Students and activists discuss Jalbou’ prison escape, prisoners’ movement in ‘Prison Notebooks’ guest lecture

Palestinian students, activists, and academics discussed the 2021 escape of six Palestinians from the Israeli occupation’s Jalbou’ (Gilboa) Prison and the ramifications of the daring break for freedom for the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and the broader Palestinian community in a special lecture of the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies’ “Prison Notebooks” course.

The lecture, featuring freed Palestinian prisoners Yahya Zubeidi, Ahmad Al-Arda, and Sari Orabi, is the first in a series of guest talks led by Palestinian prisoners on the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and its position and perspectives within the broader Palestinian community.

Khalida Jarrar, a researcher at Birzeit University’s Muwatin Institute for Democracy and Human Rights who was previously imprisoned by the Israeli occupation, inaugurated the guest lecture with a discussion of the symbolism and aftermath of the Palestinian prison escape, noting how, by breaking free from their unjust detention, the six prisoners inspired and raised the hopes of Palestinians at home and abroad.

Continuing with the theme of hope and inspiration, Yahya Zubeidi, whose brother Zakaria Zubeidi was one of the Palestinians who broke free from the Jalbou’ prison, highlighted the mixed range of emotions permeating the Palestinian community, whether in Jenin or other areas, after the prison escape had been discovered. The six prisoners’ break from what has been called one of the Israeli occupation’s most secure detention centers, Zubeidi said, boosted Palestinian morale nationwide and prompted a sense of national unity, especially among Palestinian political parties.

Also discussing national unity and popular solidarity with the prisoners’ movement after the Jalbou’ Prison escape was Ahmad Al-Arda, whose brother, Mahmoud Al-Arda, led the break from the detention center. Solidarity with the families of the six Palestinian prisoners, Al-Arda said, swelled after the prison escape and the subsequent capture by the Israeli occupation’s authorities.

Finally, Sari Orabi, a researcher in Palestinian and Arab affairs who was imprisoned by the Israeli occupation, discussed the symbolism inherent in the six Palestinian prisoners’ escape from Jalbou’ Prison. Such a break for freedom, he noted, not only represents a triumph of the prisoner against the captor, but is also a blow to the Israeli strategy of subduing Palestinian resistance through brutal arrest campaigns and grueling detention and interrogation techniques inside prisons.