The Israel Prison Service is delaying life-saving medical treatment to Abdul-Razeq Farraj

Khaled Farraj

Mondoweiss  /  March 14, 2023

Abdul-Razeq Farraj’s treatment for a malignant tumor is being delayed by the Israel Prison Services — part of a broader systematic Israeli policy of medical negligence of Palestinian prisoners.

My brother, Abdul-Razeq Farraj, who is incarcerated in Israeli prisons, first noticed black sores on the left side of his nose three months ago. He informed the prison doctor, and following a screening procedure, the prison authority ordered that he be transferred to a civilian hospital to undergo further tests. It turned out that this sore is a malignant tumor, and that an operation must be performed to remove it.

I am not a doctor, but a simple comparison between a photo of the tumor that I saw three months ago, and between another photo that the lawyer was allowed to take this month, points to visible changes with regards to its size. Indeed, the tumor has been rapidly growing on the left side of my brother’s nose.

A friend who is a surgeon had first informed me that the case is not dangerous, and that a simple procedure would effectively remove the tumor. This was the case when he saw the first photo three months ago. This month, however, after seeing the recent photo and following consultation with other doctors, my friend noted that an urgent operation is needed, and that the tumor’s expansion is vertical and not just horizontal. Any delay in performing the operation would lead to the tumor’s expansion, he warned. Indeed, what we are talking about here is a cancerous tumor that must not be ignored. The Ofer prison authority where my brother is arrested, has delayed delivering his medical report to his lawyer and to a representative of Physicians for Human Rights. The report was finally sent to the lawyer, but it is no more than a procedural report without any substance.

My surgeon friend and his colleagues in the United Kingdom were surprised when they heard about this deliberate delay in having my brother undergo the much-needed operation. Indeed, it was urgent to perform the operation and remove the tumor ever since December 2022, i.e., when he first received the diagnosis. This kind of delay by the Israeli Prison Service authorities in providing urgently needed medical care to Palestinian prisoners is clearly deliberate.

My brother Abdul-Razeq has been imprisoned for over three and a half years. He was subjected to brutal torture in Israeli interrogation centers during his most recent arrest in 2019, and he is currently awaiting trial in Israeli military courts.

This, however, is not my brother’s first imprisonment. He has spent over ten years of his life incarcerated under the arbitrary policy of administrative detention, between 1995 – 2018. He also served a sentence of six years between 1985 and 1991. These arrests, along with his recent arrest in 2019, have added to a total of twenty years that he has already spent in Israeli prisons. Notably, Israeli military courts have always repeated the same accusation of ‘endangering regional security and the security of the public’ in its list of indictments against my brother, as well as in its administrative detention orders that are based on ‘secret files’ to which neither lawyers nor their clients have access.

Abdul-Razeq, who has recently turned sixty, has spent a third of his life away from his family. His son, Basil, finished his doctoral studies in Geneva, Switzerland and started teaching at Birzeit University a few months ago. His younger son, Wadea, finished his studies in engineering and joined the workforce, all while their father was away. His life partner, Lamis, has spent half of her married life traveling between prisons and Israeli military courts trying to find some sort of temporary family stability. 

Yes, Abdul-Razeq was punished, in the literal sense, more than once — in front of the same court and under the same accusation. While he was out of prison, Abdul-Razeq worked for many years in journalism, and in agricultural development as part of his work in the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. He devoted his time during his first job to expose Israeli crimes against Palestinians, and in the second for strengthening Palestinian farmers’ resilience and resistance on their land against Israeli settler policies. Abdul-Razeq has devoted part of his time and energy to get rid of this occupation; for the freedom of his people; for justice and human rights. 

The worry I have for my brother this time is not similar to previous years when he was held under administrative detention. Then, the whole family would await his ‘supposed’ release date; my mother – may her soul rest in peace – his brothers and sister, wife, and sons would usually be disappointed by another detention renewal for the second, third, fourth and even tenth time.

This time is different. My brother Abdul-Razeq is not young anymore, nor does he have the strength he once had. Secondly, his case relates to a disease that is quickly spreading. Thirdly, our worry has increased with the rise of the Israeli far-right given their major role in governing the settler-colonial state, particularly given that the convicted criminal and extremist settler Itamar Ben-Gvir has been handed authority over the Israel Prison Service as part of his recently established portfolio as the national security minister. Fourth, the Israeli policy of medical negligence towards our prisoners is widespread, and our prisoners are left to face their fate alone.

Providing medical treatment for prisoners is one of the most inalienable rights to which they should have access. Indeed, it is well-known that the Israeli occupation has a long history, substantiated by prisoners’ names and testimonies, of medical negligence against Arab and Palestinian prisoners. 

Human rights and medical organizations must collectively coordinate efforts to pressure the Israeli occupation to provide required medical treatment to all sick prisoners. This is its legal and ‘moral’ responsibility. In the end, our demand is for the freedom and the right to medical treatment for Abdul-Razeq and his comrades in Israeli colonial prisons.

Khaled Farraj is the Director General of the Institute for Palestine Studies