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Prisoners of Injustice -- Palestinian PoW Report, NLG, 2014

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Report of the National Lawyers Guild
Delegation to Palestine
May 2014

Published November 2014 by the National Lawyers Guild.

The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated
bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.
National Lawyers Guild
132 Nassau Street, Rm. 922
New York, NY 10038
National Lawyers Guild International Committee

Table of Contents
FINDINGS									5		
CONCLUSION 								29
BIBLIOGRAPHY 	 							32

From May 17 to 25, 2014, a five-member delegation of lawyers, legal workers
and law students with the Palestine Subcommittee of the National Lawyers Guild
International Committee visited Palestine to investigate the status and treatment of
Palestinian prisoners.
The delegation was hosted by Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights
Association1 in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, where the delegation was
based. We visited numerous other sites in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,
and Israel; met with former prisoners and families of current prisoners; observed
proceedings in a military court; and spoke with Palestinian Authority officials,
representatives of international human rights organizations and staff and leaders of
Palestinian non-governmental organizations that advocate on behalf of prisoners
and on related matters.
We also had the opportunity to witness various manifestations of military
occupation and its effects, many of them a result of the “security” or “separation”
barrier (as it is called by the Israeli state), known as the “apartheid” or
“annexation” wall by Palestinians, commonly referred to as “the wall” (in some
places it is a high-tech fence with moats and/or security roads, actually consuming
more land than the concrete wall portions). Functionally, it snakes for hundreds
of miles through the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – the large majority
of it not on Israel’s pre-1967 border – annexing Palestinian land and separating
Palestinians from each other, from their sources of livelihood and from illegal
Israeli settlements that carve up the landscape.
Delegates smelled tear gas and heard bullets whiz by in the Palestinian village
of Nabi Saleh as we witnessed a weekly protest against the confiscation of large
portions of the village’s land and its fresh water springs by Israeli settlers, with
the protection of the Israeli occupation army. We also had the opportunity to meet
there with leading members of the local popular resistance committee. Similar
committees and organizations exist in dozens of West Bank villages to coordinate
popular responses to the confiscation and closure of villagers’ farmland, their
primary source of income and support.
Delegates also witnessed how much of central Hebron’s old city has become off
limits to its hemmed-in Palestinian residents due to settler communities living
literally on top of them, surrounded by horizontal as well as vertical barriers. We
inched through heavy traffic at the walled-in checkpoints separating Jerusalem
from Ramallah on one side, Bethlehem on the other. We visited what can only be
described as a ghost town on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem, cut off by the
wall from commerce, services and schools. We witnessed how already cramped
refugee camps near Bethlehem have been further hemmed in by the wall to meet
the “needs” of settlers. And we saw other places in the West Bank (specifically
al-Walaja) and northeast Jerusalem where, despite years of construction, the wall
abruptly ends and can easily be circumvented without significant military presence,
belying assertions that it is a “security” mechanism as opposed to a mechanism of
control for the Israeli state.
See the bibliography at the end of this report for more information about Addameer and its
reports on the apartheid nature of the Israeli controlled justice system.
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 1

NLG delegation at the Wall with Stop the Wall founder, Jamal Juma. All photos courtesy David Mandel.

2 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

The Charge of the Delegation
The purpose of the delegation was to explore the political nature of Palestinian
prisoners’ confinement, the framework of military orders and military courts that
sentence Palestinian prisoners, the widespread and systematic ill-treatment and
torture of Palestinian children and youth in Israeli military detention, the targeting
of human rights defenders and grassroots Palestinian organizations and their
leaders and the use/misuse of administrative detention, plus current resistance
to it. We investigated how two distinct legal systems are applied by the Israeli
authorities to residents of the West Bank accused of various offenses, depending
on an individual’s ethnic or national identity, and we examined the conditions of
Palestinian prisoners in confinement.
A second objective of the delegation was to establish new and strengthen longtime
connections between NLG and grassroots organizations working to support the
rights of Palestinian prisoners and on related issues.
The delegation was also charged with examining the role of the United States
government in supporting Israel’s use of mass incarceration, as well as examining
the connections and similarities between the practices of mass incarceration by
Israeli occupation forces and U.S. domestic law enforcement, and how these
practices are used to control, subjugate and suppress liberation movements among
oppressed communities and communities of color.
The delegation’s stay coincided with an Israeli Supreme Court hearing on the
appeal of a wrongful death action, denied by a lower court, brought by the family
of Rachel Corrie. Rachel was an American activist who was killed by the Israeli
military on March 16, 2003 when she participated in an international protest against
Israel’s demolition of a Palestinian home in Rafah, Gaza. The delegation met
with the Corrie family and their lawyer following the hearing and issued a press
release demanding that the Supreme Court hold the perpetrators of Rachel’s killing
accountable as mandated by international law.
We also encountered numerous examples of the ongoing memory and legacy of
Rachel Corrie for Palestinians. A day before the hearing, we were happy to see
a plaque in Bethlehem listing Rachel’s name along with those of other foreign
volunteers killed in the fight for Palestinian self-determination. And a few days after
that we passed by – and exchanged greetings with the owner of – the Rachel Corrie
Café in Hebron.
There has been much worldwide attention, investigation and analysis of widespread
and egregious violations of international law by Israel, and its suppression of the
right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. This report will not seek
to duplicate that information, some of which is referenced in the bibliography.
Instead, it will focus on information we gathered from firsthand exchanges with
Palestinians and their families who are being held by Israel and with representatives
of the families of detainees and other prisoners who were on hunger strike during
our visit, as well as with Palestinians who have been arrested by the Palestinian
Authority. We will also cover what we learned from leaders and other staff with

Plaque in Bethlehem
honoring international
strugglers for Palestine
who were killed

Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 3

grassroots Palestinian organizations and NGOs that support and advocate for
prisoners, from court observations and from meetings with lawyers. And we will
attempt to communicate the overall frustrations and despair of Palestinian refugees
living in the camps and of those drastically affected by the use and expansion of the
ever-present wall, and the attacks on and destruction of Palestinian communities
through police and military violence, bureaucratic manipulation and imprisonment
of leaders.
As delegation members gathered in Ramallah to begin their mission, they
experienced firsthand a manifestation of the fundamental discrimination that
characterizes the conduct of Israeli authorities. When she attempted to enter Israelicontrolled territory from Amman, Jordan, NLG President Azadeh Shahshahani
was subjected to intense scrutiny, along with many other Muslim and/or Arab (and
otherwise ethnically profiled) travelers at the crossing, because her U.S. passport
indicates that she was born in Iran.
After the authorities held and questioned her extensively for 11 hours, at one point
calling a fellow delegation member to verify her “story,” and after they Googled
Shahshahani and discovered her NLG position and NLG’s advocacy on behalf
of Palestinian rights, they finally allowed her to enter, perhaps because of her
prominence. At the same time, however, Shahshahani reported, they turned away
several Arab-American and Indian-American law students who had been slated
to undertake summer internship programs. No other delegate experienced such
treatment in crossing the border, although if they had been Googled, they too might
have been held up or even denied entry – as has happened to numerous Palestinian
and Arab Americans and solidarity activists in recent years.

Rachel Corrie Restaurant and Cafe in Hebron.

4 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

While the focus of the delegation was an examination of the situation of
political prisoners and the use of mass incarceration and the legal system against
Palestinians, it is difficult to report on these concerns without mentioning the overall
message of the Israeli government and military in all areas of Palestinian life: We
will drive you off your land, and you have no right to defend yourself and your land.
This message was even more blatant than some of us had expected.
The Israeli government employs a variety of tools to repress and dispossess the
Palestinian population. These include forced evictions,2 land grabs and other forms
of ethnic cleansing,3 the denial of the right of return to Palestinian refugees,
significant monetary and military support for settlements, and apartheid policies and
practices, including the “community-shattering”4 wall, home demolitions and
system of checkpoints, closures, permits and barriers restricting the free movement
of Palestinians.
While Israel denies building permits to most Palestinian applicants, then condemns
their “illegally built” homes and charges them for the demolitions, settlers
constantly expand their hold on Palestinian land with impunity, if not outright
support of the authorities. In Sheikh Jarrah and other East Jerusalem sites, members
of the Jewish Defense League have taken over homes, with “settlers” from
Brooklyn occupying, under court order, the front part of the home of a Palestinian
family who had lived there for generations and still lives in the rear part, in highly
contentious “coexistence” that is based primarily on dispossession and power.

