Israeli forces detain Palestinian lawmaker for 'promoting violence'


Khalida Jarrar's daughter tells MEE that 35 Israeli troops stormed the family home in the West Bank to arrest her mother

Khalida Jarrar arrives home after her release from prison in June 2016 (AFP).
Sheren Khalel's picture
Last update: 
Sunday 2 July 2017 17:12 BST

The Israeli army has re-arrested a prominent female Palestinian legislator and detained at least 10 others in pre-dawn raids in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday.

The arrest of Khalida Jarrar for alleed security offences over her involvement with the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) brings the number of Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members in Israeli prisons to 13.

In an interview with Middle East Eye, Jarrar’s daughter , Suha Jarrar, 26, said 35 Israeli soldiers raided the home in early hours, breaking down doors and cornering each member of the family in separate rooms.

She said that she was detained in her room and by the time Israeli soldiers allowed her to go to the balcony of her home to say a goodbye to her mother Khalida was already in one of the military vehicles.

"I was on the balcony screaming to my mother that I love her and to stay strong and that we are strong," she said. "While I was on the balcony my dad asked the soldiers to untie me and they told him to untie me himself. After that they left."

Jarrar, who is a popular figure among Palestinians and is known for fiery speeches against the Israeli occupation, is a senior member of the PFLP, a left-leaning Palestinian political organisation opposed to a two-state solution. She is also known for women and prisoner right's activism. 

The group was involved in hijackings and other major attacks in the 1970s and has been linked to a string of suicide bombings and assassinations from 2002 to 2014. Last month the group claimed responsibility for the killing of a police officer outside Jerusalem's Old City.

Jarrar, 55, was sentenced to 15 months in prison in December 2015 after being convicted of incitement and membership of the PFLP, which Israel regards as an illegal terrorist organization. She was released in June 2016. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), of which it is a part, denies that the PFLP is a "terrorist organisation".

Sunday’s pre-dawn raids in the occupied West Bank also saw the arrest of at least 10 other Palestinians, including Khitam Saafin, chairwoman of the Union of Palestinian Women's Committee.

Clearly, this political arrest is further proof that the judicial system in Israel has no relation to justice

- PLO executive Hanan Ashrawi

Ahlam al-Wash, the president of the Bethlehem office for the Union of Palestinian Women's Committee denounced the arrest of her colleague on Sunday.

"She was arrested for her political activism,' al-Wash told MEE. "We absolutely refuse this type of arrest, particularly as Israel considers itself a democratic state, but it is making these political arrests that are against international human rights and the general freedom of expression."

The Israeli army said the suspects were arrested on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity and violent disturbances of the peace directed against Israeli security forces and civilians.

PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi "strongly condemned" the arrest of Jarrar and Saafin in a statement released hours after the detentions took place.

"We protest the arrest of Palestinian lawmakers and women activists, as well as the ongoing detention of Palestinian political and civil society leaders," Ashrawi said in a statement. "The arrest of PLC Member Khalida Jarrar is a violation of her parliamentary immunity, and Israel should adhere to international norms regarding the immunity of elected officials.

"Clearly, this political arrest is further proof that the judicial system in Israel has no relation to justice," Ashrawi continued.

In a statement on Sunday, an Israeli army spokesperson said "Jarrar was arrested following her involvement in promoting terrorist activity through the PFLP, and without any connection to her being a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council," according to Haaretz.  

A campaign of continous arrests

Jarrar's daughter, Suha Jarrar, told MEE that more than 35 Israeli soldiers entered the family's home at around 4:15 on Sunday morning.

"I woke up to three female soldiers standing over me with guns pointed at me," Suha said. "They wouldn't even let me get properly dressed. When I told them I wanted to see my mother they laughed at me."

The arrest of Khalida Jarrar constitutes an attack against Palestinian political leaders 

- Addameer group

Jarrar served as the head of the Prisoners' Commission in the PLC, and vice-chairperson of the board of directors of Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer, which also called on Israeli authorities to release Jarrar in a statement on Sunday.

"The arrest of Khalida Jarrar constitutes an attack against Palestinian political leaders and Palestinian civil society as a whole. It also constitutes one arrest in the context of continuous arrest campaigns against Palestinians," the group said.  

Suha said Israeli forces made her stay inside her bedroom for most of the raid, while her mother was held in her own bedroom and her father in the family's living room.

"I kept demanding they allow me to see my mom, so the female soldiers called male soldiers into the room and they handcuffed me with plastic ties, hit me in the head and made me get on my knees in the middle of my bed," she said. "They made me sit like that, without proper clothes, for more than half an hour. If I moved even a bit to get comfortable they would point their guns and scream at me."

A trial in a kangaroo court?

Suha was not aware of what was happening in her mother's room. By the time Israeli soldiers allowed her to go to the balcony of her home to say a goodbye to her mother Khalida was already in one of the military vehicles.

"When the soldiers were still in my room, I asked them how they can treat people like this and sleep at night, they laughed at me, and said they were here in my home because we are terrorists and this is what happens to terrorists," she said. "I told them to think about what they are doing, I was the vulnerable one, in my bedroom in the middle of the night without clothes on and they were pointing guns at me, so how could they be calling me the terrorist in the room."

Suha said Israeli forces confiscated Khalida's phone, purse and iPad during the raid, and also took apart the laptops in the home and confiscated the hard drives from the computers.

"They went through the whole house in a very aggressive way, through drawers and closets and everywhere, just tearing everything up," she said.

Khalida's daughter said the family had been informed that Khalida was being held at Ofer military prison in Ramallah but had not been informed of any charges or transfer dates.

"In the end the court that will process her is a kangaroo court," she said. "My family does not believe in the legitimacy of Israel's so-called justice system, there is no such thing as fair in their system, so we have no idea what it is going to happen."

In a statement on its website, the PFLP said: "The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine confirmed that the Zionist occupation forces launched a pre-dawn campaign of raids across the occupied West Bank of Palestine on Sunday, arresting a number of leaders and activists of the Front, led by the Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar ...

"The Front declared that these attacks will not stop it from continuing its role in resistance to occupation and confronting the crimes and projects that attempt to liquidate the Palestinian cause."