Triple jeopardy for Palestinian prisoners

This metaphor for layers of unjust suffering pertains to the abuse of Palestinian prisoners in the context of the health dangers associated with the COVID-19 challenge. Such dangers were present for Palestinians under pre-pandemic conditions, but greatly aggravated by Israeli failures to mitigate the additional and aggravated risks that come from keeping around 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in overcrowded prisons where some of the guards and security personnel had tested positive for the virus yet continue to interact with prisoners without even wearing prescribed personal protective gear (PPE), and where insufficient hospital and medical capabilities existed in the event that the disease started to spread.

This overall sub-par situation was further accentuated by 172 or so child prisoners, many elderly and disabled prisoners, and almost all inmates incarcerated for security offenses that should never have been criminalized as falling within the scope of a right of persons living under an apartheid regime, which is itself criminal, to exercise their right of resistance, at least within the limits of international law regulating violence by reference to the choice of targets. Israel has not accepted WHO guidelines or a variety of humanitarian to release at least ‘low-risk’ prisoners as well as those with ‘underlying conditions,’ children, and the elderly. Taking these considerations into account the ‘triple jeopardy’ framing seems justified underscoring the layers of injustice endured by Palestinian prisoners at this time. As the Palestinian writer Ramzy Baroud writes, “… all of Palestine has been in a state of ‘lockdown’ since the late 1940s when Israel became a state and the Palestinian homeland was erased by Zionist colonialists with the support of Western In effect, all Palestinians are enduring an unjust ‘imprisonment’ that has lasted for more than 71 years with no signs of abatement, and is itself a punishment for the ‘crime’ of existing western benefactors” .

On this basis, the criminalization of resistance, including nonviolent and symbolic forms, extending even to poems (for example, Dareen Tatour, and her crime, the poem “Resist, my people, resist them”), has resulted in harsh confinement in Israeli prisons, including reliance on such legally dubious mechanisms as ‘administrative detention’ (imprisoning without charges or any due process for extended periods) and the unlawful transfer of prisoners from detention in Occupied Palestine to Israeli prisons out of reach of family members). In effect, the imprisoning of Palestinians in Israeli jails is Double Jeopardy because it puts Palestinians already being punished by lockdown, displacement, and dispossession behind bars because they dared to resist.

The allegation of Triple Jeopardy arises from the failure to suspend or mitigate prison condition in light of the Coronavirus Pandemic, and the related failure to take responsible steps to protect those so confined from contracting the potentially lethal disease. A virtual death sentence hangs over every single Palestinian prisoner, and in an especially acute form with respect to particularly vulnerable Palestinians living in crowded unhealthy prisons.

Toward Solutions?

For Double Jeopardy: seek to accommodate an ethos of hospitality and empathy with a major commitment to remove the conditions of mass desperation prompting large numbers to leave their homelands, ideally funded by a globally administered tax on luxury goods, financial transactions, fossil fuels, and transnational air travel.

For Triple Jeopardy: unconditionally release all Palestinian political prisoners immediately, with a sense of urgency, and commit to ending apartheid as the essential step toward a sustainable and just peace based on the equality of rights of Jews and Palestinians.
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