Most West Bank
residents, holders of
green ID cards, are
barred from crossing the
wall or checkpoints into
occupied Palestinian East

The construction of portions of the wall and checkpoints in the middle of
Palestinian communities (even those with no Israeli settlements nearby) has made
those communities unlivable because the schools, hospitals and workplaces are on
the other side. We visited one such community, Bir Nabala, which looked like a
“ghost town” with one brave and determined family holding out; and we saw others
threatened with a similar fate if the wall that partly surrounds them is completed.
The wall also serves to reinforce and complicate what has long been a policy of
dividing Palestinians under occupation into different classes of residents and disrupt
their lives, even on a very personal level. Rachel Serri, an advocacy officer with AlHaq human rights law center in Ramallah, explained that most West Bank residents,
holders of green ID cards, are barred from crossing the wall or checkpoints into
occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, let alone Israel, without special permits.
Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, however, hold blue ID cards, as do Israeli
citizens, and have access to all parts of the country – a result of the fact that Israel
applied its civilian law to East Jerusalem shortly after it conquered the territory in
1967. This is the case despite the fact that East Jerusalem is a part of the occupied
West Bank under international law. Israel’s purported annexation of East Jerusalem
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 5

is not officially recognized by the international community, and has no legal effect
on international law.

In all but a few rare
cases, the court has
upheld the military’s
sole right to determine
what is necessary for
“security” – the original
rationale for implanting
settlements in the West
Bank – and now, for
closing off large areas
to Palestinians, including
landowners, demolishing
many buildings, barring
Palestinians from certain
roads and building the

Israel has isolated large portions of the East Jerusalem population from each other
by building a wall within the area, thus creating pockets that are officially part of
the “united” municipality but are cut off from most of it and seriously lacking in
basic services. This causes serious hardship when superimposed with the fact that
Palestinian residents of Jerusalem risk losing their Jerusalem identity cards if they
reside elsewhere for more than a short time or cannot prove that Jerusalem is their
“center of life.” Essentially, Palestinian Jerusalemites are treated as immigrants of
particularly precarious status in their own city and country.
Thousands of Palestinians from Jerusalem have been stripped of their Jerusalem
IDs; it is also used as a political punishment, as in the case of elected Palestinian
Legislative Council members Mohammed Abu Teir, Ahmad Atoun and Mohammed
Totah, and former minister Khaled Abu Arafah, all of whom were stripped of their
Jerusalem IDs before being arrested by Israeli military forces. Couples with one
Jerusalem resident and one who is not are particularly adversely affected.
Making life unlivable for Palestinians can easily lead to “self-deportation,” driving
people to emigrate to other countries if they have the means. It should be noted that
even temporary residence outside Palestine has led to the stripping of Jerusalem IDs
from Jerusalemite Palestinians. When that is insufficient to maintain control over
the entirety of occupied Palestinian land, incarcerating Palestinian political, social
and community leadership is another way to undermine the ability to build and
strengthen national institutions and resistance efforts.
Settlement construction is the most striking example of the Israeli government’s
intention to take the land and disempower the people. Red-roofed suburbs with
water lines and separate highways to their houses and apartment buildings, typically
built on Palestinian agricultural and grazing land, can be seen in many parts of the
West Bank. These “settlements,” some of them huge housing tracts, even cities, are
obviously built with Israeli government approval and support.
This message was conveyed clearly by the lawyer for the military in the Rachel
Corrie Supreme Court hearing when she argued in a different context that the
military can do whatever it deems necessary: no rights, no rules, no due process.5 In
all but a few rare cases, the court has upheld the military’s sole right to determine
what is necessary for “security” – the original rationale for implanting settlements
in the West Bank – and now, for closing off large areas to Palestinians, including
landowners, demolishing many buildings, barring Palestinians from certain roads
and building the wall.

Despite the removal of settlements in 2005, it has been widely reported that conditions in
Gaza are even worse than in the West Bank. Even before the massive assault that began in July 2014,
the United Nations called the situation in Gaza a “humanitarian disaster.”
6 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Former main street of Bir Nabala, now cut off by the Wall, making it a ghost town.

Red-roofed Israeli settlement in Halamish, across a small valley from Nabi Saleh and on its land.

Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 7

Legal-Institutional Framework
Though many human rights activists focus in on Israeli violations of the “rule
of law” to demonstrate the various forms of repression to which Palestinians
are subjected, it may be more suitable to discuss Israel’s rights violations as
manipulation of the law. In other words, it is often not violations of the law, but
rather the law itself that enables Israeli repression. As sociologist Lisa Hajjar argues,
“One way a government can project the appearance of acting in accordance with the
law is to produce interpretations that the law does not apply.”6 Israel has used such
legal obfuscation and evasion, as well as the elaboration and adoption of new laws,
to justify inhumane treatment and oppressive rule.

“One way a government
can project the
appearance of acting
in accordance with
the law is to produce
interpretations that the
law does not apply.”
- Lisa Hajjar

Israel’s long-standing “emergency rule” in the occupied territories, built upon
a set of regulations adopted by the country’s British rulers in 1945, means that
Palestinians are subjected to a matrix of 1,500 military laws that “can be changed
arbitrarily, without notice, and applied retroactively, in violation of the most basic
tenets”7 of the rule of law.
The use of colonial law as a tool of “dispossession, displacement and oppression” is
not confined to Israeli conduct in the occupied West Bank.8 According to the Adalah
human rights law center in Haifa, at least 50 laws discriminate against Palestinian
citizens of Israel.9 
Over the years, Israel has detained thousands of Palestinians without charge or trial
for periods ranging from several months to several years. There are three Israeli
laws that govern Israel’s administrative detention powers: the Administrative
Detention Order, which applies to the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem; the
1989 Emergency Powers (Detention) Law, which applies to Israeli residents,
residents living in Israeli occupied territories and residents of other countries; and
the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law.10 Enacted by the Israeli Knesset in
2002, the last one applies to Palestinians in Gaza (because Israel does not consider it
to be “occupied” since its 2005 redeployment). Providing even less protection than
administrative detention orders, this law allows detention for an unlimited period of
time without charge or trial, in violation of international human rights norms. The
Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law embodies some of the many practices
shared between Israel and the United States, which codified its own legal definition
of “unlawful combatants” who could be indefinitely detained under the Military
Commissions Act of 2006.11

Lisa Hajjar, “Comparing American and Israeli Ways of War,” Social Text, June 10, 2014,
Noura Erakat, “A Conversation with Angela Davis and Noura Erakat,” May 10, 2014. See
Nasser Rego , “Reading Fanon in Palestine/Israel,” Jadaliyya, April 9, 2012, Seehttp://
For more on the Israeli law, originally enacted to “legalize” the kidnapping and detention of
people in Lebanon, see
8 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Administrative Detention
Whichever legal rationale is used, the Israeli military’s use of administrative
detention may be the clearest and most blatant example of the complete absence of
the rule of law on the West Bank and the lack of any conformity with international
legal standards. Palestinians from all ages, classes, regions, religions and political
views are aware that they can be picked up by the military, interrogated, possibly
tortured and then held indefinitely with no charges, no lawyers, secret files, no due
process and no end in sight.
In our meetings, we learned that people are held for years, in some cases decades,
when terms of three to six months are repeatedly renewed. These are people who
won’t confess to crimes they did not commit and against whom no evidence of
criminal activity has been presented. As a result, they cannot be tried even in the
regular military courts that lack basic and fundamental due process and fair trial
guarantees. The Israeli answer is to simply hold them without charges.
On our first full day in Palestine, we visited a protest tent in Ramallah where wives,
mothers, children and other relatives of prisoners – some serving sentences, others
being held without charge -- were holding a daily vigil to bring attention to the
dire situation of their loved ones, many of whom were on a hunger strike. Later in
our visit we attended a similar vigil in Bethlehem. Such vigils and protests, often
held outside the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which
visits Palestinian prisoners and is charged with the responsibility of upholding
international humanitarian law, are a frequent occurrence in nearly all Palestinian
We learned from family members that many of the prisoners are doctors, engineers,
elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, leaders of popular
resistance committees and other people who constitute much of the leadership of
Palestinian society and a potential Palestinian state. Just prior to the 2006 election
of the council, Israeli forces detained 450 members of the Change and Reform
legislative bloc, connected to the Hamas movement (the eventual victor in the
election), who were actively involved in campaigning.
As recently as 2009, almost a third of all Palestinian legislators were behind bars,
and as of April 2014, 11 PLC members continued to be held by Israel, nine of
them under administrative detention. With the West Bank crackdown starting in
June, that number had risen to 36 by late August, according to Al-Haq, 28 of them
under administration detention, the others without any legal basis. It became clear
that there can be no purpose for such widespread incarceration of community and
national leaders but to suppress the Palestinian political process.
In meetings with officials of the Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs
of the Palestinian National Authority, including Minister Issa Qaraqe’, and other
prisoner rights organizations, we were informed that there were at that time more
than 5,000 prisoners and detainees in Israeli military detention in more than 17
prisons, detention centers and military camps inside Israel and the West Bank.12

