Edition 2: No. 92
Badayl commemorates Palestinian Prisoners Day
Commending an article “Imagined letter from a Palestinian prisoner”
Badayl-Alternatives brings you this out-of-the-box journalism from writer-political analyst Nassar Ibrahim, Director, Alternative Information Centre/Coordinator Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI). The letter is imagined in the mind of Nassar Ibrahim but is, in fact, an incisive account of a prisoner’s everyday experience.
With over 5000 Palestinian men, women, children and elderly in prison, the indifference of the international community prompt disbelief. Ongoing peace talks now lie in near-ruins because Israel has reneged on their commitment to release a fourth batch of prisoners. Had they been released, many of them would have found themselves liberated from decades of detention. Most prisoners do not have had a shred of criminal evidence against them. The only reason they are in prison is that they had resisted the illegal occupation of their lands. It begs the questions: Is resistance against injustice a crime?
Prison conditions in Israel are abhorrent. Apart from torture, isolation, and dreadful unhygienic conditions, prisoners must undergo the frequent humiliation of malicious Israel prison guards. Israel sees international covenants on the treatment of prisoners, the rule of law when it comes to detentions and speedy trials as redundant. Arbitrary detention is common place and standard rules for the treatment of prisoners are flouted with impunity.
In his powerful letter (imagining he is one of them), Nassar Ibrahim speaks on behalf of these thousands. Quoting what he believes a prisoners mind states: “Just remember that we are not here because we are a bargaining card for a right, or part of a right. If this was the case we wouldn’t have arrived here in the first place. We are here for a cause and for this matter, WE are the cause…” In other words, prisoners are not begging for a place in the sun. They are certain that their prison term and the harsh conditions that imprisonment entails have not neutralized them. The cause of justice remains coupled to them. What they seek at the end of it all is the freedom from captivity of their peoples and nation. Not relief and rehabilitation; their human rights and dignity.
It is far beyond the time when an indifferent and indecisive international community must act to isolate and bring Israel to scrutiny for its continued occupation of Palestinian lands. Palestinians do not call for just any kind of peace arrangement. It’s not enough to end the detentions. The moral imperative is to end the injustice. Justice and justice alone must form the core of a peace agreement. Else, the multiple protests of women, men, youth and children will persist undeterred. As Thomas Jefferson says: “Justice cannot sleep forever.”!
Imagined letter from a Palestinian prisoner
Published on 17 April 2014
Written by Nassar Ibrahim, AIC & OPGAI
Good morning to us… and also good morning… to …you!
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades. Bars, wires, soldiers, rifles, walls, observation towers…but the eye keeps searching for a glimpse of hope… children, youth, old men, women and men…from here…and from there….and, from the darkness of the night, bursts an aaaaaahhhhh from the depth of the soul… continuing to dawn’s twilight, stroking the first droplets of shiny dew on a cactus, an olive tree, an almond tree, a pomegranate tree, a fig tree and a pine tree. It passes, pure and true, like a butterfly that just escaped its cocoon… a sad twinkle in the eyes, pain, reproach, anger, love, longing and willpower as high as the skies…
Oh bird of promise, fly as you please in the space of my cell, and fly over my mates asleep on their benches. Pass by their faces, gently like a breeze, and wipe their foreheads one by the other, and awaken them…whisper to them: Awake my comrade, awake my sister, my brother… good morning to us here… good morning my homeland, so close, yet far away… good morning mother, good morning father, good morning daughter, son, sister, brother, wife, lover, friend, good morning our neighbors… good morning to you all… from here, from the benches of prison we invite you for a cup of old coffee that we hid for precisely this occasion. April 17.
We don’t wish to spoil your morning coffee and its special moment; we are fine over here…. yes here…! In the Naqab, Beer A-Sabi’, Ofer, Majiddo, Al-Ramlah, Kidar, Nafha, Ramon, Dekel, Shikma, Ayalon, Ofek, Majen, Neve Terez, Nitsan, Gifon, Hadarim, Ha-Sharon, Rimonim, Petah Tikvah, Hermon, Shta, Gilboa, Kishon, Dimon, Al-Carmel, Tabariyya, Tel-Aviv… can you remember all these names and addresses? These are our places of residence, our small and big details. They are the storage place of our memories, can you still remember them?
