23 September 2021

The Little Escape

Michel (Mikado) Warschawski*

We all have a certain sympathy for escapes, although in most cases they end badly; be it escapes from prisons or internment camps, whether as individual initiatives or collective action."The great escape", the "cow and the prisoner", of the penal colony of Guyana. Whatever crime the escapee may or may not have committed, we want him to succeed.

On September 6, 6 Palestinian political detainees managed to escape from the Gilboa(Shata) prison in northern Israel, 5 Islamic Jihad activists and ZakariaZubeidi, a former Fata'h military leader from the Jenin refugee camp. The Palestinian people made no secret of their admiration and sympathy for the escapees but no one wanted to take the risk of helping them, not even by providing a clean shirt or a piece of bread.

On the Israeli side, there was amazement that gradually gave way to humiliation and anger at the flagrant ineffectiveness of the prison authorities.The Israeli media have gone wild and are demanding sweeping reforms of one of the most archaic and corrupt institutions of the Israeli administration. The general commissioner of prisons will have to resign, it's a matter of weeks.

By denouncing the laxity of the system, editorial writers and politicians have shown their blatant incomprehension of the system. "It is the political detainees who run their prisons, in which they enjoy full autonomy.This scandal must end! " So said a Likud MK, taking this opportunity to further delegitimize the Bennett government…. as if under Netanyahu things were any different.

However, everywhere in the so-called democratic world, this is how it works: the prison director and his guards are responsible for the walls and the keys of the gate, and inside it is the prisoners who manage the kitchen, the library, but also internal discipline.This is what gives power to the leaders of mafia clans, and to the leaders of parties in the prisons where political detainees are held. No political prison reform commission, as demanded by some politicians, will succeed in ending this system of internal self-management, because it is the most profitable, from any perspective.

In the meantime, after a manhunt that lasted more than a week, the escapees were all caught. Order reigns in Gilboa/Shata ... for the moment, because the uniqueness of detainees sentenced to heavy sentences, which is the case with the majority of Palestinian political prisoners, is to do everything to regain their freedom.As everyone knows, in the current negotiations under the aegis of Egypt, for a future exchange of prisoners, the evades of Gilboa have won their place at the top of the list in any future prisoner exchange. And they won it  with brio.

*(Mikado Warschawksi, former detainee in Massiyahu prison)