Bitterlemons (Interview)
June 27, 2011 - 12:00am

An interview with Qadura Fares

bitterlemons: Can you please describe the state of Palestinian prisoners today?

Fares: Right now, there are 5,500 prisoners distributed throughout 22 prisons and detention centers. Most of these prisons are located in Israel. One hundred and forty prisoners have been in jail more than 20 years. Forty prisoners have been in jail more than 25 years. Four have spent more than 30 years in jail.

About 700 prisoners are ill with various types of sicknesses, among them cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes, or were injured when they were outside and are now paralyzed or have some other type of handicap. There are 36 women in prison and about 300 children between the ages of 10 and 17.

Their conditions are very difficult, as, for example, no rights bodies are allowed to visit them in prison. Two months ago alone, a delegation from the Israeli lawyers union was allowed to carry out some visits and they reported that the living conditions were inhuman. This is an Israel organization [that said this].

Also, Israel uses torture in its interrogations. According to one study, as much as 95 percent of prisoners have been exposed to torture of one type or another. Numerous times, military units have entered the prison cell blocks and used tear gas, even though the gas canisters are marked with a warning that they should not be used in an enclosed area. Still Israel uses them against prisoners in their cells. At any time, special forces might enter the prison and use beatings [against the prisoners] in a surprise search.

Conditions in the prisons are very difficult.

bitterlemons: What is your reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's statements that he wants to crack down on the prisoners as punishment for Gilad Shalit's ongoing capture?

Fares: Netanyahu heads a government whose policies have failed. After the war on Gaza, the blockade on Gaza, numerous ongoing military operations in Gaza, and negotiations for many years to try to release Shalit, he has still not succeeded. So he has decided to punish the Palestinian prisoners, and through this pressure on the prisoners put pressure on the entire Palestinian people. This means that the government of Netanyahu is not acting like a state, but like a militia--it is indifferent to human rights and international decisions. This causes us to name Israel and all its representatives and bodies a racist country.

bitterlemons: When the parents of Gilad Shalit speak to the media, they do not relate to the issue of the Palestinian prisoners. Why is this? Is there a correlation?

Fares: Just as Shalit has a mother and father, these 5,500 prisoners have mothers and fathers, children and brothers and sisters who miss them and want them free. It is [these prisoners'] right to do their time in a legitimate manner, in line with international law, and with dignity. The international community must know that it is not only Gilad Shalit's loved ones who have feelings. We respect the feelings of the mother and father of Gilad Shalit, but we also have feelings for the families of the Palestinian prisoners.


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