An hour earlier, Qatamesh’s wife, 22-year-old daughter and two other female
relatives, including a 14-year-old child, were taken hostage by Israeli troops
in another apartment to compel him to surrender himself. He was led to “Ofer”
detention center in Beitunia.
Ahmad Qatamesh was born in 1950 in a cave in Bethlehem to a refugee family
expelled during the Nakba from the village of Al-Malihah, near Jerusalem. Qatamesh
earned his diploma in Arabic literature from the UNRWA-run Teacher Training
Center in Ramallah.
In 1992, he was arrested by a massive Israeli force in the presence of his
then 3-year-old daughter. Accusing him of being a particularly “dangerous”
national leader, the Israeli Shabak tortured and illtreated him 2 for a hundred
days, an experience that he articulately exposed in his well-read prison notes
titled I Shall not Wear Your Tarboush (fez). After the Shabak failed to produce
incriminating evidence, however, an Israeli military court issued an “administrative
detention” order against him, in accordance with an emergency law that
allows Israel to detain for renewable terms anyone under its jurisdiction without
charges, trial or access to the charges against him/her. This unjust procedure
was repeatedly condemned as a violation of internationally accepted standards
of justice by leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.
Qatamesh’s detention was renewed continuously for almost six years, making
him the longest serving administrative detainee ever. In April 1998, after a
persistent public pressure campaign by Palestinian, Israeli and international
human rights activists and organizations, Qatamesh was finally released. 4
Ahmad Qatamesh earned his master’s degree and later his PhD in political
science from a Dutch university through distance learning, as he was under a
travel ban by the Israeli occupation
He then became a thesis supervisor for several Palestinian graduate students
of the same university. He authored several books on diverse literary, political
and philosophical topics, and he was a sought-after speaker in local universities
and research centers. In 2010, he taught a course in the School of Humanities
at Al-Quds University.
Qatamesh’s wife, Suha Barghouti, who is a board member of Addameer Prisoner
Support and Human Rights Organization and of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society,
as well as a Steering Committee member of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO),
considered his arrest “an attempt to silence his critical voice and prevent
his compelling vision for emancipation and self determination from spreading
further in the Palestinian public.” She called on human rights organizations
to pressure the Israeli authorities for his immediate release and held those
authorities fully responsible for his safety and wellbeing.
His daughter, Haneen, who is on a short break from her studies at the American
University of Cairo, commented on her traumatizing experience of being held
hostage by Israeli soldiers saying: “They tried to intimidate me by exploiting
my deep agony over the idea of being denied my father again, but I firmly confronted
them and reminded them of the fate of all colonial powers on our land. In response,
their commander shouted that I was as ‘obstinate’ as my father.”
Gerarda Ventura, Vice President of the Euromed Platform of NGOs, expressed
deep solidarity of European civil society with Palestinians like Ahmad Qatamesh,
whom she called “one of the most sensitive and intellectual people I have
ever met,” in their civil struggle for “freedom, justice and peace.”
The Addameer-appointed lawyer who visited Qatamesh the day after his arrest
stated that he was not interrogated and that he was informed instead that he
would get an administrative detention order. This indicates that the Shabak,
again, lack any evidence to build a case against him and proves that he was
arrested indeed for his writings and peaceful activism and not any “security”
reasons as was claimed by the Israeli authorities.
Praising Ahmad Qatamesh as “an excellent writer, principled researcher
and devoted human rights advocate … struggling for freedom and respect
of fundamental rights,” Palestinian Legislative Council member Dr. Mustafa
Barghouti condemned his arrest by Israel as “a shameless attempt at muzzling
him in an unjustifiable attack on his freedom of expression.”
Ahmad Qatamesh’s family has appealed to international agencies and human rights organizations to work for releasing him and all the other Palestinian prisoners of conscience. They also called for ending the draconian policy of administrative detention, which is based on emergency regulations from the era of the British Mandate, as a blatant violation of freedoms and human rights, in particular the right to a fair and just due process.
1. Also spelled “Katamesh” and “Qatamish.” 2. http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE02/004/1998/en/7090ae54-d9de-11dd-af2bb1f6023af0c5/mde020041998en.pdf. 3. Ibid. 4. http://articles.latimes.com/1998/apr/16/news/mn-39885/3authorities.