There are 53 Palestinian female prisoners in Israeli prisons at the moment, some of them held in solitary confinement, others in ‘administrative detention’, and all of them incarcerated in ways contrary to international law and regulations regarding the rights of prisoners.
Statistics regarding Palestinian prisoners indicate that Israel targets all sectors of Palestinian society — men and women, old and young, Islamists, secularists, socialists, even children.
In fact, at the moment, there are 270 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons.
According to the Prisoners Support Association — Addameer — there are currently 450 Palestinian prisoners held in ‘administrative detention’ meaning, imprisonment without trial and due process. Some of these prisoners are members of the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC). One such parliamentarian is Khalida Jarrar, who truly embodies the harsh experiences of all Palestinian prisoners.
When Israeli troops stormed Khalida’s house in April 2015, the Palestinian lawyer was engrossed in her research. For months, Khalida had been leading a Palestinian effort to take Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Khalida was released in June 2016, only to be arrested yet again on July 2, 2017. On October 28 of this year, her ‘administrative detention’ was renewed for the fourth time.
Khalida is not beseeching her jailers for her freedom. Instead, she is keeping busy educating her fellow female inmates on international law, offering classes and issuing statements to the outside world that reflect not only her refined intellect, but also her resolve and strength of character. Khalida is relentless. Despite her failing health, her commitment to the cause of her people did not, in any way, weaken or falter even under the horrific conditions of her imprisonment.
The 55-year-old Palestinian lawyer has championed a political discourse that is largely absent amid the ongoing feud between the Palestinian National Authority’s (PNA) largest faction, Fatah, in the Occupied West Bank, and Hamas, in besieged Gaza.
As a member of the PLC and an active member within the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Khalida has advocated the kind of politics that is not disconnected from the people and especially, from the women that she strongly and uncompromisingly represents.
According to Khalida, no Palestinian official should engage in any form of dialogue with Israel, because such engagement helps legitimise a state that is founded on genocide and ethnic cleansing, and that is currently carrying out various types of war crimes — the very crimes that Khalida tried to expose before the ICC.
Khalida’s political stance is clear — she rejects the so-called ‘peace process’, emphasising that it is a futile exercise that has no intention or mechanism that is aimed at “implementing international resolutions related to the Palestinian cause and recognising the fundamental rights of the Palestinians”.
It goes without saying that a woman with such an astute, powerful stance, vehemently rejects the ‘security coordination’ between the PNA and Israel, rightly seeing such action as a betrayal of the struggle and sacrifices of the Palestinian people.
While PNA officials continue to enjoy the perks of ‘leadership’, desperately breathing life into a dead political discourse of a ‘peace process’ and a ‘two-state solution’, Khalida, a Palestinian female leader with a true vision, subsists in HaSharon Prison.
In August 2014, as Israel was carrying out one of its most heinous acts of genocide in Gaza — killing and wounding thousands in its so-called ‘Protective Edge’ war — Khalida received an unwelcome visit by Israeli soldiers. Her home was surrounded by a massive number of soldiers, as if the well-spoken Palestinian activist was Israel’s greatest ‘security threat’. Fully aware of Khalida’s work and credibility as a lawyer, and her international outreach — she is the Palestine representative in the Council of Europe — the Israeli government unleashed its campaign of harassment, which ended in her imprisonment. The soldiers delivered a military edict ordering her to leave her home in Al Bireh, near Ramallah, for Jericho.
Failing to silence her voice, she was arrested in April the following year, beginning an episode of suffering, and also resistance, which is yet to end.
Under international pressure, Israel was forced to put Khalida on trial, levying against her 12 charges that included visiting a released prisoner and participating in a book fair. Her other arrest, and the four renewals of her detention, are a testament not just to Israel’s lack of any real evidence against Khalida, but also of its moral bankruptcy. Khalida, like many other Palestinian women, represents the antidote to the fabricated Israeli narrative that relentlessly promotes Israel as an oasis of freedom, democracy and human rights. She is a lawyer, human rights activist, prominent politician and advocate for women, and represents, through her eloquence, courage and deep understanding of her rights and the rights of her people.
In Arabic, Khalida means “immortal”, a most fitting designation for a true fighter who represents the legacy of generations of strong Palestinian women, whose ‘sumoud’ — or steadfastness — shall always inspire an entire nation.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018).