Tag Archives: Hungerstrike

U.S. Military Suicides and Palestinian Hunger Strikes

12 Jun


             There is some awareness in the United States that suicides among American military personnel are at the highest level since the years of the Vietnam War. It is no wonder. The sense of guilt and alienation associated with taking part in the Afghanistan War, especially multiple postings to a menacing war zone for a combat mission that is increasingly hard to justify and almost impossible to carry out successfully, seems sufficient to explain such a disturbing phenomenon. These tragic losses of life, now outnumbering battlefield deaths, about one per day since the start of 2012, are not hidden from the American public but nor do they provoke an appropriate sense of concern, of better, outrage. This contrasts with the Vietnam years, especially toward the end of the war, when many families with children at risk in a war that had lost its way and was being lost took to the streets, pressured their Congressional representatives, spoke at anti-war rallies, and supported their sons unwillingness to take part. Now there is a stony silence in American society, which seems to be a confirmation that we now are ‘citizens’ of or ‘patriots’ in an authoritarian democracy, or more urbanely, ‘subjects’ of a constitutional democracy. We are less than ever cognizant of the Jeffersonian imperative: the health of this democracy depends on the conscience and vigilance of its citizens.

 

            Anthony Swofford, a former marine, seeking to comprehend what Newsweek in a cover story (May 25, 2012) acknowledges to be “an epidemic” of suicides among combat veterans takes note of the resistance to self-scrutiny on the part of the governmental branches most involved. In his words, “the Department of Veteran Affairs and the military shy away from placing blame directly on the psychological and social costs of killing during combat.” There is some attention given apparently to improving the screening process so that potential suicides are not inducted, but no sensitivity to the deeply alienating experience of being assigned to kill in an utterly unfamiliar human environment as is the case with Afghanistan and Iraq that is naturally hostile to such an occupation by a distant country with an entirely different cultural orientation. If you have seen pictures of heavily armed American foot soldiers on patrol in an Afghan village feelings of surreal misfit seem inescapable. And yet, there is no national sense of responsibility associated with sending young Americans into situations where the harm done to themselves not only puts their lives and wellbeing in jeopardy as a result of being exposed to enemy weapons but also subjects them to often invisible traumatic wounds of the assigned combat duties that rarely altogether heal even many years after leaving the war zone.

 

            These wounds are far more widespread than even the high incidence of suicide suggests, often expressed in less dramatic and terminal ways. It is a monumental expression of insensitivity to the wellbeing of our youth that we put them in harm’s way to carry out a war effort that has long been drained of meaning, and that our leaders are at a loss to explain.  True patriotism in this century should produce an angry uproar and public debate before acquiescing in such a cruel indifference to the fate of our young warriors, who are disproportionately poor and frequently members of a marginalized minority. This insensitivity is, of course, far less pervasive than when the victims are ‘others.’ This is illustrated by the national failure to raise questions about the state terror associated with drone attacks on village communities in foreign countries that undoubtedly spreads acute fear and feelings of vulnerability to the entire population, and not just to those who might imagine themselves to be selected by an American president as a kill target.

 

            The relationship of these suicides to the recent wave of Palestinian hunger strikers objecting to Israeli practices of detention without charges or trial and to deplorable arrest and prison conditions is worth commenting upon. The hunger strikers are arousing widespread sympathy among their population, and a growing commitment to protest their confinement and celebrate their courage, embracing their acts as essential expressions of Palestinian nonviolent resistance to occupation, annexation, and apartheid conditions. Unlike suicides among veterans, which are lonely acts of desperation because the conditions of living have become endurable, the hunger strikers are willingly and knowingly engaging in a punishing self-decreed refusal to accept food as the only means available to call attention to their severe grievances. Their acts express an intense desire for life, not death, but their statement to the world is that when conditions become so dreadful it is preferable to die than to be further humiliated by intolerable mistreatment.

 

            The first hunger striker, Khader Adnan, since his release in April tells of why he engaged in such extreme violence against his body despite a deep attachment to his family and village life: “The reasons behind my hunger strike were the frequent arrests and treatment received when arrested and the third was the barbaric methods of interrogation in prison—they humiliated me. They put dust of their shoes on my moustache, they picked hairs out of my beard, they tied my hand behind my back and to the chair which was tied to the floor. They put my picture on the floor and stepped on it. They cursed my wife, and my daughter who was less than a year and four months old with the most offensive words they could use.” The hunger strikes have finally brought to light such patterns of humiliation long imposed on imprisoned Palestinians. What Adnan did inspired many others among Palestinian prisoners, and at present there remain at least three Palestinians risking death to abide by their plea for life and dignity, and these include a prominent member of the Palestinian national football team who has been held as an ‘unlawful combatant’ since July 2009, Mahmoud Sarsak, now 90 days without food (the two others are Akram al-Rakhaw, 70 days, and Sunar al-Berq).

 

            These dual sad set of circumstances both involve fundamental wrongs associated with the violence of states. The American suicides are essentially sacrifices of lives at the altar of the Martian god of war, while the Palestinian hunger strikes are struggles to survive in the face of state terror imposed in darkness on those who show any signs of resistance to an occupation that has gone on for 45 years and has become more and more oppressive with the passage of time. As Adnan said of his experience of arrest in the middle of the night and release: “..they are trying to hurt our dignity..and released me in the dark, late at night..they only work in the darkness.”

 

            Despite this darkness, we should be able to see what is happening, and respond with whatever means are at our disposal. In America we are mostly kept in the dark with respect to Palestinian suffering, and as for our Americans victims of war, we are informed, but not enlightened, and thus are caught in the headlights, supposing that these military suicides are an unfathomable mystery rather than realizing that they are inevitable byproducts of wars fought in strange foreign lands for no credible defensive purpose. 

Historic Hunger Strikes: Lightning in the Skies of Palestine

8 May


 

There is ongoing militant expression of Palestinian resistance to the abuses of Israel’s 45 years of occupation and de facto annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and five year blockade of Gaza taking the form of a series of hunger strikes. Recourse to this desperate tactic of courageous self-sacrifice is an extreme form of nonviolence, and should whenever and wherever it occurs be given close attention. Palestinians have protested by hunger strikes in the past but failed to inspire the imagination of the wider Palestinian community or shake the confidence of Israeli officialdom. Despite the averted gaze of the West, especially here in North America, there are some signs that this time the hunger strikes have crossed a historic threshold of no return.

 

These strikes started by the individual exploit of a single person, Khader Adnan, at the end of 2011. Dragged from his home in the village of Arraba near Jenin by a night raid by dozens of Israeli soldiers, humiliated and roughed up in the presence of his two and four year old daughter, carried away shackled and blindfolded, roughly interrogated, and then made subject to an administrative decree for the eighth time in his young life, Adnan’s inner conscience must have screamed ‘Enough!’ and he embarked on an open-ended hunger strike. He continued it for 66 days, and agreed to take food again only after the Israeli authorities relented somewhat, including a pledge not to subject Adnan to a further period of administrative detention unless further incriminating evidence came to the surface. Upon release, Adnan to depersonalize his ordeal insisted on visiting the families of other Palestinians currently under administrative detention before returning to his own home.

He has spoken out with firm gentleness and invited persons of conscience everywhere to join in the struggle to induce Israel to abandon administrative detention, and the accompanying violations of Palestinian human rights. Khader Adnan’s open letter to the people of the world is reproduced below to convey the tone and substance of his struggle.

 

Following Adnan, and inspired by him, was Hana Shalabi, a young Palestinian woman subject to a similar abusive arrest, accompanied by humiliations associated with her dress and sexual identity. Shalabi was from the villange of Burqin also near Jenin, and had been released a few months earlier in October 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange that was negotiated to obtain the release of the sole Israeli captive, Gilad Shalit. She had seldom strayed from her family home prior to the re-arrest on February 16, 2012, and her life was described as follows by her devoted sister, Zahra: “The four months between October and February were trouble-free days, bursting with dreams and ambitions. Hana loved to socialize and meet with people. She was busy with getting her papers in order to register for university, with her eyes set on enrolling at the American University in Jenin. She wanted to get her driver’s license, and later buy a car. She went on a shopping spree, buying new carpets and curtains for her bedroom…and she dreamed of getting married and of finding the perfect man to spend the rest of her life with.” It is little wonder that when arrested in the middle of the night she reacted in the manner described by Zahra: “She was panicking, and kept repeating over and over again that she was not going with the soldiers because she didn’t do anything.”

 

As with Adnan, Shalabi was released after she was in critical condition, but in a vindictive manner, being sent to live in Gaza for three years, thereby separated from her family and village, which were her places of refuge, love, and nurturing. She also made it clear that her experience of resistance was not meant for herself alone, but was intended to contribute to the struggle against prison abuse and the practice e of administrative detention, but even more generally as engagement in the struggle for Palestinian rights, so long denied. The example set by Adnan and Shalabi inspired others subject to similar treatment at the hands of the Israelis arrest and prison service. Several Palestinians detained by administrative detention decrees commenced hunger strikes at the end of February, and as many as 1650 others, and possibly more,  initiated a massive hunger strike on Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, April 17th that is continuing, and has been named ‘the battle of empty stomachs.’ The main battlefield is the mind of the oppressor, whether to give in and seem weak or remain firm and invite escalating censure, as well as Palestinian militancy, should any of those now in grave condition die.     

 

The latest news suggests that Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, continuing their hunger strike that started on February 28th of this year, are clinging to life by a thread. A few days ago they were both been finally transferred to civilian hospitals. Mr. Halahleh after the 70th day without food announced that he was  no longer willing even to drink any water or accept further medication.

 

As might be expected the voices of concern from the international community have been muted and belated. The International Committee of the Red Cross has finally expressed in public its concern for the lives of these strikers. The UN Envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, never someone outspoken, acknowledged a few days ago in a brief and perfunctory statement that he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the danger to these hunger strikers, as if such a sentiment was somehow sufficient to the outrages being inflicted.

 

 

More persuasively, several human rights NGOs, including Physicians for Human Rights–Israel have been reminding Israel of its obligation to allow family visits, which prison authorities have repeatedly denied, despite it being an accepted tenet of medical ethics that is affirmed in Israel’s Patient’s Rights Law.

 

On May 7, 2012 the Israel’s High Court of Justice denied urgent petitions for release from administrative detention filed on behalf of Mr. Diab and Mr. Halahleh. The Court in a classic example of the twisted way judges choose to serve the state rather than the cause of justice declared: “Hunger strikes cannot serve as an element in a decision on the very validity of administrative detention, since that would be confusing the issue.” Would it be so confusing to say that without some demonstration of evidence of criminality rejecting such a petition amounts to imposing a death sentence without even the pretensions of ‘a show trial’ that relies on coerced confessions? Israel’s highest judicial body leaves no doubt about their priorities by invoking anti-terrorism as a blanket justification, saying that Israel “should not have to apologize for securing its own safety.”

 

Other reports that the Israeli government has yet to feel pressure from European governments to act in a more humanitarian manner in response to these hunger strikes, but is worried that such pressure might come soon. After

remaining silent for a long time, Robert Serry, the UN Envoy to the Middle East, a few days ago timidly issued a public statement saying that he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the near death condition of the Mr. Diab and Mr. Halahleh.

 

On a wider canvas, the hunger strikes are clearly having some effect on Israeli prison policy, although it is not clearly discernible as yet. The Israeli Public Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, convened a meeting in which he voiced the opinion that Israeli reliance on administrative detention was excessive, and should be reduced. There is also some discussion with officials of the Israeli Prison Service and a committee representing some of the April 17th prisoners on a series of demands relating to prison conditions.

 

The following demands have been articulated by the April 17th hunger strikers, under the banner of ‘The Prisoners Revolution’:

 

1. Ending the Israeli Administrative detention and solitary confinement, in which Palestinians were imprisoned for more than ten consecutive years, in solitary cells that lack basic human necessities of life.

2. Allowing family visits to those from the Gaza Strip due to political decisions and unjust laws, such as the so-called “law of Shalit.

3. Improving the livelihood of prisoners inside Israeli Jails and allowing basic needs such as a proper health treatment, education and TV channels and newspapers.

4. Putting an end to the humiliation policy carried by the Israeli Prison Service against Palestinian prisoners and their families, through humiliating naked inspection, group punishment, and night raids.   

 ***********

 

Khader Adnan’s Open Letter to the Free People of the World

 

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,*

 

 * Praise be to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of

 Allah.*

 

 Dear free people of the world. Dear oppressed and disenfranchised around

 the globe. Dear friends of our people, who stood with me with a stern belief in     freedom and dignity for my people and our prisoners languishing

in the Occupation’s prisons.

