Palestinian Prisoner Ahmad Manasra is a Victim of Israeli Vigilantism

A file photo of young Ahmed Manasra being tried at an Israeli military court. (Photo: via Social Media)

By Paul Salvatori  

In a recent article I described Israel’s judicial system as a “kangaroo court.” I changed my mind.

The system is more akin to vigilantism. It’s made up of judges and other decision-makers that do not respect the rule of law. Instead the system conspires with the state to harshly discipline any Palestinian they deem, rather than actually prove to be, a “threat.” This flies in the face of the spirit of impartiality, which underlies fair judicial systems. It’s reactionary and vengeful.

Another example of this occurred this week. An Israeli court, deeming him a threat in the absence of any evidence, refused to release Ahmad Manasra, 20, from Ramle Prison Hospital, to receive urgent health care he is not receiving at the institution. This is contrary to “United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners”, also known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules”.

The 27th states:

“All prisons shall ensure prompt access to medical attention in urgent cases. Prisoners who require specialized treatment or surgery shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where a prison service has its own hospital facilities, they shall be adequately staffed and equipped to provide prisoners referred to them with appropriate treatment and care.”

A democratic judicial system would take this seriously. It would not, even where a prisoner is convicted for an egregious crime, seek to repunish them by denying them the medical attention they require. That, in accordance with international humanitarian law, is guaranteed to each person, in virtue of their humanity.

By denying Manasra the medical attention he requires, the Israeli court is attempting to reduce him to a non-person, reflecting how we see Israel—outside prison walls—routinely mistreat Palestinians. This, for example, takes on the form of Israeli forces viciously assaulting and harassing Palestinians in the occupied territories to destroy and bulldoze their homes to make way for illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Through its own actions, Israel is constantly showing the world that they do not believe Palestinians are worthy of rights or dignity. If anything they are an “obstacle” to their campaign of ethnic cleansing, which aims, as Noam Chomsky observed recently, to eliminate Israel and the occupied territories of all Palestinians.

In the meantime, Israel will make Palestinians suffer. This was confirmed to me by Manasra’s lawyer, Khaled Zabarqeh, when I asked him what reasons the Israeli court gave for denying Manasra’s release. He relayed that it “claimed even a ‘terrorist cannot be released even if he is about to die.’”

The claim is also telling for two reasons. First, it reveals the sheer dishonesty of Israel’s judicial system. Manasra is not a terrorist. As Amnesty International observes:

“Ahmad Manasra was arrested on 12 October 2015 in relation to the stabbing and injury of two Israeli citizens in Pisgat Zeev, an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem. Despite being found by the courts not to have participated in the stabbings, he was convicted of attempted murder in 2016 in proceedings marred by allegations of torture, and despite the fact that he was below the minimum age of criminal responsibility at the time.”

Second, it shows the arbitrariness of the judicial system. One day it will have determined that someone is not responsible for a crime, though the next—in the absence of any evidence—decide they are. And when they do they will enforce “rules” that are detrimental to life. In the case of Manasra, this means keeping him in a prison hospital that’s inadequate for his well-being and survival.

If Israel’s judicial system were actually about justice, including having legitimate courts of law, it would not commit itself to harm Manasra. A wealthy nation, Israel has all the health resources to help ensure his mental and physical state improves, ideally to avoid what appears to be his imminent death. But because the system continues to relate, as it were, to him through hatred and cruelty, it will never do so.

“The international community should demand justice for Ahmad at any opportunity,” Zabarqeh shared with me too. And indeed we must while making the same demand for all Palestinian prisoners, unjustly incarcerated by Israel. We cannot expect our so-called political “leaders”, at least in the West, to do it for us. They are part of the problem, supporting Israel—militarily, economically, etc.—and remain willfully blind to its deplorable dehumanization of Palestinians.

If Manasra has any chance of staying alive much longer it will be because we, as “regular” people of conscience and around the world, exert pressure (BDS being one example) on Israel to release him. In solidarity, our might can compete with Israel. That strength however requires unwavering courage, exemplified by Palestinians themselves, to be sustained.

Manasra deserves no less. He is only 20. He has a whole life to live.

– Paul Salvatori is a Toronto-based journalist, community worker and artist. Much of his work on Palestine involves public education, such as through his recently created interview series, “Palestine in Perspective” (The Dark Room Podcast), where he speaks with writers, scholars and activists. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out