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When A Beautiful Soul Comes To Visit
by Mary La Rosa
11 Oct 2004
Tali Fahima , an Israeli woman under administrative detention, joins Palestinian women and girls held in prisons as political prisoners. The way in which Israel keeps them is cruel, without conscience and in violation of their human rights.
The Prison authority is answerable only to the Prime Minister, who has, himself, been accused of war crimes.
Please ask representatives for a full investigation into human rights violations on behalf of all the women.
Full Links and References: http://lark.phoblacht.net/mlarosasoul.html
What is it called when one sees possibility in the plight of one unfortunate person that might bring awareness to the many made miserable by similar and worse circumstances? In my heart I am optimistically opportunistic towards those forgotten souls who are women and political prisoners, living under horrific conditions in Israel's detention centers and prisons. From what I know of Tali Fahima, she would neither object nor resent carrying the extra emphasis on human rights issues for the other political prisoners who are women and who suffer especially in these Israeli prisons, Neve Tirza and Hasharon.
Tali Fahima is an Israeli woman being held in solitary confinement under administrative detention. The rumors about her that have been perpetuated in irresponsible tabloid style medias and are in some ways similar to those begun against Mordechai Vanunu while he was still in prison and towards the end of his seventeen and a half year sentence. And although he is presently in libel lawsuit against the media, Yedioth Aharonoth, including questioning the prison authority who seems to have grievously maligned him as a maker of bombs, the damage has already been done to his name and image and only adds dispersion to the threats made on his life while he is still held under the administrative restrictions that prevent him from leaving Israel.
Tali Fahima is a 28 year old independent solidarity activist, now, political prisoner. She was taken into administrative detention under false accusations which have yet to be ascertained and she is being kept in confinement under barbaric conditions and without lawful conviction. She embodies the spirit of a growing number of Israeli women in outrage and dissidence against a government's past and present practice of bellicose zionism. For all of Israel and for all of the free world, she is the current gauge of how Israel punishes a free woman in democratic practice of her civil rights and liberties as an Israeli citizen.
And although she has been shackled and interrogated and treated well below decent levels and standards, her brave spirit remains strong while the Shinbak has yet to supply adequate justification against her. She is presently being further punished for demanding her rights in prison. And for this last rebelliousness, she is now under disciplinary process which includes solitary confinement in a room with a toilet in the floor that often flows upwards and into the same space wherein she sleeps. She is not permitted books, newspapers, visits and does not have access to personal hygiene supplies required for minimal standards of health and wellness.
How odd and contradictory, that the only democracy in the Middle East is further punishing a citizen and a woman, for expressing herself about her civil and human rights. How demonstrative of the level of democratic free speech are the people kept in prisons for having it. "Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilization." Winston Churchill
For those who are concerned with Israel's image, every moment of her punishment, every moment of her "stay without charges" leads to a deeper reflection and pressing insight into the treatment of all the women and children who exist in the Israeli prison system:
Draconian prison conditions and worse exist for these other women in Tirza and Hasharon prison who are Palestinian. In considering Tali's Fahima's plight, one must consider an obligation to discover how Israel treats those even less desirable citizens than such as Tali Fahima or conscientious objector, Laura Milo . There are serious indications and testimonies, especially from WOFPP The Women's Organization for Political Prisoners that Israel imposes gross disrespect for the human rights of non-Israeli prisoners. The Women's Organization for Political Prisoners ( WOFPP) is an Israeli organization that has worked in support of women in Israel's jails since 1988. At the time of its conception, its primary concern was over torture.
This August, on the eve of the Political Prisoner Hunger Strike, Neve Tirza and Hasharon Prison held 100 Palestinian women as political prisoners . According to WOFPP the youngest detainee recently arrested is a 14 year old girl. Please note that no differential treatment is allotted to Palestinian children within the Israeli prison system and often times children are held with adult criminals, as are also the political detainees. DCI-Pal Defense of Children International- Palestine tells us of specific conditions that children suffer under Israeli prison authority.
The Palestinian prison leadership involved in this past hunger strike wished to exclude the children because of the further toll upon their immediate safety and health, but it is not clear if the children's immediate safety and health conditions have gotten worse. Many of the children are kept in prison camps that have very little protection from the elements. Those physically locked in actual prison buildings are made to suffer in different ways. DCI-Pal reports:
"Palestinian children are also detained in the Telmond Compound and Ramle Women’s Prison which are administered by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS). Here, detainees are locked in their cells for hours on end with, in some cases, only 45 minutes outdoor exercise permitted every two days. Many are forced to sleep on the floor due to overcrowding. Windows are boarded up with iron panels, which block out the light and intensify the heat in the rooms. Access to hot water is often cut and the prison guards routinely and arbitrarily beat and humiliate Palestinian detainees."
The physical conditions under which children and women exist are far removed from what one would consider civilized and humane treatment by a democratic state. These conditions must be addressed by those in Israel and those outside of Israel who maintain that Israel warrants monetary and economic support because of its democratic ideologies.
Despite the reports of flagrant violations of prisoners’ rights, many Israeli officials refuse to acknowledge any awareness or responsibility towards the rights and well-being of women and children in prison. On August 13 Israel's Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi announced that as far as he was concerned the prisoners could "strike for a day, a month, even starve to death ".
Dostoevsky's words continue to haunt and point towards those who are responsible; those who ignore the symptoms of a diseased justice and prison system: those who remain silent when they need be speaking: those who are complicit in either willful ignorance , unquestioned doubts or by actual knowledge and acceptance of what goes on in these horrible prisons where the women and children are forced to live on sub human levels:
"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." From "Notes From the House of the Dead"
WOFPP also continues in its huge effort to try and reveal to those living in Israel and abroad what these conditions are like for women and girls. WOFPP sends lawyers to all of the prisons and detention facilities in which female political prisoners are held. The prison authority makes this more difficult each time. WOFPP sends letters and newsletters in various languages that include French, Hebrew, Spanish and Japanese. And the organization attempts to directly assist women prisoners desperate for contact with families.
MIFTAH, a Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy is "a non governmental non-partisan Jerusalem based institution" that also continues to relay information out of the prisons and into the free world. MIFTAH asks for help and support for these daughters, sisters, wives and mothers.
Everyday in such prisons as Neve Tirsha and Hasharon, Palestinian women struggle to maintain their human dignity as well as solidarity with one another. They have been tortured as well as verbally, physically and sexually abused. These are the souls of women and girls routinely and rather purposefully forgotten in prison. But even with little reportage and coverage, their spirit continues to shine forth:
"I was as a gem concealed; Me my burning ray revealed." (Koran)
Lawyers are often the only direct contact that a woman or child detained in prison has and they are often themselves targeted, even placed under detentions. On February 21 2003, one such lawyer Dauod Dirawi was personally challenged when he was arrested in Jerusalem without charges. From the details of his experience one dares to imagine what it might be like to be a child or a youth in such a captivity And although he is back on the case on behalf of the children and their human rights, he was held in illegal administrative detention without any formal charges, until January 29 2004 , when he was released in a prisoner exchange of Hezbollah.
His horrific history as a detainee makes clear Israel's intentions with regard for international agreements concerning children's rights and the rights of political prisoners in general. Mr Dirawi's abuse did not however halt his effort nor his determination to collect information on behalf of the youngest of political prisoners and also to expose, via the children's testimonies, the motivations at work of the Israeli General Security Services (GSS or Shabak) who reports only to the Israeli Prime Minister:
According to DCI-Pal there are four main reasons why Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli forces:
• To threaten and intimidate those who are active against the Israeli occupation. Since Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967, the Palestinian population in these areas has struggled against this occupation. By conducting widespread arrests, imposing harsh punishments and maltreating prisoners, Israel is attempting to discourage Palestinians from engaging in struggle against the occupation. This political intent of arrests is indicated by the fact that length of sentencing, and the general manner in which children are treated in detention, depends mostly on the political situation not upon objective standards.
• To obtain confessions which incriminate others. It is clear from DCI/PS documentation that a large number of children are forced to sign confessions that they cannot read (as they are written in Hebrew, a language Palestinian children do not understand). These confessions are also extracted under conditions of torture and maltreatment. In 1981, Israel implemented a Military Order that allows for the conviction of someone based solely on the evidence of another person. Thus, a major goal of arresting children is to obtain names and information about other people who can then be arrested.
• To hold children as "bargaining chips" with the aim of pressuring the population as a whole. When children are arrested it is not only the detainees themselves who are punished but their parents and families as well. Family members are often prevented from visiting their children in prison for long periods of time and in cases where children are sentenced to pay a monetary fine, this cost - often running into hundreds of dollars - is borne by the parents of the child. It should be remembered that currently 64% of Palestinians live below the poverty line of US$2.10/day.
• To recruit future "collaborators" with the Israeli occupation forces. One of the most insidious practices of the Israeli detention system is the use of threats to force children to work as informers for the Israeli Occupation Authorities once they are released from prison. Thus, children are told that they will not be released or they will be killed unless they agree to work as collaborators.
General Security Services that "report only to the Prime Minister" brings some understanding, but not excuse as to why there are Knesset members, Israeli citizens, American representatives and American tax payers, who know very little, if anything, of what actually takes place in these prisons where women and children are held by a General Security Service that only answers to a Prime Minister who has, himself, been accused of war crimes.
Without responsibility and enforcement, the Convention on the Rights of the Child is a useless document.
The obligation should now be clear. It is this obligation and responsibility that inspired Tali Fahima to go from obedient Zionist to free thinking Israeli who then went in the direction and pursuit of seeking and discovering real truths about life lived under continuous occupation. She is now making further discoveries that challenge the prison system in how it treats political detainees. Her example serves to make further case for each of us to find out more and to express ourselves with regards to these human rights violations and the other wretched souls who continue suffer for it.
Last January 18, 2004 half of the women prisoners in Neve Tirtza were moved to Hasharon prison. A lawyer by the name of Taghrid Jahshan reported these conditions to WOFPP as going from horrible to totally unacceptable. Sonia Boulous, a lawyer from The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), along with the WOPFF lawyer, requested urgent action on behalf of the young mothers with babies, because all of the cells were "damp, dark, very dirty and infested with cockroaches and mice". It was also reported that windows were kept covered with little light or air allowed. Taghrid Jahshan has made a more recent (August 2004) report. Many of the women's names are the same and so are conditions, if not worse.
It appears that the ONLY solution upheld by the GSS, under the auspices of the Prime Minister, is less frequent lawyer visits and that includes making it as difficult as possible for the lawyers to actual make a visit in order to report about it. This is not an acceptable solution for the women whose lives are challenged by prison conditions and brutal beatings under harsh conditions.
The Red Cross comes every two to three months and families and prisoners are subjected to the whim of the warden, as to whether gifts, including necessary health supplies can be accepted. Handiwork and needlework coming out of the prison is often the only means a women prisoner has of "earning" money for canteen articles. This money is frequently confiscated by the prison authority in the form of disciplinary fines. Disciplinary fines are given out as punishment and can cost a woman most if not all of her money on the whim of the warden. Where do these monies go?
It is difficult to get much information. Secrecy about prison conditions should always serve as warning and is cause for alarm. I have had a few newsletters over the course of the year 2004. The lawyer mentioned previously, Taghrid Jahshan, made a report that was seen in Maariv. Rarely do Israeli newspapers published reports about women and children in prisons. Since then, WOPFF has sent updates and urgent requests concerning individuals and/or groups of women. The violations in these reports are frequently repeated. The awful things that happened to women and girls in prisons in the beginning of the year 2004 apparently are continuing to take place routinely and even daily.
Wardens conduct strip searches and one woman who disputes this violation is often dragged off to solitary confinement, similar to the one Tali Fahima presently is in. Prisoner, Amne Muna over the years, has been so often beaten by the prison authorities for her objections to these strip searches that it does not matter which report one reads this past year. Her name is constantly in them and in association with severe punishments for just such offenses as resisting the male wardens.