 

 Dear free women and men, young and elderly, ordinary people as well as

 intellectual elites everywhere – I address you today with an outpouring of

 hope and pain for every Palestinian that suffers from the occupation of his

 land, for each of us that has been killed, wounded or imprisoned by the

 state of terror, that denies anything beautiful in our lives, even the

 smile of our children and families. I am addressing you in my first letter

 following my release – praying it will not be the last – after Allah

 granted me freedom, pride and dignity. I was an “administrative detainee”

 in the jail of occupation for four months, out of which I have spent 66

 days on hunger strike.

 

 

 I was driven to declare an open-ended hunger strike by the daily harassment

 and violation of my people’s rights by the Israeli Zionist occupation. The

 last straw for me were the ongoing arrests, the brutal nighttime raid on my

 house, my violent detention, during which I was taken to the “Mavo Dotan”

 settlement on our land occupied 1967, and the beatings and humiliation I

 was treated to during arrest interrogation. The way I was treated during

 the interrogation at the Jalameh detention center, using the worse and

 lowest verbal insults in the dictionary. After questioning, I was sentenced

 to imprisonment under administrative detention with no charges, which

 proves mine and others’ arrests serve only to maintain a quota of

 prisoners, to harass us, to restrict our freedom and to undermine our

 determination, pride and dignity.

 

 

 I write today to thank all those who stood tall in support of my people,

 with our prisoners, with Hana al-Shalabi and with myself. I call on you to

 stand for justice pride and dignity in the face of occupation. The assault

 on the freedom and dignity of the Palestinian people is an assault on free

 people of the world by a criminal occupation that threatens the security,

 freedom and dignity of all, no matter where.

 

 

 Please, continue in exposing this occupation, boycotting and isolating it

 internationally. Expose its true face, the one that was clearly exposed in

 the attack of an Israeli officer on our Danish cohort. Unlike that attack,

 the murder our people is a crime that goes by unspoken of and slips away

 from the lens of the camera. Our prisoners are dying in silence. Hundreds

 of defenders of freedom are on hunger strike inside the prisons, including

 the eight knights, Bilal Diab and Thaer Hlahalh, who are now on their 61st

 day of hunger strike, Hassan Safadi, Omar Abu Shalal, Mahmoud Sarsak,

 Mahmoud Sarsal, Mohammad Taj, Jaafar Azzedine (who was arrested solely           for standing in solidarity with myself) and Ahmad haj Ali. Their lives now are

 in great danger.

 

 We are all responsible and we will all lose if we anything happen to them.

 Let us take immediate action to pressure the Occupation into releasing them

 immediately, or their children could never forgive us.

 

 Let all those free and revolutionary join hands against the Occupation’s

 oppression, and take to the streets – in front of the Occupation’s prisons,

 in front of its embassies and all other institutions backing it around the

 world.

 

 With deep appreciation,

 

*Khader Adnan *

 

++++

 

Having followed these hunger strikes for several months, I am convinced that these individuals subject to administrative detention are ordinary persons living a normal life, although chafing under the daily rigors and indignities of prolonged occupation. Israeli commentary tends to divert humanitarian concerns by branding these individuals as ‘terrorists,’ taking note of their alleged affiliation with Islamic Jihad. Adnan who is obviously preoccupied with his loving family, a baker by profession, working in his village, does not seem a particularly political person beyond the unavoidable political response to a structure of domination that is violent, cruel, and abusive. The language of his Open Letter is one that exhibits moral intensity, and seeks support for the Palestinian struggle for a sustainable peace with justice. It has none of the violent imagery or murderous declarations found in Al Qaeda’s characteristic calls for holy warfare against the infidels.

 

I was impressed by Hana Shalabi’s sister’s response when asked about the alleged connection with Islamic Jihad. Zahra responded to the question with a smile saying, ‘She’s not really Islamic Jihad. She doesn’t belong to any faction. When Israel imprisons you, their security forces ask which political faction you belong to. Hana chose Islamic Jihad on a whim.’ Even if it was than a whim, for a religious person to identify with Islamic Jihad it does not at all imply a commitment to or support for terrorist tactics of resistance. Zahra asks rhetorically, ‘Does she have missiles or rockets? Where is the threat to Israel? ..Why can’t we visit her? She has done nothing.’ And finally, ‘I would never place my enemy in my sister’s position…I would not wish this on anyone.’

 

Israel has by vague allegations of links to terrorist activities tried its best to dehumanize these hunger strikers, or to dismiss such actions as the foolish or vain bravado of persons ready to renounce their lives by their own free will. But their acts and words if heeded with empathy, their show of spiritual stamina and sense of mission, convey an altogether different message, one that exhibits the finest qualities that human beings can ever hope to achieve. Those of us who watch such heroic dramas unfold should at least do our best to honor these hunger strikers, and not avert our eyes, and do our utmost to act in solidarity with their struggles in whatever way we can.

 

We cannot now know whether these hunger strikes will spark Palestinian resistance in new and creative ways. What we can already say with confidence is that these hunger strikers are writing a new chapter in the story line of resistance sumud, and their steadfastness is for me a Gandhian Moment in the Palestinian struggle.  

The Massive Palestinian Hunger Strike: Traveling below the Western Radar

2 May


 

            Can anyone doubt that if there were more than 1300 hunger strikers in any country in the world other than Palestine, the media in the West would be obsessed with the story?  It would be featured day after day, and reported on from all angles, including the severe medical risks associated with such a lengthy refusal to take food. At this time two Palestinians who were the first to start this current wave of resistance, Thaer Halaheh and Bilal Diab, entering their 64th day without food, are reported by the prisoner protection association, Addameer, and the NGO, Physician for Human Rights-Israel, to be in critical condition with their lives hanging in the balance.  Despite this dramatic state of affairs there is scant attention in Europe, and literally none in North America. It is the case that prison protests, even large-scale ones such as occurred in California a year ago often attract little national and international notice unless deaths occur, as happened in the famous Maze Prison IRA hunger strikes back in 1981, but to ignore this expression of Palestinian resistance in the overall context of the conflict with Israel is lamentable. After all, as an occupying power of Palestinian territories Israel has a particular responsibility to the international community.

 

            In contrast, consider the attention that the Western media has devoted to a lone blind Chinese human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who managed to escape from house arrest in Beijing a few days ago and find a safe haven at the U.S. Embassy. This is an important international incident, to be sure, but is it truly so much more significant than the Palestinian story as to explain the total neglect of the extraordinary exploits of these thousands of Palestinians who are sacrificing their bodies, quite possibly their lives, to nonviolently protest severe mistreatment in the Israeli prison system.? Except among their countrymen, and to some extent the region, these many thousand Palestinian prisoners have been languishing within an opaque black box ever ever since 1967, are denied protection, exist without rights, and cope as best they can without even the acknowledgement of their plight.

