My name is Mohamad, I’m 38 years old and I live in Ramallah, in the West Bank. I’m a volunteer for the Palestinian Society Prisoner’s Club, an organization that documents the cases of Palestinians who got detained by Israeli authorities. In my work, I collect data, get in contact with the families of detainees, and speak with the media to keep the world updated on what is going on here in Palestine.
What we are going through is a constant violation of human rights. As you might know, we have been living under occupation since 1967, and after what happened on October 7, the situation got only worse.
We woke up with the news about the city of Jenin being targeted by an Israeli explosive drone. There were some casualties, others got injured in a refugee camp and the Israeli army was even preventing ambulances from rescuing wounded people. We are living in fear that next time this could happen to us. Could be today, tonight, or tomorrow morning, we don’t know when or where, but we are aware that something terrible is just very likely to happen.
Even in normal times, we have two main parallel violations against the Palestinian community. The first one is from the Israeli army. They are storming cities and villages with bombs and explosive drones, targeting refugee camps, and even hospitals. They cut the viability controlling the roads between villages and cities. Everything is against international law. The second violation is perpetrated by the Israeli settlers, many of whom are armed, they are attacking entire neighborhoods here in the West Bank, burning houses and shops, attacking Palestinian civilians shooting at them without any deterrent.
Another concerning aspect regards the deteriorating conditions for Palestinians in Israeli prisons, and there is an increase in the number of arrests. There are more than 8000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, 6090 of them were detained since October 7, from their houses, from the checkpoints, or simply in the street. If you are on the list of those they want to get and they don’t find you at home, they take your relatives as hostages, they even take children and elderly to put pressure, waiting for you to surrender.
People got arrested for what they published on social media, for participating in protests against the aggression on Gaza, sometimes even just having Telegram on your phone can be a reason for getting arrested. The Israeli army does not have control over Telegram and finding it on your phone, even without opening any chat or group, gives them a reason to persecute you because they think you must have something to hide.
Many don’t even know the reason why they get arrested. Under Israeli law, the army has the right to immediately arrest individuals under the title of ‘secret file’, or ‘administrative detention’. This specifically means that you can stay years in jail without a trial, without knowing what you are charged for, not even your lawyer has the right to know the reason why you are in jail. They have the right to extend the period of your detention. Some people are still in jail since 2 years under the title of administrative detention. Moreover, there is no way that you can legally defend yourself. Lawyers cannot visit detainees or access their legal file.
Since 7 October, more than 2855 Palestinians have been detained under administrative detention.
Soon, I might be one of them, I’m expecting this. I advocate for the Palestinian cause, I have an influence on my community. I have more than 1.000 followers on my social media and posting something on my Instagram page I might get arrested with administrative detention.
During the so-called pause for the hostage-prisoner swap deal, the majority of Palestinians released were detained without a formal charge. Many are threatened by Israeli authorities not to speak out about the treatment in detention.
Documenting cases, there is a story of a man from Jenin that is stuck in my mind. I will call him Ziki, to protect his identity. Ziki is 47 years old, father of 7, he was taken to jail as a hostage. The real aim of Israeli authorities was to imprison his nephew, taking Ziki was only a deterrent to convince him to surrender, but this never happened.
Ziki was caught at a checkpoint while he was coming back from work. Before he was put in jail, he was asked to kiss the Israeli flag and was beaten when he refused. Torture inside the jail caused him to have a permanent disability.
He was transferred from one prison to another without knowing where exactly. He was in a room with other detainees, minors and adults together. Some of them were sleeping on the floor because the room could not fit everyone. They were eating one boiled egg in the morning, a boiled potato for lunch, that’s all. Some detainees decided to fast and give their food to those having medical conditions. There are only a few hours of electricity in the prison. Hygienic conditions are concerning as well. There is a scarcity of water and all detainees have about 15 minutes to shower, many can’t manage to shower not even once per week, they are not allowed to have clean clothes. Tortures are unbelievable. Palestinians get handcuffed, blindfolded, threatened with rape, and burning of her children when they are on the way to the jail. Inside the prison they get beaten in the stomach, face, and sensitive parts. After 7th October, 6 prisoners were beaten to death.
We feel surrounded, we feel like we could lose everything in one moment. I’m not afraid for me, but for my family. I have a 6 years old daughter who wakes up every night asking “what if they will bomb our house tonight?”. My wife and I tried so hard to hide from her the images and videos coming from Gaza. She knows that there are bodies of children buried under the rubble. We are all afraid that what is happening there will also be in the West Bank. Many of us have relatives and friends in Gaza. The same government that is putting our brothers and sisters in Gaza under siege is oppressing us here.
From October 7 I didn’t leave Ramallah. The Israeli militaries and settlers are controlling the viability, and it is very dangerous to cross the check points and move from one city to another. In this period of the year it is very common for the residents of Ramallah to travel to Jericho where the weather is warmer. I can’t risk it this time, I don’t want to pass any checkpoint, they know everything about each one of us, they have access to all my personal data.
After the Oslo agreements, Palestinians have citizenship and an ID. However, even though documents are issued by the Palestinian authorities there is a pervasive control by Israel on our data. There is a big connection between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel. For example, when my daughter was born here in Ramallah, we went to the ministry of Interior to register her and they sent all the information to Israel before issuing her ID. Once you stop at any checkpoint Israeli authorities insert your number in the system and access your profile, your data are already there. Inserting the number of your ID in the computer will immediately give them access to your profile with all sorts of personal information, if you are married, if you have children, your house address, your profession. All movements are trucked and under control. They also have our phone numbers. That’s why we hear people reporting that they got a call by the Israeli army saying “we are going to bomb your house in 10 minutes, please evacuate” or “we are coming to arrest you, be at home”.
We hear these stories too often, it is not just because of my job, it is common for everyone. Is all around us. A dear friend of mine is now in jail under administrative detention, not even his wife knows where he is detained. No one has the right to access to any information, not the family, not the lawyer, and not even us as an advocacy organization for prisoners’ rights. We do not know whether he is alive or not. When they came to his house, a few days ago, he was with his wife at the hospital. Before he knew it, they took his father, then his brother, saying that if he would not go to the police station within 12 hours, they would have taken his 5 years old daughter. How would you feel if the Israeli army called you on your personal phone threatening you to take your children calling them by name? They even started to call his mother and father saying they would have bombed their house in Ramallah or elsewhere. They already have the sorrow of having a son in jail, how can you let old people freaking out threatening them to bomb their home. When he was young, he stayed in jail for 2 years. He was an activist, but not anymore, he has 3 daughters and his own small business. Is very different to have a family or being a teenager throwing rocks, people change. Previously Israelis were accusing him of being a Hamas supporter because he prays 5 times a day. We are now in war times, and they abuse us with every power they have.
I spend my days collecting data about detainees, with no rights, incarcerated without a trial. Every hour my people get tortured in prison. I write their stories hoping for some sort of accountability to come, thinking that one day someone else will have to tell my story, because I will also be in jail.