Israel in quandary over social captives

Haifa Farras is serving a two-year sentence for trying to stab an Israeli soldier with a knife in September 1995. She should be released this week. Israel agreed as part of its Hebron deal with the PLO three weeks ago that she and 28 other female Palestinian political prisoners would be freed during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends this week.

But Ms Farras, 31, is not a typical political prisoner, and she is far from elated at the thought of her impending freedom. She admits that her motives in confronting the solider with a kitchen knife were not primarily political: she was desperate to escape her family, who wanted her to go to Saudi Arabia, and thought an Israeli jail was the best place to do it.

The Independent has learned that many of the other female prisoners have similar stories: they had social, rather than political, motives for their attacks on Israelis. According to the Women's Organisation for Political Prisoners, only eight of the 29 women - whose release was debated for weeks in the peace negotiations and bitterly decried by some Israelis who oppose freeing women they call "terrorists" - were primarily political in their motivation.

The others are what the WOPP calls "social cases": unhappy young girls who sought personal freedom in the form of an Israeli jail. Fleeing abusive homes, arranged marriages, or choosing to continue their studies, they committed acts of violence against Israelis, knowing that they would be given lengthy jail sentences.

In autumn 1995, Ms Farras visited relatives in the Gaza strip. Her parents, Palestinian refugees who now live in Saudi Arabia, told her it was time to join them. "But I was so happy, to be in my country [Gaza]," she says. "I had studied microbiology for six years and I knew that back in Saudi I couldn't be free like I was in Gaza."

So one morning she tried to stab a soldier at a checkpoint in Gaza, and as she had expected, she soon found herself part of a well-known small band of women prisoners in Telmond Prison, north of Tel Aviv. Her family has never been to visit her in jail - "they are angry, they think my disobedience was shameful" - and she dreads facing them, if they will in fact take her back, upon her release.

"Palestinian society is patriarchal, and under the Israeli occupation, it was especially tightly controlled," said Ibtisam Jikhlleb, an activist with the WOPP, which raises funds and provides lawyers for the women. "Some women saw no other escape, felt they had nothing to lose, and in the environment of the intifada [Palestinian rebellion], they saw stabbing a soldier as the best way out."

Last summer, when Israel announced that all the women except five who "have Jewish blood on their hands" would be released, the others refused to go. They barricaded themselves together in two cells and held a 19- day hunger strike, until Israel agreed that they would stay in prison. "And if we are not all released this week, then we are all staying," Ms Farras said.

"I've learned here that it's a good thing for girls to fight in the resistance," she explains.

Ms Farras has an almost reverential respect for the five women for whom she has remained in jail. Among them is Rula Abu Dehu, 28, who has served nine years of a life-plus-25-years sentence for transporting a weapon used to kill on Israeli, a charge she still denies.

Abu Dehu was a member of a cell of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and still speaks proudly of her activities with them. But she acknowledged in Telmond last week that few of the women imprisoned there with her were activists like she was.

"It's true, they weren't like me," she said. "But look at what they chose to do: they didn't run away, they didn't use drugs or rob a store, they chose to attack a soldier. That spirit of resistance is in all Palestinian women."

t Nablus, West Bank (AP) - A Palestinian land-dealer who died in custody over the weekend was tortured by his Palestinian interrogators, the justice minister Freih Abu Medein said in an interview published yesterday.

The death of Yousef Baba, 32, brought to 11 the number of Palestinians who have died in detention since Yasser Arafat's self-rule government took control of parts of the West Bank and Gaza strip in May 1994.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
arts + entsJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
Queen Elizabeth II sends the first royal tweet under her own name to declare the opening of the new Information Age Galleries at the Science Museum, South Kensington, London
people
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
peopleAmal and George Clooney 'planning third celebration in England'
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley at the premiere of Laggie at Toronto Film Festival 2014
theatreActress 'to make Broadway debut'
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Focused Business Analyst - Finance and Procurement System Implementation

£350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reading are...

Head of Business Development and Analytics - TV

competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM - A high q...

Head of ad sales international - Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker