Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Story of the Watermelon and the Forty Palestinian Prisoners

Story of the Watermelon and the Forty Palestinian Prisoners
Monday, 12 September 2011  
By Ameer Makhoul, Gilboa Prison

The following piece was written following the Israeli Prime Minister's speech at the Israeli Presidential Conference on 23 June 23, 2011. During his speech, Netanyahu announced that Israel will impose a series of measures to harden conditions for Palestinian political prisoners, declaring that “the party is over.”

On Friday 24 June at 12:46 pm., the prison administration brought a watermelon for the prisoners. It was our first watermelon in 2011. According to prison regulations, each prisoner gets 180 grams of fruit each day. It's one of our basic rights. However, several days ago, as it seems that fruit was unavailable, each of us was provided with an onion as an alternative, or in compensation.

All of us shared in the watermelon “party.” Each prison section, containing 120 prisoners, received the total number of three watermelons. The prisoners are divided into separate and isolated sections according to where they come from: Those who come from Jerusalem, 1948 Palestine and the Syrian Golan compile the first section; those from the West Bank are in the second; and our compatriots from the Gaza Strip are in the third. And not only that, for in the prisons in the south of the country, prisoners are also divided according to the political faction to which they belong, and for the last four years they have been prevented from receiving any guests.

For every 40 prisoners there corresponded one medium-sized watermelon. As always, we have a special staff of prisoners in charge of distributing food. This time, its task was especially difficult: Each watermelon had to be cut into 40 equal pieces! At the end, each prisoner received a watermelon piece in the shape of an isosceles triangle, whose equal sides are red and the base is green. The latter -that is, the rind- was calculated into our 180 grams of fruit a day.

Our watermelon experience brought to my mind the popular story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The analogy is not purely numerical:  In the story, 40 thieves were locked in a cave, the mouth of which was sealed by magic, while hiding from justice. In our life, however, there is only one thief, who lives out in the open. Our thief continues to rob freedom, a nation and a people by locking us behind closed bars. Yet when we look at the horizon, we see the thief's world slowly closing in on him.

The crimes of our thief can be exposed by confrontation. We are not disillusioned, but our so-called “parties” inside the prison bars do have a taste, because we prepare them ourselves. Additionally, orphans we are not, for outside the prison walls it is our people who is struggling for liberation. Until when? Only we, as prisoners and as a people, can answer this question.

Ameer Makhoul is the General Director of Ittijah- Union of Arab Community-Based Organizations in Palestine 48 and president of the Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms of Palestinians 48. He is a Palestinian political prisoner who has been in prison since May 2010. 

Translated by Shadi Rouhana

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