Women have been instrumental to the Palestinian liberation struggle from its inception, and the role they have played in political, civil, and armed resistance has been as critical, if not as visible, as that of their male counterparts. In addition to experiencing the same forms of repression as men, be it arrest, indefinite detention, or incarceration, Palestinian women have also been subjected to sexual violence and other gendered forms of coercion at the hands of the Israeli occupation regime. Drawing on testimonies from former and current female prisoners, this paper details Israel's incarceration policies and examines their consequences for Palestinian women and their families. It argues that Israel uses the incarceration of women as a weapon to undermine Palestinian resistance and to fracture traditionally cohesive social relations; and more specifically, that the prison authorities subject female prisoners to sexual and gender-based violence as a psychological weapon to break them and, by extension, their children.
This essay addresses the legal status of Palestinian political prisoners under international humanitarian and human rights law. At the heart of this issue lies the fundamental question of Israel's right to arrest hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, put them on trial before arbitrary military courts, and treat them as criminals in its capacity as the occupying power given the internationally-recognized right of Palestinians to resist occupation and pursue self-determination. This question takes on all the more urgency considering the illegal nature of the Israeli occupation 1 and given that the laws and rules of war are applicable to Palestinian detainees as their status conforms to the definition of prisoners of war and civilians under occupation pursuant to the Geneva Conventions of 1949.