Three thousand Palestinian prisoners carried out a one-day hunger strike on Feb. 24 to protest the torture and murder of Arafat Jaradat, who had been held by Israel’s infamous Shin Bet internal intelligence service. (Al-Jazeera, Feb. 24) They joined four other hunger strikers already protesting the inhuman conditions inside Israeli jails and detention centers.
The West Bank and Gaza have been rocked in past weeks by protests in solidarity with prisoners detained by Israel. News of Jaradat’s death came one day after 94 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces during demonstrations in the West Bank to demand the release of the four hunger strikers.
Jaradat was arrested on Feb. 18 for allegedly having thrown a stone at an armed Israeli soldier during Israel’s aerial bombing of Gaza last November. The supposed incident took place near an illegal Israeli settlement. He was held in the al-Jalameh prison for four days before being transferred to Israel’s Megiddo prison, near Haifa. When he was arrested, he was not suffering from any diseases or health conditions, according to family members.
Jaradat had just turned 30 and lived in Sa’eer, a village near Hebron. He was married and had a four-year-old daughter, Yara, and a two-year-old son, Muhammad. Jaradat and his spouse, Dalal Ayayda, were expecting their third child in June. Jaradat was also in his first year at al-Quds Open University.
The Israeli authorities tried to cover up their crime. “I can confirm that a Palestinian prisoner died today in the Meggido prison. It was probably a cardiac arrest. I don’t have additional details at the moment,” said Sivan Weizman, an Israeli prisons spokesperson, on Feb. 23. The Shin Bet internal intelligence service claimed that Jaradat had been taken ill just before his death. “Medics were called to treat him but they were unable to save his life,” Shin Bet said in a statement. (Al-Jazeera, Feb. 24)
These assertions were all proven to be lies following an autopsy performed by the Israelis and monitored by the Palestinian Authority: “The autopsy clearly proved that the victim’s heart was healthy, which disproves the initial alleged account, presented by occupational authorities that he died of a heart attack. Jaradat had sustained injuries and severe bruising in the upper right back area and severe bruises of sharp circular shape in the right chest area,” said Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian minister of detainee affairs.
Qaraqe said, “The autopsy revealed evidence of severe torture on the muscle of the upper left shoulder, parallel to the spine in the lower neck area and evidence of severe torture under the skin and inside the muscle of the right side of the chest. His second and third ribs in the right side of the chest were broken, and he also had injuries in the middle of the muscle in the right hand.”
Qaddura Fares, president of the Palestinian Prisoners Society, added that the examination revealed seven injuries to the inside of the lower lip, bruises on his face and blood on his nose. (palsolidarity.org, Feb. 23)
On the same day that Jaradat’s autopsy was released, two Palestinian protesters were shot by Israeli settlers at a demonstration against Israeli settlements.
The clash took place in the northern village of Kusra. Palestinian demonstrators said Helmi Abdul-Aziz, 24, was shot in the stomach in the skirmish with Jewish settlers, who also shot 14-year-old Mustafa Hilal in the foot. A Palestinian hospital official said Abdul-Aziz was in serious condition.
As in the former apartheid regime of South Africa, the Israeli government permits illegal settlers on Palestinian land to carry arms. Palestinians are forbidden to have weapons.
Villagers said the incident began when a group of Jewish settlers encroached on their village lands and fired guns. They said the settlers chased a Palestinian farmer and his family off his land, prompting the farmer to call on residents for help.
An Israeli military official said about 200 Palestinians and 25 Israeli settlers took part in the clashes and that Israeli forces dispersed Palestinian protesters using “riot dispersal means.” According to witnesses, a 15-year-old demonstrator was hit in the eye with a rubber bullet. (Al-Jazeera)
Jaradat was originally arrested for demonstrating outside an illegal Israeli settlement.
According to Addameer, a Palestinian human rights group, more than 202 detainees have died or been killed in Israeli prisons since 1967. Dozens also died after their release due to diseases they contracted in prison or complications resulting from extreme torture and bad conditions. Today, the Israeli prison system holds close to 4,600 Palestinians on a range of charges; 159 are being held in so-called administrative detention without charges or having had a trial.
The Israeli settler regime has been propped up by hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. military and economic support. Ever since it seized the land from the Palestinian people living there, it has been an imperialist outpost in Wall Street’s war to crush the liberation struggles of the formerly colonized peoples of the oil-rich Middle East and North Africa.