Palestine Panopticon


An Interview With Francesca Albanese

Carceral Continuum

Imagine an entire nation of incarcerated people: thousands behind bars; millions more imprisoned in their own communities, hemmed in by towering concrete walls, military checkpoints and marauding colonial settlers; free movement hindered or blocked by scores of laws and regulations; constantly filmed and photographed, their most intimate personal details and relationships digitally surveilled and banked; blackmailed into informing on each other.

Checkpoint 300, Bethlehem (David Kattenburg)

This is the situation in Israeli-occupied Palestine, widely described as an apartheid regime. Go here and here and here and here.

Indeed, some say, Israel’s brand of apartheid is worse than the South African prototype.


The numbers are startling. Since Israel’s conquest of the West Bank, in 1967, almost a million Palestinians have been jailed.

In flagrant breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, that sets forth the laws of ‘belligerent occupation’ and the duties of occupying powers, Israel transfers most of its Palestinian prisoners out of the occupied territories and into Israel ‘proper’.

Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states: “Protected persons accused of offenses shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein.”

Apartheid wall, Bethlehem (David Kattenburg)

Israel’s longstanding position is that the Fourth Geneva Convention doesn’t apply in the West Bank or East Jerusalem. It also insists that its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights do not extend to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, since they lie outside Israel’s sovereign territory.

Over the years, tens of thousands of Palestinian prisoners have been held under ‘administrative detention’, without charge or due process, based on secret evidence.

Distressed child at a Hebron checkpoint (David Kattenburg)

And, Israel incarcerates kids. Hundreds of youth and children, some as young as twelve, are held each year. Palestinian kids are routinely subjected to what experts call torture, in the absence of lawyers and beyond the reach of their parents.

In a recent report to the UN Human Rights Council, Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in occupied Palestine, laid out Israel’s carceral system in graphic detail – a system she says has turned occupied Palestine into a “constantly surveilled open-air panopticon.”

Listen to our conversation here: