World without prisons

Palestine Update 356

 World without prisons

Arab Parliaments demand instant release of Palestinian Prisoners
On the eve of Palestinian Prisoners Day, the Cairo-based Arab States’ Parliaments Forum, on Thursday, called for the immediate release of all Palestinian prisoners from various Israeli prisons and detention centers, as well as halt of all Israeli violations against the Palestinian people. In a statement, issued by the forum on the eve of Palestinian Prisoners Day, head of the forum, Mr. Mash’al Alselmy, demanded all relevant international bodies, including the United Nations, right groups and the International Committee of the Red Cross, to take the lead by ensuring full protection for Palestinian prisoners, under the spread of Coronavirus pandemic, worldwide, Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. He asserted that the suffering of Palestinian people, especially those women, children, patients and elderly, inside Israeli prisons, should dictate all concerned bodies to pressure Israeli government to respect the international law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons, in Time of War, which he believes could be applied on current times, as Coronavirus is reported to have spread widely including Palestinian prisoners themselves.
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Thousands join virtual rally to demand World without Prisons as Coronavirus Spreads in Detention Centers than 25,000 people attended a virtual rally held on Facebook and Zoom Friday in honor of Palestinian Prisoners Day to call for worldwide prison abolition as the coronavirus pandemic causes deadly outbreaks in detention centers around the globe. Human rights advocates and prison abolitionists including Mariame Kaba, former Palestinian prisoners Ahed Tamimi and Dareen Tatour, and Marc Lamont Hill spoke at the rally organized by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). The speakers demanded a “world without prisons” and warned about the grave danger of keeping millions of people—many of whom have committed minor, non-violent crimes and who have not yet been tried in court—in confinement during a global pandemic. “In the midst of a global pandemic, prisons are petri dishes and all sentences are death sentences,” JVP said in a press statement.

In Israeli military prisons, the Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-detainees’ Affairs told Al Jazeera Friday, at least 700 Palestinians have contracted the virus. “Our prisoners are rotting in Israeli prisons and they have been there for years,” said Tatour, who served 97 days in an Israeli prison for poetry she published on social media. “Their health is deteriorating daily because they are thrown in small cells with no windows, light, or air. Our prisoners are suffering daily from the epidemic of occupation, oppression, suffering, and medical neglect. In these difficult days of coronavirus, the prison administration is taking advantage of this pandemic and global crisis. On Palestinian Prisoners Day, we unite in our commitment to work together until Palestinians are liberated and Palestinian prisoners are set free, and we finally are all cured from this disease.”

Gaza produces millions of Facemasks for Europe
Sewing factories in the Gaza Strip have been busy manufacturing face masks for the local and international markets in response to the coronavirus crisis. Abdullah Shehadeh, one of the administrators at the Hasco sewing factory, said 40 workers have been working hard to make the masks. They are continuing to operate in spite of the difficult situation in the Strip as a result of the ongoing 14-year Israeli imposed blockade and the coronavirus pandemic, he explained. They are doing this to help people in Europe and support their efforts to tackle the virus, Shehadeh added, because human life is above all political differences. The factory will continue to operate for as long as the occupation allows the necessary materials into the Strip. With 13 coronavirus cases already confirmed in the Gaza Strip, hospitals that were once overwhelmed by gunshot wounds and amputations are now gearing up for a very different challenge in a densely populated, coastal enclave of two million Palestinians, many living in refugee camps.
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Why Israel and Hamas are suddenly on the same side

“When Israel and Hamas engage in public it is usually to exchange insults, accusations, threats, or even physical attacks in attempts to inflict maximum mutual harm. It therefore came as somewhat of a surprise when the two sides struck a more conciliatory tone of readiness to engage in prisoner exchange and provide humanitarian assistance to the stricken Gaza Strip. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a call through his office at the beginning of the month for the immediate resumption of talks, through international mediators, to conclude a prisoner swap, with Hamas hopeful of recovering its “war dead and missing soldiers,” and thus conclude this tragic saga.

It is not often that the interests of Israel and Hamas align so closely, but at the moment both sides seem keen to at least negotiate, motivated partly by a period of quiet along their border, but even more so by the havoc threatened by the coronavirus. In the coincidental intersection between the pandemic and both sides’ commitment to their people in captivity lies an opportunity to strike a deal that would include an exchange of prisoners and the supply of humanitarian aid to Gaza, which is an Israeli interest as much as a Palestinian one”.

Walls and weapons can’t stop a virus, priorities must change!
The coronavirus has exposed the naked truth about defective global health, economic, and security systems more than millions of articles, publications and books ever could. It has uncovered the glaring truth about a neo-liberal system that allowed eight men to own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity.

This virus is reminding us of the disparity in global health expenditure, with health spending in 2017 for low-income countries not exceeding USD 41 per person per year compared to USD 10 224 in the US, or USD 5 728 in Germany for example. The crisis has also demonstrated that the amount of money spent on health alone is not an adequate measure for good health standards. In the US, for instance, 17 per cent of the gross national income is spent on healthcare, yet 27.5 million people did not have health insurance at any point during 2018 and only 34.4 per cent of the population had public (non-private) health insurance.

Most of that money goes into the pockets of insurance and drugs companies, not towards people’s healthcare or towards preventative and primary care. For all they take in, pharmaceutical companies have so far proven incapable of developing a vaccine for this dangerous virus. In 2018 alone, USD 1.8 trillion was spent globally on armaments and related military expenses; this represents 25 per cent of total global health expenditure (USD 7.5 trillion in 2016) These outlays, of course, are completely unable to stop the new coronavirus, which does not distinguish between a destitute person in the streets of Delhi and the richest of the world’s rich in California or New York. It also does not spare rulers, kings, prime ministers or celebrities who are as vulnerable to the virus as ordinary citizens.

In Palestine, for example, the coronavirus pandemic is highlighting the impact of Israel’s apartheid policies on our healthcare system and ability to protect our communities. Health officials and medical professionals are doing their best to keep the virus at bay, but fighting coronavirus is not easy under military occupation; there is an acute shortage of equipment – including testing kits – while in Gaza, basic infrastructure including electricity and sanitation is already at breaking point.