Last year she was visited in the hospital because of the continued beatings and tear gas sprayed directly into her eyes. In February she was tied to a bed for twenty hours and not permitted to go to the toilet. Only the other prisoners, sisters in spirit, speak out for her and for their objections, the rest of these prisoners, were drenched with cold water . This added to the miserableness of their already damp cells. In their solidarity and protest of one or anothers' treatment such Amne's chronic beatings and hair pulling , the other women prisoners are beaten as well. Samar Bader, Amia Damaje, Jala`a Abu-Ajmiyeh, Ghada Jadalla and Aishah Abayat have all suffered on behalf of one another and the others who names I do not know. Camaraderie becomes an act of heroic proportions for these women.
Health conditions deteriorate in prisons without proper medical treatments. There are women with severe medical and psychological problems that range in severity and generally are not made better by prison life. In June, the transfer of women and girl prisoners from one prison to the other lost them their belongings and what small comforts or livelihoods from handicrafts that did not come with them. One woman, Marwat Taha has a baby who lost all of his small toys in this transfer. Letters from families and friends are sent with exact names and addresses are sometimes never received by the prisoners.
Zakya 'Awisah, an administrative detainee, who was released in July reported that the commander of the wing where she was held threatened to cut off all of her letters if she continued to receive as many as she did.
The High Court expressed an opinion on 21 July that standing for matriculation exams is not a privilege but a basic right and recommended and that prison authorities should take this into consideration. Out of sixteen women only five were given permission. The prison authorities have stated that standing for these exams is a privilege based upon their decision and criterias.
Su'ad Ghazal, in prison since age fifteen for the length of seven years and who must at this point be somewhat of an authority on the dark spectrum of life in the Israeli prison system as a minor, was recently punished for writing about details of her prison life to a French human rights group. Her money was taken and she is not allowed family visits for two months.
Su'ad Abu Hamed turned off the light in her cell at 4 o'clock in the morning. She was taken to solitary and her money was taken. Again, the other women show their bravery and solidarity for one another, knowing only too well that their efforts will illicit punishment for them as well. Amne Muna was punished and her money was taken because she tried to intervene on behalf of Su'ad Abu Hamed.
Their spirit will not be broken.
I wish I had more names. There are about 100.
The treatment of women and girl prisoners in Israel violates International and Israeli laws and all laws of decency as well. The Hunger Strike and the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian Prisoners has since come and gone (September 4, 2004) The women continue to barely manage to survive each day with any hope of relief from the threat of violence enacted upon them on the whims of the wardens.
More lawyers are needed; more effort to turn shock and disbelief into further effort and action on behalf of the political prisoners, especially including children. It is my intent in writing a person's name in this article that you know that these are real women, but also most important is that THEY might somehow know that someone other than family and lawyer are aware of them and how they are made to suffer.
Women like Tali Fahima have come to join them. Women of conscience like Laura Milo come.
I am "optimistically opportunistic" about Tali Fahima's very bad experience having impetus for creating energy and a dynamic of concern for all women political prisoners.
Every punishment she receives represents punishments that the other women and girls have received and continue to endure. I am hopeful that every person who reads this will find motivation and duty to pursue what they do not know or what they find difficult to believe. American representatives and Israeli representatives must make every effort to monitor these hideous practices that so far have little or no control level in mis use of authority.
No United Nations should have to tell these things to Israel. Israel should monitor itself via its own representatives who must not only be rigtheous but also courageous, in order to further press for monitoring those representatives of their government who do not reflect a civilized society to the free world.
No United States should EVER cover for Israel by using veto power to block any kind of investigations into human rights violations. The United States should help its "friend" Israel investigate any and all charges in order to set the record accurate about such violations and to put in place immediate changes and improvements.All other action , or rather lack of action is complicit in its association with gross injustice and negligence about self monitoring.
Until that time, women like Tali Fahima and Laura Milo continue to do what our governments do not have conscience to do.
In Israel to call someone "a beautiful soul " (Yeffei Nefesh) can imply a certain degree of contempt with derogatory sarcasm for those souls beautiful enough to enact gestures of concern and caring. The title is generally used towards sympathizers and advocates of human rights who make such gestures in protests and/or demonstrations, especially towards the people who live under Occupation.
