12 Palestinian members of parliament are in Israeli prison

While we often hear Palestinian prisoners in the news, little is said about the lawmakers currently sitting in Israeli prisons. Many of them have spent years in jail, often as political prisoners in administrative detention, suffering beatings, interrogations and imprisonment in difficult conditions. Yet many of them still see a chance of living side-by-side with Israel, whether in one or two states.

By Noam Rotem

Illustrative photo of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli military prison (By ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)
Illustrative photo of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli military prison (By ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

An Israeli military court decided last week to continue detaining Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian parliament, who has been imprisoned by Israel for the past two months. Jarrar was first arrested and put in administrative detention, which in effect meant that she could be held indefinitely without being charged or seeing trial. However, in the wake of a global campaign for her release, the state decided to release her from administrative detention and put her on trial.

Jarrar is not the only member of the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), to be held by Israel. Israel is currently imprisoning 12 other Palestinians parliamentarians, who were elected in the last democratic elections to take place in the Palestinian Authority in 2006. Some are in administrative detention, which in the eyes of the international community makes them political prisoners who are being held solely due to their political and social activities.

According to statistics published by the Israel Prison Service on April 30, there are 394 administrative detainees in Israeli prisons. The very fact that Israel indefinitely holds Palestinian prisoners without charges is problematic in itself — but when we are talking about elected officials, the problem grows tenfold. Take Jarrar, for instance, who was placed under administrative detention until she was formally charged. Why? Because she belongs to an organization that she represents in the Palestinian parliament to which she was democratically elected.

Many of these political leaders have spent years in Israeli prisons, often as political prisoners in administrative detention. Some were arrested as “bargaining chips” after Gilad Shalit was taken hostage by Hamas; many of them suffer from difficult health conditions that are not properly treated by the Israel Prison Service. These, after all, are the officials that have been chosen by the Palestinian people to lead them toward a life alongside Israel.

Despite dozens of arrests, beatings, interrogations and imprisonment in difficult (and often humiliating) conditions, many of them still see a chance of living side-by-side with Israel, whether in one or two states.

Here is a list of Palestinian parliament members currently being held in Israeli prisons:

Khalida Jarrar

Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, poses for a photo showing an internal expulsion order given to her by Israeli soldiers who invaded her home in Ramallah in the early hours of August 20, Ramallah, West Bank, August 27, 2014. Jarrar was ordered to go to Jericho within 24 hours, but she refused to sign the paper. She is determined to stay in a protest tent in front of the Palestinian Council in Ramallah until the decision is revoked.
Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, poses for a photo showing an internal expulsion order given to her by Israeli soldiers who invaded her home in Ramallah in the early hours of August 20, Ramallah, West Bank, August 27, 2014. Jarrar was ordered to go to Jericho within 24 hours, but she refused to sign the paper. She is determined to stay in a protest tent in front of the Palestinian Council in Ramallah until the decision is revoked.

Jarrar is a 52-year-old lawyer and a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). She is one of the forces that led the Palestinian Authority to join the International Criminal Court. Before her election, she headed the Palestinian human rights organization Addameer, which works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. She also worked for UNRWA as an activist for women’s rights in Palestine.

In 1998, Israeli forbade her to leave the West Bank, despite the fact that until her current imprisonment, she had never been formally charged with a crime. After PFLP leader Ahmad Sa’adat was imprisoned, Jarrar became the organization’s third parliamentary member.

On August 2014 she was expelled from her home in al-Bireh to Jericho by Israeli soldiers. However, Jarrar refused to sign the expulsion order and returned to living in her home. In April 2015 she was arrested overnight by a large force of Israeli soldiers and was placed in administrative detention. She was eventually charged for being part of the PFLP — the party she represents in the PLC — and a military court decided to place her under house arrest. The state opposed the sentence, claiming Jarrar constitutes a “security threat.” The court then decided to keep her in prison until the end of court procedures.

Jarrar is married and has two daughters.

Aziz Duwaik

Duwaik is 67 years old, chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, a member of Hamas and holds a PhD in Regional and Architecture Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1992 he was expelled to Lebanon by Yitzhak Rabin, where he lived for a full year with 415 Palestinian political leaders from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. After a year he was allowed to return home.

