Talking Palestine-Israel

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A Conversation With Khalida Jarrar

Get up, Stand Up — In An Israeli Jail

By David Kattenburg

Why is Israel so afraid of Khalida Jarrar? Does it think she threatens its existence? Or has Israel jailed the 56-year-old Palestinian legislator, feminist, and human rights activist on three occasions simply as a show of power?

Hard to say. Israel claims Jarrar is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the second largest party member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (number one being Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah). Founded by George Habash in 1967, the PFLP is considered a ‘terrorist’ organization by Canada, the US, Australia, Japan and the EU.

In this interview, Jarrar says she simply shares some of the PFLP’s social and economic positions, but is not a member.

Khalida Jarrar, a mother of three, has had various run-ins with Israel’s separate-and-unequal system of laws governing Jews and Palestinians in the occupied/colonized West Bank. In 1989 she was jailed for a month for participating in an International Women’s Day event in Ramallah.

In 2014, Israeli occupation forces invaded her Ramallah home, issuing her an order to go live in Jericho, under house arrest. Jarrar — a Palestinian legislator at this point, having won a seat on the now-defunct Palestinian Legislative Council in January 2006 —  refused.

Between April 2015 and June 2016, Jarrar was jailed on secret charges. Israel said she had been encouraging attacks on Israelis. Jarrar denied the charge. Her involvement in Palestine’s successful January 2015 accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court may have been what stuck in Israel’s craw.

Jarrar was arrested once again in July 2017 and held for twenty months, until late February of this year, as an ‘administrative detainee — without charge or trial, for renewable six-month periods which tend to get renewed again and again, as they were in her case.

According to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights groups Addameer, 480 of Israel’s 5350 Palestinian prisoners are administrative detainees. Two hundred and ten are children (26 under the age of 16). Seven are members of the democratically-elected Palestinian Legislative Council, now defunct.

By one estimate, since 1967, some 800,000 Palestinians have been jailed by Israel — 20% of the total Palestinian population, 40% of the male population.

Most of Israel’s Palestinian prisoners are jailed inside Israel’s internationally recognized borders, in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 49(1) of the Convention — drafted in 1949 to protect people living under military occupation — prohibits the forcible transfer of ‘protected people’ into the territory of the occupying power.

Unlawful deportation or transfer is among a half-dozen “grave breaches” outlined in the Convention and its 1977 Additional Protocol, and is considered a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), vested with the power to interpret and call for the enforcement of the Convention, has not raised a hue and cry over this and other grave breaches on Israel’s part. Nor have any of the most powerful state parties to the Convention, who seem to believe Israel has the right to violate international law with impunity, and defend Israel’s right to do so.

While Khalida Jarrar’s most recent stint inside Israel’s HaSharon and Damon prisons was unfortunate (her health was poor), she made good use of her time, delivering courses in international law to fifty young women prisoners. Teenage activist Ahed Tamimi was among these. Everyone played cat-and-mouse, and prison authorities threatened to place Jarrar in isolation for teaching young women detainees about their rights.

I spoke with Khalida Jarrar at her home in Ramallah — about the liberation of Palestinian women, the renovation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the fate of the ‘Two-State Solution’ and the future of the Palestinian national struggle.

Listen to our conversation here:

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