In the escalation that began on June and continues throughout the West Bank and Gaza, the
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 9

According to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), as of July 31, 2014, 5,383 Palestinians
were being held as “security prisoners” in Israeli detention facilities, including 192
According to IPS, 48 percent of the children and 90 per cent of adults were in
facilities inside Israel, in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
An additional 1,960 Palestinians, including 24 children, were in IPS detention as
“criminal prisoners.” Criminal offenses include entering Israel without a permit,
most frequently in pursuit of work.13
Since 1967 there have been more than 850,000 prisoners, including 13,000 women
and 25,000 minors from age 12 through 17. Hundreds have died in Israeli prisons
and detention centers due to torture, medical neglect and shooting. The most recent
were Arafat Jaradat, who died in February 2013 from in-custody torture five days
after being arrested on suspicion of throwing stones and a Molotov cocktail at
Israeli soldiers; and Raed Abdel-Salam Al-Jabari, who reportedly died as a result of
torture in Eshel prison in July 2014.14 Many others have died following release due
to serious medical problems from long years of imprisonment.
Former prisoners later reported to us the horrendous treatment they experienced
in custody. Among others, we met with Na’el Barghouthi, known as the “dean
of the prisoners,” who served 33 years in occupation prisons until his release in
October 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange. While in custody, he was elected to the
Palestinian Legislative Council in 2002.
We met with Mohammed Taj, a former hunger striker who was released from prison
in critical condition in 2012 after nine years behind bars. He suffers from a lung
disease diagnosed after participating in a hunger strike and falling into a coma. It
took eight years to get a chest X-ray, and only after a legal complaint was filed by
Addameer lawyers. He is now attempting to obtain a lung transplant. Taj described
prison hospitals as the “cemetery for Palestinian prisoners.”
We learned from Ismat Mansour, who was released after 20 years behind bars, that
conditions differ starkly for Palestinian “security prisoners” and Israeli criminal
convicts. The former are allowed visits only from first-degree relatives, while
anyone can visit the latter. Food is better for the Israelis, he said, they receive a
larger commissary allowance and are permitted to receive packages from home,
while Palestinians are not. Jewish prisoners are also not required to wear prison
garb that is forced on Palestinians. They have phone privileges, and unlike
Palestinians, many are allowed conjugal visits – including, famously, Yigal Amir,
convicted of assassinating Yitzhak Rabin.
Mansour described how Palestinian political prisoners organize themselves into
committees that represent them to the authorities and adjudicate inter-prisoner
disputes. It reminded us of how in many historical situations, large groups
current total has risen to about 6,200 from a high of 7,000, with 500 now in administrative detention.
13	 See
Unofficial translation, Autopsy Report of Arafat Jaradat, see http://mondoweiss.
net/2013/03/palestinian-accountability-detainees; Middle East Monitor, ‘Palestinian prisoner tortured
to death in Israeli jail’, September 19, 2014, see
10 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

of prisoners of war have handled their situations. In fact, Mansour said, the
incarcerated Palestinians should be considered and treated as PoWs.
Observing in a military court at Ofer Prison, a short drive from Ramallah inside
the occupied West Bank, we witnessed a military judge extend a term of detention
with no evidence and no charges, after a hearing conducted in Hebrew with
simultaneous military interpretation into Arabic. While there is a requirement to
translate the proceedings into Arabic, Palestinian defendants in Israeli military
detention often face difficulties in adequately comprehending them because,
despite the translation requirement, the military interpreters and translators do not
take their job seriously and loosely translate ongoing proceedings. Because of this
situation, Palestinian detainees are often dependent on their defense lawyers for
accurate translations – while their lawyers are engaged in actively presenting their
After entering the prison where the military court convenes, we went into a
tiny room in a trailer filled with prisoners, family members and lawyers. Each
prisoner’s case was addressed, quite informally, typically for five or 10 minutes,
amid freewheeling discussion of plea deals being carried on in a shockingly
chaotic atmosphere. In some cases detention was extended because the prosecution
had failed to charge the prisoner and/or prepare a written statement of charges.

NLG delegation visits with prisoners’ families at a protest tent in Ramallah.

Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 11

Hunger Strikers
At the time of our visit about 150 prisoners, most of them held under administrative
detention, had been on a hunger strike for up to several weeks. This hunger strike
was organized to call for an end to the use of administrative detention. We heard
from former hunger strikers that the horrendous in-custody conditions and the lack
of hope for any charges or legal process under international standards left them with
no choice but to take this drastic action as the only way to resist. They were willing
to risk death for their demands for justice to be heard.

The treatment of
2014’s hunger strikers
was brutal. They were
isolated, in solitary
confinement; the military
withheld vitamins and
salt; and the guards
would cook and eat
their food in front of
the hunger strikers in
an effort to torture and
demoralize them.

In 2012 a hunger strike of more than 2,000 political prisoners was ended when
Israel agreed to end the use of long-term solitary confinement and release the
19 Palestinians held in long-term isolation to the general Palestinian prisoner
population, limit the use of administrative detention to “exceptional circumstances,”
and ease conditions in some areas – to no longer require Palestinian prisoners
to wear uniforms, for instance, and to eliminate the thrice daily head count. But
Israel has reneged on the agreement. It continues to use administrative detention
extensively, and uniforms have been reinstituted.
The treatment of 2014’s hunger strikers was brutal. They were isolated, in solitary
confinement; the military withheld vitamins and salt; and the guards would
cook and eat their food in front of the hunger strikers in an effort to torture and
demoralize them. Palestinian prisoners held in administrative detention are often
prevented from seeing their lawyers – routinely for up to 90 days after arrest – and
we were told by staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross that even
ICRC met unusually strong resistance from the Israeli military when it tried to see
people or even document the identity of those engaged in hunger strikes.
At meetings with two Israeli NGOs, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in Jaffa
and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) in Jerusalem, both
during the hunger strike, the delegation learned that the Knesset was fast-tracking
a bill to permit force feeding of prisoners, “in spite of patients’ rights.” While the
Israel Medical Association said its members would not participate in force feeding,
the government declared that there are a sufficient number of prison physicians
(subject to military orders) to carry it out, and they were discussing implementing
it in spite of a pending legal challenge. Prime Minister Netanyahu justified the
proposed law, pointing to U.S. force feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo.
The legislation was apparently put on a back burner in late June, after the hunger
strikers suspended their protest in light of the major Israeli rampage throughout the
West Bank, purportedly as part of the search for three Israeli settler students who
had gone missing June 12 in a fully Israeli-controlled section (Area C) of the West
Bank. (It turns out the authorities knew from day one that they were already dead.)
Over less than three weeks in June, the crackdown involved the killing of six West
Bank Palestinians (and more in Gaza bombings even before the “Protective Edge”
carnage began July 7), many hundreds of new arrests, curfews, closures and highly
destructive home invasions accompanied by reports of widespread theft.

