Sunday, March 8, 2009

prisons are not the solution

For our Palestine Awareness Booth at Lakehead University last Tuesday, I carried in two large carry bags and one laundry basketful of books and pamphlets about Palestine. While many of the materials are new, some of the books and pamphlets were from the 70s. Like this one with the dove/hand, which is the image on the back page of a pamphlet published in 1977, called Israel and Torture: an Insight Inquiry.

This is the text on the inside front cover. The pamphlet re-prints a 4 page newspaper report by The Sunday Times published June 19 1977, the Israeli government response to the report, which was published July 3 1977, and then the paper's July 10th response to Israel's "flat denial." Prior to the 80s, The Sunday Times was a leading investigative and left-leaning newspaper, but that changed with the rise of neoliberalism and a new editor with a strongly Thatcherite slant, and the paper's change in ownership to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

The investigative journalists who wrote up the Insight Report on Israeli Torture visited the occupied West Bank and Gaza (annexed by Israel in '67 and put under military occupation rule and control) and interviewed 44 Palestinians. Of the numerous insights provided, the report lists 6 main conclusions, of which the below is no. 3:

Torture takes place in at least six centres: at the prisons of the four main occupied towns of Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron on the West Bank, and Gaza in the south; at the detention centre in Jerusalem, known as the Russian Compound; and at a special military intelligence centre whose whereabouts are uncertain, but which testimony suggests is somewhere inside the vast military supply base at Sarafand, near Lod airport on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road. There is some evidence too that, at least for a time, there was a second such camp somewhere near Gaza.

Today, some of these Israeli prisons where torture was carried out, the ones in the West Bank, are now controlled by Abbas's security forces, who have taken up the methods of their oppressors as they torture other Palestinians.

Sarafand, which is inside what is now called Israel, has been renamed Tzrifin. After 1948, the Israelis re-named streets, towns and areas to wipe out the Arab heritage and inscribe a Jewish identity onto the land. Sarafand was a Palestinian Arab village that was ethnically cleansed in 1948. The British colonial forces had established a military base at Sarafand in 1917; it was strategic because Sarafand was a central railway connection to Jaffa and Lyyda (renamed Lod). After the village was ethnically cleansed and following the British leaving the base, the Israelis re-named Sarafand to Tzrifin. Today, the area is almost entirely taken up by a huge Israeli military complex. The Tzrifin military complex also contains Prison Four, the largest prison in Israel for Israeli soldiers. That's right, Israeli soldiers. "It is estimated that 15,000-18,000 Israeli soldiers (not to be confused with Palestinian detainees) go through an Israeli military prison or detention center every year."

Many of those Israeli detainees are imprisoned for refusing to serve in the Israeli military.

As a military state, Israel has lots of prisons because it takes lots of prisoners. Indeed, it keeps building more prisons. Further, "human rights reports state that Palestinian prisoners are subject to abuses and use of torture."

March 8th, International Women's Day, is a day of solidarity with Palestinian female prisoners.

The world marks this day to salute women and their important role, struggle and achievements,” [Abdul-Nasser] Farawna said, “but it forgot that there are thousands of Palestinian women suffering under Israeli occupation, imprisoned and abused.”

He added that the world must understand that the detained Palestinian women are facing harsh treatment in Israeli prisons and are deprived from their basic human rights.

“They face torture, both physical and psychological,” Farawna said, “[s]ome of them are even sexually harassed during interrogation.”

He also said that dozens of women are still imprisoned by Israel; some of them have given birth in prison, while others have left children behind, while a number of them are below the age of 18.

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