Israeli threats fail to end detainees’ boycott of military courts

Palestinian women protest in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day, 17 April. 

Anne Paq ActiveStills

Israeli occupation forces are threatening and beating Palestinian detainees in an attempt to pressure them to end their boycott of Israeli military courts.

Some have been forced to attend court sessions, prisoners rights group Addameer said in a statement marking Palestinian Prisoners Day on Tuesday.

It notes that Israel has arrested approximately 800,000 Palestinians and issued over 52,000 administrative detention orders since 1967.

The boycott, which started on 15 February, also includes lawyers and human rights organizations, as prisoners have urged them to take similar action as a way to delegitimize the Israeli military court system.

Prisoners said the boycott will last until Israel ends its practice of administrative detention – the widespread imprisonment of Palestinians without charge or trial that can be renewed indefinitely.

“The core of resisting the policy of administrative detention comes from boycotting the Israeli legal system,” the detainees mounting the action have stated.

Addameer, which provides legal representation to many prisoners, reaffirmed its “total support for the ongoing boycott of all court proceedings regarding administrative detention.”

Escalation

Israel is also threatening lawyers with punishment, including financial penalties, for complying with the boycott, according to Addameer. In the face of such suppression, Palestinian detainees announced their plan to increase their protests.

The escalation was set to take place last week, and included rejecting medicine, refusing to visit clinics and launching a hunger strike.

Detainees paused the escalation after the Israel Prison Service said it would meet with the detainees’ representative committee, according to Addameer.

Members of Israeli intelligence, the army and the prison service will attend the meeting to discuss the policy of administrative detention.

In the meantime, the prisoners will continue to boycott the military courts and will escalate their protest if Israeli authorities fail to hold the meeting.

Colonial practice

Israel often holds administrative detainees on “secret evidence” which it does not reveal to detainees or their lawyers, and can only be reviewed by a military judge.

“Since the information justifying their detention is secret, all court hearings are just a formality,” Addameer states.

Israel’s use of administrative detention is a direct continuation of British colonial practice and constitutes a war crime according to Addameer.

As of 1 March, Addameer said Israel was holding 427 administrative detainees, among more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Israel’s jails also hold 62 Palestinian women and seven members of the Palestinian legislative council. Three of the detained lawmakers are in administrative detention.

Detainees who are tried before Israel’s military kangaroo courts are faced with a near-100 percent conviction rate.

#BornAPrisoner

Given these facts, many took to Twitter with the hashtag #BornAPrisoner to express that whether Israel holds Palestinians in its jails, forces them to live under military occupation in the West Bank, or under its siege in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians are all born prisoners of Israel’s oppressive regime.

This video highlights some terms Palestinian prisoners have coined to describe Israel’s routine violations of their rights. They include “bosta,” their name for a vehicle used to transfer prisoners in tiny metal cages with their arms and legs chained – itself a form of brutal abuse.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee, the steering group for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, tweeted that boycotting corporations involved in Israeli violations – including Hyundai, Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard – is a way to support Palestinian prisoners.

“Dubious distinction”

Palestinian children are not spared the brutality of military detention.

In March alone, Israel arrested 95 Palestinian children according to the human rights group Al-Haq.

There are currently more than 350 Palestinian children in Israeli jails, more than twice the number in 2015.

“Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes an estimated 500 to 700 children each year in military courts lacking fundamental fair trial rights,” according to Defense for Children International Palestine.

Last year, Minnesota representative Betty McCollum introduced a bill in Congress that would prohibit Israel from using any of the billions it receives annually in US military aid for the detention, torture and abuse of Palestinian children.

Hunger strike

Palestinian prisoner Amir Asad, 35, has been on hunger strike for more than sixty days to protest medical neglect in Israel’s Gilboa prison, local media reported.

Israeli prison authorities refuse to transfer Asad to a section of the prison for people with disabilities. Asad uses a wheelchair, making it especially difficult for him to use the bathroom.

Since his strike, Israel placed him in solitary confinement where is he forced to sleep on a mattress on the ground.

Asad, from the Galilee town of Kufr Kana, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to six and a half years in prison. He is set to be released in June.

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Comments

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What is the matter with this country that is so wicked to its citizens? As a Jew I object most strongly to their Nazi behaviour. Where did they learn that from? Treat your citizens with respect please. This will rebound on you eventually.

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Jews all over the world are speaking out against these abuses. Your voice is important because in addition to your status as a human being with a conscience, you are by virtue of ethnicity someone the Israeli state claims to defend through its criminal actions. As Jews publicly reject this nefarious association, Israel loses a key element in its propaganda offensive.

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