Here we spend our nights and days, our summers and autumns, our winters, waiting for spring to arrive…which maybe…might be late! Don’t be sad too much or too little, we are more than happy here… sip your coffee, slowly. We have a long life to live, never mind another ten years, twenty years, thirty years, forty years, half a century that we spend on our glorious benches. We can wait. We will not lose anything from our lives. Yes, this is true!! As soon as one of us leaves, he returns to his age at the moment of arrest. Those who grew beards here will disappear back to adolescence, returning to be young and healthy. And whoever’s hair grew grey waiting on the bench, it will return to black, just as easily.
Whoever’s back arched in here, it will become straight and erect once again, like a bamboo stem. And whoever was blinded in here, he will regain his sight, just as Jacob did. And whoever missed the birth of his child will relive it, and whoever missed the adolescence of his daughter and the changes of her body will experience fatherhood and observe the rhythms of growing up. Don’t you worry then. We are fine here. Don’t worry and don’t shy away, whether from shame or hypocrisy. Don’t you worry leaders, parties, institutions, presidents, kings, international organizations… don’t you worry, just sip your coffee this morning, quietly, and go away. Let us continue this routine of the years of our imprisonment, those that passed and those that are about to pass. Go away, just leave us some coffee since there are comrades, brothers and sisters, in solitary confinement or in interrogation rooms. We remember them with every cup of coffee we raise toward the sun or the moon. As we expect another wave of prisoners to arrive this evening – and a guest needs to be hosted, as you know, and coffee is the best that we have here during our nights and days and mornings and noons and evenings. It is the memory of a life that we’ve forgotten, as we wait….
Here, precisely here, in Palestine, east of the Mediterranean, we the prisoners are spread across a homeland and we occupy the routes of consciousness. We scribble with a piece of coal or chalk, or the remains of a burnt loaf of bread, the map of our homeland, just so we never forget, or in fact, so you don’t forget!
Our news?!! Nothing new. We continue to draw pigeons and wheat and jasmine and guns. We nourish memories of love that we continue to convince ourselves every night is waiting for us. Who knows?! And that’s why we continue to enjoy laughing and smiling. We follow one promise after another. We’ve been waiting for long, and we don’t know whether we’ll master anything but waiting. This has become our primary skill, perhaps the only one…
News arrives: Wait! A day will come, and we wait! And we wait!! The voice fades away, the promise fades away, and we return to our benches and lean our backs against the wall, against the poles of the tent, and a hot wind blows from the desert. Or from there, from the hilltops of the Galilee, we carry a book, or a piece of paper, and we scribble with a pencil. Sometimes we just stare at the paper, we might not write a thing. And we wait…
Despite all this, and “despite this huge destruction…worry not! We are still fine in here, yes, here! Some of us are not well but we are humans after all, like everybody else, or have you forgotten that as well? But we are after all a case, a human, national special case, a multifaceted condition with deep souls and wounds. Unbeatable, yes. Perhaps it is no more than a case of national and personal perseverance and if so, so be it. The dream of crushing us has ended long ago, from the moment we become a matter for an entire nation. That’s why we don’t fear the madness of our jailers and no matter how much they try to break us, they will fail, for we’ve become, for them, after sixty years, a hopeless case. What next?! Nothing, we are still here and we did not become bastards, as they wanted or expected. Now they only continue with their sadism and madness, no more. They know deep inside themselves that they’ve failed yet they, nevertheless, continue doing their job, as a matter of routine, or habit, or descending revenge. It doesn’t matter.
On this day, our day, our holiday, April 17, good morning to us here, where we continue to wait and release flocks of pigeons. Good morning to us in every detention centre and prison and cell and tent and bench. Just remember that we are not here because we are a bargaining card for a right, or part of a right. If this was the case we wouldn’t have arrived here in the first place. We are here for a cause and for this matter, WE are the cause…
On this day we greet ourselves. Good morning to us persevering prisoners here on our benches. The morning of coffee that awaits and the remains of a cigarette that we share each evening.
Peace be upon us the day we were born and arrested and waited and the day we die…. (Salam) goodbye!