How many people have heard of Karim Younis? If his name means very little to you, that’s probably because you were a child or not even born when he was arrested by Israeli security forces. Or you have compassion fatigue. You shouldn’t; it’s time to wake up, because Karim Younis is the world’s longest serving political prisoner ever, and this month marks his 39th year in an Israeli prison. That’s right: 39th year.
The then university student was arrested on 6 January, 1983 for doing nothing more than resisting the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine, which is the legitimate right of all Palestinians according to the 1949 Geneva Convention signed by most countries, including my own, Britain. His arrest was sudden and without warning. Younis was charged with possessing illegal weapons and smuggling them to the Palestinian army of Fatah — a banned organisation in those days — as well as the killing of an Israeli soldier.
We all have the right and duty to resist the occupation of our country: think about the heroic French Resistance in World War Two, the Dutch Resistance and the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance of Polish Jews. Such right to resistance was enshrined in international law post-war. As far as Israel and its supporters are concerned, though, the law is irrelevant in this and other cases, because the person involved is a Palestinian born in the Arab village of Ara near Nazareth. Had Younis been born anywhere else in the world he would probably never even have been arrested, let alone detained across five decades. However, the spiteful and malicious Israeli occupation authorities seem to have no limit when it comes to how they deal with the Palestinians.
Karim Younis was born on 24 December, 1956, and after finishing his high school studies he joined Ben Gurion University to study mechanical engineering. It was while he was attending a lecture on campus in the Naqab Desert that he was arrested and given a life sentence which expires after 40 years.
Along with 14 other Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and also serving long jail terms, Younis was among thirty whom Israel pledged to release as a show of goodwill and a confidence building measure. That was the deal agreed in talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2013 under the watchful eye of US President Barack Obama’s administration. The agreement “guaranteed” the release of all the Palestinians arrested before the 1993 Oslo Accords.
That was the theory. Israel, though, has the same respect for the agreements it signs that it has for international laws and conventions: none whatsoever. It has ignored more UN Resolutions than any other country in the world today, even the conditions attaching to its membership of the international organisation, one of which was to allow all Palestinian refugees to return to their land. It is no surprise, therefore, to learn that the settler-colonial state reneged on the deal to release Younis and the other long-term prisoners. This basically destroyed the US-sponsored peace process.
During his time in prison, Younis has written two books: The Political Reality in Israel (1990) in which he recounts the merits and demerits of Israeli political parties; and The Ideological Struggle and Settlement (1993).
It is sad that international human rights groups do not remember the injustice of the imprisonment and continued detention of Younis and the other Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. We hear no calls for his release, which is a sad indictment of each and every one of us; the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” could not be more apt in this case.
Karim Younis is a freedom fighter, not unlike the late, great Nelson Mandela who became much revered by world leaders after he was released from prison in the dying days of apartheid South Africa. Mandela’s freedom in 1990 was obtained due to domestic and international pressure after serving 27 years in prison. Younis has already served 11 years more than Mandela as he enters his 39th year behind bars. Where’s the outcry? Where’s the television coverage and “Free Younis” concerts?
Rage about injustice should not be selective. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr. How much longer are we all going to keep quiet about Karim Younis and the other Palestinians held by Israel?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.