The US-led political and economic blockade continues, yet contrary to popular belief, it is not only affecting Palestinian Authority employees and the merchants they buy from. Palestinian organizations are also unable to bring money in through banks fearful of American threats against them if they facilitate any transfers. This includes human rights organizations, NGOS in general, and the Palestinian Prisoner Society.

PNN recently spoke with the Palestinian Prisoner Society’s General Director of Information in the West Bank, Basim Sbeih.

“I’ll begin with the general situation in the Palestinian Prisoner Society and the situation of the prisoners as well. The Palestinian Prisoner Society, as any other Palestinian organization, is involved in the matters of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. We have 30 lawyers working on representing the prisoners in Israeli jails. However, the funding stopped, including the payroll for the lawyers working with us. This has created a strangulating crisis in their work. The lawyers are threatening to strike from representing prisoners in Israeli military courts as they need to be paid. This will create a major problem for Palestinian prisoners and their families.

Sbeih continued, “It is necessary to point out that the lawyers are the only link between the prisoners and their families and human rights organizations, and in particular the Palestinian Prisoner Society, which represents 4,000 prisoners yearly in Israeli military courts.”

There are currently at approximate 9,400 Palestinians languishing in Israeli prisoners, many without charge or trial under the Israeli policy of Administrative Detention.

Regarding the affects of the blockade, Sbeih pointed out that no Palestinian is immune. “In general the financial situation in our organization, which has been strangulated for the past several months due to the blockade against monies slated for the Prisoners Society from the PA Ministry of Detainees and Ex Detainees Affairs, is bleak. It of course also pertains to all of the employees of the Palestinian Prisoner Society.”

The economic blockade is also wreaking havoc on Palestinians who rely on prison stores, canteens, to supplement the paltry food provided by prison authorities. Palestinians also buy necessities such as soap and toothpaste in the canteens. The Israelis closed several of the accounts.

“Again relating to the financial situation, there has been no money for four months due to the cut in aid; none for the lawyers or the staff. We, as an organization for prisoners, take our funding from the Palestinian National Authority. The Israeli Prison Administration closed the canteen accounts for several prisoners throughout many of the prisons. This has led to it being impossible to receive any money, which has created another big problem in the prisons and the prisoners are suffering from hunger due to the closure of those accounts.”