Israel bans Palestinian prisoners from bringing in books

The ban is a response to smuggling attempts using hollowed-out books, prison officials say. No such sweeping punishments are imposed on Israeli prisoners, attorney says.

Ayalon prison facility, near the city of Ramla (photo: Activestills)
Israel’s Ayalon prison, near the city of Ramla (photo: Activestills)

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) has been changing its policy about what it allows Palestinian security prisoners to receive inside its prisons, and has now banned them from bringing in books, +972 has learned.

The book ban was imposed “after attempts to smuggle cellular phones inside books,” an IPS spokesperson told +972’s Hebrew sister site Local Call on Tuesday, adding that the ban is indefinite for the time being.

The book ban affects only Palestinian security prisons, as opposed to Israeli criminal prisoners.

“Unsurprisingly, the IPS chose the easy way of collective punishment and sweeping bans,” said Attorney Abir Baker, who represents Palestinians in Israeli courts. “Attempts to smuggle forbidden items into prisons is a known phenomenon all over and for all types of prisoners. That is why prisons have meticulous inspection mechanisms.”

Whereas the IPS treats offenses by family members of Palestinian prisoners with sweeping responses, the prison service treats similar smuggling attempts by criminal prisoners on a case-by-case basis, Baker said.

“A sweeping ban like this won’t stand up to judicial scrutiny,” she added. “The Supreme Court has already ruled a number of times about prisoners’ rights, including political rights, freedom of expression, and personal autonomy which is primarily expressed through the ability to study and read in prison.”

Conditions for Palestinian prisoners are far worse than Israeli prisoners (both are held in facilities run by the IPS). Palestinian prisoners are not allowed to study through university correspondence courses, are not allowed conjugal visits, regular visits are allowed only through barriers and without any physical contact. And unlike Israeli prisoners, Palestinians are not allowed furloughs, and have drastically lower chances of having their sentences reduced.

This article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.