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Israel bans prisoners’ support organisation

12. September 2006

by Abnaa el Balad

Under the flag of the “International War against terrorism” Israeli authorities outlawed a Prisoners’ support association that is active for more than 25 years

In a pre-dawn raid on Friday, 8 September, a big force of Israel’s police, border guards and security services invaded the offices of a Palestinian prisoner’s support association called “Prisoners’ Friends Association” (PFA) in the town of Majd elKroom in the Galilee, inside the 1948 occupied Palestine (the state of Israel). They confiscated computers, hundreds of documents, tens of artwork and handcrafts pieces that were given as presents to the association by different prisoners over the years, and even the trash bin… Another group of policeman invaded, at the same time, the house of the chairman of the association, Mr. Muneer Mansour, and confiscated his personal computer and lot of personal documents. The chairman of the association was given a warrant that announces the association a “prevented association” outlawed it and prevented its activities. At the same time Israeli military forces raided Prisoner Support centers in several towns in the West Bank, beating and detaining whoever they could find in the offices (including a security guard and a journalist that happened to be there). All the property of the centers was confiscated, and their managers were handled warrants that forbid their future activity.

The excuse for those draconic and undemocratic steps is the authorities’ claim that the association is “aiding terrorism” by being involved in transferring Hamas funds to Palestinian political prisoners and POW’s. Those allegations are fiercely denied by the association’s activists. Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, has taken upon itself the legal battle for the right to support political prisoners.

Mr. Mansour has recently called, in the context of the public debate on the upcoming prisoners’ exchange between Israel & the Palestinians, to insist on the release of Palestinians prisoners who have an Israeli citizenship, in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, which was captured in the middle of June 2006 by Palestinian guerrillas in Gaza.

The issue of Palestinian political prisoners & POW’s who are Israeli citizens (residents of the territories that were occupied at 1948) has been a very delicate one for years. In most of previous cases of mass release of Palestinian & Arab prisoners and POW’s (During the last 60 years there were tens operations of prisoners’ exchange and mass release of prisoners as a part of political agreements, including – for example – the Oslo agreement at 1993) Israel refused the release any Palestinian prisoner who have an Israeli citizenship. Israel also refuses to parole Palestinian prisoner who have an Israeli citizenship. As a consequence of this policy, there are many cases in which “Israeli citizens” are still in prison (sometimes for more than 20 years) while others, that were sentenced on similar charges, and sometimes even on the same activity, were released long time ago…

It is clear that the present raid is a direct result of Mansour’s raising this issue of the Palestinian prisoners from inside the territories occupied at 1948. It is another step to silence and harass the Palestinian society inside the territories occupied at 1948, another practice that aims to isolate Palestinian patriotic activists, and to build an artificial separation wall between the Palestinians inside the 1948 territories and the other parts of the Palestinian people. However, even the timing of the attack – that was, practically, a part of a general attack on prisoners’ support associations in different parts of occupied Palestine, is another evidence of the fact that the Palestinians from “inside Israel” live under occupation as their brothers in West Bank & Gaza, in spite of their “Israeli citizenship”, and are attacked as a part of the aggression against the Palestinian people.

Another direct consequence of the raid on the PFA is a growing danger to the human rights of Palestinian political prisoners & POW’s in the Israeli jails. Most of the Palestinian prisoners have a very limited access to the outside world, and relay almost totally on visits of lawyers organized by different prisoners’ support organizations. Out of more than 10,000 prisoners (the number was 10163 at 30 August 2006 and it is growing continuously) More than 9500 are residents of West Bank & Gaza. By the Israeli laws, the residents of those regions need a special permit to get inside “pre 1967 borders Israel”, where most of the prisons are located. Some of the prisoners are from countries that are regarded “enemy states” by Israel, so their families can’t even apply for a visitor’s visa. The Israeli prisons authorities permit visits of first degree relatives only, and as a result of this situation, most of the prisoners are visited less than once a year, and lot of them don’t get visits at all. No political prisoners in Israel have the right to made phone calls. The policy of isolating the prisoners from the outside world includes also limiting their access to information (for example – during the last months – since the capturing of 3 Israeli soldiers by Palestinian Guerrillas and the Lebanese Hizbullah, the prison authorities canceled all lawyers’ visits for 2 weeks, all family visits for more than a month, prevented journals in the Arabic language and permitted to watch only the official Israeli TV-channels, that broadcast mainly in Hebrew!)

The raid on the Prisoners’ Friends Association’s offices and its outlawing is a part of a world wide campaign, led by the western powers & governments (USA, EU, Israel etc.). The goal of this campaign is to break and isolate any struggle against the world ruling system by frightening and threatening all potential supporters, under the flag of “world war on terrorism”. The Israeli authorities, as a part of this campaign, are using both old and new legislation in a try to prevent acts of human & social solidarity by labeling it “aid to terrorism”. [The main logic of this legislation works like this: “Those guys are accused/convicted “terrorists”, you guys say that you are human rights activists but what you really do is trying to make their life in prison better -> you are helping them by this = you are helping terrorists & terrorism”]. There were lot experience of this kind of harassment against political activists during the last years [2 small examples: 5 leaders of Islamic movement inside the 1948 occupied territories were imprisoned for period from one and half till 4 years convicted in raising funds for poor children in the west bank (lot of them families of prisoners), activists from the “Union of Health work committees” in Jerusalem were imprisoned for almost a year accused with distributing food to prisoners’ families before the holidays…] but this is the first time that a well known institutions that is active for a long period and signed as an official NGO is closed & outlawed. this “war on terrorism” takes different shapes in different places, according to the size of the opposition to the world ruling system, so at the time that in the west we are dealing with try to criminalizing dissent, in accordance to the Palestinians we are dealing with steps that aim to silence a whole nation.

Who is the “Prisoners’ Friends Association”?

The “Prisoners’ Friends Association” is an official NGO, supporting, since it’s establishment at 1979, Palestinian political prisoners & POW’s, with a concern to the special situation of Palestinian prisoners from the territories occupied at 1948, who have Israeli citizenship (there are as 150 such prisoners, out of a general population of more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners. The association is working on different projects:

Organizing visits of lawyers to the jails, to check the prisoners’ situation. Offering legal aid to prisoners in need. Helping families to overcome bureaucratic obstacles in organizing family visits and transferring letters from the territories occupy in 1967 to prisons located within the 1948 occupation. Taking care of prisoners’ health and helping them to get fair medical treatment. Advocacy and lobbying on different levels – working with the media – to rise the consciousness to the issue of political prisoners and POW’s. Organizing mass activities as demonstrations, festivals and art/crafts exhibitions in solidarity with the prisoners. The association published also some books (mainly poetry) that were written by prisoners.

What you can do to help?

Tell it to your friends, and confront the lie that claim that Israel is a democratic state.

Call or write to the Israeli Embassy in your area or directly to the Ministry of war and the Prime-Minister offices, and express your concern about their blatantly anti-democratic behavior. (It’s better to write faxes than e-mails, because by sending faxes we cause a spent of paper, while e-mails can be deleted the e-mails quickly,

The Ministry of Defense:
Tel: 972-3-/////// ; Fax: 972///////////

The Prime-Minister Bureau:
Tel. 972-33-6109898, 972-2-6705555 ; Fax: 972-2-6705475,

written by Iris Bar,
Abnaa elBalad movement,