Dear friends and family,
From a 22-day hunger strike to the major prisoner exchange, there has been a lot going on these past couple of weeks in the news about Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons. So I wanted to write just a quick update in the hope that continued action and international pressure will further mobilize urgent reforms to the Israeli prison system and its illegal detention of political prisoners.
As many of you probably know, the first phase in the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the return of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit took place yesterday. I am very happy that Gilad has been released, and very happy for the 477 Palestinian prisoners who have already been released. Unfortunately, the deal is tainted with the wish that as much value was placed on their lives and their basic human rights as on the life of a soldier, and by the extreme disappointment that over half of those released have been sent to Gaza or deported, essentially rendering it impossible for their families to see them. (Here is a statement about that subject from the organization I work at: http://addameer.info/?p=2280, and more analysis about the political implications of the deal here: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/2889/the-deal-behind-the-shalit-deal_prisoners-power-ra.)
Nevertheless, from watching yesterday as released prisoners and their families were reunited and marched by us, mostly looking beyond happy and overwhelmed, I can still feel the emotion emanating through that celebration. I wish that all families of political prisoners and prisoners of war could experience that joy.
Last week while families waited to see the list of soon-to-be released prisoners, many of us here were holding our breath to see if my dear friend Hurriyah’s brother’s name would be included. Majd Ziada has been in prison for 10 years already. He was arrested at the height of mass arrests during the Second Intifada, and when he stood up in court to say that an Israeli judge did not have the right to sentence him, she gave him a 30-year sentence. He also has a severe medical condition that has left him deaf in one ear and threatens infection in the rest of his body.
Israel is set to determine the list of names for the second phase of release in the prisoner exchange in the coming months. They have said they will give priority to cases of medical urgency. One of Hurriyah’s friends started a petition and plans to send it to Israeli authorities to urge them to release Majd. For so many families, left with no legal means to appeal convictions and sentences, they have been banking on this prisoner exchange as an only chance for release of their loved ones. It would mean so much to me and to her family if you all could sign and circulate this petition. It can be found here: http://www.change.org/petitions/israel-mistreatment-of-palestinian-political-prisoners-free-majd-ziada-now.
You can also address any other urgent appeals for his release to:
Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 3 Kaplan St., PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91919; E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Israel Prison Service, Ministry of Public Security, P.O. Box 18182, Jerusalem 91181.
Majd, along with thousands of other prisoners who have been on hunger strike for the past few weeks, decided yesterday to suspend their strike for the next three days to see if Israel will uphold its decision to end the policy of isolation and re-instate basic rights that were taken away allegedly to pressure for Gilad Shalit’s release. It is also many people’s hope that the blockade of Gaza will be lifted since he has been returned. I suppose only time will tell, and in the meantime, thank you all for reading and for being so supportive always.
Love and miss y’all! My dad sends his hellos from Ramallah too.