 

            There is another comparison to be made. Recall the outpouring of concern and sympathy throughout the West for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was captured on the Gaza border and held captive by Palestinians for five years. A powerful global campaign for his release on humanitarian ground was organized, and received constant reinforcement in the media. World leaders pleaded for his release, and Israeli commanding officers even told IDF fighting forces during the massive attacks on Gaza at the end of 2008 that killed more than 1450 Palestinians that their real mission was to free Shalit or at least hold accountable the entire civilian population of Gaza. When Shalit finally released in a prisoner exchange a few months ago there was a brief celebration that abruptly ended when, much to the disappointment of the Israeli establishment, Shalit reported good treatment during captivity. Shalit’s father went further, saying if he was a Palestinian he would have tried to capture Israeli soldiers. Not surprisingly, Shalit, instead of being revered as an Israeli hero, has quietly disappeared from public view.           

 

            This current wave of hunger strikes started on April 17th, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, and was directly inspired by the recently completed long and heroic hunger strikes of Khader Adnan (66 days) and Hana Shalabi (43 days) both of whom protested against the combination of administrative detention and abusive arrest and interrogation procedures. It should be understood that administrative detention is validated by secret evidence and allows Israel to imprison Palestinians for six months at a time without bringing any criminal charges, with terms renewable as they expire. Hana Shalabi was among those released in the prisoner exchange, but then barely recovering from her prior detention period, was rearrested in a night arrest raid, and sentenced once again to a term of confinement for four months. Or consider the experience of Thaer Halahla, eight times subject to administrative detention for a total of six and a half years.  

 

Both Mr. Adnan and Ms. Shalabi were released by deals negotiated at a time when their physical survival seemed in doubt, making death seem imminent. Israel apparently did not want to risk a third intifada resulting as a reaction to such martyrdom. At the same time Israel, as usual, did not want to seem to be retreating, or draw into question its reliance on administrative detention and imprisonment. Israel has refused, until the present, to examine the grievances that gave rise to these hunger strikes. In Hana Shalabi’s case her release was coupled with a punitive deportation order, which cruelly confines her to Gaza for the next three years, away from her family and the familiar surroundings of her home village of Burqin near Jenin in the West Bank. There are some indications that Ms. Shalabi was not fully informed about the deportation feature of her release, and was manipulated by prison authorities and the lawyer representing her interests. The current hunger strikers have been offered similar conditional releases, but have so far steadfastly refused to resume eating if it led to deportation or exile. At this time it is unclear how Israel will respond. There is a fierce struggle of wills between the strikers and the prison authorities, between those with hard power of domination and those with the soft power of moral and spiritual courage. The torment of these striking prisoners is not only a consequence of their refusal to accept food until certain conditions are met. Israeli prison guards and authorities are intensifying the torments of hunger. There are numerous reports that the strikers are being subjected to belittling harassment and a variety of punishments, including solitary confinement, confiscation of personal belongings, denial of family visits, denial of examination by humanitarian NGOs, and a hardhearted refusals to transfer to medically threatened strikers to civilian hospitals where they could receive the kinds of medical treatment their critical conditions require.

 

The Israeli response to the hunger strikes is shocking, but hardly surprising, within the wider setting of the occupation. Instead of heeding the moral appeal implicit in such extreme forms of resistance, there are widespread reliable reports of punitive responses by Israeli prison authorities. Hunger strikers have been placed in solitary confinement, held in shackles despite their weakened conditions, denied family visits, had personal belongings confiscated, were subjected to harassing comments by guards intended to demoralize. Israeli media has generally taken a cynical attitude toward the strikes, suggesting that these hunger strikers are publicity seeking, aiming to receive ‘a get out of jail free’ card, and deserve no empathy even if their life is in jeopardy because they voluntarily gave up food by their own free will, and hence Israeli prison authorities have no responsibility for their fate. Some news reports in Israel have speculated about whether if one or more hunger strikers dies in prison it will spark an uprising among the Palestinians, but this is less an expression of concern or a willingness to look at the substantive issues than it is a source of worry about future stability.

 

 

            Broader issues are also at stake. When in the past Palestinians resorted to violent forms of resistance they were branded by the West as terrorists, their deeds were covered to bring out sensationalist aspects, but when Palestinians resort to nonviolent forms of resistance, whether hunger strikes or BDS or an intifada, their actions fall mainly on deaf ears and blind eyes, or worse, there is a concerted propaganda spin to depict the particular tactic of nonviolent resistance as somehow illegitimate, either as a cheap trick to gain sympathy or as a dirty trick to destroy the state of Israel. All the while, Israel’s annexationist plans move ahead, with settlements expanding, and now recently, with settler outposts, formerly illegal even under Israeli law, in the process of being retroactively legalized. Such moves signal once and for all that the Netanyahu leadership exhibits not an iota of good faith when it continues to telling the world that it is dedicated to negotiating a peace treaty with the Palestinians. It is a pity that the Palestinian Authority has not yet had the diplomatic composure to call it quits when it comes to heeding diversionary calls from the Quartet for a resumption of yet another round of meaningless direct talks. It is long past time to crumble bridge to nowhere.

 

            That rock star of liberal pontificators, Thomas Friedman, has for years been preaching nonviolence to the Palestinians, implying that Israel as a democratic country with a strong moral sensitivity that would yield in the face of such a principled challenge. Yet when something as remarkable as this massive expression of a Palestinian commitment to nonviolent resistance in the form of this open-ended hunger strike, dubbed ‘the war of empty stomachs’, takes place, Friedman along with his liberal brothers is stony silent, and the news sections of the newspaper of the New York Times are unable to find even an inch of space to report on these dramatic protests against Israel’s use of administrative detention and abusive treatment during arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment. Shame on you, Mr. Friedman! 

(At last, the NY Times on May 3, 2012 reports on the hunger strikers in a front page story, perhaps yielding to the growing shame of its silence up to now!)

