‘Kidnapping the key’, say Palestinian fighters
Palestinian resistance factions believe the Shalit deal has shown the way forward
IN THE Palestinian territories, Tuesday’s prisoner exchange deal is being celebrated as a glorious victory, and also an instructive one. Sources in Gaza told The First Post today that resistance factions there are calling for "more kidnappings" in order to secure the release of more Palestinians from what they consider to be cruel and unfair imprisonment.
The hundreds of Palestinian prisoners released yesterday represent an unprecedented concession from Israel, and on a major issue. It has opened up the possibility of further progress regarding the 6,000 Palestinians who are still locked up in 22 Israeli jails. The prisoners are increasingly becoming a hot-button issue to rank alongside the perennial questions of Jerusalem and the refugees’ right of return.
It has threatened to become explosive in recent weeks. Since 27 September, hundreds of prisoners in several different jails have joined a hunger strike in protest at the conditions of their captivity.
Resistance icon Ahmed Saadat, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is entering his 23rd day without food and has lost 10 kilograms, according to his lawyer.
In Gaza and the West Bank, large demonstrations have been taking place in support of the prisoners, driven by families who protest that they are never granted permits to visit their relatives in jail.
The grievances do not stop with visitation rights. Saadat’s representatives claim he has spent the past three years in solitary confinement, a practice which the UN says "amounts to torture".
Human rights groups are also concerned that Israel is holding child prisoners without due process. Defence For Children International (DCI) claims that there 164 children aged 17 and under in Israeli jails, including 35 who are under 15, none of whom were released yesterday.
"They are picked up at night, not informed of their rights, and forced to sign confessions", DCI lawyer Gerard Horton told The First Post. "Their rights are so extensively violated that the system becomes a conveyor belt, irrespective of innocence or guilt."
On 17 October UNICEF appealed to the Israeli Government to release all Palestinian children in their detention.
Other grievances include the practices of "administrative detention", which allows Israel to hold prisoners indefinitely without charge, and the use of beatings and other forms of torture, which Israeli prisoners’ rights association Addameer describe as "systematic".
Given this context, it is understandable that resistance factions feel this is a watershed victory over oppression and that some are talking of further kidnappings.
The Middle East Quartet will be arriving in Jerusalem next week in an attempt to re-start peace talks, but few Palestinians will believe that the 'peace process' can give them anything to match the sweet release they have earned thanks to Gilad Shalit.