BETHLEHEM, OCCUPIED WEST BANK—The economic blockade against Palestinians is also affecting human rights organizations and NGOs in general. I talked with the Palestinian Prisoner Society’s General Director of Media in the West Bank, Basim Sbeih, about the situation. “We have 30 lawyers working on representing the prisoners in Israeli jails. However, the funding stopped, including the payroll for the lawyers working with us. This has created a strangulating crisis in their work. The lawyers are threatening to strike from representing prisoners in Israeli military courts as they need to be paid.”
Sbeih continued, “The lawyers are the only link between the prisoners and their families and human rights organizations, and in particular the Palestinian Prisoner Society, which represents 4,000 prisoners yearly in Israeli military courts.” Currently, there are approximately 9,400 Palestinians languishing in Israeli prisoners, many without
charge or trial under the Israeli policy of Administrative Detention. Sbeih discussed the case of an imprisoned woman, Manal Ghanam. “From Tulkarem, 30-year-old Manal Ghanam gave birth to her son Nour at the end of September 2003. The Israeli court ruled to separate them on the 11 May, today. Ghanam who had her baby with her and is now slated to lose him, met with her husband and three other children in an open room in the prison. The point was for baby Nour to become acquainted with his siblings and his father whom he has never known.”
Nour had only seen his siblings through plate-glass visiting stations or through bars. He was never allowed to touch them, according to earlier reports when the original story broke regarding the Israeli court’s decision to separate mother and child. Sbeih continued, “Relating to other female prisoners, Sumar Sbeih, who gave birth in the prison hospital on 30 April via caesarean section, gave birth in handcuffs and shackles. After the caesarian, she was transferred to another room were she remained in shackles for three days. Three prison guards took shifts imposing strict measures upon her. After three or four days of having given birth, she was transferred to Ramle Prison where she now lives with her newborn.” Not wanting to leave anyone out, Sbeih added, “I want to note that three female prisoners have given birth in Israeli prisons during this Intifada. The now freed woman, Merva Taha, gave birth to her son in prison on Feb. 8, 2002, and she was finally released with her baby at the beginning of 2005.