 

            Robert Malley, another influential liberal voice who had been a Middle East advisor to Bill Clinton when he was president, while more constrained than Friedman, suggests that any sustained display of Palestinian nonviolence if met with Israeli violence would be an embarrassment for Washington. Malley insists that if the Palestinians were to take to the streets in the spirit of Tahrir Square, and Israelis responded violently, as the Netanyahu government certainly, it “would put the United States in an ..acute dilemma about how to react to Israel’s reaction.” The dilemma depicted by Malley derives from Obama constant encouragement of the democratic aspirations of a people who he has repeatedly said deserve their own state on the one side and the unconditional alignment with Israel on the other. Only a confirmed liberal would call this a genuine dilemma, as any informed and objective observer would know, that the U.S. Government would readily accept, as it has repeatedly done in the past, an Israeli claim that force was needed to maintain public order. In this manner, Palestinian nonviolence would be disregarded, and the super-alliance of these two partners in crime once more reaffirmed.

 

            Let there be no mistake about the moral and spiritual background of the challenge being mounted by these Palestinians. Undertaking an open ended hunger strike is an inherently brave act that is fraught with risks and uncertainties, and is only undertaken as an expression of extreme frustration or acute deprivation. It is not an act undertaken lightly or as a stunt. For anyone who has attempted to express protest in this manner, and I have for short periods during my decade of opposition to the Vietnam War, it is both scary and physically taxing even for a day or so, but to maintain the discipline and strength of will to sustain such a strike for weeks at a time requires a rare combination of courage and resolve. Only specially dedicated individuals adopt and maintain such a tactic. For a hunger strike to be done on such a scale of collective action underscores the horrible ordeal of the Palestinians that has been all but erased from the political consciousness of the West in the hot aftermath of the Arab Spring, and may also point to a wider willingness of Palestinians to mount their own version of Tahrir Square.

 

            [

            The world has long refused to take notice of Palestinian one-sided efforts over the years to reach a peaceful outcome of their conflict with Israel. It is helpful to recall that in 1988 the PLO officially accepted Israel within its 1967 borders, a huge territorial concession, leaving the Palestinians with only 22% of historical Palestine on which to establish an independent and sovereign state. In recent years, the main tactics of Palestinian opposition to the occupation, including on the part of Hamas, has been largely to turn away from violence, adhering to a diplomacy and practice that looked toward long-term peaceful coexistence between two peoples. Israel has not taken note of either development, and has instead continuous thrown sand in Palestinian eyes. The official Israeli response to Palestinian moves toward political restraint and away from violence have been to embark upon a program of feverish  settlement expansion, extensive targeted killing, reliance on excessive retaliatory violence, as well as an intensifying oppressiveness that gave rise to these hunger strikes. One expression of this oppressiveness is the 50% increase in the number of Palestinians held under administrative detention during the last year, along with an officially mandated worsening of conditions throughout its prison system.

THE ORDEAL OF HANA SHALABI: Medical Urgency and Spiritual Defiance

22 Mar Hana Shalabi x


 

            The respected human rights NGOs, Addameer-Palestine and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, have expressed their deep concern for the mortal danger facing Hana Shalabi who continues her historic hunger strike to protest abuse that she experienced and her objections to the Israeli practice of prolonged detention without charges, without trial. There are reported to be currently as many as 24 other Palestinians in administrative detention that have declared their own hunger strike in solidarity with Hana Shalabi’s protest.

 

            There are signs of growing expressions of global awareness and solidarity, including a vigil in Trafalgar Square on 23 March at 6:30 pm and Day of Action in Glascow, Scotland on the following day. There are new allegations that even in her present circumstances of clinging to life, she has been abused by prison authorities, and her family has been denied visitation rights.  Her father, Yahya Shalabi, is quoted as saying, “My daughter sticks to her words and promises. She has committed to do this for herself and Palestine.” And Hana Shalabi has herself said of this sacrificial commitment, “[i]t is true that our lives are very precious, but our freedom is even more precious and more powerful than their cells.” Although Israeli newspapers refer to Hana Shalabi in the dehumanizing rhetoric of  ‘a terrorist suspect’ without even acknowledging that a hunger strike is the absolute opposite of terrorism: it turns violence against the innocent self so as to illuminate the wrongs of the guilty other who is rendered exempted from physical harm, and to the extent that others are targets at all, it is in the form of extraordinary appeals to their consciousness and conscience. We all must not allow these acts of spiritual defiance be in vain. I am posting below the statement released by PHR-I two days ago and a revised version of an earlier post of mine that was published a few  days earlier by Al Jazeera.

 

***************

 

 

Full text of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel statement

On the 33rd day of her hunger strike, administrative detainee Hana Shalabi is in danger of imminent death

On the 33rd day of her hunger strike, administrative detainee Hana Shalabi is in danger of imminent death. An independent physician from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-Israel) examined her today and determined that she must be hospitalized immediately

Physicians for Human Rights: the Prison Service treatment of Shalabi violates medical ethics

Hana Shalabi, an administrative detainee held at the Sharon Prison, has been on hunger strike for more than a month, in protest of her violent detention, the humiliating and hurtful search that was conducted on her upon her detention, and also in protest of being held in administrative detention. A hearing on her case is expected to be held at the military court.

This morning (March 19th) an independent physician visited Hana Shalabi on behalf of PHR-Israel, and she states that there has been a significant deterioration in her condition, and that she risks death. The deterioration is expressed in a process of muscle breakdown, with a weight loss of 14 kg (31 lb.) since the onset of the hunger strike, a very slow pulse, and a drop in blood sodium levels. These symptoms could indicate grave damage to the heart and the beginning of the breakdown of the heart muscle, which could lead to heart failure at any moment.

Additionally, her body temperature is low (hypothermia), recorded at 35.05C (95.09F), with Shalabi reporting that she feels cold. This finding indicates that the energy production in her body is mostly directed at the essential organs, which also indicates possible damage to the heart, which could be expressed in arrhythmia, systemic deterioration, or sudden death. The attending physician adds that Shalabi is not taking medications, has gone from ambulatory independence to being dependent on others for locomotion, and suffers from significant weakness, low blood pressure, serious pain throughout her body, significant sensitivity in her upper abdominal region, and serious dizziness.

The results of the blood test taken on March 14th indicate a drop in the levels of blood glucose and sodium, and damage to the thyroid functions. The thyroid plays a critical role in maintaining body temperature, as well as heart, liver, and brain function. Significant damage to the thyroid gland could lead to a coma, and this possibility is clearly present with regard to Shalabi. Additionally, blood work done today indicates disruption of the clotting functionality, and a significant lack of iron and vitamins.

Following her examination, the physician has determined that Shalabi is in immediate danger to her life, and recommended that she be transported to a hospital with no delay, for close supervision and follow-up. The Prison Service has announced that it has transported Shalabi to the Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba pursuant to the recommendation of the physician.

Physicians For Human Rights Israel today calls out the problematic conduct by the Israeli Prison Service in its treatment of Hana Shalabi:

  • Great pressure is being exerted on Shalabi to stop the hunger strike, both by the Prison Service Ethics Committee and the Muslim cleric who is a member of that committee.
  • The Chief Medical Officer for the Prison Service communicated with the PHR-I physician, asking that she persuade Shalabi to stop her strike. This clearly violates the principles of medical ethics.
  • Hana’s communication with the PHR-I physician who is supposed to follow up closely on her health – is very limited. For example, when Shalabi asked to see the PHR-I physician last week, the Prison Service did not inform the physician of this request.
  • The results of Shalabi’s blood tests, as communicated to the PHR-I physician last week, over a phone call with the Chief Medical Officer for the Prison Service, were found to be different from the printed results, which were sent from the lab and given to the PHR physician to review physically today. The results conveyed presented a different medical picture than that which actually existed in reality.
  • It seems that the question of force-feeding has not been ruled out, and that the discussion of this matter continues in the Prison Service Ethics Committee.
  • It appears that an attempt is being made to undermine Shalabi’s faith in the independent physician by presenting her with incorrect information. In the course of the physician’s examination today, Shalabi indicated that she had been told by the Prison Service representatives that the PHR independent physician had given the blood tests to the Prison Service, and that she did not wish to take them herself.

Physicians For Human Rights again expresses extreme concern for Hana Shalabi’s life. The organization expresses its dismay at the fact that medical teams are still considering the possibility of force-feeding her, despite the fact that international treaties prohibit this.

The organization calls upon the local and the international community to act immediately and intervene for the release of Shalabi, and to act to end Israel’s use of administrative detention.

For reports of prior examinations by the PHR physician see: March 13th.

Background:

On 23 February 2012 an administrative detention order for six months was issued for Ms. Hana Shalabi. On 29 February there was a hearing regarding her detention in Ofer military court. On 4 March the military court decided to reduce the detention period from six to four months, but without promising to extend or renew it. As a result, Ms. Hana Shalabi announced she would continue to hunger strike until her release. On 7 March, an appeal hearing regarding the court’s decision was held at Ofer, and the military judge ordered the parties to try and reach a compromise by Sunday 11 March, but no agreement has yet been reached.

Administrative detainees’ protests are growing. Two additional administrative detainees, Bilal Diab and Thair Halahleh declared hunger strikes on 1 March, which they claim will continue until their release from administrative detention. On 3 March, two other administrative detainees declared hunger strikes until their release. Since the beginning of March, a number of administrative detainees have refused to acknowledge the military court and refused to participate in legal hearings of their cases. Due to Israel’s use of administrative detention, and the unwillingness of the military court to interfere in this practice, a hunger strike serves as a non-violent and the sole tool available to administrative detainees to protest and fight for their basic human rights.

Approximately 309 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons. Administrative detention allows Israel to hold detainees for indefinitely renewable six-month periods. The arrest is granted on the basis of “secret information” and without a public indictment. Therefore, administrative detainees and their lawyers cannot defend against these allegations in court.

********************

 

 

 

 

Hana Shalabi: The Challenge of Palestinian Nonviolence

 

            No sooner had Khader Adnan ended his 66-day, life threatening hunger strike than new urgent concerns are being voiced for Hana Shalabi, another West Bank hunger striker now without food for more than 34 days.  With a grim irony there is continuity between these acts of spiritual defiance as both Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi have been held in the same room at the Ramleh Prison Hospital.

 

            Both strikes are directed against the abusive use of administrative detention by Israeli West Bank occupying military forces, protesting both the colonial practice of internment without charges or trial and the degrading and physically harsh treatment administered during the arrest, interrogation, and detention process.

 

            The case of Hana Shalabi should move even the hardhearted. She seems a sensitive and caring young woman of 29 who is a member of Islamic Jihad, and appears dedicated to her family, hopes for marriage, and such simple pleasures as shopping for clothes and home furnishings. She had previously been held in administrative detention at the HaSharon prison in Israel for a 30 month period between 2009 and 2011, being released in the prisoner exchange of four months ago that freed 1027 Palestinians and the lone Israeli soldier captive, Gilad Shalit. After her release, according to her mother, she spent weeks recovering from the deep sense of estrangement she experienced in prison, and rarely left her home or the company of her family. As she was returning to normalcy she was re-arrested in a highly abusive manner, which allegedly included a strip-search by a male soldier at the interrogation center and other behavior intended to humiliate and intimidate.

 

            On February 16, 2012, the day of this renewal of her administrative detention, Hana Shalabi announced her resolve to start a hunger strike to protest her own treatment and to demand an end of administrative detention now relied upon by Israel to hold at least 309 Palestinian in prison. Her family has been denied visitation rights even in her present critical condition, Hana Shalabi was placed in solitary confinement at the outset of her detention, and her health has deteriorated to the point of severe concern for her health, even her life. According to her lawyer, Raed Mahameed, Hana Shalabi was examined by a doctor from Physicians for Human Rights and the doctor said that “she suffers from low heart beat rate, low blood sugar, loss of weight, weakness in muscles, yellowing of the eyes and high levels of salt in the blood which affected her kidneys causing her pain in her sides specially the left side as well as pain in chest bones. Physicians for Human Rights said that Shalabi cannot sleep because of pain, she also suffers dizziness and blurred and occasional loss of vision. Ms. Shalabi told Mahameed that she took salt last week but refused to take any salt since then and is living on two litres of water a day.”

            Impressively, her parents have committed themselves to a sympathy hunger strike for as long as their daughter remains under administrative detention. Her mother, Badia Shalabi, has made a video in which she says that even to see food makes her cry considering the suffering of her daughter. Her father has likewise made a global appeal to save the life of his child.

 

            Despite frequent mentoring to Palestinians from liberals in the West to rely on nonviolent tactics of resistance, these extraordinary hunger strikes have met with silence or indifference in both Israel and the West. Israeli authorities cynically declare that undertaking a hunger strike is a voluntary action and a publicity stunt for which they take no responsibility and that the striker is alone responsible if any harm results. There is also not a hint that Palestinian grievances about administrative detention are well founded and will even be considered much less acted upon. Such hardheartedness in the face of such sacrificial bravery is a sure sign that Israel is not ready for a sustainable and just peace with Palestine.

