Israeli occupation authorities ban celebration for new freed Palestinian detainees

By Wafaa Al-Udaini

The day of freedom from prison is a special day for Palestinian political prisoners and their families. It is considered a national day where celebrations are held, and fireworks launched.  

Yet, according to Israeli laws against Palestinians of Jerusalem al-Quds, freed prisoners of Jerusalem al-Quds are not allowed to hold any kind of celebration, whether in their neighborhood or in their own homes. 

Furthermore, freed prisoners are often re-arrested by the occupation police to sign pledges to not hold any celebrations, ceremonies and even the Palestinian flag; they are also not allowed to receive guests who wish to congratulate them on their release. 

On Tuesday, March 30, 2021, the Israeli occupation forces stormed the home of Majd Barbar, former Palestinian political prisoner, released after 20 years of detention, one day earlier. They kidnapped him and attacked family members and friends who were present in his home, in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood of occupied Jerusalem al-Quds. 

Barbar was released again after one day of detention, but under several conditions, including pledging not to hold celebration events, not to raise the Palestinian flag, not launching fireworks; and to pay a financial guarantee of 1,000 NIS.  

Barbar is a father of two and has been detained by the Israeli occupation forces since 2001. On the day of his release, his family, friends and neighbors of his Jerusalem al-Quds neighborhood welcomed him grandly. Several touching videos of this welcoming back reunion featuring Majd Barbar with his loved ones went viral on social media. 

Zaina, 20-year-old daughter of Majd said, "The occupation always tries to snatch any joy and happiness from our hearts. It's really unfair! The moment of my father's freedom is so significant in our lives; Israel took him away from me since I was 15 days old."

Ali Almoghrabi, spokesperson of the Asra Information Office, said that this is a familiar pattern with Palestinian political prisoners held in the Israeli military prisons. "When they end their sentence, they are re-arrested. This Israeli policy is mostly used in Occupied Jerusalem al-Quds. Some ex-prisoners have been forcibly deported from their hometown for days, while others have been prohibited from celebrating or participating in any political or peaceful events," he stated.  

"The occupation aims at keeping Palestinians of Jerusalem al-Quds in states of pain, frustration and sadness. It doesn't want them to connect with their Palestinian identity", he added. 

For Jerusalemite ex-prisoners, the Israeli authorities re-detained many of them as they walked out of prison after serving long years. 

"They were kidnapped and re-detained by Israeli forces and then re-released under restricted conditions by signing pledges to not celebrate or participate in any political or peaceful events", said Amjad Abu Assab, head of the Committee of Families of Prisoners from Jerusalem al-Quds. 

Ali Almoghrabi, stated in an interview, "Such celebrations are considered as one of the popular resistance methods so the Occupation tries to stop them and kill any spirit of resistance or patriotism." 

The total number of Palestinians held in Israeli jails today is nearly 5,000, of whom 450 remain in administrative detention. Over 500 prisoners, including women and minors, are from Jerusalem al-Quds alone. 

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, the Israelis follow this policy in order to keep Palestinians in Occupied Jerusalem al-Quds oppressed and disappointed so that no one can see the prisoner as a hero.  

"The Israeli policy of no-celebration is nothing new," the spokesman of Asra Information Office explained. "All the Israeli policies used against the prisoners are totally racist. They want to bury the Palestinian identity from Jerusalemites to show that Jerusalem al-Quds is completely Jewish." He added that this policy is not implemented on the Israelis. 

The Israelis also use another policy to oppress and harass newly freed Jerusalemites by deporting them to another city. Such a gross injustice happened to Waseem Aljallad a year ago. 

Wassem Aljallad, 42, from Jerusalem al-Quds was re-detained and transferred to al-Maskubiya police station immediately after he had been freed from a 15-year prison sentence.  

Aljallad was a new groom when he was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces. While the latter raided his home to re-arrest him, he was in pyjamas, and they dragged him this way out of his home. He was accused of participating in anti-occupation military operations. 

His family planned to hold his wedding ceremony again after finishing his sentence, but the Israeli authorities forced him to cancel his wedding ceremonies and not to celebrate his release nor to attend any gatherings as a condition to his re-release. 

They also deported him from Jerusalem al-Quds for two weeks and compelled him to pay a financial guarantee of $1,400 and another unpaid amount of $25,000. He was released one day after the expected day on July 2019. His mother said in pain that they waited this day.  

The harassing policies that Israel applies against newly freed Palestinian prisoners vary according to the prisoners' home regions and positions. Since the Israeli occupation forces fully control Jerusalem al-Quds, they have completely banned celebrations there. In the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, prisoners are sometimes released at dawn or midnight to ensure families and friends cannot immediately greet and celebrate with the newly freed Palestinians. In cases where the detention of Palestinian political prisoners has grabbed media attention, like for teenager Ahed Tamimi, long-hunger-striker Khader Adnan, and journalist Mohammed AlQeeq, the Israeli authorities apply yet again different post-release policies. 

Several human rights organizations demand that Israel stops these sadistic and harassing policies of freed Palestinian political prisoners. 

Wafaa al-Udaini is a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza.