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Jewish Prisoner Continues Six-Week Hunger Strike

Nationalist prisoner Gamliel, father of 7, is in solitary confinement - punishment for his 6-week hunger strike in protest of his harsh treatment.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 10/28/2008, 12:40 PM

Nationalist prisoner Ofer Gamliel, father of 7, is in solitary confinement, allowed no family visits - punishment for his 6-week hunger strike in protest of his harsh treatment.

Gamliel, a resident of Bat Ayin in Gush Etzion, has served 6.5 years of a 15-year-sentence, with no vacations.  He was convicted of his role in an aborted bombing of an Arab school in Jerusalem in 2002.  He and his two co-defendants,  neighbors of his, claimed the bomb was never meant to go off, but rather to instill fear in the Arab community in light of the many murderous Arab terror attacks during that period.

The bomb, in fact, did not go off, yet the three plotters were sentenced to between 12 and 15 years in prison - longer than many Arab terrorists who fired their weapons at Jews.

Gamliel and many of the other 17 Jewish nationalist prisoners in various prisons have been treated with extraordinary harshness, in comparison with other prisoners.  Though Arab terrorists receive vacations on a regular basis, Gamliel has not been allowed out for more than a few hours in total during these 6.5 years. 
Lawyers are permitted to visit him.

In addition, it is a foregone conclusion that the Jewish department of the General Security Service (Shabak), which has been very heavily involved in the case, will not allow his release for "good behavior" after two-thirds of the sentence has been completed.

In addition, the Jewish prisoners must be totally separated from the Arabs, leading to some absurd situations.  "On Holocaust Remembrance Day," Gamliel's wife Michal told IsraelNationalNews, "Ofer and the others weren't allowed to participate - because Arab prisoners were there."

Gamliel and the other prisoners have seen Arab terrorists, and even murderers with "blood on their hands," come and go, such as the 700 who were released as "goodwill gestures" over the past several months.  Just two months ago, 198 were freed, including two murderers.  This, while Gamliel's release is not even being considered.

Gamliel's wife met with Public Security Minister Avi Dichter several months ago, and reported afterwards that he told her, "The truth is that we don't have as much of an interest in releasing your husband and the Jewish security prisoners as we do in releasing the Arabs."

Gamliel: To Solitary, and Now to Be'er Sheva
A few days after beginning the strike, Gamliel was transferred to solitary confinement, and then to a prison in Be'er Sheva, where he remains out of touch with the other Jewish prisoners and even with his family.

"We used to be able to speak to him by phone every day," Michal said, "but now he is not allowed any phone privileges.  The only thing was last week, when our son had to undergo an operation, he was allowed to speak for exactly two minutes and no more. After Rosh HaShanah, a prisoner in the neighboring cell had a phone, and Ofer yelled out my phone number, and I 'talked' to him with help of this prisoner, yelling back and forth between the cells..."

Only Lawyers and MKs
"When he was in Maasiyahu Prison in Ramle," she said, "we were allowed to visit him for an hour a week. Each time I would take a few children... Now, however, no one is allowed to visit him - except for Knesset Members and anyone registered as a lawyer.  So far, some lawyers have come to see him, and also MKs Rabbi Yitzchak Levy and Aryeh Eldad, and Eli Yishai is supposed to come as well."
Realizing that they want to leave him in jail for the next 8.5 years, period, Gamliel decided to begin his hunger strike.

How is the hunger strike affecting him?  "I don't know," Michal said, "because I am not allowed to be in touch with him!  I know that he is continuing the hunger strike, though he takes a bit of wine for Kiddush and a k'zayit [small amount] of bread for Shabbat and holidays.  He is also not permitted to take part in any activities - not work, sports, library or yard time - and spends his days learning Torah."

"Something is rotten in the country," Michal said, "but what choice do we have? This is our country, and we have to do whatever we can to try to improve things."

The GSS justifies its harsh stance against the Jewish prisoners by claiming they are hiding information about other Jewish conspiracies.  GSS representatives invariably tell judges in court hearings that "every minute they are out of jail represents a danger to the State of Israel." 

The Lone Judge
Last year, one judge did not believe them - but it didn't help.  Tel Aviv Judge David Rosen ruled that the danger presented by Gamliel is no different than those presented by prisoners who are allowed vacations, and that he must therefore be allowed a short vacation outside prison.  The GSS protested the ruling to the Supreme Court, which accepted the appeal. 

Gamliel protested and appealed the overturning of the decision, but Supreme Court Judge Uzi Fogelman rejected his appeal and upheld the no-vacations policy.  Gamliel then applied to the Supreme Court for a re-hearing, but Justice Eliezer Rivlin turned him down.              

Realizing that as far as the authorities are concerned, he is destined to spend the next 8.5 years in prison without ever leaving, Gamliel decided to begin his hunger strike.

Shmuel Medad, head of the Honenu civil rights organization that has provided Gamliel and the other prisoners free legal help, said, "If people want their voice to be heard, they should fax Dichter at +972-2-530-8039, as well as the one man who can order their release - President Shimon Peres, at +972-2-5611033." 

In addition, lawyers are invited to visit Gamliel in the Be'er Sheva prison.