 

            The UN also disappoints those who believe in its ideals. It has not raised its voice even to take notice of Hana Shalabi’s plight or Israeli accountability. I share the view of Khitam Saafin, Chairwoman of The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees: “The UN must be responsible for the whole violation that are going on against our people. These prisoners are war prisoners, not security prisoners, not criminals. They are freedom fighters for their rights.” The sad yet inspiring spiritual defiance of Hana Shalabi is also well expressed by Yael Maron, a spokesperson for the NGO, Physicians for Human Rights- Israel: “The story of Hana Shalabi, like that of Khader Adnan before, is in my opinion a remarkable example of a struggle that’s completely nonviolent towards one’s surroundings..It is the last protest a prisoner can make, and I find it brave and inspiring.”

 

            To engage in an open ended hunger strike, especially for a person who is not in a leadership role, requires a deep and abiding dedication to right a perceived wrong of the greatest gravity. It is physically exceedingly painful and dangerous to bodily health, as well as being psychologically demanding in the extreme. It presupposes the strongest of wills, and usually arises, as in these instances, from a sense that any lesser form of resistance has proved futile, exhibiting a long record of failure. In the end, this unconditional hunger strike is an appeal to the conscience and humanity of the other, and a desperate call to all of us, to understand better the cartography of abuse that abusive imprisonment and occupation entails, which can only be pervasively humiliating for a religiously oriented young Islamic woman. To risk life and health in this way without harming or even threatening the oppressor is to turn terrorism against the innocent on its head. It is potentially to sacrifice one’s life to make an appeal of last resort, an appeal that transcends normal law and politics, and demands our response.

 

            We can only fervently hope and pray that Hana Shalabi’s heroic path of resistance will end with her release and the complete restoration of her health. For Israel’s own moral wellbeing it is time, really long past time, to renounce reliance on administrative detention and to do more than this, to end forthwith its varied crimes of occupation. At this point the only possible way to do this is to withdraw unconditionally behind the 1967 borders, and to start peace negotiations from such an altered position of acknowledged wrongdoing without asking or expecting any reciprocal gesture from the Palestinian side. In the present atmosphere, it is politically unimaginable that Israeli leaders will heed such a call, but it is morally unimaginable that Israel will survive an impending spiritual collapse if it does not quickly learn to do so.

 

            In the meantime, we who are beyond these zones of occupation, abuse, and imprisonment, must do more than stand and watch as this tragic drama plays itself out.  We need to do all we can to strengthen the demands of Khader Adnan, Hana Shalabi, and all are refusing food in solidarity for the immediate release of all Palestinians currently held in administrative detention, for an end to detention without charges, to abusive arrests in the middle of the night, and beyond this, and to an end to an occupation that has lasted for 45 years with no end in sight.

Hana Shalabi: A Brave Act of Palestinian Nonviolence

10 Mar

                                                                (photo by Joe Catron)

            No sooner had Khader Adnan ended his 66 day life threatening hunger strike than new urgent concerns are being voiced for Hana Shalabi, another West Bank hunger striker now without food for more than 24 days. Both strikes were directed by Palestinian activists against the abusive use of administrative detention by Israeli West Bank occupying military forces, protesting both the practice of internment without charges or trial and the degrading and physically harsh treatment administered during the arrest, interrogation, and detention process.

 

            The case of Hana Shalabi should move even the most hardhearted. She seems a young tender and normal woman who is a member of Islamic Jihad, and is dedicated to her family, hopes for marriage, and simple pleasures of shopping.

She had previously been held in administrative detention at the HaSharon prison in Israel for a 30 month period between 2009 and 2011, being released in the prisoner exchange of four months ago that freed 1027 Palestinians and the lone Israeli soldier captive, Gilad Shalit. Since her release she has been trying to recover from the deep sense of estrangement she experienced in prison, and rarely left her home or the company of her family. As she was returning to normalcy she was re-arrested in an abusive manner, which allegedly included a strip-search by a male soldier. On February 16, 2012, the day of this renewal of her administrative detention, Hana Shalabi indicated her resolve to start a hunger strike to protest her own treatment and to demand an end of administrative detention now relied upon by Israel to hold at least 309 Palestinian in prison. Her parents have been denied visitation rights, Hana Shalabi has been placed in solitary confinement, and her health has deteriorated to the point of concern for her life. Impressively, her parents have committed themselves to a hunger strike for as long as their daughter remains under administrative detention. Her mother, Badia Shalabi, has made a video in which she says that even to see food makes her cry considering the suffering of her daughter.

 

            Despite the calls to Palestinian from liberals in the West these extraordinary hunger strikes have met with silence or indifference in both Israel and the West. Israeli authorities declare that such a posture is a voluntary action for which they have no responsibility. The UN has not raised its voice, as well. I share the view of Khitam Saafin, Chairwoman of Union of Palestinian Woman’s Committee: “The UN must be responsible for the whole violation that are going on against our people. These prisoners are war prisoners, not security prisoners, not criminals. They are freedom fighters for their rights.” The plight of Hana Shalabi is also well expressed by Yael Maron, a spokesperson for the Israeli NGO, Physicians for Human Rights- Israel: “The story of Hana Shalabi, like that of Khader Adnan, before is in my opinion a remarkable example of a struggle that’s completely nonviolent towards one’s surroundings..It is the last protest a prisoner can make, and I find it brave and inspiring.”

 

            To engage in an open ended hunger strike, especially for a person who is not in a leadership role, requires a deep and abiding dedication to right a perceived wrong of the greatest gravity. It is physically painful and dangerous to bodily health, as well as being psychologically demanding in the extreme. It presupposes the strongest of wills, and usually arises, as in these instances, from a sense that any lesser form of resistance is futile, and has a long record of failure. In the end, it is an appeal to the conscience and humanity of the other, and a desperate call to all of us, to understand better the cartography of abuse that abusive imprisonment entails, which I would imagine is pervasively humiliating for a religiously oriented young Islamic woman. To risk life this way without harming or even threatening the oppressor is to turn terrorism against the innocent on its head. It is potentially to sacrifice one’s life to make an appeal of last resort, an appeal that transcends normal law and politics.

 

            We can only fervently hope and pray that Hana Shalabi’s heroic path of resistance will end with her release and the restoration of her health. For Israel’s own moral wellbeing it is time, really long past time, to renounce reliance on administrative detention and to do more than this, to end forthwith its varied crimes of occupation. At this point the only possible way to do this is to withdraw unconditionally behind the 1967 borders, and to start peace negotiations from that altered position. It is politically unimaginable that Israeli leaders will heed such a call, but it is morally unimaginable that Israel will survive its impending spiritual collapse if it does not do so.

 

(photo by Joe Catron)

            In the meantime, we who are beyond these zones of occupation, abuse, and imprisonment must not only stand and watch as this tragic drama plays itself out. Wherever we are, whatever we can do, we need to act, to appeal, to shout, and to denounce the inhumanity of allowing such cruelty to be enacted before our watching eyes. 

Saving Khader Adnan’s Life Saves Our Own Soul

18 Feb


             The world watches as tragedy unfolds beneath its gaze as Khader Asnan enters his 63rd day as a hunger striker in an Israeli prison being held under an administrative detention order without trial, without charges, and without any indication of the evidence against him. From the outset of his brutal arrest by scores of soldiers, featuring blindfolding, cuffing, and physical roughness in the middle of the night, a gratuitous ritual enacted the presence of his wife and young daughters Khader Adnan has been subject to the sort of inhumane and degrading treatment that is totally unlawful and inexcusable, and an assault on our moral justification. At present, approximately 300 other Palestinians are being held in administrative detention, and Mr. Adnan has indicated that his protest is also on their behalf, and indeed against the practice of administrative detention itself.

 

            The only plausible explanation of such Israeli behavior is to intimidate by terrifying all Palestinians who have lived for almost 45 years under the yoke of an oppressive occupation that continuously whittles away at Palestinian rights under international humanitarian law, especially their right to self-determination, which is encroached upon every time a new housing unit is added to the colonizing settlements that dot the hilltops surrounding Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. While Palestinian prospects of a viable political future are continuously diminished by Israeli expansionism the world politely watches in stunned silence. Only resistance from within and solidarity worldwide can provide the Palestinians with hope about their future. They have been failed over and over again by the UN, by the EU, by their Arab neighbors, and above all by that global leader beholden to Israel whose capital is in Washinton, D.C.! It is only against this broader background that the importance of Khader Adnan’s resistance to the continuing struggle of Palestinians everywhere can begin to be appreciated as a political act as well as an insistence on the sacred dignity of the human person.

 

            The case of Khader Adnan is a revealing microcosm of the unbearable cruelty of prolonged occupation, and the contrast that is drawn in the West between the dignity of a single Israeli prisoner held in captivity and the steadfast refusal to be attentive to the abuse of thousands of Palestinians languishing in Israeli jails through court sentence or administrative order.  Mr. Adnan’s father poignantly highlighted this contrast a few days ago by reference to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas in captivity for several years and recently released in good health: “Where are the mother and father of Gilad Shalit? Do they not feel for me in this humanitarian case? Where are they?” The comparison pointedly suggests that it is Mr. Adnan who is the more deserving of such a global outpouring of concern: “My son was arrested from his house, from among his wife and children, was taken prisoner. He was not carrying any weapon. Whereas Shalit was fighting against the people of Gaza, and destroying their homes, and firing upon, and Shalit was released.” In fact, Shalit has not been personally associated with violence against the Palestinians and their property, but he was operating as a member of the IDF that has been consistently engaged in such activity, frequently in stark violation of international humanitarian law. While Shalit was being held foreign authority figures, from the UN Secretary General on down, displayed their empathy not only for Shalit but for the intense anxiety experienced by Israelis concerned for the wellbeing of Shalit, but these same personalities are notably silent in the much more compelling ordeal taking place before our eyes in the form of Mr. Adnan’s captivity seemingly unto death. It should not be surprising that surviving family members of IRA hunger strikers should step forward to express solidarity with Mr. Adnan and the compare the Irish transforming acts of resistance in 1981 (ten hunger strikers died, and Britain shifted from counterterrorism to a politics of reconciliation) to that of the Palesinians, increasingly referring to Khader Adnan as the West Bank Bobby Sands.

 

            And who is Khader Adnan? We do not know very much about him except that he is a member of the Islamic Jihad Party, a 33-year old father of two young daughters, a baker by profession, and viewed with respect and affection by his neighbors. There are no accusations against him that implicate him in violence against civilians, although he has a history of imprisonment associated with his past activism. A fellow prisoner from an earlier period of confinement in Ashkelon Prison, Abu Maria, recalls Mr. Adnan’s normalcy, humanity, and academic demeanor while sharing a cell, emphasizing his passionate dedication to informing other imprisoned Palestinians about the history and nature of the conflict: “Prison was like a university in those times and he was one of the professors.” Commenting on his hunger strike that has brought him extreme pain, Abu Maria says he is convinced that Khader Asnan wants to live, but will not at the price of enduring humiliation for himself and others held in administrative detention: “He is showing his commitment and resistance in the only way he can right now, with his body.”

 

            Addameer, the respected Palestinian NGO concerned with prisoner issues, “holds Israel accountable for the life of Khader Adnan, whose health has entered an alarmingly critical stage that will now have irreversible consequences and could lead to his fatal collapse at any moment.” Physicians who have observed his current condition conclude that, at most, Mr. Adnan could live a few more days, saying that such a hunger strike cannot be sustained beyond 70 days in any event. Any attempt at this stage to keep Mr. Adnan alive by forced feeding would be widely viewed as a violation of his right to life and is generally regarded as a type of torture.

 

            Finally, the reliance by Israel on administrative detention in cases of this sort is totally unacceptable from the perspective of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, especially so with no disclosure of the exceptional circumstances or evidence that might warrant for reasons of imminent security the use of such an extra-legal form of imprisonment for a few days. Given the number of Palestinians being held in a manner similar to that of Mr. Adnan, it is no wonder that sympathy hunger strikes among many Palestinians in and out of Israeli jails are underway as expressions of solidarity. Have we not reached a stage in our appreciation of human rights that we should outlaw such barbarism by state authorities, which is cunningly shielded from critical scrutiny by the anonymity and bureaucratic neutrality of the term ‘administrative detention’? Let us hope and make sure that the awful experience of Khader Adnan does not end with his death, and let us hope and do everything in our power to encourage a worldwide protest against both administrative detention and prisoner abuse and by the government of Israel, and in due course elsewhere. The Palestinian people have suffered more than enough already, and passivity in the face of such state crimes is an appalling form of complicity. We should expect more from our governments, the UN, human rights NGOs, and ourselves!

 

            



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,101 other followers