Thousands of Palestinian prisoners launch civil disobedience campaign

Palestinian prisoners have decided to gradually escalate their disobedience after National Security Minister Ben-Gvir announced increased restrictions on basic amenities in prisons and called Palestinian prisoners “terrorists”

February 15, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Palestinian prisoners civil disobedience
A blindfolded Palestinian prisoner in Silwad being paraded through the town by an Israeli soldier. (Photo: Issam Rimawi)

The Supreme Emergency Committee of Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs issued a statement on Monday, February 13, announcing the beginning of a civil disobedience movement by Palestinian prisoners against the Israeli prison authorities. It announced that the actions will begin at the Nafha prison in southern Israel, and will escalate both the scale and scope in the coming months. 

The announced actions are in response to an increase of repression and brutal treatment of Palestinian prisoners since the start of this year due to policies implemented by the new far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

The first actions, they announced, will be to block security checkpoints within prisons and disobey jailers. The disobedience will escalate after Ramadan, on March 22, when all prisoners will start an indefinite hunger strike. 

The statement says, “our only demand is liberation… everyone must understand our message and hear our voice for we can no longer endure the abuses committed against us day and night.” According to the committee, all Palestinian prisoners will participate in the campaign.

Around 4,780 Palestinians prisoners are currently incarcerated in different Israeli jails, including 160 children and 29 women. This figure also includes around 915 Palestinians who are being held without any charge or trial under Israel’s so-called ‘administrative detention’ policy.

In January, Ben-Gvir, part of the new ultra right-wing government that came to power in November last year, announced the suspension of some of the rights available to Palestinian prisoners, such as visitations from Knesset members. In recent days, he also ordered the withdrawal of several amenities available to Palestinian prisoners, along with greater restrictions on their movement within prisons. Additionally, he also ordered the withdrawal of the prisoners’ rights to own electronic devices, limited timings for showers, and mandated more frequent checks on prisoners. 

Ben-Gvir has termed all Palestinian prisoners “terrorists” and even stated that “until the death penalty is enacted for all of them they should be treated like terrorists.” He had also claimed that he will ensure that no Palestinian prisoner gets fresh bread to eat, likening the availability of fresh bread to being in a restaurant. He ordered the shutting down of bakeries in two Israeli prisons last month.