Israel’s prisons won’t break us, says jailed Palestinian-French activist

As French government stays silent, activists are stepping up efforts to demand Israel release Palestinian-French human rights defender Salah Hamouri (via Facebook)

Israeli occupation authorities have confirmed the detention without charge or trial for six months of Palestinian-French human rights defender Salah Hamouri.

A researcher with prisoners rights group Addameer, Hamouri was detained by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank in August.

His case has attracted widespread concern in France, where lawmakers have called on President Emmanuel Macron to demand Israel free him.

Earlier this month, an Israeli judge reduced the time Hamouri was to be held to three months, but on Monday Amnesty International said that occupation authorities had restored the six-month term.

Suppressing peaceful dissent

Administrative detention without charge or trial is a relic of British colonial rule that the Israeli military can renew indefinitely.

“The arbitrary detention of Salah Hamouri is yet another shameful example of the Israeli authorities’ abusive use of administrative detention to detain suspects indefinitely without charge or trial,” Amnesty’s regional director Magdalena Mughrabi said. “Rather than locking him up without presenting a shred of evidence against him, the Israeli authorities must either charge him with a genuine criminal offense or order his immediate release.”

“For 50 years, Israel has relied upon administrative detention to suppress peaceful dissent and as a substitute for proper criminal prosecution,” Mughrabi added. “Now they appear to be using it to target human rights activists. They must take urgent steps to end this cruel practice once and for all.”

This month, three Palestinian prisoners are reported to have begun hunger strikes against their administrative detention.

Hamouri, himself a former prisoner released in 2011, is the second Addameer staff member held in administrative detention.

The group’s media coordinator Hassan Safadi has been detained since June 2016. The Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar, an Addameer board member, has been detained since July, and several other staff are barred by Israel from traveling abroad.

Hamouri speaks

Hamouri’s own words were heard at the Fête de L’Humanité on Sunday, the annual left-wing gathering attended by hundreds of thousands of people in France.

“Comrades, I find myself today in this prison with 1,600 other Palestinian political prisoners, some locked up for too many years,” Hamouri said in a letter provided to his lawyers and read out by his wife Elsa Lefort.

“We, Palestinian prisoners, cry out with all our force: Israeli prisons will never break our convictions or our will,” Hamouri added. “On the contrary, every new arrest provides us with comforting evidence that our freedom and independence will never be achieved except through struggle.”

Lefort meanwhile has condemned the French government’s continued silence about Hamouri’s detention. “If they only told us, ‘yes we’ll do something for Salah,’ or ‘no, we’re not going to do anything,’ at least we’d know what to expect,” she told the publication Médiapart.

Showing prisoners solidarity

“Receiving letters from all over the world is one of the things that gives political prisoners hope and shows them that they are not alone in their struggle,” Hamouri said in 2012, according to a Facebook posting by Lefort on Tuesday.

Lefort linked to a Facebook page that provides a postal address at the Israeli prison and encourages people to write to Hamouri and the other Palestinians held there. He may receive letters but won’t be able to respond, the page states. And, those writing should not put their return address on the envelope, as prison authorities may send it back unopened.

Activists have continued to rally for the freedom of Hamouri and other prisoners, including at ManiFiesta 2017, a left-wing cultural and political festival in Belgium last weekend.

Resisting war crimes

Meanwhile, other human rights defenders targeted by Israel are taking their message to a global audience.

Issa Amro, recently detained and charged by the Palestinian Authority over critical Facebook posts, is also facing trumped-up charges in an Israeli military kangaroo court aimed at stopping his nonviolent resistance to Israeli settlement in his home city of Hebron.

Amro, the 37-year-old coordinator of Youth Against Settlements, will next week take part in an event in London hosted by Amnesty International.

He will be joined by Farid al-Atrash, another Palestinian human rights defender facing Israeli military charges.

Amnesty said the event is part of its campaign to highlight Israel’s human rights violations during decades of military occupation.

In June, the group urged all governments to ban the import of goods from Israel’s colonial settlements in the West Bank, whose construction on occupied Palestinian land is a war crime.