HOPKINTON, New Hampshire — The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has reported that Israel has arrested about 1 million Palestinians since 1948. Under Israeli occupation, Palestinians are constantly vulnerable to Israeli military control, movement suppression, unproportionate judicial charges, displacement and basic human rights violations. Despite the illegality of child imprisonment and detainment under international law, Israeli courts continue to subject children as young as 12 to the trauma of imprisonment. The systematic denial of Palestinian prisoners’ human rights is an issue that organizations such as Addameer bring to the forefront.
Creation of Israel and the Nakba
The foundation of the Israeli state was a direct effect of British imperialism in Palestine as the Balfour Declaration of 1917 designated Palestine the true home of the global Jewish population. While the Jewish community in Palestine increased following World War I, it was not until the rise of Nazi Germany that large influxes of Jews immigrated to Palestine. With up to 60,000 Zionist Jews arriving in Palestine “between 1933 and 1936,” Palestinian Arabs decided to fight against ” Zionist settler-colonialism,” sparking the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939. The British violently suppressed the Arab Revolt, leading to the internment of “9,000 Palestinians in concentration camps.”
After the Arab Revolt, violence broke out between the Zionists and the Palestinian Arabs even though the British attempted to bar the “immigration of European Jews” to Palestine. British military training paired with the sentiment of the Jewish homeland pushed Zionists to launch a campaign of Palestinian ethnic cleansing called the Nakba. By July 1945, upward of “750,000 [Palestinians] in total were forcibly expelled or fled outside of their homeland.”
Current Palestinian Realities
Seventy years later, the Israeli state continues to forcibly displace, unlawfully detain, systemically control and claim the lives of Palestinians in cold blood. By framing discriminatory policies and oppressive practices as “terrorist fighting” techniques, Israel has created an inescapable military system to target Palestinian civilians. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Milena Ansari, the international affairs officer of Addammeer, a Palestinian non-governmental organization focused on the rights and treatment of Palestinian political prisoners and detainees, explained the unsettling reality Palestinians face under Israeli occupation.
Ansari explained that, as a Palestinian born in Jerusalem, others considered her “a second-class citizen in [her]own country,” and sometimes, “not even a citizen that is entitled [to]any form of rights.” Through the Israeli government framing Palestinian identity as a threat to the Zionist state, Israel created a methodical military regime that values Palestinian lives less than Israeli-Jewish lives.
Despite Israeli brutality toward Palestinians standing as a long-term issue, since the Great March of Return in 2018, a series of Gaza border protests, retaliation against Palestinians has worsened. Ansari expressed that since she joined Addameer in 2019, there has been an “[extreme]increase of arbitrary arrests and detention by the Israeli occupation.” An arbitrary arrest is when the government arrests someone without sufficient evidence for a crime or a fair trial proceeding. Beginning in May 2021, Israel targeted around 60 Palestinian activists, politicians, prior prisoners and journalists by storming their homes and terrorizing their families while subjecting the targeted individuals to arbitrary arrest. Additionally, from April 2021 to May 2021, Israeli forces arrested and/or detained a minimum of 1,800 Palestinian men, women and children for peaceful protesting and “threatening” Israeli security.
With a 30-year-long history, Addameer is the leading organization fighting against Israeli oppression and criminalization of Palestinian political prisoners and detainees. Addameer provides completely free, comprehensive legal aid to Palestinians in Israeli detention or imprisonment, which is imperative as many families cannot afford legal counsel nor have the knowledge or experience to deal with Israeli military courts. Addameer uses grassroots efforts to ensure all Palestinians know their rights in the case of violations by Israeli forces.
As imprisonments occur for a variety of reasons, often without concrete evidence, Addameer works to empower children, men, women, human rights defenders, journalists, politicians and students. Israeli forces continue to target children for detentions, and in the Israeli city of Haifa, child arrests comprise 20% of all arrests. Ansari explains that Israel has “criminalize[d]everything [Palestinians] do.” In this way, Israel creates “a legal loophole” to “detain the Palestinians and put them in harsh conditions in prisons.” By banning educational, political and civil society organizations, it becomes effortless to detain any Palestinian at any time.
Terrorist Organization Designation
Recently, the Israeli government directly targeted and criminalized Addameer’s mission to stop human rights violations against Palestinian political prisoners and detainees. Addameer is one of six Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations labeled as “terrorist organizations” by Israel in October 2021. This label enables the Israeli military to arrest employees and raid offices while spreading false truths about the organization throughout the local community. Ansari explained that “the occupation really tried to shift the attention from the work that we do to expose the violations of human rights to us as organizations to defend our credibility and defend the work we do.” Without the work of these groups, the true realities of Israeli violence against Palestinians would not be known, thus, it is vital for the protection of fundamental human rights for these groups to be protected instead of targeted.
The fact that Palestinian political prisoners and detainees are entitled to the same rights as any other human being should not be a divisive statement. Suffering is not competitive; one group’s agony does not discount another’s. As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to unfold, international human rights organizations are increasingly criticizing the treatment of everyday Palestinians and Palestinian political prisoners and detainees. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are two highly reputable global human rights advocacy organizations that consider the actions of Israel as apartheid. Despite receiving backlash from various international actors, these denunciations of Israel’s actions bring the realities of Palestinians to the international arena.
– Hannah Eliason