12 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Bana Shoughury of PCATI reviewed the legal status of torture under
interrogation by the General Security Service, limited by the Israeli Supreme
Court in the 1990s to “ticking time bomb” situations. This has led to some
reduction, she said, but has far from eliminated the practice. For one thing, the
rule does not apply during the arrest and initial transport phase, before formal
interrogation ensues. She said more than 850 complaints were filed from 2001
through 2013 – while the number of criminal investigations opened as a result,
let alone indictments, during that period was zero. In 2012 the High Court ruled
that there is no legal obligation to open such investigations.15
In addition to explaining the history and status of force feeding hunger strikers,
Amany Dayif at PHR in Jaffa described the organization’s general advocacy
for universal access to and provision of healthcare in Israel, especially
among underserved populations such as Palestinian citizens, guest workers,
migrants and asylum seekers. Regarding prisoners specifically, she said PHR
submits several hundred appeals a year by prisoners, about 80 percent of them
Palestinians from the occupied territories. Issues include denial of treatment or
care in general, torture and other mistreatment by staff, solitary confinement,
overcrowding, poor food and hygiene matters. Healthcare in prisons is provided
directly by employees of the Israel Prison Services, which Dayif described
as woefully inadequate. Not surprisingly, complaints within the system are
routinely ignored, so PHR and other human rights groups play a crucial role in
maintaining a semblance of standards in prisons.
In Haifa, we met with director Hassan Jabareen and numerous other staff from
Adalah, a human rights law center that deals mostly with issues involving
human and civil rights of Palestinian Israeli citizens. This includes numerous
issues related to arrest and imprisonment stemming from a high level of
political protest activity in many areas. Standing out among recent events had
been a wave of protests surrounding the threatened expulsion of some 40,000
Palestinian Bedouin from their traditional lands in the south of Israel, under
the so-called Prawer plan, which would put an end to their agricultural lifestyle
and concentrate them in larger townships. And just before our visit, an Adalah
staff member, Majd Kayyal, had been arrested and held incommunicado for
several days following an open visit he made to Lebanon to attend a journalism
conference. His case challenges Israel’s ban on such contact by Palestinian
citizens with colleagues in neighboring Arab countries.

More than 850
complaints about torture
were filed from 2001
through 2013 – while
the number of criminal
investigations opened
as a result during that
period was zero.

Sharon Weill and Irit Ballas, “Investigation of torture claims in Israel: analysis of
the 2012 High Court of Justice ruling and the Türkel Commission Report,” Public Committee
Against Torture in Israel, 2012. See
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 13

NLG delegation meets with former hunger strikers, including Khader Adnan.

Banner in Bethlehem highlighting imprisoned Palestinians and calling for their freedom.

14 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Targeting of Youth
The more we read and learned, the more we came to understand that the
targeting of youth is intended to stifle leadership development, curtail
educational and vocational opportunities for Palestinian youth and further the
goal of “self-deportation.” Interrogation of youths in coercive custody is also a
way of obtaining evidence against Palestinian leadership, as frightened youth
are more easily coerced into pointing fingers at adults for incitement or similar
vague charges.
The NLG delegation met with representatives of Defense for Children
International Palestine (DCIPS) and the Jerusalem YMCA (Beit Sahour branch),
and with a Palestinian youth who had recently been arrested and mistreated
by the Israeli military. All of these conversations reinforced our findings that
international juvenile justice standards and specific protections in international
law for children are not applied to Palestinian youth and not incorporated into
the Israeli military law framework.
On May 24, Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer for DCIPS
and an NLG member, took our delegation to Hebron, where we listened to
a young Palestinian boy from the village of Beit Ummar describe his arrest
and detention. Looking straight ahead and appearing somewhat shy in the
face of an international legal delegation, Mohammed, 15, spoke quietly of his
transportation to three different detention facilities, his concern for his family,
his “confession,” time in solitary confinement and eventual release, three
months later.
Mohammed was arrested on his way to receive medical attention for a soccer
injury. With a school note in his hand he was nevertheless picked up by the
Israeli military, then kicked and hit until a confession to stone throwing was
extracted. Post-interrogation he was assigned a lawyer from DCIPS, which
represents approximately 25 percent of children who are arrested. There is no
requirement for the military to notify parents.
Since his release Mohammed has started smoking and, as is typical of children
after their release from prison, quit school. Because he missed three months
of classes, he would have been required to repeat the grade. Now 16, he plans
to become an auto mechanic. We wondered what his future holds and how his
arrest experience, at age 15, will shape that future.
Mohammed is typical of the 500 to 700 children arrested each year by the Israeli
military. At the time of our visit there were 196 children in Israeli military
detention, and it is customary for 200-300 to be incarcerated in any given
month. Their ages typically range from 12 to 18, although children as young as
six have been picked up.16 Until recently, Israel classified Palestinian youth over
16 as adults, contrary to international standards (applied all along to Israelis)
defining youth as those under 18.
See the film Stone Cold Justice, available on YouTube:
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 15

Many of the children are jailed for offenses such as throwing stones. According to
DCIPS, Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank
and accused of stone throwing or other offenses under Military Order 1651 are by
default subjected to pretrial detention.. Under Military Order 1651, throwing stones
carries a potential maximum sentence of 10-20 years depending on a person’s age
and the specific circumstances of the case. While children are generally sentenced
to short periods of months or years depending on their age, damage or sabotage
of an Israeli army facility carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment at the
court’s discretion, and harming, insulting or threatening the army carries a 10-year
500 to 700 Palestinian
children are arrested
each year by the Israeli
military. At the time of
our visit there were 196
children in Israeli military
detention, and it is
customary for 200-300
to be incarcerated in any
given month.

The visit with Mohammed was followed by a meeting at the Arroub refugee camp
with the Popular Committee director and representatives of the women’s, children’s
and school committees in the camp. We learned that about 50 kids from the camp
are arrested each year with some spending a day, others three years, in detention.
Israeli soldiers typically break into homes after 2:00 a.m. to arrest the youth. Part of
the committee’s focus is to prepare children for arrest and then identify appropriate
counseling upon release. The ex-prisoners tend to experience nightmares, psychosocial problems, behavioral changes and loss of interest in school. (One boy
who was arrested five times missed so much school that it took him four years to
complete seventh grade. If a student misses 60 days of study, he or she is required
to repeat the full school year.) During 2013, 76.5 percent of Palestinian children
arrested by the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank suffered some form of
physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation, according to DCIPS. 17.
We then went to the Beit Sahour YMCA, where Nader Abu Amsha, director of its
rehabilitation program, told us about his work with Palestinian youth released from
Israeli detention. Many are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, while
most exhibit some type of trauma-related anxiety. The Swedish branch of Save the
Children studied the impact of detention on children and brought some Palestinian
children held in Israeli military jails to meet with the Swedish parliament, he
reported. Their identification of specific psycho-social issues helped the YMCA
create a reintegration program. They work with individual children and their parents
prior to release, and with the larger community and with the education system on a
national level to initiate policy changes that will help get these kids back in school.
After detention, some kids are stigmatized by teachers, which contributes to a
high dropout rate. The YMCA started a vocational assessment unit that is open to
everyone in the community, offering three months of training. In addition, it holds
retreats with recently released kids, giving them the opportunity to discuss their
shared experiences. Overall there are few resources available to the hundreds of
children who have been imprisoned, and it is due to the tenacity of the YMCA that
some of these youth receive the help they need.
A representative from the Right to Education program described how schools at
all levels have been impaired by the occupation. During the first intifada in 1988,
for instance, all schools were closed for long, though varying, periods. Teachers
organized underground classes in homes. Birzeit University was closed for 3.5
For more information on specific types of ill-treatment go to: http://www.

16 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

years (and for shorter periods previously and subsequently). Even when open,
its students and those at other post-secondary institutions suffer from frequent
closures at checkpoints they must cross to get to classes. Occupation decrees
ban numerous books considered subversive (leftist and Islamist alike); lab
equipment is severely limited for fear of bomb making; and visiting faculty
from abroad are usually denied visas of more than three months as tourists, if
allowed in at all.
Palestinian campuses being hotbeds of political ferment like universities
everywhere, students and sometimes faculty are targeted for arrest at times
of heightened unrest or even during student election campaigns – both by
occupation forces and by Palestinian authorities.
In prison, inmates are allowed to pursue academic classes only if they are
sentenced to more than five years, and then only in Hebrew in conjunction with
Israel’s Open University. Even then, they are hampered by lack of access to
books and other supplies, phone communications and Internet.
We met in Jerusalem with Marc Maurer with the International Committee of the
Red Cross, which like its counterparts in other conflict zones, is charged with
the protection of civilians, including prisoners. ICRC describes its approach as
a deliberate effort to maintain “apolitical neutrality” and to engage in what it
calls “confidential, bilateral dialogue” with prisoners and then with authorities,
rarely going public and never pursuing litigation strategies. This enables it to
maintain access to prisoners and to advocate quietly for high priority cases of
abuse. Maurer did cite a new interest in engaging more with Israeli civil society
to stimulate discussion of issues that are otherwise easy for residents of the Tel
Aviv “bubble” to ignore.
It must be noted that Palestinian organizations and families have frequently
criticized ICRC for maintaining that “neutrality” when confronted with
violations of international humanitarian law in Israeli prisons against
Palestinian prisoners, calling on the organization to take a public stand against
such practices as the use of isolation, medical neglect, denial of family visits
and the punishment of hunger strikers.
At a protest tent in Ramallah
with families of Palestinian
political prisoners.

Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 17

Detention of Lawyers
Israel routinely arrests Palestinian lawyers. In the days preceding our delegation,
Palestinian Prisoners Society, another Ramallah-based prisoners’ rights group, issued
a statement condemning Israel’s crackdown on Palestinian lawyers. Specifically,
Israel arrested numerous Palestinian lawyers for allegedly passing messages
between Palestinian prisoners and the Hamas leadership.18 In one instance this past
March, Israel arrested Shireen Issawi and four other Palestinian attorneys from the
same firm in East Jerusalem, accusing them of running a network of attorneys who
passed messages in exchange for money. The attorneys have vehemently denied the
charges, and they accuse Israel of monitoring and grossly mistranslating attorneyclient communications in contravention of Israel’s own laws.
Approximately six weeks after our delegation concluded, Addameer and Lawyers
for Palestinian Human Rights submitted a joint complaint to the United Nations
Special Rapporteur regarding Israel’s arrest of Palestinian human rights lawyer
Murad Shtaiwi. Shtaiwi, like many other attorneys Israel has detained, was arrested
pursuant to Israel’s notorious law that criminalizes virtually all forms of Palestinian
protest. More recently, on September 18, 2014, Israeli soldiers raided the home of
Ayman Nasser, Addameer’s legal coordinator, and arrested him.19 Israel has not yet
filed formal charges against Nasser, and Addameer researcher Murad Jadallah has
stated that it is anticipated that he will be sentenced to administrative detention.20

Banner in Bethlehem demands an end to administrative detention without charge or trial.

Dalia Hatuqa, Israel accused of cracking down on lawyers, Al-Jazeera English, May 14,
2014, available at
19	 See Charlotte Silver, Family held at gunpoint as Israel arrests another Palestinian rights
defender, Electronic Intifada, Sept. 22, 2014, available at
18 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Plea Bargains
The practice of plea bargaining has been criticized for concentrating power
in the hands of prosecutors, as well as for its negative impact on potentially
innocent, vulnerable and/or marginalized suspects who are often forced to plead
guilty since pleading not guilty can have dire consequences in terms of the
length of the sentence. In a legal system undermined by institutionalized racism
and class bias, recourse to plea bargaining is also an indication of deep-seated
structural inequalities. More than 95 percent of criminal cases in the United
States are settled through plea bargains, with this limited justice affecting people
of color disproportionately.
“War on terror” cases have not been an exception when it comes to the use of
plea bargains in cases involving individuals from marginalized communities,
with more than 90 percent of cases settled before going to court.

In the United States
and in Palestine, over
95 percent of criminal
and “security”/political
cases respectively are
settled through plea
bargains. This limited
justice disproportionately
impacts people of color
and colonized people.

In Palestine, 95 percent of the cases in military courts end with plea bargains, a
number that tends to rise during periods of mass arrests, such as occurred from
2001 to 2004, during the second Intifada, when thousands of cases were brought
to the courts.
According to Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, there are several reasons
for this. First, military prosecutors generally use vague, broad and exaggerated
charges, making them difficult to contest. Second, as most of the trial material,
including evidence, is in Hebrew, Palestinian lawyers who have not studied
in Israel and are not fluent in Hebrew lack confidence in arguing the case, in
particular when it comes to cross examination. Also, there is a lack of trust in
the translation, as interpreters are soldiers serving in the army. Third, cases
that go to trial generally receive much higher sentences and, in some cases,
the duration of the trial can be longer than the expected sentence. Fourth,
the transfer and holding conditions for trials are deliberately prolonged,
uncomfortable and humiliating, leading many prisoners to prefer to be sentenced
as early as possible to avoid the discomfort caused by such procedures. Fifth,
lawyers who choose to argue their cases are penalized by the courts through
extensive and unnecessary delays. Finally, much of the evidence used in trials
is derived from confessions of individuals who have been tortured or unduly
pressured, making it difficult to refute them in court.
As a result of these repressive circumstances, detainees and their lawyers
often enter into plea bargains in an attempt to minimize the harm by getting
shorter sentences. Even setting aside the structural injustices inherent in a
judicial process operating within a colonial-settler system, the possibility of a
Palestinian getting a fair trial in this context is very almost non-existent.

Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 19

Coordination with the Palestinian
The delegation also met with representatives of the Palestinian Authority (PA),
including the Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs. The delegation was
aware that the PA has long served as Israel’s proxy security force in the West Bank.
For example, in 2011, Al-Jazeera released a trove of documents regarding the PA’s
relationship with Israel. These documents revealed, inter alia, that the PA and Israel
coordinated assassinations of Palestinian militants from rival Palestinian political
parties and worked together to create an elite unit of Palestinian security forces
capable of battling “terrorists” with advanced weapons.21
One day before the delegation began, there were reports that the PA considered
ending its security coordination with Israel in response to the Israeli army’s killing
of two unarmed teenagers, Mohammed Abu Daher and Nadim Siam, during a
protest outside of Israel’s Ofer military prison.22 Of course, the delegation did
not take the reports too seriously given the PA’s long history of coordination with
Israel. But several members hoped to take advantage of any tension between the
PA and Israel in order to learn more about the plight of Palestinians in PA prisons
and the extent to which the PA arrests Palestinians at Israel’s behest. However, such
rumors were in fact unfounded and the relationship between the PA and Israel is
so entrenched that at the height of Israel’s massive crackdown throughout the West
Bank in June 2014, PA President Mahmoud Abbas stated that coordinating with
Israel is in the “Palestinian national interest.”23
Unsurprisingly, the PA officials with whom we met were reluctant to discuss
anything related to the PA’s military coordination with Israel. When members of
the delegation tried to ask PA officials about Palestinian prisoners in PA prisons,
our questions were met with demurrals and claimed confusion about the topic. The
officials would not even acknowledge questions about the extent to which PA’s
relationship with Israel complicates the ministry’s work on behalf of prisoners.
The PA would later take partial credit for the delegation’s presence following our
presence at a protest tent in Ramallah where prisoners’ families gathered holding
photographs of their sons, brothers and fathers. When coverage of our delegation
appeared on local television, the PA took credit, referring to us as a “delegation of
American lawyers.” Addameer was not mentioned at all.

21	 See Jack Khoury, Avi Issacharoff and Anshel Pfeffer, ‘Palestinian Authority closely
coordinating security operations with Israel’, Haaretz, Jan. 26, 2011, available at http://www.haaretz.
com/news/diplomacy-defense/palestinian-authority-closely-coordinating-security-operations-withisrael-1.339205 (last visited 9/16/14); see also Tariq Dana, The Beginning of the End of Palestinian
Security Coordination with Israel?, Jadaliyya, July 4, 2014, available at
pages/index/18379/the-beginning-of-the-end-of-palestinian-security-c (last visited 9/16/14).
More details on Mohammed and Nadim’s deaths are included below under “The Mo’ataz
Al-Washaha Case.”
Tariq Dana, The Beginning of the End of Palestinian Security Coordination with Israel?,
Jadaliyya, July 4, 2014, available at (last visited 9/16/14).
20 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

The Mo’ataz al-Washaha Case
Toward the end of the delegation, we had the honor of visiting with the family
of Mo’ataz Al-Washaha, a Palestinian young man killed in February 2014 when
a large Israeli military force invaded his village and demolished his house in
Birzeit with him inside, unarmed, shooting him 65 times in what the family
called an expression of hatred and dehumanization. We were shaken by the
description yet buoyed by the spirit of determination and popular resistance
evident among his surviving family, typical, in fact, of almost all the people we
The threat of sudden, extreme violence is a constant under occupation, as we
were reminded on several other occasions. The day before the delegation’s
official start, two members were accompanied by the delegation coordinator
from Addameer, Randa Wahbe, on a short taxi ride from Ramallah to Beituniya,
near Ofer Prison, where two Palestinian teenagers had been shot dead the day
before as a demonstration in solidarity with the hunger striking prisoners wound
down. During our short stay we witnessed from a bit behind the front line a
mid-range confrontation involving tear gas, burning tires, stone throwing and
some shooting, but fortunately, no serious casualties.
A few days later, video footage from a security camera installed by a local
business, obtained by DCIPS, showed the two victims being shot, apparently
by snipers from a distance, while they were simply walking down the street.
This discredited the initial Israeli denials that there had been any shooting
there, influencing (with backup from autopsies) the court of public opinion,
including Israeli media. It led to a flurry of backup versions from unnamed
military officials – that only rubber bullets had been shot, that maybe the video
was faked or the victims were merely acting. A week after that, footage by a
European journalist on the scene showed an Israeli soldier firing apparently
live ammunition at the very moment one of the boys was shot. More than three
months later, the victims’ memories have faded into an ongoing “investigation”
(with no arrests of soldiers) as the horrific news of the assault on Gaza with
thousands of casualties and massive destruction grabbed the world’s attention.

