By: Leandro Albani / Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / September 9, 2016
Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Prisoners and Qaddura Fares, the head of the Association of Palestinian Prisoners, were interviewed by Resumen Latinoamericano on the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Around these days, the Israeli state is keeping 7,000 palestinians behind bars and 200 of them are minors. This violates the most basic of international laws. To this we must add that the Israeli occupation of the palestinian territory (which is expanding since 1948) has taken the lives of thousands of Palestinians and has created a situation of constant repression.
Qaraqe and Fares aren’t unfamiliar to the suffering of the prisoners of Israeli forces. The Palestinian minister was detained for the first time in 1981, then in 1982 and in 1986 he was condemned to an “administrative detention” by which Palestinians can be imprisoned without real proof. As for Fares, he was imprisoned in an Israeli prison for 14 years, between 1980 and 1994.
What’s the situation of Palestinian political prisoners?
I.Q.: Right now there are 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The conditions in which they live are extremely difficult. We must bear in mind that three of them have been on a hunger strike for over 60 days, protesting against their administrative detention, and there are no charges against them. There’s also another comrade of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who made a 71-day-long hunger strike, until he finally reached an agreement to end his arrest.
We must never lose sight of the essence of the problem, which is that we’re under Israeli occupation and subjected, at any given point, to every kind of abuses and violations. Detentions of Palestinians are indiscriminate, and they include deputies, politicians, nurses, doctors, professors. There’s no segment of the Palestinian population that is safe from Israel’s detentions. Anyone that is capable of thinking of any sort of resistance against the occupation, like social movements do elsewhere in the world, are in prison”.
Which is the situation of the prisoners’ families?
I.Q.: From my own experience, I can attest that families suffer even more than the prisoners themselves. Our comrade Fida Abu Latifa is married to a prisoner who has been waiting to be released for 14 years. Many of the mothers and fathers of prisoners have lost their lives while they waited for their sons and daughters to be released. Some prisoners have been in jail for 35 years. And even when a family member is lucky enough to get to visit his imprisoned relative, they have to face an endless series of difficulties. They have to get up at 3am and come back home past midnight. They have to go through a lot of paperwork, Israeli military checkpoints, body searches, and mistreatments when they see their loved ones.
Why doesn’t the international community take action against Israel’s repressive system?
Q.F.: The UN can stop this. But do they want to? The UN should be equal to the sum of its members, but in reality the US manipulates the UN at its will. As for the Palestinian question, the UN acts according to the agenda of the US and Israel. That’s why we always criticize the UN, because it doesn’t live up to its role on this matter and that allows Israel to go on with its war and its crimes against humanity.
What does it mean for the Palestinian people that Israel is being governed by Benjamin Netanyahu?
F.: Nowadays, Israel is being governed by a handful of far-right, fundamentalist gangs. Some people are beginning to refer to Netanyahu as a dictator. This may lead to more conflicts and suffering. If the UN was effective, measures would already have been taken so that we don’t reach this new level of tension, that can explode at any time. But even though Netanyahu and the far-right are in power, we won’t back down or kneel, it just means that we will have to fight even harder to defend our rights.
What is your take on Latin America?
I.Q.: Something remarkable is the advanced views of Latin American countries regarding the Palestinian cause; it’s far more advanced than in other regions. Latin American countries were also pioneers in the acknowledgement of the Palestinian State and that has been of great significance and importance for the Palestinian people. Almost every time, Latin America has been independent in its political stance, despite the pressures and the dependency from the US.
What’s the reason behind the great capacity of resistance that the Palestinian people is showing against the occupation?
I.Q.: Yasser Arafat said that we’re the people of the mighty. We’re a people that loves freedom and we’re willing to do whatever we can to achieve it. We reject slavery, humiliation and surrender. Each generation of the Palestinian people is even more resilient than the latter and creates new forms of resistance against the occupation. The handkerchief that Arafat used to wear has become a symbol of struggle not only for the Palestinian people, and it represents the struggle of every single Palestinian. Great amounts of Palestinian blood have been shed due to this occupation and we have suffered a lot, therefore in every Palestinian home there’s something that reminds us of the occupation.
Q.F.: We have the collective belief that victory is ours, it’s just a matter of time.
I.Q.: Hopefully, Latin America will maintain its position regarding Palestine. We trust that the public opinion and solidarity between the peoples, social movements, political parties and governments will maintain this advanced position regarding the struggle of the Palestinian people.