Palestinian Prisoners' Day

17 April, 2022

Every year, on April 17, we commemorate Palestinian Prisoner’s Day. We pay tribute to all those who are incarcerated by Israel’s apartheid regime. We salute their resilience under conditions of extreme depravity, brutality, and injustice. Time and time again, Palestinian prisoners have shown us that the oppressor will not win. Through torture, solitary confinement, and the most inhumane forms of cruelty, Palestinians’ spirits remain undeterred. Their ardent desire to fight for justice – even from within the confines of a prison cell – is something we all wish to emulate. We are proud to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, the Palestinian people, and their resistance in the struggle for liberation.

Prisons have been an important site of struggle against the occupation. Palestinians have recognised that the Zionist regime will go to any length to suppress dissent, and it is for that reason that we must express dissent everywhere. Currently, over four thousand Palestinians are detained in Israeli prisons, subject to the most inhumane treatment. These prisoners do not have the same rights as Israeli prisoners. They are routinely isolated, receive little sunlight, and medical negligence is common. A report by Al-Meezan shows that ninety-one percent of children who were arrested for trying to flee Gaza were tortured by Israeli authorities. Since 2015, over nine thousand Palestinian children have been arrested.

One of these children is Ahmad Manasra, who was arrested at the age of thirteen and sentenced for attempted murder. Ahmad’s 15-year old cousin, Hassan Manasra, was shot dead by an Israeli civilian, after allegedly stabbing two settlers near an illegal settlement. The courts acknowledged that Ahmad did not participate in the attack, but sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment nonetheless. Ahmad is now twenty years old and has spent the last five months in solitary confinement. He has developed schizophrenia after suffering from psychological abuse at the hands of the Israeli carceral system, and his mental health is worsening significantly. There is a global campaign calling for Ahmad’s immediate release under the hashtag #FreeAhmadManasra.

Ahmad is one of thousands of Palestinian children who spent their eighteenth birthday in prison. There are currently 160 children who may face a similar fate. Amal Nakhleh is one of them. Amal has been detained under administrative detention since 21 January 2021, without being presented with charges or evidence to warrant suspicion. Administrative detention is routinely used by Israel to arrest and detain Palestinians arbitrarily, to criminalise resistance, stifle dissent, and keep Palestinians living in a constant state of fear.

There are approximately 530 Palestinian prisoners under administrative detention today. These prisoners have mobilised against this system and embarked on a boycott of the Israeli military judicial system. The prisoners have, for over a hundred days now, refused to participate in military court procedures that lack due process and are used simply to rubber stamp arbitrary imprisonment. During this strike, many Palestinian prisoners have also waged hunger strikes, medicine boycotts, and other acts of civil disobedience in a proud display of defiance in the face of inhumane treatment.

While we celebrate the courage of Palestinian resistors inside prison walls, we also commend the bravery of those resisting the occupation in the open-air prisons of Gaza and the Occupied Territories. As usual, Israel has escalated violence against Palestinians during Ramadan. Since the beginning of the month, Israel has killed over fifteen Palestinians, including many women and children, during military raids on the Jenin refugee camp and in other areas of the West Bank. Several dozen Palestinians have also been arrested in Occupied East Jerusalem, where police crackdowns have desecrated the Holy City during this auspicious month.

To oppose apartheid while facing such tremendous violence is no easy task. Palestinians risk their lives, day-in and day-out, to stand up for justice, dignity, and humanity. Our conscience cannot be clear if we do not stand together with them, spurring them on, and letting them know that they are not alone. The cause for Palestinian liberation is our cause. It is a fight against a racist, apartheid regime that has no place in any society.

This is why we urge all those in South Africa to continue to unite against racism and to support Palestinian calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Your support may not seem like much, but to a family whose breadwinner is imprisoned or to a child who has to cross military checkpoints to attend school, the awareness that people across the world sympathise with their struggle is invaluable.

To find out more about our campaigns, or if you wish to write a letter of support to a prisoner directly, please get in touch with us.

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