Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israeli Jails

The number of the Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails is, as of April 10 2013, 4,804, among them 14 women, 235 minors below the age of 18, and 546 of them have life sentences. These numbers were given by the Israeli Prison Authority in response to an official request from Rima Ayyub, the attorney of the Palestinian legal center Adala. The breakdown of the numbers geographically is as follows: 4,099 prisoners from the West Bank, 536 from the Gaza strip, 2 prisoners from the Golan Heights and 177 from East Jerusalem. The Arab population of East Jerusalem is placed in a special category, because although the city has been annexed to Israel since June of 1967, the vast majority of the Arab population refused to accept the Israeli citizenship in order not to legitimize the Israeli occupation of their city. In addition there are 170 from among the Arab holders of Israeli citizenship who are also political prisoners.

These figures also indicate that 1224 of the total number of the Palestinian political prisoners are in jail while still awaiting the completion of the legal procedures against them, 3173 have received prison sentences with varying lengths, and 546 of them have received life sentences. Among those who received life sentences, there are 455 from the West Bank, 27 from East Jerusalem, and 18 from among the Arab citizens of Israel.

In addition, there are 159 Palestinians who are placed in administrative Detention. Administrative detention means putting someone in jail for six months period renewable indefinitely, pending the collecting of evidence against that person. It has been a common practice in Israel against Palestinian political activists for several decades. Some of these figures may overlap, especially that Israel maintains that Jerusalem is the capital of the state, and hence, some of the prisoners from Jerusalem may be placed in two or more categories, as a category of their own and also as Arab citizens from the State of Israel.

The Palestinian Legal center Adala issued a paper illustrating the discriminatory practices against Palestinian political prisoners in contrast to other detainees in Israeli prisons. This paper make references to statements by the Israeli Prison Authority, the Israeli Supreme Court and the Israeli Secret Service Shabak that this discrimination is not accidental but a matter of policy, and consider it to be understandable and justifiable. Adala’s paper illustrates how the positions of the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the rights of Palestinian political prisoners have been getting from bad to worse in a rapid and alarming rate in the last decade.