Poster of Moataz al-Washaha
on the street; he was killed in
February 2014 by the Israeli
army, who labeled him “wanted.” Unarmed, he was shot 65
times and his home demolished
around him.

It is worth noting in this context, however, that the pattern of violence and
arrests against civilians in the West Bank did not let up the entire time. In fact it
increased, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news service, on August 29:
As the eyes of the world focused on Gaza in recent months, Israel stepped
up a campaign of repression, detentions and settlement building across the
West Bank, the Palestine Liberation Organization said in a report released on
Thursday. Thirty-two Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in a two month
period beginning on June 13, the report said, and 1,397 Palestinians were
injured by Israeli fire. During the same period, 1,753 Palestinians were detained
– an equivalent of 24 a day – while Israeli forces conducted 1,573 military
raids across the West Bank, or an average of 21 a day. The PLO report – which
was entitled “Business as Usual” – also highlighted that the construction of
Jewish-only settlements built on lands confiscated from Palestinian locals in the
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 21

occupied West Bank had surged during the same period, with three different projects
having been announced on Aug. 25-26 just as the Gaza ceasefire was declared. The
report said that over the summer so far, more than 1,472 settlement homes had been
approved, slated to house around 6,000 Jewish settlers. ... The report also said that
the period from June 13 to Aug. 26 had also witnessed a total of 249 attacks by
Jewish settlers on Palestinian civilians, or around three a day.24
And inside Israel itself, according to Ha’aretz of August 24: “In the space of a
month, 1,471 people who demonstrated against the fighting in Gaza have been
arrested, nearly all of them Arabs. Meanwhile, 650 criminal files have been opened
and 350 indictments handed down – all of them against Arabs. Let’s remember
that most of the people attacked during those demonstrations [by police and
counterdemonstrators] have also been Arabs.”25

With the family of Moataz al-Washaha in Birzeit. Moataz’s poster is on the wall at left.

Ma’an News, “PLO: 32 Palestinians killed in West Bank since June,” August 29, 2014, see
Oudeh Basharat, “The judges of national resilience are keeping Israeli Arabs in their
place,” Ha’aretz, August 24, 2014. See:
22 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Nothing Here is News to the
U.S. State Department
In its 2013 Human Rights Report on Israel/Palestine,26 the State Department
acknowledges just about all of the human rights abuses detailed in this report,
including: (1) torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
which in at least one case, “allegedly led to death” (such as beatings, use of
stress positions for long periods, isolation, sleep deprivation and psychological
abuses, including threats against family or to demolish homes), particularly
during arrest and interrogation (pages 3, 40, 46-7); (2) indefinite administrative
detention without charge or trial, including of Palestinian Legislative Council
members, and the call by “many NGOs” for the immediate end to such detention
(pages 8, 54); (3) solitary confinement (pages 4, 54, 58); (4) arbitrary arrest
or detention (page 6); (5) austere and overcrowded detention facilities which
sometimes appeared to be used as an interrogation or intimidation method
(pages 40, 47); (6) improper use of security detention procedures and the
practice of incommunicado detention throughout the duration of interrogation
(pages 40, 54); and (7) travel restrictions that affected prisoners’ access to
lawyers and visitors (page 5). It also acknowledged “occasional hunger strikes”
to protest prison conditions, including the eight-month hunger strike of Samir
Issawi (page 4). The report concludes that among the “most significant human
rights abuses across the occupied territories was arbitrary arrest and associated
torture and abuse, often with impunity, by multiple actors in the region” (page

“Israeli [military] courts
had a conviction rate
of more than 99% for
- US State Department

The State Department acknowledges the existence of two separate (and unequal)
justice systems, with Israeli military law applied to Palestinians in the West
Bank, while Israeli civil law is applied to Israeli settlers in the same area (page
53). The report states that “Israeli law provides safeguards against arbitrary
arrest and detention, but key safeguards do not apply to Palestinian security
detainees,” who are subject to Israeli military law (page 49). It describes the
military justice system in great detail: Palestinians can be held in detention for
eight days before appearing before a military court; there is no requirement
that a detainee have access to a lawyer until after interrogation, a process that
may last for weeks; the maximum period for such a detention order is 90 days,
but detention can be renewed if deemed necessary; military prosecutors often
present secret evidence that is not available to the defendant or counsel (pages
49-50, 57).
The State Department is well aware that the “Israeli [military] courts had
a conviction rate of more than 99% for Palestinians” (page 53). The report
acknowledges that “NGO and lawyers reported it was better to plead guilty and
receive a reduced sentence than to maintain innocence and go through a trial that
could last months, if not a year.” And it repeats the complaint of human rights
lawyers that the structure of military trials – in military facilities, with judges,
prosecutors and court officials all being military officers, and with tight security
United States State Department, “Israel 2013 Human Rights Report.” See http://www.
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 23

restrictions – “limited defendants’ rights to public trial and access to counsel” (page

Despite the knowledge
of all these numerous
systemic human rights
and due process
violations and the
unequal systems of
justice, this knowledge
has had no effect on the
continuing U.S. military,
economic, diplomatic
and moral support to
Israel. The National
Lawyers Guild has long
called upon Congress to
suspend its assistance to
Israel in response to its
human rights abuses of

The report also singles out the abuse, “possibly rising to the level of torture,” of
Palestinian minors, mainly “to coerce confessions” (page 46). It cites claims by
Defense for Children International-Palestine and B’Tselem, which called for an
end to violent interrogations of children and a thorough investigation of what it
described as a “systemic problem” (page 46). It mentions DCIPS’ complaint that
most minors arrested saw their lawyer for the first time when they appeared before
a military court (page 53), and it specifically addresses the complaint that signed
confessions by Palestinian minors, written in Hebrew, a language most cannot read,
continue to be used as evidence against them (page 58). The report acknowledges
NGO claims that despite changes to Israeli military law in 2011 – never translated
into Arabic – that finally categorized Palestinians age 16 and 17 as minors, Israeli
authorities frequently failed to inform parents where they took minors when
arrested. Moreover, the law does not apply to detention periods, so 16- and 17-yearolds may be detained as long as adults are. There is acknowledgement of the NGO
Military Court Watch claim that detention periods for Palestinian children from
age 12 to 17 remain at least twice as long as those applied to Israeli settler children
(pages 53-4). Significantly, the State Department acknowledges the UN Children’s
Fund (UNICEF) finding in February 2013 that “mistreatment of Palestinian children
in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and
institutionalized” (page 54).
The report indicates State Department awareness of “reports of failure to take
disciplinary action in cases of abuse. … NGOs reported impunity among Israeli
security forces remained a problem. … Authorities systematically disregarded
abuse allegations” (page 51). Specifically noted in the report are cases of arrest for
what should clearly have been protected political activity, such as that of Bassem
Tamimi, held for 109 days for participation in “an unlicensed demonstration and
activity against public order” – a protest at a settlement supermarket. Also noted is
the continuing use of a 1967 military order that “effectively prohibited Palestinian
demonstrations and limited freedom of speech in the West Bank,” by requiring that
a “political” gathering of 10 or more people have a permit from the military regional
commander, breach of which can lead to 10 years’ imprisonment (page 69).
Nevertheless, while acknowledging that NGOs “alleged there were non-[Israeli]
citizen detainees held for political reasons,” the report inexplicably repeats the
Israeli government’s claim that it holds prisoners only on “criminal and security
grounds” (pages 10, 55).
Yet despite the knowledge of all these numerous systemic human rights and due
process violations and the unequal systems of justice, the U.S. government still
considers Israel to be its closest ally. This knowledge has had no effect on the
continuing U.S. military, economic, diplomatic and moral support to Israel. The
National Lawyers Guild has long called upon Congress to suspend its assistance
to Israel in response to its human rights abuses of Palestinians. We are one among
many such voices, including Amnesty International USA, the U.S. Campaign to End
the Israeli Occupation and Jewish Voice for Peace.

