[Pnews] Four decades in prison for seeking a free Palestine

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 29 12:25:45 EST 2018


  Four decades in prison for seeking a free Palestine

By Ahmed Abu Artema - November 28, 2018
Nael al-Barghouthi, a Palestinian from the West Bank village of Kobar, 
has spent nearly four decades in Israeli prisons. In 2009, he broke the 
Guinness World Record for the world’s longest-serving political 
prisoner.*/(in occupied Palestine - there are many political prisoners 
held by the US that have been kept in cages and in some cases in 
solitary confinement for much longer)/*

Israeli occupation forces initially detained Barghouthi in April 1978, 
but he was released in a 2011 prisoner exchange deal before being 
rearrested three years later.

After being freed in 2011, Barghouthi tried to return to a normal life - 
but he had missed an entire generation. The simple lifestyle that he 
knew decades earlier had changed; many of his loved ones were dead, and 
the buildings and fields he remembered as a child had been consumed by 
urban development.

*Deep roots
*While he was out of prison, Barghouthi married his longtime sweetheart, 
Eman Nafe, who herself had spent 10 years in Israeli prison.

He spent much of his time around olive trees, which relieved his 
nostalgia and showed the importance of deep roots in the face of time. 
These trees were the heritage of his forefathers - the identity of 
Palestine that Barghouthi loved and fought for, and the reason he spent 
so much of his life in the darkness of prison.

In his few years of freedom, Barghouthi worked in olive groves, 
watering, trimming and picking the harvest. The occupation gave him 
little time to enjoy his peace: he was arrested again in the summer of 
2014 and sentenced to 30 months in prison for under flimsy charges of 
violating the terms of his release. Just as he was due to be freed, an 
Israeli military tribunal issued an order reinstating his life sentence, 
plus an additional 18 years.

Barghouthi’s story, and his suffering over all these decades, raises 
many questions. Where does one find the strength to spend almost all of 
one's life in prison?

Four decades is a long time to live in pain, sadness, oppression and 
deprivation. How many people were born during that time, and how many 
passed away? How many moments of joy, sadness, reunion and separation? 
How many warm nights with family and friends were missed? How many 
opportunities and experiences were lost?

*Full of hope
*All of these things were happening in a world that was so close, yet so 
distant. Barghouthi was barred from the world, seeing only darkness and 
hearing only chains.

He and I spoke by phone after his release in 2011. A direct meeting was 
out of the question, due to the separation between Gaza and the West 
Bank. When we spoke, I didn't hear the voice of a broken person 
destroyed by years of suffering. His voice was vibrant and strong, full 
of hope and positive energy.

He talked about the inevitability of freedom for Palestine. He told me 
about his personal plans for work and starting a family. I wondered 
about the source of this hope that defeated oppression, and I realized 
that his deep belief in the cause for which he was imprisoned was 
stronger than his concerns over losing all those years of his life.

Barghouthi's rearrest violated the terms of the prisoner exchange deal 
brokered by Egypt in 2011, which stipulated that those released could 
not be rearrested and retried on old charges. This violation highlights 
the politicization of Israel's judiciary, a tool in the government's 
hand to levy political pressure against Palestinians without any legal 

And Barghouthi is not alone: According to prisoners’ rights group 
Addameer, as of September, there were more than 5,600 Palestinian 
political prisoners, hundreds of whom were serving life sentences. 
Dozens of women and hundreds of children were among those detained.

*A high price
*Israel commits clear violations of international humanitarian law in 
its treatment of Palestinian prisoners, from denying them adequate 
medical care, to forcing mothers to give birth while handcuffed to 
hospital beds. There is also physical and psychological torture during 
interrogations, deprivation of visitation rights, solitary confinement 
and administrative detention without charges.

These violations show Israel's confidence that the international 
community will not take action, laying the groundwork for additional 
violations against Palestinian prisoners.

As we call for justice for our prisoners, we cannot forget the central 
problem of the occupation. It is difficult to imagine obtaining justice 
for prisoners when the very foundation of Israel as a state comprises a 
flagrant violation of international humanitarian laws and norms.

Barghouthi's punishment for seeking the freedom of his people, in 
addition to the suffering of all his fellow prisoners, reminds the world 
of the occupation’s devastating impact. Nations established on the ruins 
of other people's rights cannot become normal states. Foundations built 
on injustice and hegemony will always provoke resistance among those who 
love freedom. They will always choose revolution and confrontation, even 
if it costs them everything.

/- Ahmed Abu Artema is a Palestinian journalist and peace activist. Born 
in Rafah in 1984, he is a refugee from Al Ramla village. His article 
appeared in the Middle East Eye.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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