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The death of a Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail, allegedly due to torture, has exacerbated tensions in the Palestinian territories which have been rocked in past weeks by protests of solidarity with four other prisoners detained by Israel who are on a hunger strike. Thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails staged a one-day hunger strike yesterday in protest after the death of a fellow inmate Arafat Jaradat, a thirty-year-old father of two from the village of Sair near Hebron in the southern West Bank. Jaradat died on Saturday from what prison authorities are claiming to be cardiac arrest. But a Palestinian doctor who was present at the time of autopsy indicated bruises on Jaradat’s torso and damage to muscles, as well as ‘broken’ ribs which point to torture. Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqaa accused Israel of torturing Jaradat to death.
Jaradat’s death is proof of the cruel treatment meted out to Palestinian prisoners by Israel. Tel Aviv has a policy of incarcerating Palestinians at the slightest provocation, and keeping them behind bars indefinitely. Jaradat was a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, and was arrested, according to Israeli intelligence service Shinbet, for his involvement in a stonethrowing incident in November last year in which an Israeli was injured. That he should be subjected to torture for such a crime speaks volumes of Israeli attitudes towards Palestinians.
Israel holds more than 4,600 Palestinians in jail on charges that range from stone-throwing to deadly attacks on Israeli targets. Of the detainees, 159 are being held without charge or trial. Palestinians are extremely sensitive to the condition of their brethren in Israeli jails and any news of mistreatment or death can trigger violence. Jaradat’s already has set off protests and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is worried. It has made “an unequivocal demand” to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority to quell the wave of protests in the West Bank and as a sop to Palestinians, also ordered the transfer of January arrears of tax revenues that Israel collects on the behalf of the Palestinians but has been withholding.
Palestinians need to launch more protests, both inside the jails and outside, against Israeli atrocities and aggression. That is one way of piling pressure on the Jewish state to respect international laws and to bring global attention to their plight.
The fight against Israeli occupation must be both continuous and peaceful. Unfortunately, Palestinians are hobbled by their own divisions and disunity and if Netanyahu has been exploiting this disunity to further his agenda, part of the responsibility lies with Palestinians too.