During the journey from Ramallah to Nablus I got talking to the middle-aged man sitting beside me. It turned out he’d been in prison for five years, cramped in a cockroach-run tent with tens of other men. At the kiosk at the end of my street I got talking to a white-haired young man. A few nights earlier the two owners of the kiosk had been taken away in an Israeli jeep. The white-haired man’s brother had been killed in 2007. He himself had done eleven years inside. I got talking to a writing student whose brother was constantly detained. A Palestinian friend of mine who now lives outside did ten years in Israeli jails. Two and a half of them were underground. Almost every male I met in Nablus had been imprisoned at some point. There are at least 8500 prisoners currently inside. But my friend tells me he felt more free inside the small prison than he did inside the larger. So here’s the statistic that counts: in all the territories controlled by the apartheid state of Israel there are 5,300,000 Palestinian prisoners. The other half of the Palestinian people is locked outside in exile. Here’s Saed Abu-Hijleh describing temporary detention.
This video (over the fold) concerns Israel’s 2002 murder of a Palestinian teacher,cultural activist and neighbourhood organiser, Shaden al-Saleh. Shaden was the mother of Saed Abu Hijleh, who witnessed the murder and gives his own account here. Saed teaches political geography at Nablus’s an-Najah University, writes poetry, blogs, organises, and provides me with wonderful food and information, for which I’m very grateful. He’s a well-educated member of the Nablus middle classes. He’s also been shot in the belly and in the shoulder and has been imprisoned five times. But his suffering is not unusual. Everybody in Nablus has a story to tell. I’ve just returned from the prison, and over the next couple of weeks I aim to convey a few of the stories I heard. An example of Saed’s English-language poetry is over the fold.