Palestinian Lawmaker Khalida Jarrar Released From Israeli Jail After 14 Months

Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was detained without trial on suspicion of incitement and membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarar after her release from prison.
Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarar after her release from prison.Credit: Majdi Mohammed/AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar was released from an Israeli jail on Friday after 14 months in detention.

Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was detained without trial on suspicion of incitement and membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Dozens of Palestinians who are detained for activities against the occupation are similarly released every week.

The cameras that accompanied the release of Jarrar documented a process that, over the past 50 years, has become part of everyday existence for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families.

Even the first words she said on her release were similar to those said or felt by every released prisoner: "It's a happy day regarding my release and a sad day because I leave behind my friends, the prisoners, who I have lived with for more than a year," she said.

Jarrar, who heads the committee for prisoners in the legislative council, has dedicated many years of her life to activities on behalf of Palestinian prisoners and the struggle for their release.

"The prisoners have lost their faith in the political system," she told a press conference at her home following her release. "They hate it when politicians appear and make promises for their release in the full knowledge that those promises have no cover."

Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar walks with Joint List chief Ayman Odeh after her release from an Israeli prison near Tul Karm, June 3, 2016.Credit: Majdi Mohammed / AP

Jarrar added that the prisoners have also lost hope of being freed in prisoner swaps.

The number of female Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails broke all previous records while Jarrar was in prison – 61 prisoners and detainees, of whom 14 are minors. Ten of the prisoners were injured during their arrest, some of them seriously. Five of the injured were minors.

Due to overcrowding in Hasharon Prison, an extra wing was opened in Damon Prison, where 20 women are now imprisoned.

Speaking carefully, Jarrar told the press conference: "I know that the occupation earmarks prison for Palestinian society in its entirety, but it should be discussed whether education, for example, is an appropriate and correct means of struggle."

At the initiative of the veteran prisoner Lina Jarbuni – "from whom I learned a lot," Jarrar said – adult female prisoners are running a school inside the prison, with lessons in English, Hebrew and social studies.

Released prisoners are transported by Prisons Service van from the prison to one of the crossing points along the Green Line between the West Bank and Israel. They usually they don't know their exact time of arrival at the crossing point. Jarrar's family was told that she would arrive at Jabara crossing, south of Tulkarem, in the morning.

Her husband, Rassan Jarrar, accompanied by several family members and friends, arrived at the crossing point at 8:30 A.M. Well-wishers, some of them on a bus from Ramallah, also took the narrow road to the crossing point, rather than taking the direct route past the settlement of Avnei Hefetz. They all walked through trees and rocks in temperature that reached 38 degrees Celsius.

Jarrar said afterwards that at 8:30 A.M. she had already been taken to the Prisons Service vehicle, but at that point there was an unexplained delay. She preferred to return to her friends in the prison. She was returned to the vehicle after 10:30 A.M. and a warder manacled her hands and legs.

Normally a 10 minute journey, it went on for an hour, due to traffic. She remained manacled until they reached the roadblock. There were already signs for those waiting for her that she was on the way. Military jeeps drove up and down, between the crossing point and those waiting for Jarrar. Soldiers were posted at a distance from those waiting.

A police officer asked what the protest was about and repeatedly photographed those waiting to greet Jarrar.

At 11:45, when Jarrar exited the vehicle carrying a large plastic bag, those waiting to greet her advanced towards her on the road, despite the police warning not to approach her. They shouted greetings to the released prisoner and praised the Popular Front and its struggle.

Knesset member Aymen Oudeh, chairman of the Joint List, used his parliamentary immunity to move towards Jarrar and was the first to embrace her.

Aside from the hollow promises, Jarrar told journalists, what most irks prisoners is the social-political separation in Palestinian society. The reception she received, both at the crossing point and at her house, looked like a private event of the Popular Front. Only a few of those welcoming her were not from the organization.

"Ask [Fatah] why they didn't come," someone said. "It wasn't planned as a closed event." But thousands of people, from across the political spectrum, attended the welcoming event held on Saturday night at the legislative council.

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