Truthdigger of the Week: Khalida Jarrar
Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.
In the middle of the night April 2, less than 24 hours after Palestine obtained membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC), dozens of Israeli soldiers burst into the Ramallah home of the prominent Palestinian lawmaker and leftist activist Khalida Jarrar and seized her.
Insofar as we believe the Israeli authorities, Jarrar is the most dangerous woman in the Middle East.
Given her leadership in cementing the Palestinian bid to join the ICC treaty — which covers the Israel-Gaza conflict last summer in which more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed — this may well be the case. Palestinian leaders have described accession to the ICC as a key means to “internationalizing” the conflict, with their membership to the Hague-based court paving the way for prosecution of Israel for war crimes.
Jarrar, a 52-year-old mother of two who suffers from serious health issues, has been declared a security risk for decades without ever being charged with any criminal offense.
She is a senior lawyer for the PLO and a member of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. She was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in 2006 and heads its committee on prisoners, and she serves as the Palestinian representative on the Council of Europe.
She has long been a vociferous opponent of Israel’s policy of security coordination, is one of the region’s most prominent feminist voices and is a tenacious advocate for the rights of Palestinian political prisoners.
A member of several women’s rights organizations, Jarrar has worked with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and is vice chair of the board of the Palestinian human rights organization Addameer.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, she was arrested for breaching travel restrictions imposed in August that banned her from leaving the Jericho area. Rejecting the “special supervision order,” she set up a protest tent outside the PLC office in Ramallah, where she had been living and working and which was frequented by numerous Palestinian and international delegations.
In the words of a Haaretz editorial, she was held in “vindictive administrative detention” and charged April 15 by an Israeli military tribunal on a dozen seemingly trumped-up political charges. An open letter signed by 58 members of the European Parliament describes the move as “a clearly political attempt to undermine Palestinian leadership and thwart Palestinian attempts to pursue justice in the International Criminal Court.”
The letter states:
“The arrest of Jarrar and other Members of the Palestinian Parliament and their transfer from occupied territory into Israel are not only in violation of Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention but also blatantly violate international conventions and practices regarding the immunity of elected officials. Palestinian parliamentarians are frequently held in administrative detention without charge or trial, or tried in military courts that are mechanisms to produce a political result and in no way meet standards for a fair trial.”
Jarrar now joins 16 other elected Palestinian lawmakers held in Israeli jails, and her arrest means that more than 10 percent of Palestinian parliamentarians have now been detained by Israeli forces. More than half of those have not stood trial or been charged.
She also joins some 424 administrative detainees held by the Israeli state without legal process. According to the United Nations Human Rights Office, 181 were held at the same point last year. Since 1967, Israel has detained and imprisoned more than 800,000 people from the occupied Palestinian territory.
An April 7 statement issued by several human rights organizations expressed “grave concern” for the welfare of Jarrar, who must take medical lab tests every three days because of chronic conditions affecting her brain and circulatory system. The ban imposed on her movement since 1998 means that she has been allowed to travel on only one occasion for medical treatment, in 2010 following diplomatic intervention and legal proceedings. It is unlikely that Jarrar will receive the necessary medical care in Israel’s HaSharon Prison, where she is being held indefinitely.
Jarrar “apparently dared to violate the foolish order,” the Haaretz editorial explained, “and for that she is being punished now with administrative detention. This is how Israel seeks to deter every Palestinian public activist — not to mention one involved with advancing the processes in the International Criminal Court — from realizing his or her rights.”
“If Jarrar broke the law, Israel must put her on trial and prove she committed a crime. If, on the other hand, the reason for her detention is revenge, she must be released immediately.”
When Palestinian leaders applied to join the ICC, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared they had chosen “a path of confrontation” and that Israel would “not sit idly by.” Soon afterward, the Israeli government stopped the transfer of about $400 million in tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority between January and March 2015. As a result, 160,000 Palestinian government employees were paid only 60 percent of their salaries for three months.
These measures — including the aggressive persecution of Jarrar, an elected official — are Israel’s message to the Palestinian people not to challenge its power. As Israel attempts to silence and break her down, what makes Khalida Jarrar, our Truthdigger of the Week, so dangerous is her speaking truth to this power.