Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Jaradat – Palestine’s Biko

from Alray Online

Jaradat

by Julie Webb-Pullman

The West Bank and Gaza have erupted in rage at the Israeli murder-by-torture of 30 year-old Palestinian father of two Arafat Shahin Jaradat, the 79th prisoner to die in Israeli jails since 2000 due to torture, medical neglect, excessive use of force during interrogation, or execution by arresting officers.

As the results of his autopsy circle the world, the western media is finally wakening from its slumber, to report on the latest Israeli atrocity.

Six broken bones in Jaradat’s neck, spine, arms and legs are only the beginning of the story. The autopsy also revealed evidence of severe torture on the muscle of the upper left shoulder, parallel to the spine in the lower neck area, and evidence of severe torture under the skin and inside the muscle of the right side of the chest. His second and third ribs on the right side of the chest were broken, and he also had injuries in the middle of the muscle in his right hand.

At a news conference in Ramallah this evening the PA Minister of Detainee Affairs Issa Qaraqe said, “The evidence corroborates our suspicion that Mr. Jaradat died as a result of torture, especially since the autopsy clearly proved that the victim’s heart was healthy, which disproves the initial alleged account presented by occupation authorities that he died of a heart attack.”

Jaradat’s lawyer Kameel Sabbagh said in a statement today that at his court appearance last Thursday in relation to a stone-throwing incident in November, Arafat Jaradat appeared hunched, sick, and fragile.

“He told me that he had serious pains in his back and other parts of his body because he was being beaten up and hanged for many long hours while he was being investigated.”

The Judge postponed the hearing for 12 days, and Sabbagh said, “When Jaradat heard that the judge postponed his hearing he seemed extremely afraid and asked me if he was going to spend the time left in the cell.”

Because of his concern for his client’s serious psychological state, Sabbagh said he informed the judge his client had been tortured. The judge ordered that Jaradat should be examined by the prison doctor but “this didn’t happen.”

One cannot but recall South African anti-apartheid martyr Steve Biko, who died alone and naked on the floor of a Pretoria Central Prison cell on 12 September 1977, following an “untreated head injury sustained during interrogation” by South African Security Police on 07 September, some 17 days after his detention.

Despite the police physician recommending Biko’s transfer to hospital after he fell into a continual, semi-conscious state, Biko was transported lying naked and shackled in the back of a Land Rover on a 12-hour 1,200 km journey to Pretoria, where he died a few hours after arrival.

The parallels don’t end there – the Biko killers’ first excuse was that Biko died of a hunger strike – one the Israeli’s clearly couldn’t try for fear of drawing even more attention to the critical health conditions of hunger-striking Palestinian detainees Ayman Sharawna, Samer Issawi, Jafar Azzidine, Yousef Yassin and Tarek Qa’adan – so they went for the ‘heart attack’ line. Now that the autopsy has exposed that for the shameless lie it was, we can probably expect the Israeli equivalent of the South African second fall-back position, an Israeli version of the “hit his head against a wall in a scuffle” number.

Another question that must be asked in common, as it was in the Biko case – who encouraged the Israeli forces to act in the manner that they did?

It has been widely reported that when the soldiers arrested Jaradat, they told him “say goodbye to your wife and your babies, you won’t be seeing them again,” strong evidence that they intended to kill him from the moment of his arrest.

In Biko’s case it was the threat of impending unity between the previously-antagonistic black consciousness activists of whom Biko was a leading figure, and the African National Congress (ANC), that struck fear into the hearts of South African apartheid security police.

The threat of impending unity between Palestinian factions is not only a fear, but fast becoming a painful reality for Israeli security forces.

It remains to be seen whether the PA can be bought for $1 million – according to Channel 10 in Israel today, Netanyahu instructed Israeli authorities to transfer the PA its tax revenues for January, “so that they won’t have an excuse not to enforce calm on the ground.”

So far at least, the PA remains unmoved, with Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Abbas aide, responding that it is Israel’s treatment of prisoners and anti-Palestinian violence by Jewish settlers that is the cause of the unrest.

Netanyahu’s callous, calculated and cynical disregard for the death of Jaradat echoes that of Jimmy Kruger, then South African Minister of Justice, who sent waves of outrage through the world with his comment “Biko’s death leaves me cold.”

The brutal circumstances of Steve Biko’s death saw such an international outcry that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) finally responded by imposing an arms embargo against South Africa.

So too should the death of Arafat Shahin Jaradat finally wake the western world from its torpor, to rein in the rogue state of Israel from its relentless riding roughshod over the rights – and lives – of Palestinians.

So too should the death of Arafat Shahin Jaradat finally wake the UNSC from its torpor, to impose an arms embargo against Israel.

The five policemen who murdered Steve Biko finally admitted their guilt 20 years later, when seeking amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997.

Among its findings were the following:

“The Commission finds that the death in detention of Mr Stephen Bantu Biko on 12 September 1977 was a gross human rights violation. Magistrate Marthinus Prins found that the members of the SAP were not implicated in his death. The magistrate’s finding contributed to the creation of a culture of impunity in the SAP. Despite the inquest finding no person responsible for his death, the Commission finds that, in view of the fact that Biko died in the custody of law enforcement officials, the probabilities are that he died as a result of injuries sustained during his detention.”

Palestinians are not prepared to wait 20 years for an official finding of what the whole world knows today, following the autopsy – the death in Israeli detention of Arafat Shahin Jaradat on 23 February 2013 was a gross human rights violation. It was the 79th such gross human rights violation since 2000.

Palestinians are not prepared to wait 20 years for an official finding regarding the culture of impunity for Israeli prison authorities. There are at least 4,500 examples of them today, right under our noses in prisons throughout Israel, four of whom are at death’s door.

Palestinian are not prepared to wait 20 years to decide that the probabilities are that Arafat Shahin Jaradat died as a result of injuries sustained during his detention.

They know that, already.

Biko’s death was not in vain – nor will be that of Jaradat.

Israel – and the international community – ignore that at their peril.

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