Palestinians warn against ‘worsening conditions’ of security prisoners

The Palestinians have warned that any attempt to worsen the conditions of security prisoners held in Israeli jails would lead to violence.

 GILBOA PRISON, in northern Israel near the West Bank.  (photo credit: FLASH90)
GILBOA PRISON, in northern Israel near the West Bank.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

The Palestinians have warned that any attempt to worsen the conditions of security prisoners held in Israeli jails will lead to violence.

The warning was relayed to Israel in the past few days in response to reports that Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir, who could be appointed Public Security Minister, is considering a number of measures that would strip the prisoners of some of the privileges they have long been enjoying.

The proposed measures include, among other things, an end to the phenomenon of holding prisoners together according to their political affiliation. The Palestinians argue that it’s inconceivable to hold inmates from rival groups, especially Fatah and Hamas, in one cell or ward.

The Palestinians are also opposed to canceling the role of spokesmen for the prisoners. In most prisons, the inmates have a “spokesman” who is entrusted with negotiating on their behalf with the prison authorities about various issues related to their incarceration.

The Palestinians argue that the prison administrations actually benefit from the presence of the spokesmen, without whom they would have no clear address to talk to in order to solve any problem that arises inside the prison. Without the spokesmen, the Palestinians say, the prison authorities would have to start dealing with each inmate on an individual basis.

 A guard is seen at an observation tower along a wall of Gilboa Prison, from where six Palestinian prisoners escaped, on September 6. (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS) A guard is seen at an observation tower along a wall of Gilboa Prison, from where six Palestinian prisoners escaped, on September 6. (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

“If Ben Gvir, as Public Security Minister, tries to harm the prisoners, this will lead to an explosion,” a Palestinian Authority official warned over the weekend. “The explosion will not only inside the prisons but in all the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip.

What is the warning?

Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the Palestinian Commission for Detainees and Ex-Detainees, told the Palestinian daily Al-Quds that he did not rule out the possibility that the rise of the far-Right in Israel would lead to the implementation of harsh measures against the security prisoners. Abu Bakr warned that the prisoners will not allow the new government in Israel to take away from them the “achievements” they had made in recent years regarding their conditions.

“If the occupation tries to take away these achievements, the prisoners will launch a series of protests to foil these attempts,” he said. “The prisoners are determined to stand against anyone who tries to harm their basic rights. The prisoners are prepared for all options and, naturally, they will receive support from outside the prisons.”

An official with the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, a group that was established to support security prisoners in Israeli jails, said that the Palestinian leadership has been in contact with Israel and some international parties to warn about “tampering” with the issue of the inmates.

“The prisoners are a redline,” the official cautioned. “This is one of the most sensitive issues for the Palestinians. The new right-wing government would be igniting a new fire if it starts imposing severe restrictions on the prisoners.”