:00 EST 2013
Weekend Edition January 18-20, 2013
A Leap of Faith Toward Freedom
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Intifada
by RAMZY BAROUD
If Palestinian leaders only knew how extraneous their endless rounds of
“unity” talks have become, they might cease their enthusiastic
declarations to world media about yet another scheduled meeting or
another. At this point, few Palestinians have hope that their
“leadership” has their best interests in mind. Factional interests reign
supreme and personal agendas continue to define Palestine’s political
Fatah and Hamas are the two major Palestinian political factions.
Despite Hamas’s election victory in 2006, Fatah is the chief contender.
Both parties continue to play the numbers game, flexing their muscles in
frivolous rallies where Palestinian flags are overshadowed with green
and yellow banners, symbols of Hamas and Fatah respectively.
Historically there has been a leadership deficit in Palestine and it is
not because Palestinians are incapable of producing upright men and
women capable of guiding the decades-long resistance towards astounding
victory against military occupation and apartheid. It is because for a
Palestinian leadership to be acknowledged as such by regional and
international players, it has to excel in the art of “compromise”. These
carefully molded leaders often cater to the interests of their Arab and
Western benefactors, at the expense of their own people. Not one single
popular faction has resolutely escaped this seeming generalization.
This reality has permeated Palestinian politics for decades. However, in
the last two decades the distance between the Palestinian leadership and
the people has grown by a once unimaginable distance, where the
Palestinian has become a jailor and a peddling politician or a security
coordinator working hand in hand with Israel. The perks of the Oslo
culture have sprouted over the years creating the Palestinian elite,
whose interest and that of the Israeli occupation overlap beyond
recognition of where the first starts and the other ends.
While Hamas remained largely immune from the Oslo disease — while
Mahmoud Abbas and his men enjoyed its numerous political and economic
perks — it too is becoming enthralled by the prospects of regional
acceptance and international validation. Its strictly factional agenda
and closeness to some corrupt Arab countries raise more than question
marks, and there is the prospect of heading in the same direction as
Fatah leaders did over two decades ago.
The unity charade continues. After a period of ambiguity, Hamas chief
Khaled Meshaal and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas reportedly
held meetings in Cairo to “expedite” the dead reconciliation.
Considering that adjournment of any real progress has in fact been the
status quo between the two main factions, the word “expedite” is likely
to mean and change very little on the ground. But if one is to judge by
rhetoric and rival claims, the chasm continues to grow, despite the
supposedly sober facts that Hamas allowed Fatah to celebrate the
anniversary of its birth in Gaza, while the latter did the same in the
Supporters of both parties brazenly used their parades — which took
place under the watchful eyes of Israeli drones — to exhibit their
strengths. This was not in relations to the Israeli military occupation,
but to their own pitiful factional propaganda. Oddly enough, if the
calculations of Palestinian factions are accurate regarding the
attendees of their rallies, the population of Gaza may have suddenly
morphed to exceed four million, a remarkable jump from the 1.6 million
of few weeks ago — the actual number of the Gaza population per United
This miserable legacy of Palestinian factionalism is taking place
against the backdrop of a slowly brewing movement in Israeli jails.
Palestinian political prisoners continue to place their faith in their
own ability to endure hunger, gaining international solidarity with
their cause. Samer Issawi, a Palestinian prisoner who as of 10 January
completed 168 days of a hunger strike in protest at his unlawful
detention by Israel, is hardly a unique phenomenon. He is an expression
of the very much present, but snubbed Palestinian collective, whose fate
doesn’t fall into the political agenda of any faction.
Issawi is one of seven brothers, six of whom spent time in Israeli
prisons for their political beliefs. One of the brothers, Fadi, was
killed by Israeli soldiers in 1994, a few days after celebrating his
16th birthday. Even their sister, Sherine, was arrested by Israeli
soldiers during a hearing concerning her brother Samer on 18 December.
On that day, “Samer was publicly beaten in the Jerusalem Magistrates
Court after he tried to greet his family,” reported The Palestine
Monitor. “He was dragged from his wheelchair and carried away,
repeatedly crying out as he was hit on his chest by the guards around him.”
In fact, the Issawi family and the entire neighborhood of Issawiya in
East Jerusalem is now a target for the Israeli army and police. The hope
is to break the will of a single man that presently is incapable of
standing on his own feet. Maybe it is legendary, but Samer Issawi’s will
of steel is not an alien notion for Palestinians. According to the
Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Adameer, over 650,000
Palestinians have been detained by the Israeli military and police since
its occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967.
“Considering the fact that the majority of those detained are male, the
number of Palestinians detained forms approximately 40 per cent of the
total male Palestinian population in the occupied Palestinian
territories.” Yet, Palestinian resistance is yet to be quelled.
Moreover, “it is estimated that around 10,000 Palestinian women have
been arrested by Israel since 1967. They include young girls and the
elderly; some… were the mothers of male long-term prisoners,” wrote
Nabil Sahli in the Middle East Monitor, who also called for the
internationalization of the prisoners issue. In a special session on 6
January held to discuss the plight of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in
Israeli jails, the Arab League echoed similar demands. In a statement,
it called for the treatment of detainees as “prisoners of war” and
called for active international efforts to secure their release.
However, serious efforts are seriously lacking despite the repeated
cries for attention by Palestinian prisoners. On 17 April 2012, at least
1,200 prisoners participated in a hunger strike to alert the world to
their plight and maltreatment in Israeli jails. Despite the fact that
the collective strike ended 14 May, Palestinian prisoners continue to
stage hunger strikes of their own, breaking records of steadfastness
unprecedented not just in Palestine, but the world over.
While calls for a change of tactics are warranted, if not urgent, there
is another pressing change that must also be realized. There ought to be
a change of Palestinian political culture away from repellent factional
manipulation and coupled with a simultaneous return to the basic values
of the Palestinian struggle. It is the likes of Issawi and not Abbas
that must define the new era of Palestinian resistance.
An Intifada has already been joined by thousands of Palestinian
prisoners some of whom are shackled to their hospital beds. It offers
little perks aside from a chance at dignity and a leap of faith towards
freedom. This is the dichotomy with which Palestinians must now wrangle.
The path they will finally seek will define this generation and
demarcate the nature of the Palestinian struggle for generations to follow.
*/Ramzy Baroud /*/is editor of PalestineChronicle.com
<http://www.PalestineChronicle.com/>. He is the author of The Second
Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0745325475/counterpunchmaga> and “My
Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story
(Pluto Press, London)./
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