Every single evening, for the past 38 days and counting, a small group of Israelis - Arabs and Jews - gather at Jaffa’s central clock tower square, demonstrating for the release of Palestinian detainees held in Israeli prisons.
This little-known demonstration joins protests across the country, as well as demonstrations in the West Bank, demanding the release of what they say are political prisoners and Palestinians detained without a trial.
“There are about 187 administrative detainees in Israeli prisons. Israeli security forces simply show up and arrest these people, put them in jails. No indictment has been issued against them, and they were not taken to trial," said Mahmoud Abu Arishe, a Jaffa youth movement activist. "In many cases, the prisoners are not even aware of what they are detained for." Political prisoners, he added, are what the state calls security prisoners, but to the activists here, they are prisoners of war. "It cannot be that the occupier himself is the one that judges the people that are fighting for their freedom.”
The deteriorating condition of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strikes, coupled with death of prisoner, Arafat Jaradat, in an Israeli prison last month, sparked a series of violent protests in the West Bank which have largely overshadowed the more peaceful demonstrations held across the country.
“This issue is mostly avoided in Israeli media so most Israeli people don’t know about it, Jewish Israelis tend to ignore it, and also avoid dealing with this undemocratic situation, thinking that all these Palestinian people under detention are terrorists," said Tel Aviv resident and Israeli activist, Tamar Aviah. "We are here to raise up the undemocratic tool of administrative detention and also the fact that most of the Palestinians are there because of their political activity and not necessarily because of violent political activity.”
The demonstration called specifically for the release of Samer El Issawi, released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in 2011 and rearrested last July for having crossed over to Israeli controlled territory in the West Bank. Israeli forces maintain administrative detentions as a security measure to prevent future threats.
The group, composed of the Jaffa Youth movement and other supporters, plan to continue showing up everyday at 6pm until Samer El Issawi is released from prison.