Palestinian Prisoners’ Day: May the eyes of the coward never rest

by Julie Webb-Pullman

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Thousands of people on Thursday converged on Soraya, site of the Gaza Central prison destroyed during the November 2012 Israeli offensive, and now the site to celebrate the indomitable spirit of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

April 17th was designated Palestinian Political Prisoners’ Day by the Palestinian National Council in 1974. It also marks the assassinations of two Palestinian political leaders – Fateh leader Khalil Al Wazir on 16 April 1988 and Dr Abdul-Aziz Al Rantisi of Hamas on 17 April 2004.

Members of all factions and none gathered to hear speeches, view exhibits of handcrafts and photos produced by prisoners in Israeli jails, and later to march on the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Tawfiq Abu Naim, head of the National prisoners’ Committee said that one of today’s messages to the world is to demand that Israel release the fourth group of prisoners, as agreed in the latest round of peace negotiations.

Tawfiq Abu Naim at Soraya

Tawfiq Abu Naim at Soraya

“Hamas is not against negotiations that serve Palestinian principles, but the negotiators must stick to the principles,” he said. “Releasing the fourth batch of prisoners is fundamental to those.”

Mr. Mohammed Almadhoun, Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, welcomed the fact that all factions were represented.

Ahmed Al Farid, released prisoner and organiser of the Souls, Not Pictures exhibition of photographs taken by Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails with hidden cameras, said the real heroes of the event are the Palestinian prisoners themselves.

The final speaker was Dr Attallah Abu AlSebah, Minister of Justice and of Detainees Affairs, who spoke on behalf of the Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh.

Dr Abu AlSebah noted that the prisoners are making a great sacrifice for the rights of all Palestinians, and that negotiations, including the Oslo Agreement, have never led to the freedom of prisoners.

“Israel will not exist forever, and Allah will bring us victory, insha’allah.”

He went on to say that the prisoners issue is an integral part of the larger Palestinian cause, and that the prisoners will not be freed until the Israeli occupation ends. He said we should not forget the exiles in countries such as Lebanon, whose banishment is equivalent to a prison sentence.

“This criminal occupation does not understand anything except the barrel of a gun,” he said, “assaulting Palestinians, attacking our holy sites and mosques, detaining our youth – the Hamas response is to do the same, to detain their soldiers.”

Dr Abu AlSebah recounted that amongst the 5000 current Palestinian prisoners are 19 women and over 220 children, and called on the public to fight for these vulnerable people for the sake of Allah, and for justice.

“After 22 years of negotiations the suffering still continues. We have to raise the awareness of the Palestinian people, and this exhibition is one of the tools to do it.”

Emphasising that he was conveying Ismail Haniyeh’s message, he said that all Palestinians should be freed.

“We have to make sure that the prisoners stay in our hearts and eyes, and they are the top priority of the Hamas movement leadership and of all the factions, Islamic Jihad and its brothers who broke the silence against the occupier. We have to unite our efforts to free ALL of Palestine, and the prisoners are part of this goal.”

Translation of speeches by Abdullah Abulaban

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