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Jewish Security Prisoners Continue to be Forgotten

Netanyahu promises Obama more “gestures” for Abbas – including perhaps releasing terrorist prisoners before holidays. Don’t Jews have any holidays?
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 3/23/2010, 2:52 PM / Last Update: 3/23/2010, 2:12 PM

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went to the United States, after promising U.S. President Barack Obama that he would consider additional “gestures” towards the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. Among the gestures considered was the release of terrorist prisoners – and Shmuel Medad of Honenu asked, “Why are Jewish security prisoners not released as well? Don’t Jews have holidays too?”

Medad, known as Zangy, heads the Honenu civil rights organization, which provides legal and other aid to Jews accused of security crimes. He told Arutz-7’s Hebrew newsmagazine that ten years ago, “We turned to then-President Ezer Weizmann and told him it’s bad enough that Arab terrorists are being released, but why do the Jews have to remain in prison? He said that he had not thought of it that way, and later agreed to our request; some of them were freed right away, and the remainder were released within the year.”
Jewish security prisoner's wife: "I have no strength left to fight them any more; I have to support my family, and run the house, and take care of everything myself, and I can’t do it."

Minister Yishai
Within ministerial circles, Zangy says that Eli Yishai of Shas has been the most helpful, though he too has not succeeded in practice. “Yishai tried to have them pardoned, he spoke about it in Cabinet meetings, and allowed me to speak to his Knesset faction - but beyond that he did not turn it into an ultimatum or the like. It was important that he spoke about it, but nothing practical resulted.”

Zangy said that legislation has been formulated and proposed, stipulating that Arab terrorist prisoners will no longer be released unless Jewish prisoners are released as well. The Jewish prisoners in question would only be those who committed the acts for which they are imprisoned in response to terror attacks. Supporting the bill are MKs Tzachi HaNegbi, Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and coalition whip Ze’ev Elkin. The bill is currently on hold because Netanyahu thought it interferes with negotiations for Gilad Shalit, "though I don't see the connection," Zangy said.

Murderer Might be Released before Victim's Father!
“For example,” Zangy says, “we are about to commemorate the first anniversary of the terrorist murder of Shlomo Nativ, the boy who was axed to death in Bat Ayin. Wounded  in the same attack was the son of Ofer Gamliel, who is serving an unprecedented 15-year sentence for having participated in a terrorist attack that never even happened – and his role was simply not having notified the police about it in advance. Arabs convicted of the same crime receive about half that punishment… At this rate, the murderer himself might be released even before the father of the boy he axed!”

“These people – a small group of about 15 individuals in prison – are paying a very high price for having reacted to a situation over which they had no control, namely, terrorism. There are those who justify it more, or less, but the fact is that they and their wives and their families are suffering, and we must be sensitive to this and do what we can to help them – either to have them released, or to allow them vacation time at least!”

15-Year Prisoner's Wife: They Keep Coming Up with "New" Information
Michal Gamliel, Ofer’s wife, spoke to Israel National News of her life raising seven children alone for the past nearly eight years – and for another seven years as well, if the Shabal (Israel Security Agency) has its way. “I have practically given up hope of seeing him out before the 15 years are up,” she said. “I write letters to whoever possible, and submit court suits, and ask that he be allowed to have vacations – but then the Shabak comes with their ‘secret’ information on how dangerous he is, and I have no idea what that information is, and the judge is told how dangerous he is, and that’s the end of it. I have no strength left to fight them any more; I have to support my family, and run the house, and take care of everything myself, and I can’t do it. And don’t forget that each time I submit a petition, the Shabak has to come up with new ‘secret’ information – they can’t just rehash the same stuff – and yet even though he’s in prison and doesn’t talk to anyone, they still manage to come up with new information on how dangerous he is. So how many times can I continue banging my head on a brick wall? In the end, one's head breaks.”

Despite this, this Thusday, the Honenu lawyer Adi Keidar will file a request on the Gamliels’ behalf to have Ofer released just for the upcoming Passover Seder. “Last year he was home for the Seder for the first time in his seven years in jail - and that was only because of the special circumstances that our son had just been wounded in a terror attack… So far, in the past nearly eight years, he has been out only for that Seder, a hospital visit to our son, three bar/bat mitzvahs for our children, and to pay a condolence call to his mother after her mother died – and that’s it.”

Asked what the chances are that he will receive parole after ten years, Michal said, “Since he doesn’t get vacations, because the Shabak has determined that he is so "dangerous", there is no chance that he will get parole…”