1st Edition

The Palestinian Prisoners Movement Resistance and Disobedience

By Julie M. Norman Copyright 2021
    146 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    146 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Providing a contemporary history of the Palestinian prisoners movement, this book illustrates the centrality of the movement in the broader Palestinian national struggle. Based on direct interviews with former prisoners and former security sector personnel, it offers new insights into the strategies that prisoners employed to gain rights over time, as well as the tactics used by prison authorities to maintain control.

    Prisons have functioned as microcosms of the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with the Israeli state aiming to use mass incarceration for security, and Palestinian prisoners seeking to take back the prison space for organizing and resistance. Prisoners’ actions included but were not limited to hunger strikes, as prisoners often relied more on everyday acts of noncompliance and developing an internal "counterorder" to challenge authorities. The volume demonstrates how the Palestinian prisoners movement was intertwined with the Palestinian national movement, strongest in the popular mobilization era of the 1970s and 1980s, and significantly weaker and more fragmented after the Oslo Accords of the 1990s and the second intifada.

    Presenting a fresh analysis of a central, but often overlooked aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the volume offers valuable reflections on prison-based resistance in protracted conflicts more broadly. It is a key resource to students and scholars interested in contemporary conversations on mass incarceration, criminal justice, Middle East politics and history.

    1. Introduction

    2. Imprisonment, Detention, and the Legal System

    3. Resistance through Organizing: The Counterorder

    4. Resistance through Actions: Hunger Strikes and Civil Disobedience

    5. Palestinian Politics and Shifts after Oslo

    6. Diffusion of Activism

    7. Security and the State

    8. Conclusion


    Julie M. Norman is a lecturer in politics at University College London (UCL). She is the author of three books on unarmed resistance in the Middle East, including The Second Palestinian Intifada: Civil Resistance (Routledge 2010), and she publishes widely on conflict, security, and human rights.

    "Rigorous, humane, and brave. This ‘history of the present’ illuminates Palestinian resistance in prison in both everyday and more confrontational forms, and how prison resistance has related to the national movement over time. This volume is invaluable especially because it asks us to listen to former Palestinian prisoners themselves. It is an important and powerful read for journalists, policy makers, activists, students, and scholars concerned with Palestinians living under military occupation and (beyond Palestine) with ways of living and struggling in prison." — Amahl Bishara, Tufts University

    "In situating first-hand prisoner accounts alongside historical analysis, Norman affirms the crucial role the Palestinian Prisoner movement assume within the broad spectrum of Palestinian resistance. This detailed and engaging analysis is an important and timely contribution to the broader field of political resistance to incarceration." — Brendan Browne, Trinity College Dublin

    "Julie Norman’s outstanding study uses testimony from Palestinian political prisoners themselves to explore the "counterorder" they construct within Israeli prisons and how this is linked to the broader dynamics of the nationalist movement. It is at once both sensitive and insightful, with much to offer scholars of Palestinian politics, prison activism, and popular mobilization." — Rex Brynen, McGill University

    "Using concepts from the literature on social movement and nonviolent resistance, Julie Norman, in superb narrative fashion, explores the relationship between the prisoners’ movement and the Palestinian national movement. Tracing changes in the prisons—and the prisoners’ efforts—over time, Norman captures the human agency of Palestinians caught in the crossfires of the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict." — Maia Carter Hallward, Kennesaw State University

    "In fascinating detail, Julie Norman explores the evolution of the Palestinian prisoner movement. Collective resistance, hunger-strikes, education, and mobilisation beyond the prisons all speak to the central role of the prisons in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This book is a must read for those who care about the Middle East and political imprisonment in general. An impressive achievement." — Kieran McEvoy, Queens University Belfast