Duwaik is a political rather than a military leader, and has ensured to keep the two separate throughout his career. He has never taken part in operations by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. In 2006 Duwaik was arrested during Operation Summer Rains; Duwaik claims he was brutally beaten during his interrogations. He was charged with membership in a terrorist organization, and was released after three years. In 2012 he was arrested and placed under administrative detention for half a year. According to Hamas, the arrest was intended to prevent reconciliation with its rival Fatah party. In June 2014, Duwaik was arrested once again as part of Operation Brother’s Keeper. He was sentenced last week to 12 months in prison and fined NIS 6,000.

Duwaik claims that the idea of establishing a Palestinian state in the entire territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is an unrealistic dream, and calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. In an interview with the New York Times he was quoted as saying: “My message to Israel is simple: End the occupation and there won’t be any more war.”

Duwaik is married and has seven children.

Marwan Barghouti

Barghouti is 57 years old, the former leader of Fatah in the West Bank, a member of the PLC since 1996 and has an MA in international relations. In 2000 he was appointed the head of the Tanzim, an armed offshoot of Fatah, and according to Israel was responsible for many terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada. He escaped several assassination attempts by the Israeli army, including a missile launched at his car, which struck his bodyguard. In June 2004 he was sentenced by an Israeli court to five consecutive life sentences and 40 years imprisonment for his role in planning terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Imprisoned PLO leader Marwan Barghouti (SP Foto/CC BY NC-ND 2.0)
Imprisoned PLO leader Marwan Barghouti (SP Foto/CC BY NC-ND 2.0)

A year later, Barghouti established the Al-Mustaqbal (“The Future”) party, but was eventually convinced to remain part of the Fatah during the 2006 parliamentary elections.

Barghouti, who is being held in Hadarim Prison, is considered a very popular leader among the Palestinian public, and some would even claim he eclipses Mahmoud Abbas’ popularity. In November 2014 Barghouti released a statement from prison in which he called on the Palestinian Authority to cease its security coordination with Israel and called for a third intifada.

Barghouti is married and has four children.

Ahmad Sa’adat

Sa’adat is 42 years old, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist and a math teacher. Sa’adat was arrested by the Palestinian Authority in 2002 under Israeli after being accused of planning the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’ev, and was held in difficult conditions in a Palestinian prison. In 2006, Israeli soldiers kidnapped Sa’adat from the prison as part of Operation Bringing Home the Goods.

He was interrogated at length by the Shin Bet, and in 2008 was convicted by an Israeli military court of membership in a terrorist organization and involvement in Ze’ev’s assassination. He was sentenced to 30 years. In 2011 Sa’adat began a hunger strike along with hundreds of other prisoners, most of them from the PFLP, which lasted 21 days but bore no fruit.

Ahmad Sa’adat portrait by Carlos Latuff.
Ahmad Sa’adat portrait by Carlos Latuff.

Sa’adat is known for his outspoken support for the Palestinian right of return, and supports a one-state solution.

He is married and has four children.

Hassan Yousef

Yousef is a 60-year-old theologian, and is considered to be one of the spiritual leaders of Hamas. Since 1971, Yousef has been arrested over 14 times, and has spent a total of 17 years in Israeli prisons. When he was put in administrative detention in 2004, Yousef was nominated to represent Hamas during the elections. He tried to resist, but eventually he agreed and was elected as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He has said on multiple occasions that he would agree to a long-term ceasefire based on 1967 borders, which would allow both nations to live in peace.

Yousef is married and has nine children, one of whom is self-confessed Israeli spy Mosab Yousef (author of the book “Son of Hamas”) who became a Christian and moved to California.

Mohammad Jamal Al-Natsheh

Al-Natsheh is 57 years old and is considered to be one of the leaders of Hamas in the West Bank, and is a teacher of Shari’a. Al-Natsheh was arrested many times by Israel, starting in 1988, and has spent a total of 15 years in prison, some of which was spent in administrative detention. Al-Natsheh was expelled to Lebanon along with Aziz Duwaik and hundreds of others in 1992; he was returned by Rabin a year later. In 1998 he was arrested by the Palestinian Authority and spent a year in prison followed by three years under house arrest.

A Palestinian girl who handcuffed herself holds the picture of her jailed uncle during a protest in support of the Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, April 11, 2013. (Photo by: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)
A Palestinian girl who handcuffed herself holds the picture of her jailed uncle during a protest in support of the Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, April 11, 2013. (Photo by: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

In 2002 he was arrested by Israeli forces and was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years, four of which were spent in solitary confinement, after Gilad Shalit was taken hostage. In 2006 he was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council. Four months after his release, Israeli soldiers raided his home in January 2011 and arrested him once again. This time he was placed in administrative detention.

Al-Natsheh is married and has four children.

Muhammad Bader

Bader is 59 years old and is considered one of the leaders of Hamas in the West Bank. He is a teacher and a doctor of theology. He was first arrested in 1988 and put under administrative detention, before being deported to Lebanon in 1992. In January 2006 he was number 19 in Hamas’ election list, and in June of that same year he was arrested by Israel and sentenced to 42 months in prison. He was arrested again in 2013 and put in administrative detention. He spent approximately a total of 10 years in Israeli prison, eight of which were spent in administrative detention. Much of his time was spent separated from other prisoners.

Bader is married and has eight children.

Azzam Shalhab

Shalhab is 58 years old, a member of Hamas and a doctor of theology. He was first arrested in 1989 and put in administrative detention. Since then he has been arrested nine times for a total of 12.5 years, of which he spent time in administrative detention with no charges. In June 2014 he was arrested as part of Operation Brother’s Keeper and put under administrative detention for four months. Since then, his detention has been extend four times in a row.

Shalhab is married and has 11 children.

Nayef Rajoub

Rajoub is 57 years old and serves as the Religious Affairs Minister of the Palestinian Authority. Rajoub is the head of a charity organization that serves Palestinian orphans. He was first arrested in 1989 for membership in Hamas, and in 1992 was expelled to Lebanon along with other Palestinian leaders. He was arrested in 2006 as a bargaining chip after Gilad Shalit was taken hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and was held by Israel until 2010. Nayef is the brother of Jibril Rajoub, who was the head of the Palestinian Authority’s Preventative Security Forces, and was even arrested by his brother’s forces for one day.

In July 2014 Rajoub was arrested as part of Operation Brother’s Keeper, and since then he has been in administrative detention. He suffers from multiple health conditions, which case him great pain, and blames the Israel Prison Service for negligence and preventing him from receiving critical medical care. Rajoub has spent a total of 10 years in Israeli prisons, half of which were in administrative detention.

Hosni Al-Burini

Al-Burini is 60 years old, a member of Hamas and a mathematics teacher. He is a member of the PLC’s educational committee as well as the human rights committee on behalf of Hamas. He was one of the leaders expelled to Lebanon in 1992 and since then has been arrested by Israel a number of times. He has spent a total of 10 years in Israeli prisons, two-and-a-half of which were spent in administrative detention. His son was arrested in 2008, which according to his lawyer was done in order to put pressure on Al-Burini.

He was arrested once again during Operation Brother’s Keeper, and has been held in administrative detention since. He believes that there cannot be peace as long as the settlements exist, and calls on the Arab world to intervene.

Riyadh Raddad

Raddad is 54-year-old lawyer and a member of Hamas. He was arrested by Israel in 1994 for membership in the organization and was sentenced to 50 months in prison. He was arrested once again in 2006 as a bargaining chip for Gilad Shalit, and was released after three years. In 2012 he was arrested again and released.

Raddad is an activist for the rights of prisoners’ families. In September 2014 he was convicted of taking part in a march for Palestinian prisoners and was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

Muhammad Abu Tir

Abu Tir is 64 years old, number 2 in Hamas in the West Bank and is also known as “Sheikh Abu Mus’ab.” Abu Tir was first arrested in 1974 and spent 11 years in prison until he was released in one of the prisoner exchanges that took place in the 80’s. He has spent a total of 29 years in Israeli prisons, some of which were spent in administrative detention. He is known for his bright orange henna-dyed beard and his intentions to implement Sharia law in Palestine.

Mohammed Abu Tir (Lisa Goldman)
Mohammed Abu Tir (Lisa Goldman)

Abu Tir, a resident of Jerusalem, was expelled from the city a number of times, and was arrested for returning to his home against the law. In December 2014 he was sentenced to 25 months in prison and given a fine of NIS 18,000.

He is married and has seven children.

Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and author of the blog o139.org, subtitled “Godwin doesn’t live here any more.” This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Newsletter banner