Uri Avnery writes "One division is between the sentimental and the political wings. To the former belong people who look mostly inside. What's really important to them is their moral stance. Somebody once joked that after every peace demonstration some of them look into the mirror and exclaim: "My, how beautiful we are!" People mock them as "Yeffei Nefesh" ("Those who have a beautiful soul") and coined the phrase "They shoot and weep".
I contend that moral stance when there is hardly any should be recognized and commended for its existence and from its Source.
The Beautiful Soul should be welcomed as Beloved and as Blessed:
your name is like a poem to me
your name is a prayer for others
you are a beautiful soul that shines its light in darkness
Mary La Rosa, October 1 2004
With Acknowledgment of Rav Avraham Isaac Kook
The Song of Songs
There is one who sings the song of his soul,
discovering in his soul everything -- utter spiritual fulfillment.
There is one who sings the song of his people.
Emerging from the private circle of his soul -- not expansive enough,
not yet tranquil -- he strives for fierce heights, clinging to the entire community of Israel in tender love...
Then there is one whose soul expands
until it extends beyond the border of Israel,
singing the song of humanity... his spirit spreads,
aspiring to the goal of humankind, envisioning its consummation...
Then there is one who expands even further
until he unites with all existence, with all creatures, with all worlds, singing a song with them all.
There is one who ascends with all these songs
in unison -- the song of the soul, the song of the nation, the song of humanity,
the song of the cosmos -- resounding together, blending in harmony, circulating the sap of life,
the sound of holy joy.
Chief Rabbi of Palestine 1865-1937
From the Families of Palestinian Prisoners Committee:
Please register your protests by letter, fax, email, or telephone to the officials listed below. Ask them to stop the harsh treatment of Palestinian political prisoners and to accede the demands of the striking prisoners so that the conditions under which they are imprisoned are consistent with international norms of human rights and basic decency.
Also, please register your protest with your own political representatives and governments ministers.
Please send a copy of your protest message to alhureih (at) yahoo.com
Messages of support from organizations would also be appreciated by the prisoners and their families.
Please send them to the same address with some details of the organization.
For more information visit our temporary website at www.palsolidarity.org/prisoners or telephone (972) 2 277 4602 or email: info (at) palsolidarity.org
With much appreciation for your valued support,
Mahmoud Ziadi, General Secretariat,
Families of Palestinian Political Prisoners
PO Box 2151, Ramallah, Palestine.
List of Israeli government officials: see
www.knesset.gov.il/ and individual MK's with email addresses
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Likud)
pm_heb (at) pmo.gov.il
Office of Prime Minister
3 Kaplan Street
PO Box 187
Jerusalem 91919, Israel
Fax +972-3-6962757/ -691 7915
Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz
37 Kaplan Street
Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Minister of Justice Yosef Lapid (Shinuii)
ylapid (at) knesset.gov.il
29 Salah al-Din Street
Minister of Interior Security
Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud)
zhanegbi (at) knesset.gov.il
Here are Knesset members, including women to write to:
Addresses of Israeli embassies worldwide can be found at www.embassyworld.com/embassy/israel1.htm or go to the Government of Israel website at www.info.gov.il/FirstGov/
US Officials and Representatives
Us Dept of State http://www.contact-us.state.gov/
Permanent Missions to the United Nations
Many of e-mail addresses of UN missions are formatted as follows:
france (at) un.int, germany (at) un.int, india (at) un.int, ireland (at) un.int, italy (at) un.int, uk (at) un.int, etc.
Embassies in different countries: www.mfa.gov.il/
Committe of struggle against barbarism & arbitrary,
777 bd des nations unies,
13300 SALON, france
mail to: laconscience (at) wanadoo.fr
Mary La Rosa is an American artist and librarian whose responsibility has been made clear by the voices of brave friends and strangers, close and far from her home in NY
The ones that know
the ones that do not know
the ones that should know
the ones that do not want to know
now know so that
silence = complicity
This work is in the public domain