24 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Parallels with U.S. Mass
Incarceration/’War on Terror’
Policies and Practices27

In addition to considering the multiple forms of political, economic and military
support the United States provides Israel, it is important to remember that
that influence is not unidirectional. The United States borrows Israeli legal
justifications28 as well as militarized policing tactics29 and forms of torture
employed in prisons.30 As a result of this borrowing, but also of the similar
foundations on which both states were founded (racial injustice and settlercolonialism), Israel and the United States share much in common in terms of
their techniques of control, especially in relation to mass incarceration, by which
whole populations are criminalized in order to further political control.
Although similarly based upon a politics of fear, mass incarceration as a tool
of oppression entails less blatant violence than other forms of colonial and
racial violence that have been practiced in Israel and the United States. But its
impact has nevertheless been harmful and extensive. In Time in the Shadows:
Confinement in Counterinsurgencies, University of London professor Laleh
Khalili examines continuities in carceral strategies from 19th-century colonial
rule until today. Khalili shows that while the use of mass incarceration rather
than brute force to control “problematic populations” may have developed as
a “more humane … administrative and legal solution” to social unrest, their
aims have often been the same: “to oblige” an oppressed or “occupied people
to admit defeat and recognize their own subjugation.” The institutionalized
racism inherent in the U.S. criminal justice system has led Michelle Alexander
to describe U.S. mass incarceration as the “new Jim Crow” (in her book of that
title), likening it to the “racial caste system” maintained through racist laws and
violence after the formal abolition of slavery.

Mass incarceration has
a devastating impact
on individuals and
communities. As a form
of state terror, it is
designed to strike fear in
whole communities and
prevent the establishment
of sustainable bonds,
based on justice and
respect, between state
and society.

Mass incarceration has a devastating impact on individuals and communities.
As a form of state terror, it is designed to strike fear in whole communities and
prevent the establishment of sustainable bonds, based on justice and respect,
between state and society. By breaking up and isolating members of movements
and pressuring individuals to collaborate, dissimulate and betray their beliefs,
it causes alienation among brothers, sisters and comrades. And with the law
often functioning in service of power rather than justice, prisons serve as the
handmaiden of legal oppression.
Portions of this section of the report were previously published as follows: Corinna
Mullin and Azadeh Shahshahani, “From Gaza to Ferguson: Exposing the Toolbox of Racist
Repression,” Huffington Post, August 22, 2014,
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 25

U.S. and Israeli mass
incarceration: criminalize,
control, disempower
The draconian conditions imposed by Israel’s blockade of Gaza have often led
critics to liken the embattled strip of land to an “open-air prison,” pointing to
Israel’s panoptical control of Gaza’s borders, airspace and sea coast.
But conventional brick-and-mortar prisons continue to enjoy robust use
throughout Israel-Palestine. Since the 1948 Nakba with its extensive expulsion and
dispossession of Palestinians from their land, Israel has imprisoned approximately
20 percent of the total Palestinian population, including 40 percent of the male
population. As of October 2014, Israel holds more than 6,200 Palestinian “security
prisoners”31 in its prisons and detention centers. These include more than 466
Palestinians subjected to administrative detention or other detention without trial,
including 19 Palestinian members of parliament (with 27 members of parliament
imprisoned overall), and three former ministers.32
Israel’s use of imprisonment as a political tool was on full display in the latest
violence in Gaza. Following the June 12, 2014, disappearance of three Israeli settler
teens subsequently found dead, Israel detained thousands of Palestinians, effectively
using mass arrest and incarceration as a form of collective punishment, which is
considered a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Of those arrested, 62
had only recently been freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. Their release,
and an end to the siege of Gaza, were Hamas’ (and other Palestinians’) most strident
demands during negotiations to end the violence.
Hamas was clearly the immediate target of Israel’s latest wave of arrests, in which
well over 2,000 West Bank Palestinians were captured in July alone. But Israel’s
broader political aim is to terrorize the entire Palestinian population, thereby
deterring unity and resistance. At least 15 of those arrested and later released were
held under the Unlawful Combatants Law.
The United States is also notorious for its use of incarceration as a tool of
repression. Its burgeoning prison population now constitutes a quarter of all the
prisoners in the world. Close to 70 percent of all people in U.S. incarceration,
moreover, are people of color. As Adam Gopnik observed in The New Yorker, “there
are more black men in the grip of the [U.S.] criminal-justice system – in prison, on
probation, or on parole – than were in slavery” on the eve of the civil war.33
Over the past three decades, the U.S. prison population has quadrupled, in large
part a result of the “war on drugs.” Since the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986
26 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

was passed, incarceration for nonviolent offenses dramatically increased –
disproportionately impacting poor black people. “Relegated to a second-class
status” by their experience with prison, notes legal scholar Michelle Alexander,
an inordinate number of black men have once again become “disenfranchised,”
losing the right to vote, to serve on juries and to be free of legal discrimination
in regards to employment, education and access to public services.34
This exponential increase in incarceration has accompanied an unprecedented
rise in the detention of undocumented immigrants as well as the growth of
the prison-industrial complex, demonstrating the salience of the political
economy of incarceration. These developments are rooted in the socioeconomic changes of the post-industrial era and the retrenchment of social
safety net programs that occurred in the United States from the 1980s forward,
paralleled by the spread of the neoliberal economic paradigm to the global
South. As scholar and social justice activist Angela Davis has highlighted,
prisons were central to the government’s strategy of addressing the structural
violence “produced by the deindustrialization, lack of jobs” and “lack of
education” that has characterized this era, impacting poor people of color in
With the “war on terror,” the practice of mass incarceration has expanded in
use and impact, resulting in a dramatic increase in the targeting of Muslim
and Arab communities. An Associated Press report in 2011 found that in the
United States alone, there had been 2,934 terrorism-related arrests and 2,568
convictions since September 11, 2001 – eight times the number of such arrests
in the previous decade.

In the United States
alone as of 2011,
there have been 2,934
terrorism-related arrests
and 2,568 convictions
since September 11,
2001 – eight times the
number of such arrests in
the previous decade.

Activists have raised serious concerns regarding the “discriminatory
investigations”36 and “questionable”37 prosecutorial tactics that have
characterized many of these cases. These allegations were detailed in a
report by Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights
Institute, which cited prosecutors’ use of “evidence obtained by coercion,
classified evidence that cannot be fairly contested, and inflammatory evidence
about terrorism in which defendants played no part” to convict suspects of
Another unsavory feature of these cases has been “fabricated war crimes,”
including “conspiracy” and “material support,” that have been widely used to
convict people when in normal legal circumstances there would be no grounds
for charge. Moreover, nearly three-quarters of convictions in the “war on terror”
are “based on suspicion of the defendant’s perceived ideology and not on his/
her criminal activity,” according to a report published by the Muslim civil rights
group SALAM and the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms.39
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 27

Additionally, “war on terror” cases in the United States have reinforced the
widespread use of plea bargains against individuals from marginalized and
oppressed communities, with more than 90 percent of cases settled before going to
court. According to SALAM, “terror enhancement” effectively quadruples normal
sentences, enabling prosecutors to “force defendants to accept plea-bargains as
the only alternative to draconian prison terms.” Once in prison, these detainees
and prisoners are subjected to “harsh and at times abusive conditions,” including
“prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions.”40
Perhaps the most notorious of the U.S. “war on terror” incarceration sites has been
the extralegal regime at Guantanamo Bay, where a majority of the remaining 149
prisoners have been long cleared for release.41 Inmates in this island prison have
been subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment – including torture and
long periods of solitary confinement – without the opportunity to see or challenge
the alleged evidence that sent them there. Detainees who have launched hunger
strikes in protest of their conditions have been force fed through tubes brutally
shoved down their throats.
Added to that are numerous “war on terror” extraterritorial and extralegal “black
sites” that have been established around the world, as well as harsh incarceration
regimes found within U.S. borders, most notoriously “communication management
units” (CMUs).42 Described as “little Gitmos” due to their similarities to
Guantanamo Bay, these self-contained units within the federal prison system employ
harsh segregation and control measures against largely Muslim prisoners.43

Banners for imprisoned Palestinian leader Ahmad Sa’adat and late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in Bethlehem.

