Human Rights activist Ahmad Qatamesh, detained for 6 years in the 90s, is arrested again without charges

Omar Barghoti released this statement earlier today accompanying an article (which follows) regarding Dr. Ahmad Qatamesh, a prominent Palestinian writer, academic and human rights advocate.

“They told him they will issue an “administrative detention” order against him, clearly indicating that they have arrested him for his writings and political views. Human rights organizations have squarely condemned administrative detention as an affront to justice, as the detainee is not formally charged and is not given a chance to defend him/herself or even access to the charges list. Please distribute this to your human rights and activists networks, urging everyone to do their best to pressure Israel to release him and all other Palestinian prisoners of conscience.”

In the early hours of dawn on Thursday, 21 April 2011, a large force of Israeli soldiers and intelligence officers raided the home of the prominent Palestinian writer and academic Dr. Ahmad Qatamesh in Al-Bireh and arrested him. An hour earlier, Qatamesh’s wife, 22-year-old daughter and two other female relatives, including a 14-year-old child, were taken hostage by Israeli troops in another apartment in an effort to compel him to surrender himself. He was led to “Ofer” detention center in Beitunia.

Ahmad Qatamesh was born in 1950 in a cave in Bethlehem to a refugee family expelled during the Nakba from the village of Al-Malihah, near Jerusalem.

Qatamesh earned his diploma in Arabic literature from the UNRWA-run Teacher Training Center in Ramallah.

In 1992, he was arrested by a massive Israeli force in the presence of his then 3-year-old daughter. Accusing him of being a particularly “dangerous” national leader, the Israeli Shabak tortured and ill- treated him for a hundred days, an experience that he articulately exposed in his well-read prison notes titled I Shall not Wear Your Tarboush (fez). After the Shabak failed to produce incriminating evidence, however, an Israeli military court issued an “administrative detention” order against him, in accordance with an emergency law that allows Israel to detain for renewable terms anyone under its jurisdiction without charges, trial or access to the charges against him/her. This unjust procedure was repeatedly condemned as a violation of internationally accepted standards of justice by leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International*. Qatamesh’s detention was renewed continuously for almost six years, making him the longest serving administrative detainee ever. In April 1998, after a persistent public pressure campaign by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights activists and organizations, Qatamesh was finally released.

Ahmad Qatamesh earned his master’s degree and later his PhD in political science from a Dutch university through distance learning, as he was under a travel ban by the Israeli occupation

LATimes ’98 describes Dr. Qatamesh’s previous 6 year imprisonment: “believed to have been imprisoned longer than any other Palestinian under what Israel calls “administrative detention.”

* Amnesty International (pdf)

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 10 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. ToivoS says:

    Nonviolent resistance to British colonialism in India was considered a useful tactic because, at some level, the British were just too squeamish to engage in the violence that would be needed. Gandhi was successful.

    It remains to be seen if nonviolent resistance to Zionist oppression will be successful. After all, so far anyway, the Israelis are willing to use violence against the Palestinians that the British were unable to do against Gandhi’s movement.

    It is really ironic to hear those Zionist voices complaining “where is the Palestinian Gandhi” when Israel can use completely unopposed oppression and violence against any potential Palestinian Gandhi. And while this is happening in Israel, all we hear in the US is the plaintive cry “where is the Palestinian Gandhi” while the same press pushing this line ignores the fact he is rotting in an Israeli jail. Someday the American people will wake up.

    • RoHa says:

      “the British were just too squeamish to engage in the violence that would be needed. Gandhi was successful.”

      The role of Gandhi is frequently alleged to be overrated, but he certainly did exploit British reluctance to employ violence against the Indians.

      One reason for this reluctance was that a lot of the British people, as well as old India hands, considered Indians to be part of the family rather than foreigners or enemies.

      Another was that the world press, and especially the US press, was following Gandhi around. They were just looking for some violence to blacken the reputation of the British.

      Neither of these factors really applies to Israel.

      • Chaos4700 says:

        Um…. are people forgetting that there was violence against Indians? By British soldiers? Not to mention a military revolution? Let’s not sugar coat things here. The British weren’t awed by the shining light of Gandhi’s example. They ran the numbers and figured out that running an empire over the long term, especially over a large and distant place with a diverse culture, wasn’t worth it on the long term cost benefit analysis.

        In short, they didn’t want India to be for them what Iraq is for us now. (And ironically, what Iraq almost was for the British when they drew up the borders for Iraq and left).

