Friday, April 18, 2008

Palestinian prisoners: No more than bargaining chips for Israel

Contributed by Palestinemonitor

"Women and children carrying pictures of their loved ones imprisoned in Israeli jails filled the streets of Palestinian towns and cities today as they marked Palestinian Prisoners Day. The question of prisoners is a burning issue that touches the hearts and lives of all Palestinian families, who have at least one member that has been arrested and imprisoned by the Israeli military.

Since the beginning of its occupation of Palestine in 1967, Israel has detained more than 700,000 Palestinians. This is over 24% of the total Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, making Palestinians one of the populations most subjected to incarceration in the world.

The launching of the Annapolis peace process in November 2007 represented a small glimmer of hope for prisoners and their families that their situation may start to improve. Yet since Israel declared its ’good intentions’ at the Annapolis meeting, a further 2,437 Palestinians have been arrested – three times more than the number released in the same time period.......

There are now 327 Palestinian children in Israeli jails. The number of children arrested in 2007 and in the first three months of 2008 has brought the total number of Palestinian children arrested by the Israeli military since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000 to over 6,000........

For the Israeli government, releasing prisoners is a win-win decision, making them look committed to peace whilst never addressing the core issues of the conflict.

But just like the farce of removing non-existent checkpoints, these empty gestures mislead world public opinion because of the dominant Israeli narrative which overplays any Israeli act while never confronting it with reality.

It is time to put a stop to this sham, and to deal with the question of Palestinian prisoners from the perspective of human rights and international law, with an aim to bring about a just and lasting peace for all, not cheap political haggling and short-lived media stunts."

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