A week ago, Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old Palestinian from the village of Sa’ir in the West Bank, was arrested near the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba for throwing a stone at an armed Israeli settler during Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip last November. On Saturday, he died suddenly at Megido Prison Facility in Northern Israel, during his period of interrogation. Although the Israeli Ministry of Health claimed that he had died of natural causes, specifically a cardiac arrest, an autopsy—at which Palestinian Authority Chief Pathologist Saber Aloul was present—revealed that his body showed clear signs of having undergone torture, including two broken ribs, marks from beatings on his chest, lashes on his back and shoulders and blood inside his mouth.
Jaradat has been arrested and detained many times, but his wife, Dalal became nervous when, after this arrest, the Israeli army took him to his home, where his family was told to say their goodbyes. Jaradat was a father of two with a third child on the way.
Yesterday, Jaradat's funeral was held in Sa'ir. It was no ordinary burial gathering. Young Palestinian men stood in the back of pick-up trucks to wave massive Palestinian flags. Families—men and women alike—stood on the roofs and balconies of their homes to show support for Jaradat. In the square itself, there were flags from Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Fatah—many of which were carried by small children. Palestinian school girls no more than eight years old carried signs that had a symbol of a Swastika, followed by an equals sign, then a Star of David.
“I believe that he was both physically and psychologically tortured, that is why I am here,” Hakim, a student at Palestine Polytechnic University who asked that his last name not be used for safety reasons, told me. “Jaradat was held in Section 12 of Megiddo Prison—this section is notorious for the worst kinds of torture.”
The Israeli army closed most of the main roads leading to the village, expecting what one soldier who stopped my group expressed as “life-threatening protests.” Still, this did not deter thousands of Palestinians coming from around the West Bank to the normally quiet village, showing both their support for Arafat Jaradat and their political allegiances.
More than 20 percent of the Palestinian population—and 40 percent of the Palestinian male population—has been arrested, detained and imprisoned. Before they are imprisoned, many experience lengthy interrogation periods that are often indefinitely renewed—legal, according to the Israeli military law that Palestinians are subjected to. During these interrogation periods, prisoners are often questioned for up to 16 hours per day while they are beaten, hung and given only enough food to survive and confess information.
“Our violence is nothing compared to the Israeli violence,” Hakim continued. “We must resist, throwing stones—and if it takes missiles, throwing missiles. Anything to make our voices heard."
Often, Palestinian prisoners are arrested for minor crimes, such as throwing rocks at a demonstration—which for even a Palestinian child can carry a prison sentence up to twenty years. Despite Hakim’s conviction in the David-and-Goliath image of Israel’s powerful army and a Palestinian man armed with only a stone and a slingshot, it is very likely in the current power system that more stone throwing will only lead to more incarceration and criminalization of Palestinians—and more untimely deaths, like Jaradat’s. However, Hakim remains unfazed: “I really hope that the third intifada"—or uprising—"starts soon.”