UPDATE: July 2nd 2024 by Professor Macdonald

We know quite a lot about the number of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons (at least 8,000), many without any trial, held under “administrative detention.” What life is like for the prisoners we do not know very much. Recently a whistleblower who has worked in perhaps the worst of these prisons share his experiences with CNN. The prison is called Sde Teilman.

Here are some extracts from the CNN report:

At a military base that now doubles as a detention centre in Israel’s Negev desert, an Israeli working at the facility snapped two photographs of a scene that he says continues to haunt him. Rows of men in grey tracksuits are seen sitting on paper-thin mattresses, ring-fenced by barbed wire. All appear blindfolded, their heads hanging heavy under the glare of floodlights. A putrid stench filled the air and the room hummed with the men’s murmurs, the Israeli who was at the facility told CNN. Forbidden from speaking to each other, the detainees mumbled to themselves. “We were told they were not allowed to move. They should sit upright. They’re not allowed to talk. Not allowed to peek under their blindfold.” Guards were instructed “to scream uskot” – shut up in Arabic – and told to “pick people out that were problematic and punish them,” the source added.

Former prisoners who suffered mistreatment in US detention facilities say Israeli abuse of Palestinian detainees follows the same patterns, according to article.

In late April, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, published details of the abuse of Palestinian prisoners who had been jailed without trial. Its report included descriptions of regular beatings, prisoners being attacked by dogs, being forced to kiss the Israeli flag, being forced to curse the Prophet Muhammad, being deprived of water (including a toilet in a cell shared by 10 inmates), the electricity being cut, insufficient food and being stripped naked.

In March 2024, The New Yorker said, about Palestinian prisoners being detained inside Israel:

“Now, that is problematic for many reasons. Firstly, because it means that detainees’ families are quite immediately disconnected from them. It makes it much harder for families to visit. You have to remember that most Palestinian detainees don’t have phone privileges, so they’re absolutely disconnected from the outside world. Since October 7th, both visitations by the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.) and family visitations that the I.C.R.C. facilitates have been blocked. Beyond the very limited visits by lawyers of N.G.O.s such as P.C.A.T.I., which have also been increasingly hard to arrange, those people don’t see any visitors from the outside, and nobody can learn of their situation. This is why collecting the evidence on the abuse that they’ve been suffering is so crucial: because they cannot report it otherwise.”

So, in addition to the torture and physical abuse which prisoners are suffering, they are also deprived of human contact. We know from research on the social determinants of health that social contact is essential for anyone’s health. So, depriving prisoners of contact (even sometimes phone contact) with their families, is another way of weakening their health and adding to the trauma which will persist even long after their release. The difficulties of visiting their relatives in Israeli jails (often impossible) and lack of other contact, adds to the trauma of families and, of course, has an impact on their health. These are the health issues which the research team at the Institute of Community and Public Health at Birzeit University wish to address (see research proposal).

This INSIDE STORY of Aljazeera on the 1st of July 2024 contains commentaries from the following:

Fadia Barghouti – detained by the Israeli military for 90 days under its “administrative detention” program.

Basil Farraj – Assistant professor at Birzeit University, specialising in the study of political prisoners

Mustafa Barghouti- Secretary General and founders of he Palestinian National Initiative

All three of the people interviewed talk of the horrendous conditions of the Palestinian prisoners. Dr Mustafa Barghouti tells, among other things, of the deaths of over 50 prisoners and the “systematic violation of human rights”. He explains that the aim of imprisonment is to instil fear in the population. About 45% of all Palestinian men have been detained and many families suffer just hoping for news of their relatives in prison. Fadia Barghouti, detained for 90 days without trial (her husband and son have been similarly detained), tells of the humiliation inflicted on her and other prisoners. Associate Professor, Basil Farraj confirms the accounts of torture. In all, this program gives a harrowing picture of life of Palestinians inside Israeli jails.

From JANUARY 2024:
The Palestine Chronicle spoke with Lama Khater, from Al-Khalil (Hebron), who was arrested on October 26 and released under the prisoner exchange deal between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Resistance on November 30.

Khater said the conditions of female prisoners from Gaza were particularly difficult, starting with their kidnapping during their displacement from the northern Gaza Strip. “They were arrested randomly, mostly from the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers detained mothers, too, who have been forced to leave their children with passers-by,” When they were brought into the prisons, they were blindfolded, handcuffed, and deprived of their hijab, said Khater. They were reportedly placed in narrow cells in Damon Prison and not allowed to speak to the rest of the female prisoners from the occupied West Bank and Palestine 48. “All female prisoners are subjected to great restrictions,” Khater said, “but the prisoners from Gaza were treated even worse.” “For example, they are only allowed to shower in large groups of at least 50 women, and for not more than 15 minutes a day”.