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Walid Daqqa, the longest-held Palestinian political prisoner, was killed by Israeli occupation

Walid Daqqa, the longest-held Palestinian political prisoner and a revolutionary leader, passed away on April 7 at the age of 62, serving 38 years in Israeli prison. Daqqa’s death comes as a stark illustration of Israel’s heinous and criminal mistreatment and willful negligence of Palestinians, often jailed without due process. Palestinian activists hold Israeli prisons responsible for killing Daqqa through “intentional medical neglect.” Daqqa was diagnosed with a myelofibrosis, a rare bone cancer in 2021 and also suffered from chronic lung disease.

Since Daqqa’s imprisonment, he has become a symbol of resistance, hope and the unbreakable spirit for Palestinians across the world, embodying the inability of Israel to stifle the desire for liberation. Daqqa’s ideas of liberation were expressed through novels, essays and letters which fostered international solidarity. The International Union of Left Publishers described Daqqa as “a voice of the people, a voice that the Occupation fears and hopes to silence.”

Daqqa, originally from Baqa al-Gharbiyye, one of the Arab-majority cities in Israel, was arrested in March 1986 for “allegedly participating in armed resistance as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” and was sentenced to life in prison. His sentence was eventually reduced to 37 years but Israel continued to illegally detain him until his death this year on bogus charges of smuggling mobile phones into prison. 

International human rights groups and Palestinian organizations on the ground have repeatedly condemned Israel’s mistreatment of Daqqa and other political prisoners, maintaining that prisoners are subject to routine torture, neglect and confined to solitary cells. In May last year, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council urgently appealed the United Nations Special Procedures calling for Daqqa’s immediate release due to imminent deteriorating conditions as a direct result of the Israeli Prison Services’ policy of deliberate medical neglect. 

In a 2021 report, the United Nations recognized Israel’s deliberate policy of willfully delaying urgent treatments and condemned it as an abhorrent and systematic tactic against Palestinians to prolong their suffering. It further stated that “violating Palestinian prisoners’ rights to health and dignity, the IPS’s deliberate medical negligence policy has become an integral part of Israel’s oppression of Palestinian prisoners and detainees.”

Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa said last year that Daqqa’s case demonstrates the “Israeli justice system’s cruelty towards Palestinians, including those who are seriously ill or dying. [Daqqa’s] health conditions have already been exacerbated by medical neglect on the part of the Israeli Prison Service [where they] refused to transfer him to a proper hospital for 11 days, a delay which led to life-threatening complications.” 

Despite multiple appeal attempts, Daqqa’s case continued to be rejected. The PFLP said last year “that not releasing Daqqa is tantamount to a death sentence and [holds] … the Zionist occupation fully responsible…”

Even in such repressive conditions, the will to live and pass on the legacy of resistance carried on, especially with the birth of Daqqa’s daughter, Milad, in 2020 who was “conceived after his sperm was smuggled out of prison.”

It is clear that Walid Daqqa was killed explicitly because of the callous disregard Israel has for Palestinian prisoners, regardless of age or gender. Since Oct. 7, Israeli prisons have only intensified this torture and jailed thousands more. As of writing, there are more than 9,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, including political prisoners, administrative detainees, children and women and more.

This is Israel’s dying gasp to hold onto its apartheid regime as the shift in public consciousness and global sentiment has turned against Israel. People are increasingly seeing Israel for what it actually is, a colonizing regime depriving Palestinians dignity, self-determination, and the right to return to their land. Even after Daqqa’s death, Israel has refused to return the body to his family and announced it will continue holding his corpse until March 2025 — the official end of his prison sentence.

The legacy of Palestinian martyrs and Daqqa are etched into the struggle and can never be silenced regardless of Israel’s attempts. Their sacrifices will continue to fire the fight for liberation.

We demand the freedom of all Palestinian political prisoners! We demand an end to all illegal and discriminatory practices against jailed Palestinians! We demand an end to all U.S. aid to Israel, the end of the occupation, and the full liberation of Palestine!

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