        • RoHa says:

          “Um…. are people forgetting that there was violence against Indians? By British soldiers?”

          I’m certainly not forgetting it. I also am not forgetting the widespread (though not universal) outrage that was aroused in Britain by the Amritsar massacre.

          “especially over a large and distant place with a diverse culture,”

          Psychologically speaking, India wasn’t all that distant for the British. India had been part of the Empire for a long time, and the British had a sentimental attachment to the place. The people whose business was to understand the culture did understand it.

  2. annie says:

    And while this is happening in Israel, all we hear in the US is the plaintive cry “where is the Palestinian Gandhi” while the same press pushing this line ignores the fact he is rotting in an Israeli jail.

    they ignore more than that. possibly the worst development currently attacking palestinian civil society and the non violent movement as documented here by joseph dana When a Palestinian child becomes an enemy (warning/graphic)

    The method is simple and effective: arrest children in military night raids, verbally harass and traumatize them, interrogate them without the presence of lawyers or parents and inform them that the maltreatment will stop as soon as they confess that popular committee leaders instructed them to throw stones. Despite the illegality of these methods, Israel is currently deploying them in Nabi Saleh.

  3. Imprisonment without trial, torture: yes the only democracy in the Middle East brings you more examples of its peculiar version of democracy. If you are a scholar, an influential thinker who is capable of great contributions to culture and society you have no rights and further, will be punished with the aim of breaking your activities – all because you belong to the wrong group of people, who just happen to have deep roots in that country. Doesn’t democracy depend on equality before the law, habeus corpus and an independent legal system?
    This is so like the old Eastern Europe, when dissidents (ie political prisoners) were locked up indefinitely, often on spurious grounds. Israel, however, doesn’t even bother to pretend to have a reason, other than they don’t like him, and as he is Palestinian, his mere existence constitutes a grave threat to the state. The dissidents were lauded in the West for their political courage and their commitment to freedom of thought – we can only hope that people like Ahmad Qatamesh will be accorded the same respect and likewise lauded for his courage and dignity in the face of state terror and victimisation.

  4. pabelmont says:

    My understanding is that Israel has a perfect right to arrest anyone inside (pre-1967) Israel under the 1945 (British Mandate) emergency regulations or under any other law they may devise. And why not? They are sovereign there. (I sidestep the possibility that Israel has a right to arrest anyone outside Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries under Israeli law, or that the USA has a right to arrest anyone outside the USA under USA law, etc. Hard to understand how a national police force has a right to operate outside the boundaries of that nation’s national territory.)

    In the OPTs, however, compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention requires regular trial under regular laws in non-military cases. Israel may claim that the 1945 emergency regulations or laws survived the Jordanian occupation (1948-1967) and are thus the “law of the land” which Israel, as occupier, has a continuing right to enforce. Anyone know more about that? Did Jordan really leave those old laws in force?

    • annie says:

      In the OPTs, however, compliance with the Fourth Geneva Convention requires regular trial under regular laws in non-military cases.

      pabelmont, as far as i know israel considers the occupied territories under israel’s military jurisdiction and they abduct anyone they want and hold them sans charges under the old british mandate administrative detention law.

      Since 1967, Israel detained some 750,000 Palestinians, including 12,000 women and tens of thousands of children. During the First Intifada 116,000 Palestinians were detained. Since the beginning of Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, 70,000 Palestinians were detained, including 900 women and 8000 children.

      On average, 9000 Palestinians are detained yearly, including 700 children. Alone during the first 3 months of 2010 Israel detained more than 1400 Palestinians, including 90 from Gaza (18 were fishermen and 1 child), 400 from Jerusalem and 7 female detainees.

      Latest statistics show that there are over 8500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli detention; including 35 women, 337 children, 257 administrative detainees, 15 MP and 1 minister. The Israeli Prison Authority (IPA) refuses to recognize the legitimate rights of Palestinian political prisoners and violates these rights on a daily basis.

      from linah’s link.

      i am not sure what you mean by Did Jordan really leave those old laws in force?. israel left them in force and i think, according to israel, that is all that matters.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Annie Art and Peggy Gish at one point made a list of peaceful Palestinians who had been put in prison/detention for years by Israel. How Israel has kept those committed to peaceful means to bring attention to the apartheid government of Israel and to bring change. Wondering who could put a list like that together.

    Will link this piece at other sites.

    • annie says:

      kathleen, Linah linked to a site on one of the threads yesterday. i could look for it. something about 750,000 prisoners over the years. not sure how many of those were held without charges on administrative detention.