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The most important element in prison is books, writes Palestinian prisoner

“Access to books is not the only struggle facing Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons,” writes Khaleda Jarrar.

Khaleda Jarrar has sent a letter to Palestine Writes Literature Festival, in which she hares the essential role literature plays for Palestinian prisoners struggling to retain their humanity and remain connected to the outside world inside Israeli Prisons.

Khaleda Jarrar, known as one of the most prominent social and political Palestinian figures, is a Palestinian political prisoner who has been arrested by Israeli occupation forces at her house in the Albera area of Ramallah.

She has been held under administrative detention in Israeli Damon prison located at the top of Mount Carmel in Haifa, without charge or trial.

In her letter, Jarrar sent her greetings to “Arab writers, scholars, intellectuals and artists who reject normalization with Israel’s settler colonial system.”

She, along with 40 Palestinian women prisoners, shared their experiences with literature and culture while in Israeli prisons.

She said that books constitute the “foundation of life in prison” because they preserve the psychological and moral balance of the prisoners “who view their detentions as part of the overall resistance against the colonial occupation of Palestine.”

She also said that having a book inside the prison is like a challenge for the Palestinian prisoners.

“The jailors seek to strip us from our humanity and keep us isolated from the outside world.”

She talked about the obstacles which they face in accessing books. For example, books do not reach them at times “as they undergo tight control mechanisms and confiscations when brought by a family member.”

Each Palestinian woman prisoner is allowed to have two books per month. However, these books are subject to “scrutiny checks where they are rejected by the prison administration under the pretext of being incitement books.”

She also said that there are some books written by prisoners inside prisons, some speak about the imprisonment and interrogation experiences in Israeli prisons.

Access to books is not the only struggle facing Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, according to Jarrar.

“Israeli prison authorities impose oppressive measures on a daily basis demonstrated by applying isolation policies through solitary confinement. They also deprive us of family visits, prevent entry of cultural & literary books, and completely ban educational books. They also ban singing in all its forms. Revolutionary and regular songs are banned.”

They are also not allowed to buy more than the one radio they have access to.

“The radio is an important source of information that connects us to the outside world by delivering the world news. But the radio is more than that to us…It is a tool that connects us with our families and friends as they call-in and send messages through the various Palestinian radio programs.”

She noted also that they are not allowed to carry out any educational process in prison.

“Their aim is clearly to isolate prisoners, both men and women, and to break us by transforming us into individuals with no hopes or plans for a decent future.”

As a stage of their struggle to claim the right to education, Jarrar said they are now seeking to start university education for the first round of women prisoners “to inspire and strengthen women prisoners’ self-confidence by encouraging them to consider the prison a place for creative, cultural and human development.”

Protecting resistance literature is one of their struggles for liberation inside the prisons, Jarrar concluded.

“We, the Palestinian women prisoners, also say “let us speak… let us dream… let us be liberated!”

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