I Am Spending July 14 in Israel’s Bastille as a Political Prisoner

Salah Hamouri is a French-Palestinian lawyer imprisoned without charges by Israel. In an open letter to France’s president Emmanuel Macron, he denounces how Israel uses its “Bastilles” to crush Palestinians’ basic freedoms.

French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri has been detained without trial by Israel since March. (Abbas Momani / AFP via Getty Images)

In March this year, Salah Hamouri — a French-Palestinian lawyer from Jerusalem — published an article in Jacobin documenting his long-standing abuse at the hands of the Israeli state, including repeated detention without trial, physical violence, family separation, surveillance, judicial harassment, and attempts at deportation. The day after the article was published, Salah was arrested by the Israeli occupation and has been held without trial ever since.

Here he writes to French president Emmanuel Macron from his prison cell, on the occasion of Bastille Day, highlighting his plight, drawing parallels with abuses in French history, and calling for his immediate release from Israeli dungeons. Despite his French citizenship, the French state and Macron’s administration have done little to prevent the continued abuses against him and his repeated incarceration, limiting themselves to mealymouthed statements calling for his human rights.

To Emmanuel Macron, president of the French Republic

From Prison Cell No. 4 of Ofer prison, July 3, 2022

Mr President,

I write you this letter in the run-up to July 14, this date of utmost significance to the world, which brought forth the values of humanity and democracy that underpin the French motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” This slogan captured the will of hundreds of thousands of French citizens in their struggle to eradicate the injustice, oppression, and hunger that blighted their lives. The storming of the Bastille on July 14, and the liberation of those prisoners unjustly held by the ancien régime, has shaped my conviction that the right to self-determination will always be claimed and enjoyed by the people themselves.

Today, I am in a Bastille called “Ofer” in occupied Palestinian territory, being held for a third time under “administrative detention.” There have been no charges issued against me, and me and my fellow prisoners are subject to military courts similar to those that sentenced General Charles De Gaulle to execution and revocation of his citizenship.

Mr President, did you know that we, Palestinian political prisoners, are incarcerated in prisons established and operated by an occupying state considered to be practicing apartheid by many human rights organizations and the United Nations? Do you know that one reason for this designation is the unjust use of “administrative detention” to imprison us without even the pretense of a trial? This law is so far from the standards of humanity that even Zionist leader Menachem Begin described it as “tyrannical and unethical” in a Knesset debate in 1951.

Mr President, what is the reason behind your double standard in the treatment of people living under oppression? I have seen you on several occasions defending the people of Ukraine and speaking up for the pain and torture they are facing, while you seem to have forgotten, or are deliberately ignoring, that we Palestinians have been facing injustices and occupation for seventy-eight years now. This occupying, colonial state has been continuously ethnically cleansing the Palestinian people from their land, yet you treat it with impunity and, by your actions, show that you consider it above the law.

Today, I truly believe that I am a fourth- or fifth-class citizen of the French state. This is evident due to the state’s consistent negligence and lack of action to end my continued detention, which is taking place without any charges or trial.

Your excellency should be aware that the values of freedom, justice, and equality are indivisible and should be enjoyed by all peoples, along with their inalienable human rights. I hope that you will find the courage to act with a clear conscience and pressure the occupying state to ensure my immediate release.