Release Palestinian Prisoners Now: Statement



A statement on behalf of Palestine House, the Canadian Arab Federation and the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid.

April 17th, 2008

On the occasion of April 17th, Palestinian Political Prisoners Day, we extend our solidarity and greetings to the over ten thousand Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons and detention centers, their families and loved ones, and all those living under siege and occupation. We take this opportunity to insist that justice for the Palestinian people is impossible without the release of all Palestinian political prisoners.

Currently over ten thousand Palestinians are being held in Israeli prisons and detention centers. This figure includes over 350 Palestinian children and 100 women and girls. Virtually all of these prisoners face some of torture and abuse while in detention, including: severe beatings; denial of food and medical treatment; being exposed to painfully loud music; sleep deprivation; being tied for long periods of time in painful, contorted positions; and threats to rape or kill family members.

In violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank and Gaza Strip are taken to detention centers and prisons inside Israel where they are prevented from visits and communication with their families or loved ones. In this manner, thousands of prisoners have been denied any contact with their families for years at a time. Moreover, over one thousand Palestinians are being held in administrative detention, kept behind bars without trial or charge for years at a time.

More than 40 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) are also being held as political prisoners by Israel. Prominent among these are the renowned Palestinian political leaders, Ahmad Saadat, Marwan Barghouti and Aziz Dweik, the chairperson of the PLC.

These practices are not the accidental policies of the Israeli government or the result of ‘bad apples’ in the Israeli police or military. They are deliberate and systematic. Israel uses torture and abuse consciously – to destroy families and the social fabric of Palestinian society, to intimidate and terrorize a people under military occupation, and, most insidiously, to recruit collaborators with the occupation. Furthermore, Israel uses these prisoners as ‘bargaining chips’ in negotiations, promising to release a few hundred in return for Palestinian ‘concessions’.

By refusing to publicly condemn Israel on its torture and abuse of Palestinian prisoners, the Canadian government is fully complicit in these war crimes. We note that just last week, the Israeli Shin Bet, a notorious secret intelligence force responsible for torture and the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians in detention, publicly admitted that they arrested family members of prisoners without cause, paraded them in front of detainees, and threatened them with abuse if prisoners did not comply. Where is the condemnation of these practices by the Canadian government? Through its refusal to address this and other horrific violations by the Israeli government, the Canadian government’s foreign policy is confirmed for what it is: a mockery of the very notion of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’.

We call for the immediate release of all these prisoners without exception. Palestinian prisoners are not hostages to political negotiations but an indivisible part of the struggle for justice. For six decades now, the Palestinian people have continued to demonstrate their steadfastness and refusal to submit to oppression. As organizations in Canada that stand with the Palestinian people in their struggle for justice, we have no doubt that one day, we too shall be celebrating that freedom.