[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


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 
West Bank.

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 
Nations statistics.

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)./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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