Palestinian detainee Israa Jaabis came before the Israeli occupation’s High Court of Justice on Thursday, 11 January in an appeal against her 11-year sentence, noting her severe injuries and poor overall health, with her suffering only intensified due to the conditions in HaSharon prison, where she is held. Her lawyers have argued that she was subjected to a lengthy, arbitrary sentence with little concern for the reality of the charges against her or her intense pain and suffering.
Jaabis’ case has come to renewed attention on social media as well in the last week, with many activists highlighting #FreeIsraa, #انقذوا_اسراء and #HelpIsraa hashtags in support of her appeal and campaign for her liberation. The court heard arguments from the defense and prosecution and did not set a date for issuing a decision.
The story of Israa Jaabis is a human tragedy brought about due to occupation, racism, oppression and injustice. Jaabis, the mother of a 9-year-old child, was seized in October 2015 near the al-Zaim checkpoint at the entrance to Jerusalem. Jaabis holds a Jerusalemite identity card, but lived in the West Bank with her family and her son, who has a West Bank identity card. Reportedly, she was informed that she would lose her Jerusalem identity unless she moved back to Jerusalem – part of the ongoing and systematic Israeli attempt to erase Palestinian existence in Jerusalem – and was being forced to live apart from her child.
She had rented an apartment in Jabal al-Mukabber and was in the process of moving her basic belongings to the apartment, including a gas cylinder to power a stove. As she approached the checkpoint, the gas cylinder caught fire after an airbag popped open inside of her vehicle, burning Jaabis severely over 60 percent of her body while the situation was treated as a “terror attack” rather than a medical emergency by the occupation forces on the scene.
Rather than summoning an ambulance, security forces and police were brought to the scene. Despite initial reports that this was a traffic accident, Israeli media then reported that this was an operation targeting Israeli soldiers. She was imprisoned while hospitalized and charged with “attempted murder” of the Israeli occupation forces at the checkpoint as eight of her fingers were amputated. Israeli prosecutors alleged that social media posts expressing support of the Palestinian resistance and other political opinions merited this extreme sentence. Her story combines the terror of colonial imprisonment with the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and the constant violence against Palestinian families, particularly women and children, of Israeli colonialism.
Jaabis issued a message from prison through her sister Mona, translated below, saying that she urgently needs more than eight operations and that she suffers from intense pain and suffering in her hands and feet, especially after the amputation of her fingers, and that she is unable to care for herself properly.
Israa’s message follows:
“As for my health, it is as follows: I have severe cramps in my hands and feet and these prevent me from doing my daily tasks. I need help from other girls to do the simplest things. This hurts me and makes me feel less than others. I feel humiliated and ashamed. And I urgently need to have the operation to relieve these cramps and seizures so that I can do my own daily simple tasks. Since I was arrested, the administration here has always procrastinated. They say that the operation will happen each month, but nothing happens and my situation worsens every day.”
“Every day I look in the mirror and I feel silent and my soul is shattered every day. I need treatment to face this painful reality. I am scared from my face when I look at myself in the mirror. How about others? What does my child say when he sees me? Do you feel scared of me? Thousands of questions pass through my head every day and I cannot find an answer. I feel scared, humiliated and anxious. I try to help myself, but to no avail.”
“I need treatment, I need surgery so that I can live with this difficult situation…..I must live with these near-fatal injuries and I could live if operations were conducted with humane treatment. Now I cannot even wear a brace which covers the burns because I have a hard time wearing it as it is torn and the prison administration will not help me.”
“I have bleeding in my eye and I feel great pain whenever it is exposed to the air or I wash my eyes with water. I urgently need eye treatment and again there is no answer. My nose was burned from the inside and so I must breathe from my mouth or a very small hole in my nose. My nose bleeds and I receive no treatment although my condition worsens every day.”
“My teeth are very weak, they have broken and I asked for outside treatment. After a long hassle, the management agreed to allow an outside dentist to enter, but he came only once and no longer. I cannot raise my arms up, I have limited movement in my arms because the skin is fused to the armpit, and the management and doctors here are not trying to help me. My feet itch painfully, my right ear is almost non-existent and I often have severe infections. I urgently need an ear operation and everyone ignores the situation.”
“I am very tired of all of this inside, and my permanent need for everything causes me pain. I feel insulted, embarrassed and my situation worsens day after day. May times I shout and scream and erupt about my situation and I need psychological help as well. My psychological state has taken away my desire to eat. I almost do not eat and I do not want to eat. I have so much pressure in my head, and I do not understand what others talk about in front of me, and I lose focus.”
“The administration told me they would prevent me from visits from my son. I am told I have to receive blood tests, but they never happen. I hope everyone reads my message. I’m not a normal prisoner, who only suffers from prison. I suffer from much more than the injustice of the jailer, my condition is very difficult for those who are in their homes, let alone being in prison.”