A Daring Escape

In early September six Palestinian prisoners tunnelled out of a maximum-security prison in Israel, reportedly using only a teaspoon to do so. Their unlikely escape highlighted the situation of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and riveted the attention of Israelis and Palestinians alike. Oren Ziv, a journalist who wrote about the escape and the  massive man-hunt that followed for the Israeli magazine “+ 972 Magazine,” discusses the escape, the Israeli response to it, and the different perceptions of prisoners in both Israel and Palestine. Israel considers anyone involved with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a security prisoner, whether involved in a peaceful demonstration or charged with violence or terrorism. Security prisoners have far fewer rights accorded to them than common criminals do. Palestinians consider these same prisoners political prisoners or prisoners of war. Israel currently holds 4,640 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Since 1967 and the inception of the Occupation, it has imprisoned an estimated 20 percent of the Palestinian population, a staggeringly high number. The status and condition of prisoners are`of vital importance to Palestinians. Despite the harsh conditions Palestinian prisoners are held in, Israelis often assume that they are living in luxury. Ziv notes that Israel considers any resistance to the military occupation, however mild, as illegitimate.

Following the interview with Ziv, international human rights attorney Jonathan Kuttab discusses prisoners’ rights under international law, the collective punishment Israel imposed on Palestinian prisoners following the escape, the history of the second intifada, which led to the arrest and imprisonment of most of the fugitives, and the right to resistance according to international law.

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