28 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Israel’s use of incarceration and the threat of incarceration is a
deliberate political tool – a justification for encouraging self-demolition and selfdeportation and when that does not work, a tool to undermine the social, political
and economic fabric of Palestinian communities.
As the delegation proceeded, each of us processed our shock and revulsion at
the terrible conditions and obstacles to self-determination and violations of
international legal standards that we witnessed. But we also learned lessons
about persistence and commitment to continue the struggle even in the face of
unbelievable barriers and oppression. As Aram Mahameed, a lawyer we met with at
Adalah in Haifa, said, “Things will not continue like this – because they cannot.”
We saw the internal contradictions witnessed by people from all over the world
who come to Palestine to volunteer and see these violations of international
standards. Attending a weekly protest in Nabi Saleh against the wall that cuts off
access to much of the village’s land and the theft of its water source, we talked with
solidarity volunteers from many countries, among them two young Israeli women
who are refusing to serve in the Israeli army because of the occupation and an
Israeli mother of a soldier.
We take heart also from the growing worldwide support for boycott, divestment
and sanctions that in at least one specific campaign, touches directly on issues
regarding prisoners held under Israeli occupation;44 and from the growing
recognition of common interests in combating repression of popular resistance
to oppression, horrific violence against civilians, mass incarceration and walls –
whether in Palestine, Ferguson, or on the U.S.-Mexican border.
The Key of Return in Aida
Refugee Camp, symbolizing
Palestinian refugees’ right of
return, denied for 66 years.

In May, under international pressure, the Gates Foundation disclosed that it has sold the
bulk of its shares in the world’s largest private military and security company, G4S. More than 100
Palestinian and international organizations launched a campaign calling on the Gates Foundation to
divest its $167 million stake in the company. Universities, banks, charities and trade unions across
the world have terminated contracts with the British-based G4S multinational security corporation
over its contracts with Israel’s prison system, costing the company millions of pounds. But despite
some evidenced discomfort, G4S continues to refuse to sever ties with the Israeli Prison Services.
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 29

Delegate Biographies
Azadeh N. Shahshahani is a human rights attorney based in Atlanta and President
of the National Lawyers Guild. Azadeh also joined NLG delegations to postrevolutionary Tunisia and Egypt. She writes frequently on U.S. foreign policy and
domestic civil liberties issues for publications such as the Huffington Post, Truthout,
Aljazeera America and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Azadeh is a 2004 graduate
of the University of Michigan Law School and also has a Master’s in Modern
Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Michigan. .
Karen Jo Koonan has served as national president of the Lawyers Guild, the
only non-lawyer to hold that office in the Guild’s 75-year history. She has been
involved in the NLG since 1969, when she opened the San Francisco office of the
Guild. She is nationally recognized for her background and expertise in civil rights
and employment law, plaintiffs’ personal injury, criminal defense and commercial
litigation. She has been a trial consultant with NJP Litigation Consulting/West since
1987. Her resume includes consultation on almost 2,000 cases covering a wide range
of litigation from conventional cases to complex legal matters. She has assisted in
more than 500 jury selections.
Susan Kaplan is a Chicago attorney who has been a NLG member since legal
workers were admitted to the organization. After receiving her law degree in 1976,
she pursued a career in criminal defense. In 1985 she became the founding director
of the Community Economic Development Law Project, a project of the Chicago
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. In this capacity she recruited attorneys to
provide pro bono transactional legal representation to community organizations and
low-income entrepreneurs. She has been on the Board of Directors of the local NLG
chapter as well as on the boards of local community organizations.
Andrew Dalack graduated from the University of Michigan Law School shortly
before the delegation in May 2014. He is co-chair of the NLG’s Palestine
Subcommittee and works for a public defender office in New York City. He speaks
Arabic, and assisted in translation and interpretation during the delegation.
David L. Mandel is active with Jewish Voice for Peace as well as the NLG
Palestine Subcommittee. He has been involved for more than four decades in
struggles for justice and peace in Palestine-Israel, including from 1974 to 1985 in
Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He worked there and afterward in the U.S. as an editor, also
writing extensively for U.S. and European publications about Middle East politics.
He attended law school in Jerusalem and later worked as a legal aid managing
attorney in Sacramento, where he lives. Since 2011, he has worked as a volunteer,
mostly as an organizer and human rights attorney focused on Palestine, free speech
and related issues.

30 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Additional Biographies
The following individuals did not attend the delegation but were involved in
significant aspects of preparation for the delegation, legal and academic analysis
and the preparation of this report:
Audrey Bomse has been a lawyer since 1980 and an activist basically all her
life. She is a longtime NLG member, co-chair of the Palestine Subcommittee for
several years and past co-chair of the now defunct Prisoner Rights Committee.
She spent seven years in Palestine as a human rights lawyer, concentrating on
Palestinian prisoners, particularly on the issue of torture. She has written about the
apartheid justice system in the occupied Palestinian territories and about the role
of torture.
Corinna Mullin is an activist and academic currently based in Tunis. Mullin spent
time working and studying in Palestine throughout the 2000s and taught summer
courses at An-Najah University in Nablus in 2010-2011.
Charlotte Kates is the staff coordinator for the NLG’s International Committee
and coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. She has
organized multiple delegations to Palestine and is a member of the organizing
committee of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
She is a graduate of Rutgers University School of Law.

A special thank you to Bradley Parker of Defence for Children International –
Palestine for his involvement in supporting the delegation and reviewing the text
of the report, and to Randa Wahbe of Addameer for guiding and organizing the
delegation’s work in Palestine.

Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 31

Organizations with which the delegation met45
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
Defence for Children International Palestine
Hurryyat Center
Lajee Center
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)
Stop the Wall
YMCA East Jerusalem
http:// www.ej-YMCA .org
Other Relevant Organizations:
Nabi Saleh Solidarity
UFree Network

This is not a comprehensive list of the meetings which the delegation held, but a list of key
reference websites for those wishing to learn more about the issues explored by the delegates.
32 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Articles and Publications:
Abu Ghoulmeh, Ahed. “Palestinian prisoners in occupation prisons: Current
reality and national tasks.” October 2013, Samidoun. http://samidoun.
Addameer, Courageous Voices, Fragile Freedoms: Israel’s Arrest and Detention
of Palestinian Human Rights Defenders against the Annexation Wall. 2013,
Addameer, Denial of the right to life and liberty of person as a crime of
apartheid. 2011,
Addameer, Stolen Hope: Political Detention in the West Bank. 2011, http://
Al-Haq, Legitimising the Illegitimate: The Israeli High Court of Justice
and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 2010,
Baker, Abeer and Anat Matar. Threat: Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel.
2011, Pluto Press.
Butler, Judith, Angela Davis, Mai Masri and Lena Meari, “Carceral Politics in
Palestine and Beyond: Gender, Vulnerability, Prison,” April 5, 2012, Columbia
University. and https://
Davis, Angela and Noura Erakat. “Mass Incarceration in the U.S. & Palestine:
A Conversation with Angela Davis and Noura Erakat,” April 23, 2014, Rachel
Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. Video:
Davis Bailey, Kristian. “The Ferguson/Palestine Connection.” Ebony, August
19, 2014.
Defence for Children International - Palestine, Bound, Blindfolded and
Convicted: Children held in military detention. 2012,

Defence for Children International - Palestine, Growing Up Between Israeli
Settlements and Soldiers, 2014.
Jawabreh, Leena. “Facing Imprisonment in Israeli Jails: A Palestinian Woman’s
Testimony.” 2013, Samidoun.
Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine | 33

Makhoul, Ameer. “How hunger strikers ‘tied the hands of the occupation:’ a view
from Israeli prison.” 2012, Electronic Intifada. http://familiesfriendsassociation.
Makhoul, Ameer. “What Palestinian Prisoners are Fighting For.” 2012, Electronic
Meari, Lena. “Sumud: A Palestinian Philosophy of Confrontation in Israeli Prisons.”
South Atlantic Quarterly 113:3, Summer 2014.
Military Court Watch, The UNICEF Report: Children in Israeli Military Detention:
Progress Report - 12 Months On. March 2014,
PCATI, From the Testimony of a Palestinian Woman: Special Report. 2013, http://
Shahshahani, Azadeh and Corinna Mullin. “From Gaza to Ferguson: Exposing the
Toolbox of Racist Repression.” Huffington Post, August 22, 2014. http://www.
UNICEF, Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and
Recommendations. 2013,

34 | Prisoners of Injustice: Report of the National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Palestine

Art by Nidal al-Khairy in the office of Stop the Wall.

National Lawyers Guild |
NLG International Committee |
For inquiries regarding this delegation, or to invite a delegate to speak,
please contact:
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